Archives For Forgiveness

candle-from-barefootprimatives-blogspot

I’m not a big fan of cursing the darkness. As a Christ follower,  we should be primarily concerned with being salt and light. While it’s true, the Bible calls us to reprove the works of darkness, reproving darkness and cursing the darkness are two different approaches entirely.

Cursing the darkness is throwing condemnation at those who are outside of Christ, while reproving darkness is shining our light as to awaken the sinner from their sleep. The first is done in the same spirit Jesus rebuke James and John for when they wanted to call fire down on those who rejected Christ. (See Luke 9:54)

The latter is done in the Spirit of love that understands that those outside of Christ are under condemnation already, and we have no need to throw more their way. (See John 3:18) If we are to win the world to Christ, we must do so in the greatest power know to man, which is the love of God.

Hate never reached or rescued anyone, but love has proved time and time again to rescue the most hardened heart. Jesus died to prove love real. We are called to do more than talk about grace; we are called to demonstrate grace to everyone. Yes, Even the ungrateful and evil. (See Luke 6:35)

In Ephesians 5,  we are called to take no part in unfruitful works of darkness. We are told to expose them. We expose them by  letting our light shine, and be visible, not by trying to curse the darkness and win a religious argument. When we love like Christ, His light shines and awakens the sleeper from darkness to light.

Many Christ followers need to return to trusting in the love of God to win the lost. We need to  stop trying to win them by persuasive arguments of men, arguments of condemnation.

Allow me to say it again, Hate never reached or rescued anyone, but love has proved time and time again to rescue the most hardened heart.

Leave-The-Past

What is it about the past that holds so many people captive?

When I was growing up I worked in my father’s sheet metal shop, and there were all types of machinery, and tables for working with all things metal. One table had weighted magnets that would swing out over the table and hold a piece of metal down to the table once they were turned on. The metal would then be unmovable as you worked on it.

From time to time,  I would jump up on the table and try and pull a magnet to the point of breaking it free from the table. It was a strength game my bothers, and I use to play to see who was the strongest.  I was never able to break the magnets free, and neither were any of my brothers. It always remained locked in place. The only way to break it free was to cut the power off to the magnet.

Some of you today need to do the same thing and cut the power off to the past that has you in its grips. You have tried to pull your way free from the past. You have struggled really hard to be stronger than your past, but nothing seems to set you free. The only thing that will free you is to cut off the power of the past. You do that by believing God is at work in your life in the present.

We all have a past.  A past filled with memories so powerful and hurtful that to recall them brings nothing but a pain to your soul and a knot to your stomach. When we hang on to our painful past memories, we either become withdrawn and unsociable; or explosive, cranky, critical, judgmental, reactive and mean towards others.

Jan Glidewell once said, “You can clutch the past so tightly to your chest that it leaves your arms to full to embrace the present.”  I love the story of Joseph in the Bible. His story is one of my favorites. I’ll try and summaries and keep it brief as I give you some background and insight into his life and choices concerning his painful past.

  • Joseph, son of Jacob, overcame a painful past.
  • He was raised in what we would call a “dysfunctional family.”
  • Sibling rivalry filled Jacob’s household.
  • Joseph’s brothers caught him, threw him into a pit, and discussed killing him.
  • One brother intervened and convinced them instead to sell Joseph as a slave In Egypt, where he became the property of Potiphar.
  • Potiphar’s wife had eyes for Joseph and made continual sexual advances.
  • He refused, she falsely charged him with attempted rape and he was imprisoned.
  • While imprisoned, Joseph made friends with a baker and a cupbearer.
  • Both promised to pull their political strings and secure Joseph’s release.
  • In time, the baker was hanged, and the cupbearer was freed, but forgot Joseph.
  • For two more years, Joseph’s remained in prison.
  • One day Pharaoh had a dream that no one, but Joseph could interpret.
  • Egypt would experience 7 years of plenty/7 years of famine.
  • As a reward Pharaoh put Joseph over all of the agricultural activity in Egypt.
  • The years of plenty came, and Joseph stored up. Seven years later the famine hit.
  • This famine was so severe that even people outside of Egypt came to get food.
  • One day, Joseph’s own brothers arrived.
  • Joseph recognized them, but his brothers didn’t recognize him.
  • Joseph sold them grain and tricked them into coming back before revealing himself.

Genesis 45:1-3

1 Then Joseph could not restrain himself before all those who stood by him, and he cried out, “Make everyone go out from me!” So no one stood with him while Joseph made himself known to his brothers. 2 And he wept aloud, and the Egyptians and the house of Pharaoh heard it. 3 Then Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph; does my father still live?” But his brothers could not answer him, for they were dismayed in his presence.

They were terrified. They did not know anything about Potiphar’s wife and the undeserved prison sentence. Neither did they know about the abandonment by the cupbearer. But they remembered the pit and their bartering and selling their own brother. They had every reason to be terrified

Genesis 45:4

And Joseph said to his brothers, “Please come near to me.” So they came near. Then he said: “I am Joseph your brother, whom you sold into Egypt.

Perhaps they expected a call for the royal guards, and the punishment they deserved for the cruelty they had shown their own brother. But no retaliation comes. These brothers did not know that Joseph had made peace with his painful past. His own words indicate he had let go of any vindictive feelings he held against them. He had cut off the power to the past.

Genesis 45:5

5 But now, do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life.

How was Joseph able to put all his painful past behind him? What was Joseph’s secret? He practiced true forgiveness. Joseph could have struck back and felt the exhilaration that comes from getting even. Instead, Joseph chose to forgive. Until you forgive, the pain of your past will continue to be felt in your present.

I chagllege you today to cut of the power to the magnet that is hold you in the past. Forgiveness is how the power switch is cut off. It is hard to forgive but possible.

Bad Friday

March 29, 2013 — Leave a comment

Good_Friday

It was a bad Friday for the powers of darkness. It was a Good Friday for a world needing redemption.

He created the world and saw that it was good.  He redeemed the world and said, “It is finished. When Jesus died on the cross, He reached to the deepest place of collapse and with His might power, He rescued the world with His unmatched love.

We now stand in the victory won on the cross, and we live by the power of the resurrection breathing in the air of the new creation. The world is now different; therefore, we can live different.

We can and must behave as kingdom people that have had their lives renewed in order to witness to the world. We are citizens of heaven called to colonize this world with His beauty. Resurrection is an event that is still in progress for the deliverance of the world and humanity to the glory of God.

Your life and mine must point to the redemption and rebirth of God’s creation in order to witness of hope assured.  Our hope is not the world’s hope. Our hope is assured in Christ Jesus.

N.T Wright once wrote, “Good Friday is the point at which God comes into our chaos, to be there with us in the middle of it and to bring us his new creation.”

I end the devotion today by sharing a few lines of an old hymn.

This is my Father’s world. O let me ne’er forget

That though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet.

This is my Father’s world: the battle is not done:

Jesus Who died shall be satisfied, And earth and Heav’n be one.

paint

I learned my first two cuss words in the second grade. Yeah, I know that’s early, but it’s how I roll. Anyway, I was sitting in class, and the teacher had to go out for a while and said she would be back in fifteen minutes. She put a monitor in charge and out the door she went.

Two of my best friends were sitting next to me, and one of them without warning got up and walked right to the chalkboard. He picked up a stick of chalk and wrote two cuss words on the board. I was shocked! The class was shocked! I didn’t even actually know what they meant, but I knew they were bad.

I was sinfully intrigued. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing and reading. My friend took his seat, and the class just kind of looked at him in disbelief. No one moved, and no one was saying a word. The teacher soon came back and was shocked and blown away. She ran to the front of the class and erased the words. However, it wasn’t erased from my mind.

Our teacher interviewed a few kids and finally got the name of my friend. Needless to say, he got into big time trouble. The day finally ended, and I took the bus ride home. I couldn’t get the words off my mind. I knew they were wrong, but I was being pulled in. Once I got off the bus I made my way to my dads shop to do my after school chores. He always had me clean up the tool room and sweep.

While doing my chores, I came across some black spray paint. Now don’t ask me how I connected black spray paint and cuss words, but I did. An idea was birthed faster than a squirrel moving out of the way for an oncoming car. Before I could think it through, I had the can in my hand and had found my way behind my dads shop to perform my first and last graffiti project.

I stood there, and I could feel my heart beating in my chest. I knew it was wrong what I was about to do, but I couldn’t help myself. I had my own metal chalkboard in front of me, and I wanted to feel what my friend felt when he wrote those cuss words. I shook up the can and began to write both words. I painted them tremendously big, and when I was done I stepped back to view my handy work. Everything was quite as I looked at what I had just done.

Suddenly the silence was broken by the voice of my Father calling my name. I went into full panic mood! I threw the can away in the bushes and took off running in what I thought was the opposite direction of his voice only to run headlong into him. I looked up and there he was looking back at me with the eyes of a Father who know something was up.

I was breathing heavy and sweating from running. He asked me, “What were you doing back here Stevie?” “Nothing Dad,” came my reply. He then took hold of my hands and pulled them up toward his face. He then asked me, “What is this black paint doing on your hand?” I began to cry. I knew I was caught. I also knew my punishment would be much worse than what my teacher did to my friend.

He took me by the shoulder and turned me around and said, “Show me what you painted.” I was horrified but knew I had to show him. As we made our way back to the wall I had painted my heart was racing, and I was crying even more now. Shortly we came to the spot and there it was for the whole world to see. My two cuss words I had painted stood big and tall on the metal wall.

I felt my dads hand tighten on my shoulder. I knew an old fashion country woopin was a coming. I deserved it! I had it coming. I knew I had done wrong, and punishment was the right thing to do. I was going to have to man up and take it. However, what happened next I will remember forever.

My dad’s hand loosened from my shoulder. He bent down beside me and whispered in my ear, “You spelled one of the words wrong.” I felt my heart melt. I looked him in the eyes, and he looked back into mine. I felt my tears drying up, and I felt grace and mercy for the very first time in my life. It felt better than anything I had ever experienced.

That day my Father showed me the grace of his Father, which was Christ. My Father died when I was 18, but I will never forget that day. Maybe you have done something wrong today or yesterday, and you need grace and mercy. You will find it with the Father. He knows what you have done, and He is ready to forgive if you will just turn to Him.

Romans 5:20

20 Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more,

The Ugly Grudge Bucket

February 21, 2013 — 4 Comments

bucket

There is just something ugly about a Christ follower carrying grudges. Carrying around that proverbial bucket filled with ugly is a laborious task to keep doing. In fact, not only is it laborious,but also it grieves the heart of God. We are supposed to be people of forgiveness.

Grudges lead to nowhere good! Grudges damage everything. Grudges will hurt you from the inside out and will produce a wedge between you and your fellowship with God. Letting go of grudges and moving beyond them is the only godly option.

Letting go of grudges can prove to be difficult. Let’s face it, when you have been hurt, it is hard to let go. Fear often plays a role in us not letting go because we don’t want to ever be hurt again. Therefore, we hold on to the grudge and keep our guard up. As right as that may feel, you and I know deep down inside it’s just downright wrong.

You can only be free when you forgive. Otherwise, you are in a prison of your own creation. You are letting the grudge be your Lord instead of Jesus. Anger and frustration control you more than you know. However, you would do well to remember Ephesians 4:26-27 – And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil.

Grudges are nothing to play with. Grudges can take you down a path you never thought you would go. You might do something you will regret forever. Turn before it’s to late and you jeopardize your reputation and the position you carry as a Christ follower.

Holding on to a grudge is not done in a vacuum. The longer you hold a grudge the more you will entice others into thinking about the person you are angry at in the same way you do, then you become the blind leading the blind.  Read with your heart the following verses and enjoy the rest of your day.

Hebrews 12:14-15 – Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord.  Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many.

True Love Is Action

February 14, 2013 — Leave a comment

loveis

“Do not waste time bothering whether you “love” your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone you will presently come to love him.”-C.S. Lewis

Love is an action. God is always in action toward us; therefore, we constantly experience the love of God. God is love. God is unselfish in nature and thus pours His love out upon all. It is the love of God that is the most powerful action and force known to humanity.

God sent His best to this world. Emanuel, God with us. He sent love, (action) wrapped in flesh. God made Himself vulnerable among His creation to demonstrate the depth of His love for us. John 3:17 say, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”

Condemnation was already upon us. We were outside of Christ. However, the love of God (action) drew us to him in repentance, and it was His love that won us to Him. That unconditional love in action is the same love we owe the world around us. We owe the world love to win them. (Romans 13:8)

The love of God demonstrated toward us must be passed along through us. It is after all, the overflow that will win the most hardened sinner. So, get out there today and walk in the good works God has created for you in advance and win them with love.

I end with a quote from N.T. Wright. “Our task as image-bearing, God-loving, Christ-shaped, Spirit-filled Christians, following Christ and shaping our world, is to announce redemption to a world that has discovered its fallenness, to announce healing to a world that has discovered its brokenness, to proclaim love and trust to a world that knows only exploitation, fear and suspicion…”

 

jesus-friend-of-sinners

Technology is always changing. Technology seems to change faster than we can buy the latest update. We buy the latest computer or smartphone, and before we walk out of the store, the next big thing is being hinted at. The only solace is the fact that you and I, as consumers, understand the new will get old and then the new will replace it once again. We know this will occur over and over.

In Luke 5:27-39 Jesus doesn’t speak of technology. I don’t think He had an iPhone on him, but He does speak of things changing. In fact, He speaks of things changing that will never go back to the way they were. The reality is, it’s impossible for the newness He is bringing to fit in the old way of life.

In the time of Jesus, they had a hope that God would deliver His new age, and it would never have to be updated again. In other words, His new age would never be outdated. Everything that was old would fade away, the newness of God would arrive, and that would be that! There would be no repeating of the process.

Jesus is sitting with tax collectors. They were hated, and considered by many, the worst of sinners. The religious kept their distance from people like them. However, Jesus enjoyed their company and brought newness and hope into the middle of their lives. I’ve said before, “You can’t be a doctor and not hang with the sick. Likewise, you can’t be a Christ follower and not hang with sinners.”

Just like Christ, we also must wait among the sinners and share the story that the world truly changed with the coming of Christ and the achievement of His calling. He died for the sins of the world, and He resurrected, thus opening the door of the new creation for us to live new forever.

Jesus broke into the world of sinners, bypassing the strict old ways that keep the sacred away form the unholy and He touched them with His grace, love and compassion. This new way of life was the calling of Jesus for all of us. The old had to be abandoned forever, and the followers of Christ must never return to the old.

In Luke 5: 36-39 we read, “36 He also told them a parable: “No one tears a piece from a new garment and puts it on an old garment. If he does, he will tear the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old. 37 And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. 38 But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. 39 And no one after drinking old wine desires new, for he says, ‘The old is good.”

The new covenant brought forgiveness walking. His name is Jesus! We must walk the same way among the broken of the world. When we do, we will upset the religious and the old system. That’s okay, the old has passed. Go and walk anew!

people

Those outside of Christ have a perception of you. They know you are a follower of Christ; but how do they label you? Do they define you by all the beautiful life-giving things you are for, or do they define you by all the things you are against?

I once heard it said, “It should break our hearts that often we are known more for what we are against than what we are for, for who we have excluded than for who we have embraced.”

Years ago when I gave my life to Christ, I became part of the youth group at the church where I surrendered my life to Christ. It was an enthusiastic group of kids. They loved God very much. However, there was one thing that confused me much.

They spent a lot of time after the message in the altar praying. Now of course there was nothing wrong with that but it was some of the prayers I heard that confused me. The prayers didn’t confuse me because they were wrong. I think they confused me because they seemed incomplete. The prayers were one-sided prayers.

I would often hear prayers of repentance over sin they had committed in their lives. Of course,  there is nothing wrong with that because it’s the right thing to do. However, I would also hear prayers of repentance over things that were not sin. I’m not sure why they did that, but I can only assume it was motivated by the desire to be holy and closer to God. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with that, other than you’re repenting over something that doesn’t need repentance.

The thing that was missing were prayers that would accompany them out of an altar into the darkness of their world with the love, grace and mercy of Christ as their battle cry. Instead, I often saw these same kids walk into the darkness preaching their convictions onto those outside the faith. Therefore, many of them became known for what they were against, instead of what they were for.

I once heard Billy Graham say, “It’s the Holy Spirit’s job to convict, God’s job to judge, and my job to love.” I love that! I don’t have the ability to convict anyone. I do have the ability to bring guilt to someone but that not the same as the conviction the Holy Sprite brings. I much rather leave the task of drawing the heart of the outsider to Christ in the hands of the Spirit of God.

I don’t have the right to judge the outsider. That’s the job of God when He sees fit to do so. (Judging one another in the church is for another post) However, I will share just one scripture. 1 Cor 5:12, “It isn’t my responsibility to judge outsiders, but it certainly is your responsibility to judge those inside the church who are sinning.”

It’s my job and your job to love! When we love and show God’s love to the world it melts and convicts the heart of the outsider. When people met Jesus, they didn’t walk away with an opinion of what He was against. (Well, the religious Pharisees did because they needed to be shook up) When people encountered Jesus, they walked away hopeful because of what He was for.

So, allow me to ask you one last time. Those outside the faith, Do they define you by all the beautiful life-giving things you are for, or do they define you by all the things you are against?

Live like Jesus. Love like Jesus and He will change the world through your witness.

Stage

 

You can only think about one thing at a time. Don’t believe me?

Try spelling aloud, “I love Jesus with all my heart” at the same time as you write down your address on paper. (Go ahead and try it; I’ll wait.)

I’m convinced this is a blessing and a gift of God.  There are times in our lives we need to fully immerse ourselves in Him and nothing else. We need to get our minds and hearts refocused on life giving thoughts and directions.

For instance, let’s say someone has broken your heart or wronged you in a particularly profound way. All you seem to be able to do is fixate on them and it’s driving you crazy. It steals your joy, your smile, your happiness, your forward motion and a host of other good emotions that belong to you.

When you have been wronged it brings pain. Pain is a part of life and often the hammer that drives the nail of suffering into your heart. When suffering takes over my emotions I have a choice to make. I can continue to think about it or think about the things Jesus told me to think about.

1 Peter 5:7, instructs us, “7 casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.”

You can take your pain and emotional distress and cast them on Him. You can cast them into the sea of His mercy and love and watch them sink away.

Often, we turn to God for help, but we don’t take Him the problem. We manage the problem under lock and key. We open it over and over again and complain about it. Instead, you must take it to Him and cast it upon Him. After all, that’s what He said to do. You want to be obedient, correct? I thought so.

It’s been said, “The human mind is like a stage. Only one performance can play at a time.” Now, let Jesus have the stage by thinking on the things He said to think on. He has given you the power to choose who will play on your stage. It can be the thought of a person that hurt you, or  Jesus who can heal you. It’s your move. God bless you.

Philippians 4:8-9
8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. 9 The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.

jesus-betrayed-by-a-friend

Psalm 55:12-15 (ESV)
12 For it is not an enemy who taunts me—then I could bear it; it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me—then I could hide from him. 13 But it is you, a man, my equal, my companion, my familiar friend. 14 We used to take sweet counsel together; within God’s house we walked in the throng. 15 Let death steal over them; let them go down to Sheol alive; for evil is in their dwelling place and in their heart

When a person helps heal a wound in your life you are thankful, and rightfully so.  They were there for you in your moment of greatest need. However, what happens when that same person reopens the wound by partnering with the very one that caused the wound in the first place?

When that happens it’s called, talking out of both sides of their mouth. It simply means to say different things to different people about the same subject. Betrayal hurts no matter what you call it.

Many things in life hurt and can be difficult to handle, but when a friend throws you under the bus, it’s a pain of a special category. Betrayal brings many negative emotions to the surface of your heart, and it hurts tremendously.

In our text, the psalmist uses some strong language in verse 15 that I’m not sure how to fully process, nor interrupt in a way that makes perfect senses to me. However, it’s real language and shows the depth of the pain he was feeling.

Getting rid of negative emotions can be a battle all by it’s self, and the last thing you need to do is add another battle to the battle that is already raging in your heart. I suggest you take a cue from Jesus himself and walk in the power of extreme forgiveness. I once heard it said that forgiveness means to “let go.” Letting go can be done in spite of your emotions.

Forgiveness is the only way to move beyond betrayal. When a friend betrays you, you can seek revenge and feed your negative emotions if you choose, but it’s only a prison you are building for yourself.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

Let me say it again. Forgiveness is the only way to move beyond betrayal.

Matthew 18:21-22(ESV)
21 Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.