Forgiveness

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“Unforgiveness is like drinking poison and hoping the other person dies.”

Whoa…really?

I have been thinking about forgiveness lately since a friend from many years ago recently called my husband and asked if they could get together.

They did – and this person proceeded to ask forgiveness for something that happened almost 20 years ago. He wanted freedom from the guilt of what he had done. God had put on his heart that he had hurt my husband by some things he had done.

I have been thinking about forgiveness lately because I need it daily from my loved ones.

It is easiest to hurt those we love the most and who are closest to us.

Why is that? There are many reasons but those that come instantly to mind are:

* they are there – near us
* they are those we talk to the most
* it is easy to get busy and forget those who are most important to us
* we are self centered, sinful creatures

Jesus came to bring us forgiveness. His death on the cross took all our sin – from the most egregious deed to a jealous thought – Jesus paid the price for ALL sin.

Yet we must redeem it – just as we turn in a coupon for 40% off – we must ASK for forgiveness.

A coupon is no good if we don’t redeem it.

Forgiveness is no good if we don’t redeem it.

So, we must ask forgiveness, even if we don’t feel sorry. Forgiveness is an action – not a feeling.

Poison drains away life and kills.

Unforgiveness drains away life and kills. It fills us with bitterness and rots away our bones.

Proverbs 14:30 (AMP)

30 A calm and undisturbed mind and heart are the life and health of the body, but envy, jealousy, and wrath are like rottenness of the bones.

When we fail to forgive someone – it really hurts us.

The person we are angry with or hurt by may not even know we harbor unforgiveness.

The opening quote was shared by a survivor of child sexual abuse and it was a statement her pastor spoke during a sermon. She shared that at that moment she realized she had to forgive the perpetrator of the abuse. After she forgave him, he no longer had any hold on her life. She was able to let go of the anger, resentment, and hurt.

She was free!

Forgiveness set her free.

Forgiveness does NOT justify what one person has done that hurts another. Forgiveness loosens the hold of sin and its effects on one’s life.

Matthew 6:14-16 (AMP)

14 For if you forgive people their trespasses [their reckless and willful sins, leaving them, letting them go, and giving up resentment], your heavenly Father will also forgive you.

15 But if you do not forgive others their trespasses [their reckless and willful sins, leaving them, letting them go, and giving up resentment], neither will your Father forgive you your trespasses.

This may mean forgiving our parents, our children, our brothers and sisters. Just as there is hurt in our families, there is hurt in the family of God as well that needs forgiveness.

Don’t drink the poison!

May we walk in the freedom of forgiveness each and every day.

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Equipped and Ready

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Many children love to play dress up. Even wearing the uniforms of their favorite sports team is a form of dress up – a chance to pretend to be someone else. The same friend that gave us the swords (see “Sharp Swords” 7-8-14) also gave us this Captain America suit. Our grandson just turned 6 and he is enjoying “vanquishing” all evil.

He is very serious about being prepared. He wants the suit on and zipped all the way up. He wants the face mask attached so it will stay on as he “battles”, and he wants the sword and shield ready and in the right position. He knows the correct look of the character and is intentional in re-creating that look.

His younger brother, who is three, also likes to dress up. He doesn’t seem to care how things fit or what position they are in. He will use various parts of various costumes and isn’t concerned about being authentic. He is very imaginative and pretends to make up for any equipment he doesn’t actually have. We went on a hike to the water front of the Chesapeake Bay recently and I counted 5 different sticks he picked up that he called “guns”. They were all different kinds of guns – and he named their types.

Already, when children are very young, we can see the various ways they approach life. Their play often reflects their view of the world around them, even their imaginary play. If you have more than one child, it is obvious that children raised in the same environment develop differing approaches to life.

Conflict is a real part of our lives as humans. How can we help our children learn to use conflict in positive ways – even as they play?

The news recently is filled with stories of conflict throughout the world. It grieves me as I hear the reports of innocent people suffering and dying. We don’t want our children’s play to reflect violence as the solution to problems. We can see clearly by what is happening in our world that violence incites violence in return.

Paul encourages us as Christians to be ready and equipped to face the conflict around us in our everyday lives. Ephesians 6: 13-17 (Amplified) uses this analogy –

13 Therefore put on God’s complete armor, that you may be able to resist and stand your ground on the evil day [of danger], and, having done all [the crisis demands], to stand [firmly in your place].

14 Stand therefore [hold your ground], having tightened the belt of truth around your loins and having put on the breastplate of integrity and of moral rectitude and right standing with God,

15 And having shod your feet in preparation [to face the enemy with the firm-footed stability, the promptness, and the readiness produced by the good news] of the Gospel of peace.

16 Lift up over all the [covering] shield of saving faith, upon which you can quench all the flaming missiles of the wicked [one].

17 And take the helmet of salvation and the sword that the Spirit wields, which is the Word of God.

Here Paul encourages us to be prepared as soldiers. This was easily understood by early Christians since their land was occupied by Rome and there were Roman soldiers everywhere. Verse 15 says “having feet shod in preparation with the gospel of PEACE!”

What a paradox! They were living in a land occupied by Roman forces, yet they were to share the good news of PEACE.

Jesus preached to his followers that we are blessed when we are the “makers AND maintainers of peace. If we do this we will be called children of God! In Matthew 5:9 (Amplified) Jesus says –

Blessed (enjoying enviable happiness, spiritually prosperous—with life-joy and satisfaction in God’s favor and salvation, regardless of their outward conditions) are the makers and maintainers of peace, for they shall be called the sons of God!

Finally, Paul defines peace for us in Phillippians 4:7 (Amplified)

And God’s peace [shall be yours, that tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and being content with its earthly lot of whatever sort that is, that peace] which transcends all understanding shall garrison and mount guard over your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Whatever the conflict – I can be at peace because I am assured of salvation AND I am content – whatever my earthly lot.

I need to set an example for my children and grandchildren by living at peace myself. I must live in such a way that they see my peaceful faith on display – not discontent or conflict.

My Failure or I’m a BIG Hypocrite

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“So, what did you think about that?”

I listened for a moment, and then proceeded to criticize my husband’s response.

Busted!

I proceeded to explain to him that he was being CRITICAL.

REALLY?

I also went further (inserting both feet in my mouth) to tell him that his response was HYPOCRITICAL.

Everything I accused him of I was doing myself.

Shame washed over me – but the damage was done.

I couldn’t take back my words or the feelings they invoked. The thought went through my mind that I have been on my journey as a Christian for over 50 years, yet I am still failing to love the person who means the most to me, my husband.

I can blog all day about respectful relationships with my children and grandchildren – yet it is all meaningless if I don’t live it out myself in my primary relationship – with my husband.

The mission statement of this blog is “Reflecting the Image of God in Our Relationships”.

That means ALL relationships. Not just the ones I blog about, or the ones other people see.

Yet that is the beauty of our journey as Christians. God is taking us from wherever we are to the destination of being conformed to the likeness of His son, Jesus. As a journey, there are wrong turns, detours, even wrecks. We still press on. Paul says in Philippians 3:12-14 (NIV)

12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

We will receive that prize if we stay on the journey.

So – I ask forgiveness, get off the path of criticism and judgment, and press on – “straining toward what is ahead.”

My friend Alice Marie and I were talking about the pictures we post on Facebook. She mentioned that they give a snapshot – but an incomplete view of our lives. We post the “events” – the parties, get togethers, the cute poses – and these are so much fun to see. They are certainly true – but not the whole story. We should celebrate and share the special times – always remembering that they are just part of the picture.

We don’t post the fights, crying fits, or major messes of our lives. Nor should we. These would often be disrespectful of those involved.

Alice Marie made me think about the photos I post and the things I write about.

I want to tell the truth, give the complete picture and at the same time, celebrate the beauty and wonder of our journey as Christians. God loves us so much that He shows us our failures and gives us the grace to admit them, ask forgiveness, and get back on the right path.

So, I will PRESS ON, thankful that Phil walks in forgiveness with me.

I sure need it.

REALLY!

Sharp Swords

Hardy Swords

A dear friend and co-worker recently called me and asked,

“Would your grandsons like some swords and a pirate costume?”

Is the sky blue? Is grass green?

Yes, YES!

She dropped them off the day before four of our grandsons arrived last week. They immediately began to pose, stab, and swing those swords around. These swords did not come with an instruction booklet or a YouTube video with a live demonstration.

These boys just knew what to do. It was instinctive, a part of their genetic make-up.

I have evolved in my thinking about play swords, guns, etc. When our first child was born in 1977, I was not going to encourage violent play by giving him play guns or swords. We gave him toy trucks, trains, tools, balls of all kinds, etc.

Soon after he walked, he started picking up sticks and swinging them around. He pulled apart the stalks of dried Joe Pie weeds and had “sword” fights with his sisters. Any stick with a crook became a gun – if it was long enough it was a rifle.

My evolution became complete when I realized that children will play “fighting” and “battles”. I just needed to set limits on how they played with play swords or weapons.

So – no hitting people or animals. Period.

Since the fall of man, people have been in conflict. The Bible is full of such situations. The apostle Paul says in Ephesians 6:10-17 –

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Notice two things in particular about this passage –

* the battle is NOT against flesh and blood – other people – but evil spiritual forces
* we need the sword of the Spirit which is God’s Word

Hebrews 4:12 says –

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

God’s word is described as a sword in these two passages. As I saw the grand children playing with the swords, it struck me that we need to prepare them for the spiritual battles they face every day. We do that by learning to use God’s word which is “sharper than any double edged sword.”

When I was dealing with the fear of losing our son when he was stationed in Iraq, I would quote “God is my refuge and strength, a very present help in time of trouble.” The battle for me was not against the terrorists in Iraq, but the FEAR that I would lose my son. This Bible verse did not guarantee my son’s safety – it DID guarantee that God would be with me whatever happened to my loved ones.

Quoting God’s word sets my mind on truth, not the circumstances around me. It allows me to wield that sharp, two edged sword!

We must take the time to share with our children and grandchildren the word of God so that they will be prepared, swords sharp, for the battles they face.

Reverence

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“Have we lost what it means to be reverent?” our friend asked the other evening when we were sharing about the joys and challenges of being grandparents.

This topic came up because I had shared that I didn’t want to be a “crabby old lady, frowning at random little children who are misbehaving” when we attend gatherings of the church.

If you are looking, you will always be able to find some poor, unsuspecting child who is;
* running in the church building
* laughing when it is time to be quiet
* picking up all the bulletins that have just been set out
on the seats
* taking the last 6 donuts from the adult Sunday School
class refreshment counter

Yet the point our friend was making – that is very significant – is that we seem to have lost a sense of reverence for being in God’s presence.

God’s word tells us that where two or three are GATHERED IN HIS NAME God is there with us!!!

Do we value that? Is it of utmost importance that we recognize the presence of the GOD OF THE UNIVERSE?!

Yes!

Biblical folks were struck speechless, glowed, blinded, and transformed after an encounter with the living God.

We may be checking our Facebook page or texting when in corporate worship. What is that telling our children or grandchildren?

The definition of reverence is a feeling or attitude of deep respect tinged with awe; veneration.
How do we practically demonstrate reverence when we have small children (grandchildren) that we include in times of worship?

Several practical things came to mind. You may think of others but here goes:

1) be intentional about times of corporate worship. We are there to WORSHIP GOD! not a multitude of other things.

2) turn off all electronic devices and have family members do so as well. You will survive, trust me.

3) quiet yourself. This may not mean not talking to anyone, or it may. It does mean being quiet enough to sense the Lord’s presence.

4) focus on God’s presence through the prayers, worship songs, preaching and teaching, testimonies, etc.

5) take every thought captive. When my mind starts to make a grocery list, stop, re-focus.

6) ENJOY the time of corporate worship. This will be the most important aspect of communicating reverence to our children and grandchildren. When they SEE that we find joy in God’s presence, it is contagious.

I do believe that pastors, elders, Sunday School teachers, but most of all parents need to communicate clearly with children what it means to be reverent. Children will value what they see the adults they love and respect value.

Jesus was going to the temple to pray to his Father. At the entrance he saw crooks selling animals for sacrifices at exorbitant prices. He flew into a rage because they were making His Father’s house of worship into something else.

John 2:13-16

13 When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. 15 So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16 To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!”

Jesus took reverence for His Father and His house of worship very seriously.

So must we.