Forgiveness Follow-Up

sorry

The very week I posted a blog on forgiveness, my pastor preached on the same topic. Many of his words were more eloquent than mine, so I’d like to share a few of them today.

What forgiveness doesn’t promise:

A free pass. Forgiveness doesn’t always bring release from consequences, no matter what our status in life may be. King Saul still lost the throne. King David still lost a child. And we still suffer the penalties of sin.

Restored relationships. Forgiveness doesn’t always lead to restored trust. We can forgive abusive behavior without allowing it to continue. However, if restoration is going to occur, it can’t happen without forgiveness.

Why we don’t forgive:

Conviction. Sometimes we don’t forgive because we are convinced that we are right. God needs to be the only judge of rightness. No one will ever be saved because of our judgement, but perhaps our forgiveness will draw someone closer to Christ.

Vengeance. When we seek vengeance, we are stepping in to do the will of God, and we are sinning.

Why we must forgive:

Obedience. We forgive because the Bible tells us to, and when we forgive, we are used by God.  (This could be a one-sentence blog, because that last line is all we really need to know!)

Our own sin. We forgive because we have been forgiven, and because we continue to need forgiveness.

How we ought to forgive:

Quickly. The sooner we forgive, the less likely we are to give our enemy a chance to create division in our hearts or our relationships. A brick or two can be removed easily. A brick wall? Not so simple.

Prayerfully. It’s hard to stay mad at our offenders while praying for them at the same time. Pray for those who have hurt you in big ways and in small.

Without forgetting. “Forgive and forget” is rarely possible. Furthermore, the miracle of real forgiveness comes in remembering the sin or brokenness of another and choosing to love and forgive nonetheless. If we forget sin, then what does it really cost us to love someone?

Thank you, Matt, for allowing me to share your words. What about the rest of you? What have you learned about forgiveness? I’d love for you to share your thoughts in the comments box below.

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Power (by Beth Smith)

christ pix 9 7 17Matthew Chapter 9 recounts a story of two blind men who called out to Jesus, saying, “Have mercy on us, Son of David.” (They had heard that Jesus could heal.)

Jesus asked them an important question, “Do you believe I’m able to do this?”

We pray, “Lord, help me. I need …” Can God really answer our prayers? Do we believe that he is able? Sometimes we give lip service to our belief that God is all powerful, but our hearts are not convinced. God’s Word, though, is completely clear and convincing. He tells us over and over again that he is fully able to meet every one of our needs. The Bible tells us that, among many other might acts, he

  • created a dry path through the sea.
  • stretched the daylight hours.
  • rained down bread from heaven
  • multiplied fish and bread.
  • stopped a storm.

He broke Peter out of jail in the middle of the night, even though that man of God was chained between two guards and watched by at least a dozen more. Peter hightailed it to a home where believers were gathered and knocked on the door. A young girl saw him, squealed with joy, slammed the door shut in Peter’s face, and ran to tell the others. “You’re crazy!” they told her. (They were just as slow to believe that God can miraculously change circumstances as we are.) When they finally opened the door, they were amazed by God’s power.

Peter, the same man who could fall asleep between two guards as he awaited almost certain death, had been a man full of fear just years earlier. Three times, he denied that he knew our Lord, afraid that he too would be arrested. Jesus changed Peter from a chicken to a lion.

We serve the same Lord who calmed the storms, rescued Peter, and then turned him into a fearless evangelist. He tells us that he is the same yesterday, today and forever. (Check out Hebrews 13:8.) Everything he did then, he can do now. When we pray, we need to do like the two blind men before Christ and say, “Yes, Lord, you are able to do all things.”

God is able [to carry out His purpose and] to do super abundantly, far over and above, all that we dare to ask or think [infinitely beyond our highest prayers, thoughts, hopes or dreams]” (Ephesians 3:20 AMP).

Oh how we thrive when we know deep in our hearts that we serve an awesome and powerful God! We want to own that fact, to bank on it, and to live within its security. We want to let God demonstrate his power and ability in our lives. And we can, because God says we can do all things through Christ.

Do Not Listen!

listen pixabay 9 7 17

When we listen to the chatter swirling about in the world, it often sounds like this:

  •             Be afraid.
  •             You haven’t got a chance.
  •             Give in or give up.

Hezekiah king of Judah, touted by the Old Testament as an excellent ruler who kept God’s commands, knew what to do with such chatter. Refuse to listen.

Sennacherib king of Assyria planned to destroy Hezekiah’s city, and he wanted all its inhabitants to know it. His messenger went to the city wall and called out, “Do not let Hezekiah persuade you to trust in the Lord when he says, ‘The Lord will surely deliver us; this city will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria’… Has the god of any nation ever delivered his land from the hand of the king of Assyria? Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim, Hena and Ivvah? Have they rescued Samaria from my hand? Who of all the gods of these countries has been able to save his land from me? How then can the Lord deliver Jerusalem from my hand?” (2 Kings 18:29, 30, 33-35).

Hezekiah commanded his people to remain silent, ignoring the messenger. He consulted with the prophet Isaiah, who brought these encouraging words, “This is what the Lord says: Do not be afraid of what you have heard—those words with which the underlings of the king of Assyria have blasphemed me.  Listen! When he hears a certain report, I will make him want to return to his own country, and there I will have him cut down with the sword’” (2 Kings 19:6, 7).

Hezekiah responded by asserting his trust in the Lord, “Give ear, Lord, and hear; open your eyes, Lord, and see; listen to the words Sennacherib has sent to ridicule the living God…Now, Lord our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone, Lord, are God” (2 Kings 19: 16, 19).

God delivered Hezekiah’s people in a mighty way. The end of the chapter tells us, “That night the angel of the Lord went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand in the Assyrian camp. When the people got up the next morning—there were all the dead bodies! So Sennacherib king of Assyria broke camp and withdrew. He returned to Nineveh and stayed there. One day, while he was worshiping in the temple of his god Nisrok, his sons Adrammelek and Sharezer killed him with the sword, and they escaped to the land of Ararat. And Esarhaddon his son succeeded him as king” (2 Kings 19: 35-37).

It doesn’t really matter how things look to our eyes. God is always in control. He always has the means to rescue us. When we hear discouraging chatter, we can learn from Hezekiah: Just don’t listen!

Forgiveness by the Book

forgiveness pixabay 9 7 17“I forgave you the moment those words came out of your mouth.”

No, sad to say, that’s not a Brenda Koinis quote. It’s something I read in a novel a few days ago. I’ve never said those words. I’m not sure it’s ever occurred to me to think them. Until now. Why not? Why do we wait to forgive?

Should forgiveness hinge upon an apology? Romans 5:8 says, “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Our Lord didn’t wait to forgive us. Perhaps we want to postpone our grace until the offending party seems deserving of it. We’d better watch out for that excuse. We’re never deserving of divine grace, but have—each and every one of us—received plenty of it.

Maybe we’ve convinced ourselves that we cannot forgive until our emotions allow us to do so. Wrong again. In much of life we are forced to behave counter to our feelings. (Did you feel like going to work today? Or doing the dishes last night?) Why should forgiveness be any different? Forgiveness is a choice, and we may have to commit and re-commit to that choice countless times before our feelings follow suit.

Is there underlying menace in our reluctance to forgive? Do we hope to exact some sort of punishment by our delay. We must stop. We are hurting ourselves, as well as others we have no right to hurt.

I once heard a great tip regarding life’s mishaps: “If we are going to laugh about this someday, we might as well laugh about it now.” Easily edited, this quote is at least as wise when it reads, “If we are going to forgive this transgression someday, we might as well forgive it now.”

Forgiveness never means approval. It doesn’t equate with saying, “I have decided you were right.” Forgiveness may not remove the consequences of a misstep. It is simply a matter of the heart. It opens an avenue to reconnection, and it puts us squarely on the path of walking in our Father’s steps.

 

 

Even as my Texas and Florida friends continue to repair their lives and homes after flooding, new friends in California are suffering from fires. Please take a moment now to ask the Lord to intervene, then join me in prayer throughout the coming days whenever those in peril come to mind. 

 

Hakuna Matata

hakuna pixabayYesterday I saw a bumper sticker that said “Hakuna matata.” That’s it. No warthogs, no lions, just the phrase. (But, Iris, if you’re reading this, I can hear your voice singing in my head!) Perhaps that Swahili phrase, roughly translated “no worries,” should be singing in my head all the time.

“Hakuna” means “there is not here,” and “matata” is Swahili for “problems.” I don’t think we live lives free of problems. Worry, though, is another matter—the matter of what we do in our minds with our problems. I love this quote from The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren (Zondervan 2002).

“When you think about a problem over and over in your mind, that’s called worry. When you think about God’s Word over and over in your mind, that’s meditation. If you know how to worry, you already know how to meditate! You just need to switch your attention from your problems to Bible verses. The more you meditate on God’s Word, the less you will have to worry about.”

I’d like to add that the more we think of our problems in light of God’s word, the more convinced we can become that we have no worries after all. Consider these four familiar passages:

  • “Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you” (Psalm 55:22).
  • Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6).
  • What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31).
  • So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?’” (Hebrews 13:6).

While not scripture, these wise words, attributed to Corrie ten Boom, call us all to peace and trust as well:

“Worrying is carrying tomorrow’s load with today’s strength- carrying two days at once. It is moving into tomorrow ahead of time. Worrying doesn’t empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.”

And so, instead of losing any of your strength to worry today, I hope you will remember the awesome love and power of our God. Then you can shout within your soul, “Hakuna matata!”

 

Old Testament Surprises

snake of moses

Each time I delve into the Old Testament I’m struck by its relevance, even when my reading falls within the historical accounts of kings and tribes. If we met for tea today, and you asked what I’ve been studying, I’d tell you 1 Chronicles. Would you yawn? Perhaps, but let me share what I’ve been learning.

1 Chronicles 22

In this chapter, David charges his son Solomon with the Herculean tasks of assuming kingship over Israel and building a temple for the Lord. His primary advice?

  • Be careful to observe the decrees given through Moses.
  • Be strong and courageous, unafraid and never discouraged.

And to the leaders of Israel, ordered to help Solomon, David says, “Now devote your heart and soul to seeking the Lord your God” (1 Chronicles 22:19a).

There it is, the essence of a believer’s walk once again: trust and obey!

Moving back a few chapters to 1 Chronicles 5:20-22, I find God working for his people in the heat of battle. He “delivered…all their allies into their hands, because they cried out to him during the battle. He answered their prayers, because they trusted in him…The battle was God’s.”

All our battles belong to God. We may be called to fight, but he is the one who does the winning.

While the Old Testament is chock full of encouragement, it warns us as well. Moving back just one book to 2 Kings 18, I was surprised by the passage condensed below:

“Hezekiah did what was right in the eyes of the Lord. He removed the high places, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles. He broke into pieces the bronze snake Moses had made, for up to that time the Israelites had been burning incense to it. (It was called Nehushtan.)”

Wait, what? God used that bronze snake as a means of rescue for the Israelites. They turned it into an idol? Yes, they did. Anything can become an idol, even something that started out as an instrument of good. I asked myself, “Am I in danger of making something an idol?” The answer for all of us must surely be yes. 1 John 5:21 cautions, “Dear children, keep away from anything that might take God’s place in your hearts.” We must always be on our guard, asking God to keep our perspective and our loyalty in line with him.

What have you been learning? Whether from the New Testament or the Old, has God used his Word to surprise you lately?