This Business of Forgiveness

“…forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:32)

Unforgiveness is not your friend. It does not empower you, it weakens and blocks blessing. It has the stench of pride on it because it tries to take God’s place in dealing with your offender. It also takes up valuable  real estate in your mind and heart, incubating anger and playing constant reruns of what’s been done to you. Unforgiveness makes your offender the center of things, and this amounts to idolatry because  that spot belongs only to God. He is jealous to be the center, but your unforgiving heart leases that space to your villain at great cost to your own well-being.

Forgiveness does the opposite: It leaves the heavy duty of vengeance to God, freeing your  strength to be used in fulfilling your purpose of glorifying Him. Forgiveness dances on the beach by the sea of forgiveness in which the Father drowned your own sin, offering you the opportunity to cast the sin of your offender there too so it won’t weigh you down. Forgiveness is humility which recognizes that its hand has received so much grace it cannot raise  fighting fists; only palms in praise.

Having cleared the space where anger and bitterness once occupied, you make room for God’s blessing of peace, joy, and purpose. The air is cleared of negative soundtracks to horror stories of injustice done to you and is filled with the sweet song of deliverance from the cage where unforgiveness kept you.  In such a clear space, you can hear the voice of God and His words of truth are music to your soul.

Why would you wait so long to get here?

Forgiveness is not about deserving, it’s all about grace. Don’t try to reason with it, it doesn’t make sense because love defies reason. You may not love your offender and what they did, but your love for Jesus and what He’s done for you provides enough power to scale the mountain of offense.

You have a life to live, a purpose to fulfill, and a God to glorify. Your offenders have taken up enough of your time and mental space. It’s time to get on with the business of abundant living, so the business of bitterness has to go! God is not mocked, no one ever gets away with anything. Vengeance is His business; forgiveness is yours.

Click here  to view a short video for further reflection on this topic!

You Are Not Alone!

“Certainly I will be with you….” Exodus 3:12

New territory can be both exciting and terrifying. Your heart longs to take the necessary step to move forward, to reach a goal, fix a problem, make a change, or pursue a dream. As reliable as the sun rising each day is fear presenting all the reasons you can’t or shouldn’t try. Your insecurities are just as faithful; however, you have Someone Whose faithfulness is greater than either of them. The Lord has promised to be with you! The Mighty God is more than a monitor; His presence packs power to be courageous, ripping through lies and excuses so you can see enough to take the next step. Sometimes He gives you a song that pipes spiritual pluck through those fear-gorged veins; other times His presence is wrapped in the human flesh of an encouraging friend.

If you are too busy complaining how hard this is, you’re probably missing the presence. He cares how you feel, and there is a time to voice those emotions, but don’t let them do all the talking or for too long. Gratitude and praise have a way of cowering those complaints! You’ve got mountains to plow through, decisions to make, and a purpose to fulfill! You can be strong and very courageous because the Lord promised to be with you. You’re never doing this thing alone!

When You’ve Had a Setback

“…weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” Psalm 30:5

You feel you should be father along than you are now. You  hadn’t planned to be in this place and yet here you are. Despite all your efforts, you feel you’ve moved backwards instead of ahead. You’re tempted to be angry, depressed, disillusioned, and in your darkest moments, maybe suicidal or at least tempted to escape in an unhealthy way. Everything about where you are makes you feel like a failure.

I’ve been there.

You may feel too messed up to want to read your Bible. You think you already know  what God has to say, and you just don’t want to hear it right now. My Friend, this is the best time to read. I don’t understand how it works, but dark times have a way of illuminating a truth you would never have seen otherwise. The Bible is a living book written by the living God and both of them want to meet you where you are in real life today.  Reading may be through a blur of guilty tears or through teeth and jaws taut with anger, but read anyway. Stay at it and don’t let go until He blesses you. I’ve found this exercise opens spiritual valves I never knew were there. It’s not comfortable or fun—-it’s survival. A setback can become a permanent rut if you allow your negative emotions to spin a deeper pit. It can also be a place where your view of God deepens. You don’t like the you that you see in this setback, but it’s still the person He loves; the person He wants to grow and strengthen.

Be patient with yourself and God. Grieve the loss of what isn’t and dare your eyes to look up with hope that what you call a setback may just be a set-up for a brighter future and a stronger relationship with your Creator.

Let’s Be Unrealistic!

You’re never getting to a better place without being unrealistic in your prayer life. Faith is asking God for what is not yet reality. He invites you to call on Him and promises to show you great and mighty things that are not realistic yet (Jeremiah 33:3). Be bold and courageous in your asking even if it feels awkward at first. Your heart, your inner critic, and your circumstances may smirk at your audacious request, but God smiles at it. He loves it when His children dare their lips to ask for what their heart dreams. Your faith may quiver a little, and that’s ok. He remembers that you are human and will help you with the bits of unbelief mixed into your prayers (Mark 9:24). Remind yourself that He gave you the best He had when He gave His Son; why would He be stingy and begrudging of lesser things (Romans 8:32)? Reminisce about His resume’: He spoke the world into existence, drained a dry walking path at the bottom of the sea, fed thousands with a tiny amount of food, and came back from the dead. Do you really think you can request anything more unrealistic than these?

Write out your request and post it where you can see it often. Put it in code if you don’t wish anyone to see it, but write it, dream it, believe it, pray it! If He answers “no,” you lose nothing, and you can’t help but gain something better. Don’t risk missing out on a new reality because you are too scared to invite His power into your current one.

Be strong, be courageous, be unrealistic!

God Hasn’t Given Up On You!

“Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5b

You know the frustration of failing over and over. You want to do better and you try and try, but still, you can’t get it together like you wish you could. Maybe you have an addiction and your family is sick and tired of broken promises. Perhaps you are caught in a lifestyle of immorality and you don’t know how to get out, or it seems too hard to leave it. You may have relapsed into a nasty habit everyone thinks you have overcome and you’re too ashamed to tell anyone you haven’t. You feel stuck in a cycle and you are tempted to lose hope. Please don’t! God loves you more than you love yourself, and He wants to help you have victory over whatever stronghold is strangling you. Failure doesn’t mean you can never succeed, it means you are human and need superhuman help.

It starts with God.

If you believe He’s angry with you, know that He’s provided a way to fix that: confess what you have done and ask His forgiveness. He doesn’t keep nagging about any sin you’ve repented of, so if you hear anymore about it, it’s not from Him. Move on to your problem. Ask for His strength and expect to get it. Ask Him what steps you need to take to begin having victory. When He tells you, believe Him enough to write down what He says. Know that some days will be harder than others and that’s OK. You didn’t get into trouble overnight and getting out may take time, but it begins with a decision to change and a commitment to keep moving forward. Each day is a new chance to make progress. Don’t give up on yourself. As long as you are still alive and willing to go to Him for help, you always have hope. Don’t give up on yourself if God hasn’t. HE HASN’T!

We Know Better!

But you did not learn Christ in this way, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. Ephesians 4:20-24

Someone had yanked her chain and she morphed into a pit bull! Staring daggers into the camera on her phone, she recorded words that sounded true enough, but they were laced with just a hint of indirect “who do you think you are?” The backstory was vague, but one could safely surmise that she’d been told that her life did not reflect Jesus and there would be consequences. With slitted eyes and a neck snapping side to side like a whip stripping the flesh off her opponent, her lips spat alliterated phrases about God morphing messes into miracles and tests into testimonies. Then my phone automatically scrolled to another video with the same woman in it, but she’d left any semblance of church lady in the first one. The pet peeve she voiced was drowning in so much profanity I’d need thigh-high boots to finish listening. I passed.

We all have blind spots and inconsistencies in our walk with Christ. Nobody is calling us to perfection, but if we aim high, we’ll at least land on godliness. The world is cynical about Christianity and some of it has to do with what they see in us who claim to know Him. Determine today to be evidence that Christ is real, that He changes lives in a spectacular way. This is not performing, it’s letting the Spirit do His patented transforming! If the world saw this, they might be enchanted by Him instead of repulsed by us.

Lord, make us outposts and examples of Who You are and what You’re like. The world has a skewed view of You. Use us to be living proof of the holy propaganda that Christians are mini-me’s of Christ. Please make us different in all the best possible ways. Amen.

Prince of Peace

There’s always at least one thing you didn’t get done in time for Christmas, right? Maybe you forgot to buy a gift, or the batteries for the gift, or an ingredient, or that last roll of wrapping paper because you ran out. Come Christmas morning, though, all that you stressed about seems to either melt or at least move to the back out of your mind. Why? Because Christmas is about the Prince of Peace!

“I am leaving you with a gift–peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” John 14:27

Merry Christmas, My Friend! May the peace of God which passes all understanding guard your heart and your mind in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:7)

As you gather with family and friends, may you be diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. ( Ephesians 4:3)

As you celebrate with food and gifts and the making of memories, I pray you sense the presence of the Prince of Peace! (Isaiah 9:6)