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Category Archives: Forgiveness

Woe Is Me or Whoa, This Is Me? Both!

undoneI’ve been thinking lately about how often I feel “undone” in the presence of God. I can be talking in conversation about Him and feel “undone”. I can be reading His Word and something strikes a chord in me and I am “undone”. I can be worshipping or praying and I’m unable to go on because I feel “undone”. I can be teaching or preaching and the reality I get to speak His Word leaves me feeling “undone”.

In those moments, God takes what He created, “me”, and does me in. I can’t move, can’t speak, can’t think; and to be honest, I don’t want to. I KNOW He is the One who does me in and He completely overwhelms my thoughts, heart, and mind and overrides my will and body. At those times I stop everything and let Him do me in! It can last anywhere from a few seconds to a few hours, but afterwards I am always in awe that He would care to meet with me.

One day after I was undone in God’s presence I thought about what happens in being undone. First I thought of earthly things. For example; an undone piece of meat can be NOT good for us(tasty if you like “rare” but a bit risky). Undone brownies might actually taste good though messy. How about zippers undone on our pants? NOT good and potentially bad! Leaving homework or “work” work undone? NOT smart! These situations show us being “undone” means something is left incomplete, unaccomplished, unfinished; simply not done yet!

downloadBut think about “coming undone” emotionally. We don’t like that thought as much, especially if it happens in public. We can come undone when things don’t go as planned or expected; or when something fails; or when we are superbly surprised. Having an unwelcomed meltdown where we lose all composure or self-control is usually not a favorite for most people.

After all this thinking, it came to me! Being undone in God’s presence can mean all these things AND so much more! Like a piece of undone meat, we are never done! Christians can still be tasty but it’s risky so we need God every moment to keep “doing”! Like undone brownies, we still have an impact in this world even though we can be messy. While being caught with our zippers undone can be embarrassing, getting caught with our spiritual zipper down is quite freeing, cleansing, purifying, and truly, completely amazing! See, there is no “awkwardness” involved with God – just complete transparency before the One who makes all things new. Finally, while it’s not wise to leave school or “work” work undone, letting God finish His work in us is much more productive than striving to do it alone. Plus, He loves the extra time we spend with Him “getting it done”!

Being undone in God’s presence is always unplanned just like being undone in earthly things. I can honestly say I’ve never scheduled a time of being undone in God’s presence. My undone “episodes” range from brief moments of raw exposure, being stunned in His presence, to complete meltdowns, often messy, when I lose all composure and self-control. One thing is for sure; they ALWAYS surprise and humble me. I become acutely aware of God’s presence and the fact He chooses to come and touch His beloved fills me with reverential fear of Him and I think, “Whoa, this is awesome”, as I’m reminded of who I am and more importantly WHO HE IS!

Isaiah said it this way, “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.” (Isaiah 6:5) Isaiah said this after a vision in which he saw the Lord sitting on His throne, high and lifted up and the train of his robe filled the temple while the seraphim cried out “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory!”

You would think after having this vision instead of saying “woe is me” Isaiah might have said, “Whoa, this is me! I must be God’s favorite! I mean, seriously, have any of YOU had visions of the Lord in His temple while angels worshipped Him? Probably not! This makes me super special in God’s eyes. How awesome am I for God to show me this stuff?” You would also think Isaiah would be happier than happy! Instead, he is undone. In the original language, undone means he felt cut off, thinking he would surely die at this sight of the Lord on His throne.

woe_is_meSo…being undone is like being caught with our zipper down spiritually and we realize just how totally obnoxious we are, at least in comparison to our holy God. We sin! It’s bad enough to realize just how much we sin, but to have it exposed, to be undone by and before a holy God, well…THAT is humbling.

The truth is every Christian comes face to face with their sin when undone in the presence of a holy God. The sinfulness of sin by nature is contrary to the holy nature of God, leaving us undone! Sin exposes the vast difference between us and a holy God!

Let’s face it! Just like Isaiah, our lips are unclean. We say things we should never say. We curse, we lie, we gossip, we slander, and we even say terrible things about people we supposedly love. It surprises me how often we accuse family, friends, and fellow members of the body of Christ of being terrible people, or doing horrible things. Of course we say it behind their backs and then are super sweet to their faces. We seem unaware that we are giving Satan legal right to torment our families, relationships, and churches, and even more oblivious that God sees all of it! Friends, we have unclean lips and God’s got a remedy.

coalIn Isaiah, the seraphim took tongs to gather coal from the altar and then touched Isaiah’s lips declaring his sins burned away, purged and he was cleansed. Now THAT is a WHOA and a WHOOHOO! Being undone in the presence of God leads to our sins being done as well. When we’re undone in His presence we can expect to be confess and repent of sin because we see it all clearly AND we are encouraged and lifted up because visions of God’s glory have that effect on us! We have a Mediator, and that, my friends, leaves us undone in the presence of our Lord and Savior, able to boldly and confidently approach Him!

 

a-sinners-prayerWhen our eyes meet the King of kings and Lord of lords, we are undone; we are filled with fear and freedom at the same time! When we truly believe He is Lord, we see His sovereignty and majesty over all and it strikes even greater awe, reverence and godly fear to the very core of our being!

So friends…I pray we are all undone! There is no greater place to be!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Jesus Said….Father Forgive Them! Let’s Follow His Pattern!

Holy Week! I have such a myriad of feelings during this week as I imagine what it was like for Jesus; not just the physical abuse which is so far beyond what any of us could endure but the spiritual abandonment and the emotional trauma as He was mocked, spit on, sneered at, humiliated, and blasphemed.  I know we can’t come close to knowing just how much He went through for us but I like to try, to remember, to grieve so that I can truly glory in His resurrection!   

When Jesus arrived at Calvary where He was crucified after being severely beaten and treated worse than a common criminal, His clothes were ripped off His body, divided and taken as the people just stood by and watched the humiliation continue. The rulers sneered and looked at the people saying to them “…He saved others; let Him save Himself if He is the Christ, the chosen of God.” (Luke 23:35)  If those rulers knew what they were doing they would not have challenged Jesus with that “IF”!  And if the people knew what they were doing they would not have stood by as mere spectators!  And if the soldiers knew what they were doing they would not have blurted out their big “IF” as they taunted and mocked Jesus, insulting Him even further by offering sour wine. If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself.” (Luke 23:37) If Jesus had taken them up on their “if’s” and saved Himself where would we be? And if we know Who He is, what are we going to do about it? 

Jesus ignored their “if’s” and obeyed His Father, fulfilling His will instead of saving Himself, and in the process saved all of us! After Jesus’ own people, the soldiers, and the rulers had falsely accused and condemned Him who was innocent, doing everything to annihilate Him, Jesus did the unthinkable! He talked to His Dad on their behalf! “Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.’…” (Luke 23:34)

Those two words, “Jesus said…” are found repeatedly in the Gospels and they should make us stop and listen up!  There is much power packed in them because everything Jesus said serves as a pattern for us to follow today!  With this in mind we do not have the liberty to ignore anything He said, make light of it, put it off, or come against it! In fact, the only wise and prudent response when Jesus says something is to do it! When we see “Jesus said…” in the Bible we ought to look carefully at what follows, knowing it is a Word for us today!    

In this verse, Jesus establishes the pattern of forgiveness!  Part of unfolding this pattern is taking note of why Jesus asked His Father to forgive these people.  After all, Jesus is God and Father knew the people did not know what they were doing and since Jesus did not sin He was not in need of Father’s forgiveness.  However, we do sin and there are many who sin against us who are in need of our Father’s forgiveness which is why we must note the “pattern” Jesus demonstrated here.  We are commanded to pray for and love our enemies! Jesus prayed for His enemies in the midst of pain and suffering.  We must do the same! The one thing our enemies need is forgiveness! Matthew 5:44 “But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you…”

Likewise, what are we continually in need of?  Forgiveness!  Mark 11:25-26 “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.” We need to forgive so that we can be forgiven!  We must not put it off until we’re ready, confess it is too hard, or determine our enemies do not deserve it. Father God is very serious about forgiveness – He must be since He sent His One and Only Son to forgive so that we would understand the gravity of our sin!  Jesus shed His blood that we would be forgiven and forgive!  Think on that!

Jesus said…Father forgive them!  If Jesus said, then we must say it as well!  And we must say it out loud like Jesus did! That is the pattern which He set!  Oh, I know it doesn’t specifically state “out loud” prayers of forgiveness here in Mark 11 but the phrase “stand praying” suggests speaking out prayers to God.  Standing was the typical position the Jewish people took when praying for others because it showed how they held the world up in prayer, in other words, the world was held up by their “standings” (prayers). And we cannot pray sincerely for God to do good for our enemies if we have not forgiven from the heart – so we forgive in our heart and express it with our words. 

This pattern Jesus established is also crucial to our understanding of communicating with God.  Even though Father already knows what is necessary in each situation we are still instructed to ask Him but we are not to “pray” vain repetitions thinking we will be heard but pray from our heart!  Matthew 6:8 “Therefore do not be like them (heathen). For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.”  So why ask Him to forgive the people who have wronged us if He already knows? We do it because we need to get real with ourselves and talk to Father personally, intimately, and specifically.  Notice it isn’t a “general” prayer by Jesus!  He details exactly why they need forgiveness  “because they do not know what they do”.  It is important to be specific in forgiving people who have wronged us for our sake,for their sake, and most of all, for Jesus’ sake!    

You see Jesus had already forgiven the people and then He prayed FOR them. This pattern gives the perfect opportunity for us to clean house, forgive people, and then ask Father in Jesus’ Name!  John 16:23 “And in that day you will ask Me nothing.  Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you.” By asking Father to forgive in Jesus’ Name we are completely surrendering to Him the people who wronged us! We relinquish our right to hold on to un-forgiveness along with its effects; hurt, disappointment, resentment, bitterness, anger, and desire for retribution. 

Even though people sin against us, we are still not blameless or without sin in our lives yet Jesus forgives us when we confess and repent!  I know!  There are people who sin against us who don’t confess their sin or even acknowledge they are in sin – but still – Look at the pattern – None of the people persecuting Jesus were repentant yet He forgave them and asked Father to do the same! 

Let’s face it – Jesus knew He was going to die!  When He was nailed to the cross He knew it was only a matter of time.  He set the pattern for forgiveness which is prompt!  NOW is the time!  And forgiveness is perpetual as we stay in a constant mode of forgiving and being forgiven. Let’s be like Jesus – forgive while the hurt is on!  Waiting only risks our own freedom! 

Look in the newspaper or online today and see all the tragic endings to life!  I’m sure the people who were sightseeing wildfires didn’t expect to crash within thirty minutes of take-off and have their lives ended.  I’m sure the two people killed in a head-on collision on an interstate highway had no clue when they got in their cars to go home it would be their last drive.  I’m certain the young person killed in a drive-by shooting didn’t know it was their last night on earth!  The same is true for all those who die as a result of tsunami’s, earthquake’s, fires, tornadoes, flash floods, and the like!

Jesus knew He was dying and why so left a pattern for us to follow as He was going through! None of us know the day or hour of our departure from this life to the next but we all should be keenly aware that we are dying because of sin so we better take care of those things Jesus said to take care of, forgiveness being at the top of His list.  He shed His blood to forgive us our sin and redeem us that we might inherit eternal life!  

Listen to the words Jesus saidLuke 6:45-49 “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil.  For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.  But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say? Whoever comes to Me, and hears My sayings and does them, I will show you whom he is like: He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock.  And when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently against that house, and could not shake it, for it was founded on the rock. But he who heard and did nothing is like a man who built a house on the earth without a foundation, against which the stream beat vehemently; and immediately it fell. And the ruin of that house was great.”

Today, dig deep!  Lay a firm foundation on the Rock!  Call Him Lord, and then let’s do what He says!  Let forgiveness reign abundantly in our hearts so that it easily comes forth from our mouths! Don’t let this Easter pass by without doing what Jesus said to do!  Forgive and ask Father to forgive those who have wronged you, whether they know what they are doing or not!  We can’t afford not to!  Jesus suffered, died, and rose again so we could live in a state of forgiveness.  Let’s not hang on to our baggage or anyone else’s! Jesus left it all at the cross – He gave it all up!  Let’s follow His pattern and live in the power of His resurrection! 

 

Why Do You Do What You Do? Whatever! (A New Take!)

Why do you do the things you do? Why do you go to work each day?  Why get an education?  Why fellowship and take part in leisure activities?  Why do you do household projects or hobbies?  Why play with your kids?  Why do volunteer work?  Why take a stand against injustices?  Why do you serve the Lord at Church?  Why give money to charities or tithe?  Why support ministries? 

Perhaps those could be construed as silly questions with obvious answers such as these. We have to go to work or school.  We enjoy being happy and pleasing others. We feel good when we are productive.  We will make more money if we have an education or will be more respected.  We like to be liked.  We love using our talents and gifts.  We enjoy investing in our children.  Volunteering is simply giving back what we’ve been given.  We want to make a difference and do the “right” thing.  We love the body of Christ and want to serve with them.  We need tax deductions.  We want to help those on the front lines by supporting ministries. We want to obey God by tithing.

Those might all be good answers but a problem arises when we don’t get those expected results?  What if we don’t succeed at work or school? What if we are never happy or feel like we can please others? What if we don’t feel productive no matter how hard we try?  What if our education simply over-qualifies us and we are stuck in a low-paying job with no respect?  What if people don’t like us?  What if we don’t even know what our talents and gifts are much less use them? What if our kids or family don’t even seem to like or support us? What if we feel unappreciated or don’t feel we are making a difference?  What if doing the right thing gets wrong results?  What if our brothers and sisters in Christ don’t jump in and serve with us? What if we don’t get a tax deduction for giving?  What if we want to be on the front lines in ministry but are overlooked?  What if we get disillusioned with those we are supporting in ministry?  What if we don’t want to tithe to our church?

By answering the “What if” questions we get to the core of why we do what we do and discover our “motivation” for doing things is not exactly what God has in mind for us.  Often times, whether we admit it or not,  we “do what we do” because there is something in it for us.  Likewise, when we “do what we do” because it benefits us, we usually stop “doing” when we stop “getting”.  This is where people get messed up in life and off track with God because they work, learn, invest, support, or play for worldly reasons like being happy, to get ahead, to be respected or appreciated, or to feel good. 

Without even being aware of leaving God’s track, a tragic thing happens when we are motivated to “do” for worldly or selfish reasons. We become conditional people. We base our willingness to work or get educated on what we get out of it.  We choose to fellowship only with people who feed our egos.  We only serve where we feel appreciated.  We only tithe if our church or leaders make us feel good, agree with us, or give us what we want. We only use our gifts and talents where people notice how awesome we are.  We only invest where people make us feel like we make a difference.  

Unfortunately most of us will deny we live this way.  We like to think we do everything for the right reasons because we have good hearts.  But the Spirit of God has taught me just how impure our heart motivations truly are and though it may be hard to swallow we thank God because He only disciplines those He loves.  We rejoice for His heart in telling us the truth, which literally changes lives!

I once heard a prophet say something which I initially agreed with and applied but have since repented along with all its’ effects.  I know his intention was good and perhaps you might even find yourself agreeing with him but I’m just saying it led me “off-track” with God.  He said, “I do not go into places where I am only tolerated but I go where I am appreciated.”  I understood his point since he has a strong prophetic gifting and was often rejected and battled strong opposition in the spirit realm.  It made perfect sense for me to take this attitude in ministry and life because even Jesus said if you are not received wipe their dust off your shoes and move on.  Of course, I dismissed the thought you actually have to go into places you might be only tolerated in order not to be received.  If you only hang out where you are appreciated you will never wipe any dust from your feet. Not to mention Jesus was talking about preaching the Kingdom in those verses!

If we only go and do where we are appreciated or where we get something out of it, we become conditional people because our motivation “to do” is based on what we gain or receive and not on sacrifice, obedience, and giving.  But if we go and do in obedience when there is nothing in it for us, perhaps even just tolerated or even persecuted, we are challenged, strengthened, and will grow in the Lord because of our dependence on His ability not our own, and interested in His favor and rewards not those of men. 

Conditional people move on quickly and efficiently, trashing relationships and opportunities on a whim if they don’t “get” what they expect through their “giving”.  They develop a mentality of feeling justified in making decisions to desert because of feeling they are worthy of far better treatment. To be honest this attitude only lends itself to the development of a victim mentality and/or a spirit of entitlement.  We will either feel people are abusing or disrespecting us leaving us as victims, or we rise up in pride and arrogance as we develop an appetite for constant approval and appreciation filling us with entitlement!   

I would say most of us have no idea we have become conditional in our relationships and “doings” of life.  Most of us have been hurt in relationship, wounded by risking, betrayed by trusting, overlooked by investing, and hardened by the effects of all these!  But there is a simple remedy in the Word of God that brings freedom from this “me” attitude.  First we must allow Holy Spirit to soften our hearts, trust Him enough to bare our souls, and humble ourselves enough to say “Yes, Lord, this is true of me.”  Then we begin to do life His way!  

Colossians 3:17 “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”Whatever we do!  Whatever means anything, no matter what, whatsoever, doesn’t matter what!  “Whatever” includes everything from the first paragraph!  Why do we do the things we do? Because we do whatever in the name of the Lord Jesus!  When we do all in His Name, there is nothing in it for us! Our motivation is pure, holy, and undefiled!  All conditions are removed because we are motivated “to do” all in His Name! 

Every answer shared in the second paragraph is about self and others and though they might be good answers, Jesus trumps them all! And every “What if” question can be easily answered with “It doesn’t matter!”  You see, when we choose to give thanks to God the Father through Jesus, and we do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, whatever we do in word or deed is very good!  And that is the truth!  So let me ask again, “Why do you do what you do?”

If you are holding back because there is nothing in it for you, because you aren’t getting back what you want, expect, or feel entitled to, or only “doing” if you are “getting”,  today is a new day! Today is a day to try something new! Find something where there is NOTHING in it for you, then give it EVERYTHING you have!  Why?  Because then you will position yourself to learn how to do “whatever” in Jesus’ Name and for His sake and glory not your own. 

Life is all about making unconditional choices.  Life is all about saying and doing whatever ALL in the Name of the Lord!  What a simple but powerful truth!  We see this approach to life displayed again in 1 Corinthians 10:31 “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”   

Again notice the all-inclusive “whatever you do”!  Beautiful, encouraging words for sure. Words that focus our attention, our words and behaviors on God not on ourselves and others!  In this fashion we continue to do, irrespective of whether anything is “done” for us!  We stop mentally keeping track of all the things not done for us and/or the things done to us!  We simply do whatever all to the glory of God! 

There is more!  The Bible says it again in Colossians 3:22-23 “Bondservants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, not with eye-service, as men-pleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God. And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men…” This is significant because it speaks specifically to bond servants.  We don’t think in those terms today so think about children, students, laypeople, or employees to grasp the implication.

Nowhere is the suggestion to obey only when we agree, when we feel like it, want to, or when there is something in it for us.  It doesn’t give permission to disobey, walk away, dishonor, or disrespect our masters.  If we don’t like the word “masters” insert parents, teachers, professors, pastors, or bosses to get the gist of what God is telling us here.  We don’t “do” just to get attention, to impress or please superiors but we do “whatever” with a sincere heart.  A heart after God with a desire to please Him! When we do things for others as if we are doing it to the Lord there is great joy in whatever we do!

And we do it with the fear of God! If you have fear of God – you have it all!  So, whatever you do, do it with all your heart, do it as to the Lord, and do not do it unto men!  “Doing what we do” God’s way does bring its reward!  Colossians 3:24 “…knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.” As we serve men with sincerity and fear of God, we serve the Lord and God pays us!  We receive His reward which far surpasses anything man can give to us.  We don’t look at what people can give us in return for our service, we only look to God. 

What a difference this will make in our lives when we do “whatever” in Jesus, for Jesus, and because of Jesus!  Watch out world!  It’s a New Day! 

 

 

Being Mean is Just Plain Mean! And it is Sin Too!

Meanness!  Not a word we hear every day!  It almost sounds a little childish, “Mom, he was mean to me!”  But sometimes “mean” is the only word that comes to mind to best describe the behavior of people.  If I were to ask you to think of a mean person, someone who does mean things, or if anyone has ever been “mean” to you it wouldn’t take long to come up with a person or situation.  When I feel the bite of meanness I usually talk to God about it exclaiming “Wow! That was SO mean!”  It is as though we go through life and all is well until someone plays their “mean” card and then all hell seems to break loose.  We get hurt, angry, confused, and either retreat or fight back.  The closer the relationship, the deeper the wound carved into our spirits when meanness rears its ugly head. Most often we are surprised and caught off guard when loved ones are mean to us. Yet, it is only in these intimate relationships that we are capable of hurting so deeply.  The fact is we are all mean at times even though some people think they do not have a mean bone in their body.

We should make a distinction between “meanness” and simple “rudeness”.  Being rude includes bad manners and though it is irritating to be the recipient of rude behavior it rarely wounds or makes us feel inadequate.  Meanness however includes being unkind, malicious, bad-tempered; behaving in an angry, often violent way; making people feel unworthy and uncomfortable; and being disagreeable.  The synonyms for “mean” bring out its’ full flavor making it even more distasteful; Nasty, cruel, callous, uncaring, despicable, unpleasant, shameful!  Meanness cuts deep into our souls making us feel inadequate, undeserving, and vulnerable.  The key word here is “feel”!  Feelings only describe emotions.  Even though they seem to “drive” us at times, in reality they do not control who we are. Only God establishes our identity. We must be in charge of our emotions, resisting hurt, anger, and other negative feelings resulting from people being mean to us. 

Before getting too far into the subject of meanness, let’s establish an important biblical truth.  When we name sin and call it out we are not passing judgment on others, but calling it what it is. Jesus said it best in Matthew 7:1-5 “Judge not, that you be not judged.  For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.  And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

People often use these verses to tell others not to judge them for their sin since we all have issues.  But this rationale only removes accountability. When Jesus says not to judge, He is commanding us not to “pass” judgment on each other.  Think in terms of a legal trial with judge and jury.  A jury listens to the evidence gathered against an accused person as well as their defense and then decides guilty or not guilty. If the verdict is “guilty” the penalty is determined by a judge who uses the law to pass judgment.  The body of Christ is similar to a jury when there is evidence that members are walking in sin.  Based on the Word of God, we can determine guilty or not guilty. BUT, the penalty or judgment for sin is left to God, the only just judge.  We, the jury, do not “pass” judgment on fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.  God gives leaders authority to deal with unrepentant sin but even they are not to “pass” judgment on anyone. With this understanding we are not afraid to call sin, sin, nor are we resistant to accountability.  Instead we welcome conviction so we may confess, repent, and receive forgiveness.  We all sin – so let’s all deal with sin! 

Now let me say, being mean is sin! Sin entangles and spreads quickly!  Meanness is ugly, entangles other people, and spreads like wildfire or germs and viruses. As I witness and take part in situations where family and friends say and do mean things, I see far more than just the meanness.  I see its effects as the atmosphere is charged with dissension, unrest, and discomfort. Interestingly, no one ever thinks they are the ones at fault for being mean so everyone feels justified in blaming others for hurting their “feelings”.  This is significant in light of Matthew 7 because when we refuse to acknowledge our part (our sin) and then remove it, we “pass” judgment on others, feel like victims ourselves, and spread the sin. When we do not deal with meanness and the resulting feelings, the lingering effects continue to damage and destroy relationships.

These lingering effects can be compared to the odor permeating the air for hours after cooking sauerkraut.  You won’t notice the strength of the smell unless you leave the house and come back to the simmering pot at which time the unpleasant smell wafting through the entire house is immediately recognizable.  Even when the sauerkraut is gone, the odor remains.  You can try to “cover” it up with air freshener or perfume but it will only worsen the smell.  You can try to ignore the odor but you would just be pretending. Or you may get used to the odor and accept the stink. All feasible options to enjoy a great meal!

Likewise, the lingering effects of meanness hang in the air, leaving a stench in the hearts of people long after things are said and done.  We remain oblivious to it’s after effects unless we “step away” from the situation and return.  It is only then we discover how unkind, malicious, violent, and uncomfortable we feel, and instantly recognize the effects of meanness. We can try to cover up the meanness with nice words, but it only adds insult to injury and worsens the situation. We can try to ignore the meanness and walk away, but we would only be pretending it didn’t hurt. Or we can get used to living with meanness, pretend it is no big deal, and eventually get accustomed to living in the sin.  All possible options to say and do what we please whether it is mean or not!

There is only one solution for getting rid of sauerkraut smell.  Open up the doors or windows and let fresh air displace and replace the bad odor.  Fresh air will get rid of the stink left by any food over time (assuming the house is otherwise clean).  Likewise, the only remedy to cure the effects of meanness is to open ourselves up to God and the freshness of His Holy Spirit!  We need to receive a fresh anointing to displace and replace the putrid effects of mean words and actions.  The fresh wind of Holy Spirit will cleanse and free us from holding on to negativity and hurt, from holding grudges, and from judging people who are mean (assuming the house, our soul, is otherwise clean).

When we smell the stink of “meanness” and acknowledge its far-reaching effects we can embrace the means God gives us to overcome! (pun intended)

We start first with the knowledge we cannot change those who operate with a mean spirit!  I hope and pray if you are reading this and Holy Spirit has convicted you of being mean, you are willing to admit and deal with your own sin and be changed.  But the truth is it is not our responsibility to “change” someone else. It is God’s! We can make people aware of sin, help them remove the speck from their lives, but we cannot “make” them do it. Very often when people are mean, we try to protect ourselves by demanding they be different. We say things like “You can’t talk to me like that!” or “Don’t treat me with such disrespect!” or “Don’t talk to me anymore!”  People of God!  We cannot tell people what to say or do as though they are children. What we can do is get right before God, hold up our shield of faith so the fiery darts of meanness do not penetrate, remain free from victimization, and pray! 

Secondly, we must forgive, pure and simple! Even though it is difficult at times, forgiveness is still God’s command by which we overcome. It is a good thing Jesus said we are to forgive seventy times seven because people who make a habit of being mean need continual forgiveness. Matthew 18:21-22 “Then Peter came to Him and said, ‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.”  

People need forgiveness, we need to forgive, and we need to be forgiven to get free from the hurt, degradation, and pain that come as a result of meanness.  In other words, to be free from the ripple effects of meanness, forgiveness is non-optional! We cannot wait to forgive until we “feel” like it.  Remember the key word “feel”?  We are not moved by feelings.  If we wait to forgive until we “feel” like it we may never get around to it. When we obey God’s command to forgive, our spirits are opened to the freshness of His healing, grace, and love just like we open our doors or windows to let fresh air in to replace the stench of sauerkraut. We MUST do the opening – and we do it through forgiveness! 

And thirdly, we overcome meanness by imitating good not evil.  Rather than being mean to someone who is mean to us we are to be kind in return.  Rather than being in denial that we are ever mean, we admit our own sin and shower grace on others.  Rather than running away to lick our wounds when people are mean we allow God to heal our wounds. In 3 John 1:9-11 we see the lingering effects of mean words and God’s remedy of imitating good not evil.  “I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to have the preeminence among them, does not receive us.  Therefore, if I come, I will call to mind his deeds which he does, prating against us with malicious (mean) words.  And not content with that, he himself does not receive the brethren, and forbids those who wish to, putting them out of the church.  Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good.  He who does good is of God, but he who does evil has not seen God.” 

Diotrephes wanted honor, respect, and supremacy among the church people. In this scenario, John had spiritual authority but Diotrephes would not receive him or the other apostles, choosing instead to “prate against” them “with malicious (mean) words”.  Prate means to chatter idly or to rant and rave against others in trying to make ones’ self look better, in this case, with malicious words. Not only that, he refused to receive the brethren, forbid others to receive the brethren, and put out of the church anyone who went against his will.  You can see the spread of meanness as it took its toll on others in the church. For the sake of the body of believers, John had to call him out (remove the speck in his eye).

When we prate against others with mean words and actions we do it to get attention, or because we are not getting what we want, or to make someone else look bad.  If we feel we are being short sheeted, ignored, or mistreated, we get mean.  In our ignorance we blame others of being mean and unfortunately like Diotrephes, we do not stop there.  We attempt to get others on our side and reject anyone who doesn’t agree with us.  At this point it is difficult to “pull” out of deception. This is a dangerous place to find one self. If we love preeminence we refuse godly authority, and we enter the cycle of meanness in trying to gain respect.   

The only logical solution to stop being mean is to follow John’s advice;  Recognize meanness is evil!  Do not imitate it! Imitate what is good because good is of God!  Those who continue to prate and defend themselves, being mean in the process and imitating evil, have not seen God.  Let us be “seers” of God!  Let us stop being mean! 

Father God, teach us your ways!  Remove the blinders from our eyes!  We do not want to defend ourselves – You are our Defender!  We confess to you there are times we are mean – sometimes we know it and other times we are unaware of it!  Forgive us Lord for prating against others with malicious words.  Forgive us for our unwillingness to surrender to You and allow You to change us and others.  Forgive us for not forgiving as You have both taught and commanded.  Forgive us for not imitating good but imitating evil.  Today, Lord, we commit to doing good!  To seeing You!  We thank You that we are Your beloved!  We thank You for Your truths!  We thank You for the strength and wisdom to walk in those truths today!  In Jesus’ Name we pray – Amen! 

 
 

Unforgiveness-It’ll Kill Ya – Final!!!!

Finishing up on this topic of forgiveness, we look at what Jesus said His Father will do if we refuse to forgive people from the heart in Matthew 18. The point to keep in mind always is this is not a threat, but it is a gift from God to protect us from the effects of un-forgiveness.

If you haven’t read the blog before this one, you might want to start with at least Part 3 before reading this one.  We pick up at verse 28 where the king has compassion on the servant, releases him and forgives the debt.  “But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe.’”

The first word we note is “but”.   We learn from this transitional word that the forgiveness and freedom he had just been granted meant nothing to him.  His own debt was owed to his master, someone superior to him with whom he was to show submissiveness.  The master had every right to demand the debt be paid.  However, the servant went out and demanded a debt be paid by an equal, a fellow servant.  This is an interesting scenario in the context of honor!  Even more interesting is the absurdity of this servant’s actions on several levels.

  • He found a “fellow” servant whereas his master called for his own servant
  • He was only owed 100 denarii while he owed ten thousand talents – the comparison being one hundred days wages compared to 5475 days wages. 
  • He seized his fellow servant and began to choke him compared to a verbal request made of him
  • He showed no compassion and was unwilling to forgive while he was extended compassion, released, and was forgiven his entire debt.
  • He threw his fellow servant into prison whereas he was released

Jesus shares this parable to demonstrate we are exactly the same as this presumptuous servant.  Jesus, our Master, Lord, and Savior, shows compassion to us when we cry out for mercy and beg Him to have patience with us while we pay for our transgressions.  But we rarely show the same level of compassion to others who have transgressed against us.  We owe our very lives to Jesus yet hold offense against people for far less.  We are much more forceful, insistent, and demanding to others while God offers us forgiveness and freedom quite readily. 

The story continues as the fellow servant falls down at the feet of this servant begging for patience until he can pay the one hundred denarii back, but the servant who had just recently done the same thing to his master and been forgiven, would not extend patience and in fact threw his fellow servant into prison until he could pay back all he owed.   We should take note here that when we refuse to extend forgiveness to our brothers and sisters in Christ we are placing them in a prison, and unless they know the key of forgiveness, they stay in the same prison we find ourselves bound to.  Even more worthy of note is the impossibility of paying someone back while in prison.  When imprisoned we have no freedom enabling us to make money to pay back a debt.  Thinking of this in terms of forgiveness, we throw people into the prison of anger, hurt, bitterness, or worse when we don’t forgive them from the heart, and while caught behind those emotions they are never able to pay us back for the hurt they caused.  Why?  Because they can never do enough, make up to us enough, demonstrate enough love to pay us back what we “feel” is owed to us.  They are in prison and have neither the ability or freedom to pay us back, thus we and they remain “victims” of un-forgiveness, eventually leading to death. 

There is a verse tucked in the middle here between the actions of the servant and the master pronouncing a new judgment.  We are told the other servants had witnessed the un-forgiveness of the servant and they were grieved.  In their grief they went to tell their master all that had been done.  We do not like that scenario, perhaps thinking they are tattling on their brother.  Yet this is exactly what is necessary in the body of Christ to keep us accountable and healthy.  We are not to judge one another, but we are to care enough to speak the truth to our Jesus.  We must take seriously the encouragement to remove the log from our own eye SO THAT we can remove the speck from our brothers.  Most often in the body of Christ we witness co-dependency, people standing with others in un-forgiveness, under the false notion of friendship, when true friends would see sin and take it to the Lord in prayer, not supporting un-forgiveness but getting people free. 

After throwing his fellow servant into prison his Lord re-summons the servant he had previously released and forgiven.  The Master points out He forgave him ALL the debt owed to him because the servant pleaded with Him.  Likewise, Jesus responds to our need for forgiveness when we ask.  He provided it for us, but expects us to ask for forgiveness, in fact, “beg” for forgiveness.  The same way we receive forgiveness for our sins, we are to grant forgiveness to others. The story continues to reveal that because of the servant’s unwillingness to forgive his master was angry with him and handed him over to the torturers until he could repay everything he owed.  When Jesus concludes this parable he says to the disciples, “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.”

The Father gets angry!  We must understand the biblical warning about anger is that while angry we must not sin.  The concept of getting angry is real and permissible.  Sinning while angry is real and not permissible.  Jesus gives us this conclusion to the parable so we take very seriously that forgiveness is not an option.  Being handed over to the torturers is not a pleasant thing nor should be taken lightly.  Not to mention how difficult it is to repay while being tortured.  What or who are our torturers today?  Here are a few:  Anger, bitterness, pay back, hurt, victim mentality, depression, violence, gossip, and slander. 

We don’t have to stay in the hands of the torturers.  Jesus has made a way of escape.  All we need to do is use it. Ask and we will receive, seek and we will find, knock and the door will be opened, forgive as we have been forgiven.  We get the privilege of showing compassion as He shows compassion, release people from bondage as we have been released, and forgive people their debt as we have been forgiven our debt, because Jesus paid it for us.  In Matthew 6 Jesus taught us how to pray “Forgive us our debts as we have forgiven our debtors.”  We are declaring ourselves to be people who forgive when we pray in this manner.  It is written in past tense, as a declaration we receive forgiveness because we have already extended forgiveness.  What a powerful testimony!!!  Un-forgiveness?  It will kill you.  Forgive?  It will bring life now and forevermore!

 
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Posted by on December 24, 2009 in Forgiveness, Uncategorized

 

Unforgiveness-It’ll Kill Ya – Part 3

If people become convinced they are unable to forgive or do not believe it is necessary, in reality they are ignorant of their own sin and need of forgiveness.  When we choose not to forgive others, we in essence believe we are innocent of ever needing people to forgive us.  We must remember that sin is sin no matter how minute or severe the wrongdoing.  In reality, sin is deserving of death.  Jesus died to pay the price for our sin, every sin, small or large, to abolish death, to forgive us of our sin, and to exchange our death for His life. 

One of the more explicit teachings on forgiveness is given by Jesus in Matthew 18.  In verse 21 Peter asks Jesus, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him?  Up to seven times?”  Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.”  My first thought is why did Peter pick the number seven?   I suppose we could conclude he chose seven because it is the number of completeness, thus he was thinking forgiveness would be complete and full at seven times.  Peter most likely was an object of envy among the rest and undoubtedly faced many accusations and insinuations requiring him to forgive repeatedly, thus prompting this question of Jesus.  He was likely wondering how often and how long would he need to put up with the attacks and keep forgiving.  Jesus answers with the conclusion we all know but do not necessarily like – forgive as many times as necessary.  We must never come to the point of refusing forgiveness or choosing not to forgive.  When we understand we are not seeking reconciliation nor are we overlooking the responsibility someone owns by hurting others, we can simply let go of the pain and release the person(s) from holding any power over us. 

Verse 23 begins with the word “Therefore” which ties what is going to follow with what has just been stated.   “Therefore” means “with reference to this matter” or “to that purpose”.  We must look at this story in reference to what Jesus has just explained to Peter about forgiveness and how it pertains to kingdom living.  Jesus used this simile to teach how we must live today, not just when we reach our final destiny after leaving earth and residing in heaven.  The Kingdom of heaven is a real place. Our citizenship is firmly established in this kingdom now,  if we have received Jesus Christ as our Savior and accepted Him as Lord of our lives.  We exist to further His Kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven.   Therefore Jesus explains to us what this kingdom is like so we can embrace this truth and live this kingdom principle here on earth.

In this story there is a king who wants to settle all accounts with his servants, balance the books, so to speak.  One servant was brought to him who owed ten thousand talents, a great amount of money.  It is difficult to determine actual value because the sum of money weighing a talent varied in different locations and according to changes in laws regulating currency.  However it is estimated a talent was worth more than fifteen years wages of a laborer.  The amount of debt owed to the king by this servant would equate to over 150,000 years of wages, a sizable obligation to be sure.  Obviously, this servant was not able nor would be able to pay his master for such an insurmountable debt, thus the king ordered he, all his family, and belongings be sold in order to pay what was owed.  Of course, even that would not settle the account, however, the king would at least be able to close the books on this servant. 

The man fell down at the king’s feet crying out for mercy, asking the king for patience and guaranteeing he would pay the king all that is owed.  The master was immediately moved with compassion, released the servant, and forgave the enormous debt.  It is one thing to be released, but to have debt erased is amazing.  It was compassion that moved the king – nothing else – pure and simple.  (Read the previous blog “A New Year with Daily New Mercies and Compassions from God”)

Friends, we are that servant and God is our master.  We owe God a tremendous debt, insurmountable in fact.  Every sin we commit adds debt to our God who is not our equal but is superior to us.  We learn from this parable an account is recorded of our debts (sins), and we will be held accountable for them.  The bible says the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle his accounts.  He is our righteous judge and has every right to record our sins and hold us accountable for them.  It is through the precious blood of our Savior, Jesus Christ that our sins are washed away and counted no more.  His compassion moved Him to die on that cross to redeem us, forgive us, and free us from the chains of sin and death.  He releases us from the burdens which hold us captive, and He erases the effects sin has in our lives, just as the King in the parable was moved with compassion, released the servant, and forgave his debt.

In reality, the seventy times seven we are to forgive others demonstrates to us how ridiculous and sinful it is to try and keep track of wrongs done to us.  We are not to record the sins of others and hold their sin against them.  It is not healthy or holy to keep record of sins done against us and bear grudges leading to bitterness and death of our souls.  Keeping track only adds to our own debt. We should spend our time forgiving and being forgiven rather than tallying all the wrong done leading us deeper into a victim mentality. 

As pastors, it seems we offend people every day by things we say or do and we listen to people weekly who have issues with others.  People have expectations or opinions, and if leaders or other people don’t meet those expectations or agree with their opinions it seems people today walk away angry and hurt, then proceed to accusation in order to validate their feelings of frustration.  We all make mistakes and sin, pastors and leaders included.  But it has become acceptable to take offense, become victims, and share that offense with others in the body of Christ, obtaining sympathy, and in effect, keeping people in prison to the bitterness, hurt, and anger.  People walk away from relationships hurt, angry, unwilling to forgive, but believing they are doing well.  Loyalty and commitment have become a thing of the past.  

If we understand the ramifications of such behavior, we soon discover it is not even close to being worth the cost to take offense, to hold grudges, and to alienate people from our lives because we feel hurt by them.  I will take us into these ramifications in my next blog as we conclude this story about the king and servant.  We will discover we are more like this servant then we would ever want to admit.

 
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Posted by on December 21, 2009 in Forgiveness, Uncategorized

 

Unforgiveness – It’ll Kill Ya – Part 2

Prayerfully, we have settled in our hearts forgiveness is something we should do promptly and completely, knowing it brings peace which passes our understanding. We are to pursue peace and find ourselves completely letting go of all hurt, frustration, anger, and defensiveness.

Prayer is the place to begin, continue, and end with forgiveness. However, prayer does not make all the pain of the past simply fade away. In the same way our bodies get wounded and heal, people wound us emotionally and spiritually, and oftentimes scars remain. Scars are a reminder of the pain we once experienced and gratefulness for overcoming the past. When people hurt us, there may be scars from the relationship. But through prayer and forgiveness those scars become a powerful sign of God’s grace in our lives.

When we understand forgiveness does not mean we need to forget but rather embrace the grace of God as we let go of the pain and the powerful effects of the hurt done to us, we are eager to let go of the burdens and entanglements keeping us in the dark hole of un-forgiveness. A key in this area of forgiveness is to let go of the pain in the memory, not necessarily lose the memory. This becomes such an obstacle for people when seeking to forgive because of the false notion we need to forget what happened in order to forgive. We merely need to let go of the pain in order to experience the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ.

An important truth to accept and embrace in regard to forgiveness is found in 1 Corinthians 2:16 “…we have the mind of Christ.” We have Holy Spirit living in us and empowering us. Knowing these truths gives us the capability of supernatural acts of forgiveness. People are not accessing the character of Christ when statements are made such as, “I could never forgive them for what they did to me”, or “I forgive them but….” Or “I’m working on forgiving them but…”, or “They don’t deserve forgiveness”. We cannot put “conditions” on others and still believe we have forgiven them. Forgiveness is an act of choice and obedience, independent of other people or circumstances.

Jesus forgave everyone freely because He saw past the sin and into the hearts of people. As people of God we need to step outside of ourselves and into the revelation that we have the mind of Christ, enabling us to forgive beyond our own limitations. When we see people through the eyes of Jesus, it is impossible to hold grudges. It becomes naturally supernatural to forgive.

Christ Jesus forgives us and we follow His example by forgiving others. Jesus made it clear if we forgive we are forgiven, and if we do not forgive others, our Father in heaven will not forgive us. (Matthew 6:14-15) It would be ludicrous for us not to forgive one another from the heart knowing our sins are not forgiven. Yet, many Christians play around with this on a daily basis believing that God understands if they are not able to forgive. In Christ, we have the ability to forgive any one for anything. It is an amazing eternal truth and through prayer we gain wisdom in how to apply forgiveness.

Whatever your hurt is today, it is time to unclench your fist and let it go. Release whatever you are holding onto. Ask God to help you release the hurt and let go of the pain freeing your hands to grab hold of new truths. You will be free to walk in freshness with God, you will be available to help others who are hurting, and you will experience peace that passes all understanding.

 
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Posted by on December 18, 2009 in Forgiveness, Uncategorized

 
 
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