Forgiveness

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There are attributes in many believers that seem unnatural to the people around them. Some people have a joy that shines out of them, some the patience that lasts forever. While all seem unnatural in this dark world, they are beautiful when they show their light to the darkness. One of the blessings given to me is my ability to forgive. I took an introspective moment to consider how to explain something so unnatural to those around me. I would like to credit the Holy Spirit. The part of me that thought of vengeance or vindication has become so quiet, its whisper has disappeared.

         Like many of the gifts the Spirit gives to believers, the beauty of them can’t be fully described to people who don’t walk in them. We all know that the Word of God calls us to forgive. For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matthew 6:14-15) This passage means so much more to a forgiving heart. I see Jesus giving an instruction for us to do unto others as our Father has done for us in providing His Son. Even more, I see an amazing Father teaching His children to do something that is good for them even though it isn’t pleasant by nature. Like a parent telling a child to bathe regularly; the child can’t appreciate the lessons in hygiene given to them until they are older and matured. Similarly we begin to appreciate the Word of God as our faith grows and our spirit matures.

               When we refuse to forgive those who offend or harm us we change who we are. We affect the way we see others in terms of trust and kindness. The hurt we hold onto in being unforgiving causes damage and inevitably reveals itself in a way we don’t recognize, in a completely unrelated situation. I think of people who hurt others as fallen and sinful, which applies to us all. In that way we are all consistently falling short of the Glory of God. The nature of people is like gravity. We are always sinful just as gravity always pulls. When we fall do we lash out against gravity or accept what it is?

         Lacking forgiveness is like refusing to accept the nature of sin and man. Refusing to work within God’s design just makes us uncomfortable as the world continues to dwell in darkness. Forgiveness is a light to a world content with its fallenness. Show this world forgiveness with a humility that humbles a hardened heart.

         Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, (Luke 17:3) We are told here to pay attention to ourselves. That makes sense seeing that forgiveness is for our well-being over the well-being of the offender. I feel that forgiveness given, even when there has been no repentance, calms the heart of the offended and warms the heart of our Father. Christ was crucified so that we would have the choice to be forgiven. He died for those who have shown no repentance so that the option of salvation is theirs. Forgive unconditionally, break the cycle of pride so that the love of Christ can be felt through you.

But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you. (Psalm 130:4)

Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. (Psalm 32:1)

Loved and Redeemed

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I will not forget you. I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist. Return to me, for I have redeemed you. (Isaiah 44:21b-22)

         As we grow in love and obedience to God and develop the wisdom to understand His love for us poured out on the cross, it’s common to feel distant from or unworthy of God. I believe this is because all of us are used to the temporal, shallow love available to us through earthly vessels. Even when people love us with all they have, it still will never compare to the love of the Father. His love is eternal and unconditional. Although God hates sin, His love sweeps away our sin when we return to Him in repentance. We can never be too far gone for the love of the Father to wash us white as snow with the blood of Jesus.
         We can praise God that His mercies are new every day and that He will never give up on us as we are tempted to do when we feel discouraged. Believers must be careful not to see the love of God through the broken lenses of earthly affection. In the same way we cannot see the joy found in God through the broken lenses of happiness. The beautiful thing about God’s love, and also the thing that makes it hardest to comprehend is the fact that it is not based on emotion. There is no condition to His love. Similarly, there is no condition to the joy His love provides, unlike happiness which is conditional and fleeting.
         God created you to be loved for eternity. The deceiver looks to mask that and replace it with lesser versions like lust. The devil knows that one of his biggest problems is when we come into the full realization of what God’s love looks like, and what it looks like for that perfect love to drive out the fear used by the deceiver as fuel to draw us into darkness. Know that God’s love is forever yours. He sweeps away sin and offense for His name sake and not because of you. You can’t do anything to remove God’s love for you which existed before the beginning of time. Let the blood of the Lamb wash you clean and receive the love God came to earth to give you. Let His Spirit dwell in you and lead you to the purpose found in His perfect will and perfect love. He will never forget and of His creation. He knows the number of hairs on your head and knew your sin before your birth. Dwell in His love and let His love dwell in you, for He has redeemed His chosen, He has redeemed you.

God’s Purpose in Trouble

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       It is inevitable in our Christian walk that we will encounter seasons of difficulty. Some people assume that walking with the Lord takes away the afflictions of this world. We might assume that God would only use those difficulties to punish people in their sin. He brings the clouds to punish people, or to water his earth and show his love. (Job 37:13) Let’s consider that God uses the difficulties of people’s lives to draw them closer to Him. Not only to draw the lost to Jesus and reconciliation with Him, but also to draw His children closer.

       God has no need to create punishment for those who walk in darkness. All He has to do is let their decision to turn from Him, into the darkness, leave them in a despair of their own doing. A life absent of God is all the pain most people need when all of their human effort fails. When all earthly securities fail there is a loving Father waiting with open arms to shine His light into their lives.

       The most important thing for believers is to make sure they turn to God when life becomes difficult. God uses all things for the good of those who love Him. Part of loving Him is the obedience found in reliance on His provision and perfect plan for your life. The times of trouble in our lives leave us with a big decision: turn to God or turn to the things of this world that are destined to fade. We can turn to the eternal or the temporary. Our treasure can be gathered here or in Heaven. Turning to God in a difficult season is not a onetime choice but a daily decision as the deceiver looks to draw you away from God in your desperation for immediate relief. Beware of turning to evil, which you seem to prefer to affliction. (Job 36:21) Look to God’s purpose, which is growing the faith of His chosen. Let hard times draw you to love God in deeper ways. Make relationship with God the result of troubles.

God’s Repeated Warnings

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Yet if there is an angel at their side, a messenger, one out of a thousand, sent to tell them how to be upright, and he is gracious to that person and says to God, ‘Spare them from going down to the pit; I have found a ransom for them— let their flesh be renewed like a child’s; let them be restored as in the days of their youth’— then that person can pray to God and find favor with him, they will see God’s face and shout for joy; he will restore them to full well-being. (Job 33:23-26)

                Reading the passage above I am confronted with the extent of God’s mercy. This wonder scripture tells us about “one of a thousand” angels send to guide us in how to walk with God. That’s God’s one thousand plus attempts to guide us back to Him. Imagine the love involved in that kind of persistence. Would you have the love to try a thousand times to walk with someone who rejected every previous attempt? God allows people who turn from Him to walk into trouble repeatedly in the hope that the next angel sent to them will be the messenger of joy to Heaven.

                Then it’s revealed that the angel may find a ransom for that lost soul, that they might be renewed in the eyes of their Lord. All of Heaven knows that there is in fact a ransom which will reconcile us with God. He sent His Son so that He might be a ransom for all who believe in His name. the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28) For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as ransom for all (1 Timothy 2:5-6a)

                Praise God for the mercy, grace and love that led Him to seek His children a thousand times. Praise God for the gift of Jesus and His rescue from a death we all deserve in our sinful turning away. Although the events of Job take place well before the laws given to Moses or the birth of Jesus, we see the heart of God for His people. We can fall in love with a God who seeks us in our rebellion with a tenacity that has no bounds. Let this love for God lead you to share it with the lost as He sends to share the Gospel. Know that you are one of God’s thousands of attempts to make His love known in all the earth.

Lost in Pride

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                Many people think of pride as someone who thinks they are better than those around them. People focus on the “chest beating” pride that is the most outwardly evident form. The dangerous kinds of pride are the less obvious types. These are self-reliance and self-focus. All pride drives us away from God and opens up a foot-hold for the deceiver. God opposed the proud, but gives grace to the humble. (James 4:6) Pride is the reason the devil was cast out of heaven and is the source of all sin. The pride of the deceiver is what causes him to oppose God and oppose those who serve God here on earth. Any pride that you hold is a connection to the nature of satan and a barrier to closeness with the Lord.

Self-Reliance

                It is human nature to try and do things for ourselves in our own way. We drift from reliance on God. This sinful nature draws us into a life soiled by pain, frustration, and worry. We feel out of place and unsettled as we try and mask the missing peace with worldly pleasures through more self-reliance. These earthly “band-aides” leave us deeper in despair. Someone who lives in self-reliance builds a house with no foundation. When they fall there is no limit to the depths of that trouble.

                On the other hand, we can fight that nature. We can rely on God. He desires us to rely on His provision and designed us to walk in reliance on Him. We were designed for a purpose and God wants us to walk in His light. If we follow the path of God we a fulfilled and at peace in our journey through life. We draw closer to God in reliance on Him and the deceiver loses his ability to draw on the pride that causes self-reliance. God calls us to humility and submission so that He can lead us in the peace and joy found in Him.

Self-Focus

       Humans are selfish by nature. From birth we think only of ourselves. The dangerous position of self-focus causes many things that create deep turmoil in our live. This kind of pride is the source of anxiety, depression, anger, unforgiveness, etc. It’s sad to see the world turn to medication over God. When we think the world revolves around us or that we deserve more than we do, we fall victim to pride. We are anxious when we think we can control the things around us. We get depressed when we don’t get what we feel we should or feel the way we want. Anger occurs when we feel wronged because we don’t deserve undesired treatment or belong in a certain situation. We have trouble forgiving when we want additional attention for the wrong we perceive. All of those situations find their source in personal opinions on what we think should be true.

       We have to turn to God and realize our mission on earth is to serve the growth of His kingdom and to glorify Him as His image bearers. The world owes us nothing. We have no control over the outcomes when God is in control. People are not focused on how we are affected by their actions because their fallenness causes them to be self-focused. It’s not our job to hold anyone accountable for the pride that we can now recognize. We must show them what humility looks like as they continue to walk in pride. Their escape from the prison of pride is between them and God. Focus on God and His plans. Focus on your involvement in His kingdom and turn away from the temptation to make any situation revolve around you.

 

       The most dangerous part of pride is that pride keeps us from seeing the pride in ourselves and others. We cannot admit the existence of our pride because our pride will not allow it. That is the reason why, even in the eyes of defeat, the devil cannot admit to himself that he cannot defeat God. People cannot see their own pride so you cannot call out their flaw. You must be an image bearer of humility and love that draws them to God’s peace that radiates from you. If you read this and find pride in your heart, you can thank God for that revelation and know that He personally is calling you out of the darkness of sin. You cannot see your own pride without the humility God gives you. The cycle of pride requires Godly intervention to break. Thank God for His continued work in and through you. Love others in their fallenness and draw close to God who loves you too much to lose you to pride, the source of all sin.

Old Testament Exile is Our Difficulty

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       The exile/ correction of God’s people in the Old Testament can be compared to the difficult times God allows His people to go through today. He let His people in the OT suffer in their turning away from Him so that He could return the faithful/ humble/ obedient to their former blessedness. The same occurs today in difficult seasons where a believer’s faith draws them closer to God and His sovereignty; or turns them toward worldly security. When painful situations draw out the believer’s faith, humility (reliance on God) and obedience to His will; God is able to grow their spirit and mold them to His purpose. God allows trouble in our lives to grow and mature His children.

 The reaction of the afflicted is what decides the result of a difficult circumstance.

       The tendency of people in their sinful fallenness is to turn to their own ability and understanding to correct their situation in their own power. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6) Any battle fought with human power will not be finished. 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. (Ephesians 6:12) Only battles where God is our defender find completion for all time. We cannot fight spiritual battles with earthly weapons. Our flesh will only hinder the work of God in our spirits. let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles (Hebrews 12:1)

     With every difficulty we face there is also a plan for revival. God does not seek to bring us to ruin but to correct His children with love. He wants His faithfulness to lead us to a fullness of life beyond our dreams; and to grow us in faithfulness toward His provision and sovereignty. God is glorified when the result of a difficult season is a deeper relationship with His children and when His power and love is shown to those who are witness to His work in the lives of His faithful.

 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. (Isaiah 55:8)

so is my word that goes out from my mouth:  It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:11)

Knowledge or Love

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      How many times have we met someone that knows there must be a God? How many people do you know who say they believe in Jesus, but their life doesn’t show signs of His presence? The bible says: You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder (James 2:19) There are times in the ministry of Jesus where the demons refer to Him as the “Son of God.” Even the demons know who He is which means that knowing is not enough. We are called to know Jesus through a mutual love. We are meant to know Christ with our hearts and not only our minds. Christ dwells in our hearts and the deceiver dwells in our heads to continue the battle between our spirit and our flesh. The closer we get to God, the more familiar His voice becomes and the less effective the deceptions in our minds become.
    Many people seek God through knowledge. They read and study in an attempt to know Him and get closer to Him. They miss the opportunity to experience the true glory of God only found in love. It’s only possible to know God through what He reveals to you about His infinitude, through His love and grace. We are meant to grow in Christ through love and not knowledge. God’s Word says: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. (1 Corinthians 8:1-2) God reveals to the humble believer everything they need to know. The Holy Spirit came to lead us to all truth. Let love lead you to communion with God and let God’s Spirit lead you to the knowledge given by God for you to accomplish your purpose.
    We also influence those around us as we walk with God in the process of sanctification. Focusing on knowledge over love leaves us in a position to lead others in knowledge over love. We have to be careful to bring new believers along at a pace based on God’s timing. Don’t let your head hurt a believer where your heart can show them the Lord. And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. (1 Corinthians 8:11)
     Let your spirit of love draw you closer to God as it also draws those around you to the truth of Jesus Christ. Let love be the basis for your testimony and what you call on to show Jesus to this dark world. Let your knowledge come from the Holy Spirit. It will be designed for you at each moment of your walk and it will always prove a trustworthy as the Source.