Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Christ is a Gentleman

In life, we are with God. We get to enjoy His creation, His domain, and His grace.

But we start off dead to Him - separated from Him - not connected with Him.

And we need to be connected to Him to live. Just like our spirit must be connected to our body to live.

He loves us and pursues us, and He offers salvation and connection - BUT He will only go ahead and connect with us if we accept Him. If we chooses to stop pushing away and telling us no.

Because He's a gentleman.

He's the One who decided that "no means no" is a good boundary to have. 

Friday, January 24, 2014

Forgiveness - What is it? How does one do it?

Jesus told the parable of the debtor who was forgiven a humongous amount of money, and then goes and throws another man into prison for owing $50. It's about forgiveness, but the connection between the monetary debt and true forgiveness is not always obvious.

Sin has a cost, and when someone sins against us, we pay a price for someone else's sin. Forgiveness is what makes that voluntary - forgiveness is agreeing to live with the consequences of another’s sin. Forgiveness means that we don't want to "make them pay" later, to reimburse us for that price we had to pay because of their sin.

Neil Anderson spells out this concept very well. I first read this as a teenager, and forgiving other people, with this understanding of forgiveness, was one of the most freeing things I have ever done in my life. So, now I am passing it along to all of you:


"We need to forgive others so that Satan cannot take advantage of us (2 Corinthians 2:10,11). We need to be merciful just as our heavenly Father is merciful (Luke 6:36). We are to forgive as we have been forgiven (Ephesians 4:31,32). Ask God to bring to your mind those people whom you need to forgive by expressing the following prayer aloud:

        Dear Heavenly Father,

        I thank You for the riches of Your kindness, forbearance and patience, knowing that your kindness has led me to repentance (Romans 2:4). I confess that I have not extended that same patience and kindness toward others who have offended me, but instead I have harbored bitterness and resentment. I pray that during this time of self-examination You would bring to mind only those people whom I have not forgiven in order that I may do so (Matthew 18:35). I ask this in the name of Jesus. Amen.

Forgiveness is not forgetting. People who try to forget find they cannot. God says He will "remember our sins no more" (Hebrews 10:17), but God, being omniscient, cannot forget. "Remember no more" means that God will never use the past against us (Psalm 103:12). Forgetting may be the result of forgiveness, but it is never the means of forgiveness. When we bring up the past of others, we are saying we haven’t forgiven them.

Forgiveness is a choice, a crisis of the will. Since God requires us to forgive, it is something we can do. But forgiveness is difficult for us because it pulls against our concept of justice. We want revenge for the offenses suffered. But we are told never to take our own revenge (Romans 12:19). "Why should I let them off the hook?" you may ask. That is precisely the problem -- you are still hooked on them, still bound to your past. You let them off the hook, but they are never off God’s. He will deal with them fairly -- something we cannot do.

"But you don’t understand how much this person hurt me!" you may protest. But you don’t see, they are still hurting you! How do you stop the pain? You don’t forgive someone for their sake; you do it for your sake so you can be free. Your need to forgive isn’t an issue between you and the offender; it’s between you and God.

Forgiveness is agreeing to live with the consequences of another’s sin. Forgiveness is costly. You pay the price of the evil you forgive. You’re going to live with those consequences whether you want to or not; your choice is whether you will do so in the bitterness of unforgiveness. Jesus took the consequences of your sin upon Himself. All true forgiveness is substitutional because no one really forgives without bearing the consequences of another person’s sin. God the Father "made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Corinthians 5:21). Where is the justice? It’s the cross that makes forgiveness legally and morally right: "For the death that He died, He died to sin, once for all" (Romans 6:10).

How do you forgive from the heart? First, you acknowledge that hurt and the hate. If your forgiveness doesn’t visit the emotional core of your life, it will be incomplete. Many feel the pain of interpersonal offenses but they won’t acknowledge it. Let God bring the pain to the surface so He can deal with it. That is where the healing takes place.

Decide that you will bear the burden of your offender’s offenses by not using the information about their offenses against them [IE to tear them down] in the future. This doesn’t mean that you tolerate sin. You must always take a stand against sin. But don’t wait to forgive until you feel like forgiving; you will never get there. Feelings take time to heal after the choice to forgive is made and Satan has lost his place (Ephesians 4: 26-27). Freedom is what will be gained, not a feeling.

For each person on your list, say aloud: Lord, I forgive (name) for (specially identify all offenses and painful memories [and even ongoing effects]). Don’t say, "Lord, please help me to forgive," because He is already helping you. Don’t say, "Lord, I want to forgive," because you are bypassing the hard-core choice to forgive, which is your responsibility. Stay with each individual until you are sure you have dealt with all the remembered pain.

As you pray, God may bring to mind offending people and experiences you have totally forgotten. Let Him do it, even if it is painful. Remember, you are doing this for your sake. God wants you to be free. Don’t rationalize or explain the offender’s behavior. Forgiveness deals with your pain, not other’s excuses. Positive feelings will follow in time; freeing yourself from the past is the critical issue."

                                  From Released From Bondage, by Neil T. Anderson
                                                               [Brackets words added by me]

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Is There No Balm in Gilead?

God has blessed us with every heavenly blessing, and He Himself is life and joy and healing. Yet, so many of his people are hurting, hanging on, and tired. Why is this?  We read the same question asked in Jeremiah:
"For the hurt of the daughter of my people I am hurt.
I am mourning;
Astonishment has taken hold of me.
Is there no balm in Gilead,
Is there no physician there?
Why then is there no recovery
For the health of the daughter of my people?" - Jer. 8:21-22

Now, of course, there IS balm in Gilead, so to speak. The issue does not lie with a lack of medicine. God loves to give good gifts and showers us with everything that we need.

As humans, we are designed with needs. Lots of needs. We have spiritual needs, physical needs, and even emotional needs (recall, before the fall, God said that it was not good for man to be alone). Yet, many times we want to rise above this calling, and want to assure ourselves, "I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing."

Yet humans are needy by nature. When God Himself took on human flesh, He took on human needs as well. And He embraced that neediness! He was on His knees before the Father each morning. For 40 days, He also fasted.  Fasting makes our body remember all of it's physical needs, and it brings us sometimes grumpiness and the feeling of physical desperation. Fasting reminds us of our own neediness.

Those who aren't cool with neediness pursue the path of selflessness with fervor. They don't complain, they are tough. They don't ask for things, and besides, they can handle it! It's very much against their way of life to accept help from anyone. Jesus Himself addressed people like this by saying that the well have no need for a physician - He didn't specifically mention that they need Him, but He pointed out that they would not be able to benefit from His presence as long as they were in the category of "the well who don't need things."

Yet as Christians, we want to be the cool Christians. The Christian with our act together. We don't want our flaws or needs or wants spilling out to where people can see them. We want to be a "good example" for others, and by "good example," we mean "got our act together." Yet sometimes that motivates us to cut ourselves off from additional grace and blessings that are always available to us, because of God's rich generousness.

[Please click on picture to view it full size, so that you can read the dialogue]