Sunday, October 28, 2012

Forgiveness

"Forgive, and you will be forgiven." ~ Luke 6:37, NIV


Jesus.

He had some pretty hard sayings in His day, didn't He?  Difficult, even radical commands that He asked His followers to obey. Commands that made many wince; commands that caused many to shake their heads in disbelief and rebellion, and to turn and walk away.

Things like, 


"Love your enemies. Bless those who curse you and pray for those who mistreat you." 

"Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me will  save it." 

Today, as followers of Jesus, we come across these hard sayings of His in God's Word, and are asked to obey these same difficult, radical commands. Because, as Jesus told His disciples then and tells us now, 

'If you love Me, obey My commandments.' (John 14:15, NLT) 

One such command of Jesus' was the command to forgive. Indeed, Jesus had some radical things to say about forgiveness.  Things like:

"But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too. ” ~ Mark 11:25

"If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins." ~Matthew  6:14-15


When Peter came to Jesus regarding how many times he was required to forgive someone who had sinned against him, he asked Jesus if he should forgive that person 7 times.  The answer?

“No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!" ~ Matthew 18:21


Is the idea of offering forgiveness easy, or is it harsh or difficult for you? 




Does having to forgive someone, whether the sin was against you personally or against someone else, make you:


  • wince?



  • angry?



  • bitter?



  • sick to your stomach?



  • shake your head in disbelief and rebellion, and turn and walk away?


I know I have to say a resounding 'Yes' to most of the above. How do you forgive someone who has not only hurt you so deeply you feel tangible pain, but CONTINUES to hurt you over and over and over?  Like on a daily basis. Oh, my dears -- how I have wrestled with this through the years, only to come up empty handed, bruised and exhausted!!

How do you forgive someone who has taken something....or someone....from you? How do you forgive someone who has destroyed your family, your childhood innocence, your marriage, your career, your hopes and dreams, your reputation, your very life? Or someone else's? Again, this has -- and continues to be -- a struggle for me.  How about you?

Yes, I can tell you from experience, 'forgive' is certainly not the 'f' word that's come to my mind or from my lips right out of the gate over the years, after being abused, rejected, mocked, mistreated, lied to, gossiped about or hurt by others.  

But it was for Jesus.  

Father, forgive them......

More to come in my next post. I hope you'll join me for it. 


'This is love, this is hate....we've got a choice to make

Oh -- Father, won't You forgive them?

They don't know what they've been doin' (oh no);

Oh, Father, give me grace to forgive them

'Cause I feel like the one losing......'  ~from Losing, by Tenth Avenue North


Friday, October 26, 2012

An Addendum to 'A Slow Fade'

'Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxieties. And see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.' ~ Psalm 139:23-24, NKJV

After writing and posting 'A Slow Fade' the other day, and receiving private messages from those who wondered if this post was indeed about them (it wasn't), I felt an overwhelming need to respond here and speak the truth, in love.

First of all, let me sincerely assure everyone: if I am EVER going to write a post that is unequivocally about YOU and a specific, serious experience or a deeply personal struggle of yours, I would most certainly ask your permission FIRST before ever typing a word, while most humbly and respectfully submitting and adhering to your response, should you say "No."



In composing 'A Slow Fade', I tried to be as vague as possible, not naming names or sharing specific details, even though it is highly unlikely that the one whose situation became the catalyst for this post about compromise and disobedience will ever read it. It's my understanding that at this point in time, they wouldn't be in a position of mind or of a heart attitude to desire to do so.  I don't think they're even aware I HAVE a blog. In addition, I did not want to cause any further pain and heartache to those closest to this situation, nor did I desire to promote gossip. 

That being said, please understand that when I write, I'm not just writing about and referring to another's experiences and struggles with something (be it a temptation, a sin, an addiction, a hurt, etc.) for the sake of having something to post, but to relate them to my own similar issues as well, or what lessons I've learned from them.  I, too, am a student and a first partaker of these lessons as much as, if not more, than my faithful readers. 


Earnest Prayer, by C. Michael Dudash
Because believe me, dear ones, with the life I've lived, I am in no position to ever specifically highlight another's faults, flaws or failures with the intention of condemning them, or causing them pain and public humiliation here. I certainly wrestle with enough of my own imperfections and demons on a daily basis not to be so self-righteous that I feel the need to condemn another.

However -- if you clearly felt deeply convicted in ANY way, shape or form by 'A Slow Fade' (or any other post here for that matter), please know that is the Holy Spirit's nudging and conviction, asking you to open up your heart to the Lord God, allowing Him access to search it, reveal the struggle with sin within, give you time to confess and repent, and then heal and cleanse you of it.  

It's my sincere hope that the messages the Holy Spirit inspires me to share on this blog through the written word will somehow make a difference in someone's life and perhaps even
  • encourage and inspire them
  • offer them hope
  • alert them to an area of compromise or disobedience they are walking in
  • challenge them to make a change
  • invite them to surrender their lives to Jesus Christ

Because in reality -- it's not me being able to do any of these things, but our beloved Holy Spirit. I'm well aware now that I'm merely His conduit -- and again, a humble student -- of every message He sees fit to send through my writing. 



The Comforter, by C. Michael Dudash








Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A Slow Fade


“If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall.” ~ 1 Cornithians 10:12, NLT

I tend to believe that the majority of us don’t wake up one morning with an intention to sin. Nobody circles a particular date on their calendar in red and thinks, ‘THAT’S the day I’m going to start being disobedient to God!’  I can’t imagine anyone making deliberate future plans to thumb their nose at and walk away from God.  It’s never a case of one day you’re obedient, and the next day – BAM!! – you’re not.

It’s a slow fade......


Currently, I’m a part of a Community Bible Study (CBS) held once a week at my church. The study is called ‘The Divided Kingdom and the Minor Prophets.’  Ho, hum....sounds a bit dry and dull, yes?  NO WAY!  It is anything BUT dry and dull. For the past few weeks, our lessons have focused on the book of 1 Kings, and I’m learning about the various kings who came along after David, and their disobedience towards God.

Today, during our class discussion time, a woman said the following in answer to a question on what she’d learned from the particular lesson about the dangers of being disobedient to God:

‘Small steps of compromise lead to big leaps of sin.’

Wise woman, that one. In other words – it’s a slow fade. And it can happen to the best of us.                   

Don’t be so na├»ve and self-confident.  You’re not exempt. You could fall flat on your face as easily as anyone else.” ~ 1 Corinthians 10:12, The Message

Compromise.  We give in a little here, bend a bit there. We start to slack off on beginning our mornings with God in prayer and quiet solitude, choosing to run or exercise instead.  We start to cut down on time in God’s Word to watch TV or to lurk around on Facebook.  We skip a few Bible studies because we’re behind on housework; skip a few church services on Sundays to go to the beach or to sleep in.  Pretty soon, we start to lose sight of what’s right and wrong. Before we know it, God’s voice is far off in the distance, barely discernible to us.  We wonder why.  How did we wind up here?

It’s a slow fade.


Disobedience. We form a relationship with someone we shouldn’t. We begin to frequent places where we have no business going.  We partake of and become entangled with something we know is absolutely off limits to us. We think, ‘nothing will happen, I can handle myself.’ Or, ‘it’s no big deal.’  Oh, but it is, dear ones.  Is it ever. 

Because one day, we look around and are surprised to find ourselves somewhere we never imagined we'd ever be: so very far from God and
  • ashamed to admit
  • afraid to admit
  • refusing to admit
just how ensnared in and captive to disobedience and sin we've become. 

It's a slow fade.......


And take note: our disobedience affects EVERYONE around us. When we choose to disobey (and it IS a choice), we drag

Our loved ones
Our friends
Our classmates and coworkers
Our church and community

right down with us into the swirling vortex of sin and darkness, pain and devastation. The effects can be both short term and long term.  NO ONE escapes unscathed, my friends. Believe me -- I know.  In my deep, dark and not so distant past, I've been the one affected by another's disobedience, as well as the disobedient one. 

But worst of all – it breaks and grieves the heart of our loving Abba Father.

Not only am I reading and learning about the perils of compromise and the fruit of disobedience in my Community Bible Study class, but sadly – I’m watching it being played out in real life, with a precious child of God, whom I know and care about, as the main character in this dark and twisted saga.   They show no remorse.  No desire to come clean and repent.  Because they don’t believe they’re being disobedient. They don't think they're doing anything wrong.  They’ve been deceived.

Satan is the master deceiver.  Jesus once referred to him as ‘a liar and the father of lies’  (John 8:44).  He can make something or someone that is dangerous look so innocent.  Or something that is dark and ugly seem light and beautiful. Or something that is so wrong feel just so right. The old smoke and mirrors trick. He’s very good at this, because well, it’s his gig.  He’s been at it for centuries, masquerading as an angel of light, and speaking with a forked tongue.

I’m certain my friend didn’t wake up one day and say to themselves, “You know, I’ve decided I’m going to destroy my family today.  I’m going to deceive my loved ones, ruin my reputation, shatter my integrity and break God’s heart.”  I believe this precious one began to take small steps of compromise here and there that eventually led to their huge leap into disobedience.

I have to admit -- I feel hurt by what they've done. And what they're continuing to do.  I feel angry. I feel betrayed.  And very, VERY scared. Scared, because I'm all too aware how easily something like this could happen to anyone. Could happen to me -- again. I am so weak, so easily distracted, and I know how effortlessly I could veer off the narrow road, given the chance.  I found myself on my knees today, crying, "Please, Lord -- just keep me hidden beneath Your wings until this danger has passed!!

“Stay alert!  Watch out for your great enemy, the devil.  He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” ~ 1 Peter 5:8, NLT

How about you, dear ones?  Are there areas of your life in which you find yourself all too willing to compromise? I BEG you not to be blind and deaf to the temptations that surround you. Be careful of who and what you allow into your mind, into your heart, into your life.  Don’t be unaware of the opportunities to compromise that the enemy WILL present to you on any given day, hissing in your ear that 'it's no big deal.' 

"Submit yourselves, then, to God.  Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  Come hear to God and He will come near to you. ~ James 4:7-8, NIV

Keep close to Jesus. Run to Him, cling tightly to Him with everything you've got; hide yourself in Him. Immerse yourself in the Word of God every day, to remind you of Who God is (your loving, merciful, faithful, generous, mighty, compassionate, fair and just Father) and who you are (His treasured, honored and beloved child). Keep your eyes open to all He has for you.  Keep your ears open to what He says to you.  Remain on the alert and be aware of what you’re doing, where you’re headed, the company you keep.

People never crumble in a day....it's a slow fade.




Monday, October 22, 2012

Your Will Be Done

This morning, while I was searching for something else, my Bible flipped open to Matthew 6, and my eyes fell onto this well-known, oft recited passage:

"This, then, is how you should pray:
'Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name, Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.'" ~ Jesus, from Matthew 6:9, NIV

A few minutes ago, I came upon this video on K-LOVE radio's website, by Tenth Avenue North's lead singer, Mike Donehey, speaking on....The Lord's Prayer.  Coincidence?  I think not. 

My will....or God's will be done, here on earth as in heaven?  Sometimes, God has to pry open the hands of His beloved, yet strong-willed child to remove whatever we are holding onto so tightly.  Whatever is keeping us from doing His will.  Because whatever He has to give us; whatever He has for us to do, wherever He has for us to go is so much better, although we might not see it that way at the time. 

How many times in my life, this past month -- okay, let me be completely real here --this past WEEK!!! -- have my fists been closed tightly around something or other (or someone) that I deemed as MINE, refusing to surrender to my Father? How many times have I rebelled against God, wanting to do my own thing?  How many times have I refused to walk down the path created for me by Him, choosing instead to run in the opposite direction, because it wasn't where I wanted to go?  What a struggle it has been for me to let go, to surrender, to obey.  To choose HIS will, and not mine.

As Mike reminds us here in this video, even Jesus struggled with surrendering to the will of His Father.  Right there, on a dark night, in the garden of Gethsemane:

"Going a little farther, He fell with His face to the ground and prayed, 'My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from Me. Yet not as I will, but as You will.'  

He went away a second time and prayed, 'My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may Your will be done.' "  ~ Jesus, from Matthew 26:39; 42, NIV




This world truly holds NOTHING for us. God HAS everything.  God IS everything. As the Father loves His Son, so also does He love us with an 


unfailing

unconditional

unchanging

unfathomable

LOVE

What are you struggling to hold onto today that you need to surrender to our Father? Please don't wait until He has to pry it out of your hand(s). Let go and let God's will be done in your life. 


Thursday, October 4, 2012

Warning



Warning – never write a blog entry entitled “God is Good,” and expect/think that nothing will happen (sooner than later at that) to make you wonder, even if only for the briefest instant, if that is really true.

Now, I know that it IS true.  God IS good.  But I also know that this life is not. Not all of the time. No matter how many T-shirts, baseball caps and bumper stickers assure me and you that ‘Life is Good,’ don’t for one minute believe that to be a consistently true statement.

God is good despite the fact that life is not always good. Despite the fact that things and people aren’t always what they seem and don’t always turn out the way you want them to. Despite what others say and do. Despite the way things look. Despite the way you feel.

One thing you can be sure of – God never, EVER changes. That is a part of His nature – to be unchanging. Unwavering. He is not fickle or double-minded like we are. God is good – all the time. That never changes.

But circumstances and people do change. All the time. Wednesday could be a perfectly wonderful day.  The. Best. Day. Ever., as people like to say. But then Thursday rolls in like a killer storm, complete with torrential downpours, deafening thunder, blinding lightning bolts and tsunami-sized waves. Sunday could be a day filled with joyful blessings, a day where it’s easy to praise God, a day where it’s easy to see and say and believe that God is good.

And then Monday comes along and begins to unravel like a bad sweater.

You car breaks down, your cell phone dies and oh, by the way, you left your wallet at home. Or you go online and find that three of your checks have bounced, with more on the way because your account is showing INSUFFICIENT FUNDS (always shown in blood red, just in case you missed it being in bold caps). Meanwhile, you realize that your rent is due today. And later on, you find out that you didn’t get that better paying job everyone, including you, were absolutely SURE you were going to get.  

Do you still believe that God is good?

Or how about this scenario?  You get to the job you already have, get called into the office and are told that your services are no longer needed and please go back to your desk to pack your things, your severance check is in the mail, have a nice day. You plod back to your desk -- where there are some empty boxes all ready and waiting for you and you find yourself greeted by two rather intimidating gentlemen from your employer’s goon squad…sorry…security office, to keep an eye on you and accompany you as you leave the building, just in case you might be thinking about going postal and shooting up the entire office on your way out the door. 

Might you be thinking: God is good?

The phone rings at home, you answer it, and the voice on the other end tells you news you don’t want to hear:

·         Your son’s been arrested
·         Your parents are divorcing
·         Your daughter was in an accident and is at the ER
·         Your spouse isn’t coming home
·         Your test for cancer or diabetes or heart disease came back positive


Is God still good then?

Yes, of course He is.  

However, it can be a truth that's difficult to grasp and hold tightly to in the midst of life being not so good.  In fact, it's downright, exasperatingly hard. When things begin to spiral downward in life, I can almost see the enemy slithering up next to me, raising one eyebrow, nodding his head and saying with an eerie chuckle, "So....how's that whole 'God is good' thing working for you now, dearie?" 

Not long after I wrote  'God is Good'   and posted it, some things in my life began to unravel like that aforementioned bad sweater.  Because, as we all know, after a lesson always comes the test. 

But --  in spite of the things I see going on around me in my family, in my neighborhood, in the lives of dear friends, as well as in the Church and, of course, in the world, things that anger, sadden, confuse and frighten me -- I will choose to remember and believe that God is still good. 

Even after the three phone calls I received in an hour's time that left my head spinning and my heart pounding out of my chest the other day.  Even after someone near and dear to me shared some news yesterday that made me sick, broke my heart and caused me to wonder what the future will hold for them now, I will choose to remember and believe that God is still good.

What about you, dear friends? Who or what in your life is causing you to struggle to remember this truth, that God is still good even when life is not?

Will you join me today, and in the coming days, in choosing to remember and to say, along with the prophet, Habakkuk: 

Though the fig tree should not blossom,
    nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
    and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
    and there be no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
    I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
God, the Lord, is my strength;
    He makes my feet like the deer's;
    He makes me tread on my high places. ~ Habakkuk 3:17-19, ESV





Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...