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Jimmy lived most of life questioning why his dad left him at such a young age. But he was convicted and compelled by the gospel to love and pursue his estranged father in an effort to extend forgiveness and reconciliation.

A Father’s Love

My parents went to church, and my grandpa was the pastor of our church back home. During one of the mid-week services, my grandpa was up preaching and he asked the congregation, “If you died tonight, where would you lift your eyes up?”

And I started asking myself that same question. God started showing me how much of a sinner I actually was. He showed me, in a small way, my own depravity and my need for Him. I remember crying out to Him, “God, I want you to save me!”

Right then and there, He called me by name and He saved my soul.

After that, a really sweet thing took place (I call it sweet now, but it didn’t seem sweet at the time)…

A couple days later was a Sunday. My mom, my sister and my grandmother decided to go to the mall. Then, at the last second, I decided not to go with them. They came back later, and I remember looking out and seeing my mom crying in the back seat of the car. Then, I saw my grandma crying, and my sister crying.

My grandma walked up to me and told me that they had all caught my dad cheating on my mom with another woman at the mall.

I remember being so angry at that moment that I wanted to punch a hole through the light post that was standing next to me.

But then, in that same moment, I was reminded by the Holy Spirit that I’m different. I’m changed. I’m saved. And I actually need to forgive my dad.

But that just wrecked me! At the same time, I was so angry at my dad! I didn’t want to forgive him. He hurt my mom!

Still, at that moment, I realized that I needed to forgive him.

A little while later, he came back to the house. My mom and dad were arguing – screaming pretty loud. The only thing I could think to do was to pray.

I really wanted my dad to leave. I just didn’t want them to argue any more about this situation.

I mean… I was just in the sixth grade!

So, I ran to my bed and prayed. I asked God to just make him leave. Then I heard my doorknob turn and my bedroom door crack open. I heard my dad’s footsteps come through my door. The only thing I could think to do was to scream, “Daddy!”

He looked at me and the only thing I could say was, “Daddy, I love you.”

I said those words, and my own flesh and blood—my dad— looked me right square in the eyes, and just turned and walked out the house. He didn’t say a word.

That just broke my heart. I began to weep.

But, then God reminded me that I didn’t need my dad’s love.

I am loved by my Heavenly Father!

And that was all I needed.

All the way through high school, I continued to pray for my dad. When I got to college, I just stopped caring. In fact, I stopped praying about it.

I met a young man, who was in choir with me, and he asked me about my testimony. After I finished telling him my story, he asked me, “When was the last time you prayed for your dad? Actually, when was the last time you prayed for y’all’s relationship?”

I just sat back and said, “It’s been a long time.”

So, I went back to my dorm and said, “OK, Lord… I want to start praying for my and my dad’s relationship. I know it’s not good right now, and I want it to change. I want to know my dad more.”

After that, I began to call my dad. I’d call him almost every day. Many times, he didn’t answer the phone. And many times, he didn’t call me back. And there were many times when he would talk with me. And at the end of the call, I would say, “Alright Daddy… I love you.” And he wouldn’t say a thing. He’d just hang up the phone.

This happened for many years. But, I continued to pray for him and pursue him. I just kept running after him.

I actually wrote a couple songs about how I felt during that time, and how my mom felt, too. And, at one point, I actually sang one of the songs to him. I could hear my dad crying on the other end. I could feel the hurt within him. He began to repent to me. He said, “Son, I’m sorry. I’m sorry for all the things that I’ve done.”A Father’s Love

When we were saying goodbye, I said, “Daddy, I love you.”

And he actually said, “I love you”, back to me.

It touched my heart so much to hear those words.

And after that night, he actually started calling me! He was calling me even more often than I was calling him. He even would tell me he loved me without me saying it at all.

I look at all this, and I can clearly see how God has reconciled our relationship, and I see the Gospel in that.

I can see, through this story, how Christ has continually pursued me.

Oddly enough, I’m glad that all this stuff happened. Because, if this hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t be the man who I am today. I would not know Jesus as well as I know Him if my dad had not done the things that he did. The times when my dad wasn’t there, I learned that my Heavenly Father was always there. He would always provide when my dad wouldn’t provide for me. When I needed somebody to tell me that he loved me, my Heavenly Father would show me how much He loved me in so many different ways!

At one point, I called my dad and said, “Daddy, I don’t want you to say a word. I’ve just got some things that I need to tell you. God has used you in a great way – to push me to want to know Him more. And, I’m closer to God because of you.”

The next day, my dad called me, and said, “Okay… it’s my turn. Let me tell you something, and I don’t want you to say a word…”

And he went on to say things that I had never heard him say before. He told me how proud he was of me. He told me how I pushed him closer to God.

I see now how God has used me to display, in a way, a part of the Gospel in my dad’s life.

Reconciliation.

I’m thankful that God has reconciled our relationship. And to this day, me and my dad are really close. I look forward to the day when he calls me to tell me that he is saved, and I’m not going to stop praying for that!

I want God to call him by name.

The Austin Stone Story Team is a community of artists who tell stories of gospel transformation. We are photographers, writers, editors, filmmakers, and musicians on a common mission to use our gifts for His glory.

(By The Austin Stone Story Team. Discovered by Christian Podcast Central and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Christian Podcast Central, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

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Here is a humble and sincere question from a listener named Roy: “Dear Pastor John, I have been reflecting recently and was reminded of the hurts I have inflicted upon people whom I have crossed paths with. As much as I would like to seek restoration, the means of doing so are no longer practically possible. While I believe that in Christ those past wrongs are forgiven, I cannot help but feel a lingering sense of guilt and regret when I bring to mind those incidents. How do I reconcile the reality that I have been forgiven in Christ for the hurts I have caused, of which restoration is no longer possible, and my lingering sense of regret?”

How Do I Escape Regret over Hurt I’ve Caused? 

I think the first thing I should say is that probably, in this life, the things we have done wrong that hurt people in the past will always be remembered, if they are remembered, with a sense of regret. It seems to me it would be a sign of callousness if we felt no measure of sorrow for the wrongs we’ve done and the hurts we’ve caused. I don’t intend to tell Roy that while he lives in this world he can get beyond those feelings of sorrow and regret. Those are signs of a tender heart, not an unforgiven soul.How Do I Escape Regret over Hurt I’ve Caused?

The key is this: will his life be paralyzed by those memories and those feelings of regret, or will those very feelings empower him with a sense of greater grace, greater gratitude, greater joy at what he has in Jesus who forgives him? That’s where the Scriptures do, indeed, help us tremendously.

Roy is right to be moved by the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:23–24, “If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you” — in other words, if you’ve really hurt him — “leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” Yes, that’s right. Make it right. If you’ve stolen something, give it back and apologize. All kinds of things need to be done to make things right. If you’re worshiping and brooding and holding a grudge against others because of what they did, then you need to go make that right. Wherever possible, we do this. If we’ve wronged anyone, we should seek to make it right. But, as Roy is pointing out, that’s not always possible.

The person we wronged may have died. They may be utterly inaccessible in some way: in a coma, or on the other side of the world, or they may be unwilling to be reconciled. That’s the worst kind of inaccessibility. Jesus knows all this, and he’s not saying that our salvation or even our peace of mind depends on whether we have access to the people we need to be reconciled with or whose hurts we need to set right. The thief on the cross had no opportunity to restore anything that he had stolen for decades. He must have stolen from dozens and dozens of people since he is just called a thief. And yet, Jesus said he’s going to be in paradise (Luke 23:43). He never set one thing right. Not one. Psalm 19:13 pleads for forgiveness for hidden faults. Why? Because we can’t remember them. We don’t even know what people we’ve hurt. If we can remember some, we can’t remember them all.

Let me give a principle from Scripture that might help Roy, and then a closing illustration from my experience. 2 Corinthians 8:10–12 is talking about a heart-intention to be generous with our money versus the actual opportunity to do so. Then I’m going to apply this to reconciliation, and you’ll see the application. Here’s what he says, “A year ago [you] started not only to do this work but also to desire to do it” — that is, generous giving. “So now finish doing it as well, so that your readiness in desiring it may be matched by your completing it out of what you have.” Then Paul says this wonderful word of principle. He says, “For if the readiness is there, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have.”

In other words, if the readiness, if the willingness, in this case, to give generously — but it also applies to willingness to be reconciled — if the readiness is there for reconciliation and for the repair of wrongs, it is acceptable. That readiness is acceptable according to the opportunities we have, not according to what we don’t have. There’s the principle. That’s what Roy needs to hear. In the case of money, if you have it, your willingness will be assessed by your giving. If you don’t have it, God knows your willingness, and he delights in it. The same thing is true with reconciliation. If there’s an opportunity, do it. God will delight in that. But if there’s no opportunity but a great willingness and readiness, God will delight in that.

Now, here’s my illustration. I got a phone call years ago from a man who had had a heart attack and knew his life was hanging in the balance and that he could die any day. He was calling everybody he could remember that he might have offended and making things right. We had a good laugh together because I like this guy a lot, and we used to spar when I was a teacher in college. We’d get into hot conversations. He was worried that I was maybe holding a grudge. I said, “No way. I love you. You’re fine with me. Thanks for calling anyway.” I assured him no ill will.

But that man’s acceptance with God and peace with God did not depend on his getting through his list before he died. I don’t know if he got through his list because he did die. He did in the next few weeks. And it doesn’t depend on him remembering everybody that should be on the list. For goodness’ sake, how could he ever remember that? He was a pretty difficult guy to get along with. He probably made a lot of trouble. I liked him a lot, though. The beauty of his action was that it showed a good heart that wanted to make everything right and to hold no grudges and withhold no reconciliation — and that’s what God wanted from him.

That’s what God wants from Roy. And that’s what God wants from all of us: that kind of ready-to-be-reconciled heart.

Find other recent and popular Ask Pastor John episodes here.

John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books, including A Peculiar Glory.

(By Desiring God. Discovered by Christian Podcast Central and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Christian Podcast Central, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

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A really good and important question comes to us today from an anonymous husband. “Dear Pastor John, I have been following your podcast ‘religiously’ for the past six months. As a backsliding believer it has played a significant role in bringing me back to God and to serving him, albeit in much weakness and stumbling. I am ever thankful. My marriage has suffered much due to me neglecting my wife in many ways over the past 22 years of our marriage. Currently it is teetering on the brink of collapse and it has reached the point where it is completely at God’s mercy and is proving to be the biggest struggle in my rekindled newfound faith and relationship with God. I wake up many mornings despairing that my marriage is beyond repair and I struggle to rejoice in the new mercies that the new morning is bringing to me. My wife has given up on me and I cannot blame her. My question is this: How is marriage, like mine, which is so hard to pull off, a model of Christ’s covenant love for his church? Can a hard marriage model Christ, or only easier ones?”

How Can My Difficult Marriage Glorify Christ?First, welcome back. Welcome home to Jesus. And I have prayed that, even though it feels hopeless, it won’t be hopeless. That is my prayer. Let me read the text that he is assuming; namely. Ephesians 5:22–26 about marriage as the picture or the model of Christ and the church that he is concerned about.

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word.

And then, just about five verses later, he puts the twist on it: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh” — that is a quote from Genesis 2:24. “This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” So, marriage is designed by God to be a parable or a drama or picture of the covenant love between Christ and the church, the bride of Christ.

Now, I wonder if he really means to ask the question in just this way. He says, “Can a hard marriage model Christ, or only easier ones?” Well, the answer to that is easy. Yes. Whether a marriage is easy or hard is not what undermines the testimony to the world about Christ and his church. There are plenty of stresses between Christ and the church, and it is all the church’s fault, not Christ’s. What communicates something false about Christ and his church is when a marriage covenant is treated as broken, because the covenant between Christ and his church is never broken.

Hard, hard marriages that persevere in faithfulness, year in and year out, against all odds, tell a great truth about Christ and his church. The blood-bought new covenant will never be broken — ever. That is what is different. That is what is new about the new covenant over the old covenant. He secures its permanence by his blood. And that newness is why Jesus raised the standards of faithfulness in marriage above the standards of the Old Testament law.

Now, I would go a step further. If a faithful believer sees his marriage unraveling, he or she can tell the truth about Christ and the church by keeping the covenant, even if the other partner doesn’t. That is what is new and radical in the ideal that Jesus has lifted up to model the new covenant. And then I would add another crucial reminder. Marriage is only one of the many ways that the truth of Christ is shown in the world. A believer whose marriage is destroyed and no longer presents a parable of covenant love, that believer can show the worth of Christ in dozens of other ways that God has appointed. And one of those ways is how he or she treats people in that horrific process of dissolution. Christ’s all-satisfying worth is displayed when we find him sufficient to meet every need so that we have grace to return good for evil to our estranged spouse or children or parents or whoever has made life so hard.

It is possible to have failed to glorify Christ in one area and yet, in the very ruins of that failure, to glorify Christ in different ways. In fact, we are all in that situation, aren’t we? Don’t all of us bear the scars of some past failure that we wish we could undo? We can’t. And yet this is the very life with all of its scars, all of its ruins, that Christ intends to redeem and in which he intends to be glorified.

The apostle Paul had been a murderer of Christians and, therefore, lived all his life with the painful consciousness that he was the chief of sinners (1 Timothy 1:1315). You can hear it in his old age. It still gets him. That was the life God redeemed and in which, not just after which, in which — the painful ruins in which — Paul would glorify him all his remaining days.

So, my answer is that a hard marriage can, indeed, display the covenant-keeping love of Christ and, not only that, a faithful, covenant-keeping spouse after a failed marriage can display the truth of that covenant. And if it looks like there has been complete failure in regard to marriage, God can yet so transform you that, in the ruins of it, he gets glory.

Find other recent and popular Ask Pastor John episodes here.

John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books, including A Peculiar Glory.

(By Desiring God. Discovered by e2 media network and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not e2 media network, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

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As you will hear in this PODCAST, in Matthew 18:21, Peter asked a profoundly important question. A question that haunted him. And if we are honest, a question that at times haunts us.

Matthew 18:21 reads,

“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”

Can you think of any question that hits us more profoundly right where we live than this one? There is not a one of us who hasn’t been hurt significantly by someone or someones in the past.

Perhaps in the very recent past.

Perhaps the person’s hurts continue into the present.

Consequently, this whole issue of forgiveness — what it means and what it does not mean — could not come too soon, could not be more practical.

Especially given the timing and location of Peter’s question. Something that you will hear in this podcast.

“Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”

Let’s talk about this.

Ironically, the key to understanding the depth of this passage is what immediately follows the passage,

 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

Well, that’s the verse that follows Peter’s question, but what happened chronologically after this discussion between Jesus and Peter can be found in John 7

Jesus did not want to go about in Judea because the Jewish leaders there were looking for a way to kill him. But when the Jewish Festival of Tabernacles was near, Jesus’ brothers said to him, “Leave Galilee and go to Judea, so that your disciples there may see the works you do. No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.” For even his own brothers did not believe in Him.

A scant few words, but they speak VOLUMES!

Jesus’ own brothers were mocking Him. They were even encouraging them to go to Judea, where He could possibly be executed by the Jewish leaders.

So, when Peter asked Jesus, “How many times should I forgive my brother?”, look what happened immediately after Jesus gave the answer. A golden opportunity for Jesus to put it into practice. Jesus had His own brothers to forgive.

Then, after Jesus’ confrontation with His brothers, we see what happened next in Matthew 19,

When Jesus had finished saying these things, he left Galilee and went into the region of Judea to the other side of the Jordan. 

The Jewish leaders were on the other side – the west side – of the Jordan, where they plotted to kill Him.

Now, all this to say, I wonder, how many people did Jesus have to forgive? When Peter asked Him, how many times should I forgive my brother or sister… who was on that list for Jesus? The Religious Leaders, certainly. They hated Him, destroyed His reputation, hunted Him, harassed Him, and threatened to kill Him. And they were supposed to be His fellow rabbis.

Then there were the crowds, who at first swelled to enormous numbers who would show up whenever Jesus appeared. But, by this time, they didn’t come in droves like before. Nor did they come to hear new revelations about God nor out of belief that Jesus was the Messiah. They came to see which magic trick He would perform, or simply to receive a quick-fix-healing. And whenever He didn’t pull off a trick, they went home.

Then there were the political leaders, like Antipas and his men. Antipas was the one responsible for beheading Jesus’ beloved cousin, John the Baptist.

Then, there were Jesus’ own brothers who thought that Jesus was out of his mind, didn’t believe a word He was saying and now was mocking Him.

But, back to Peter’s question regarding how many times should a Christ-follower be obligated to forgive a brother or sister. The prevailing Jewish opinion, later to be written formally in the Talmud,

“If a man commits a transgression, the first, second, and third time he is forgiven; the fourth time he is not forgiven.”

So, among Jewish thought, the obligation to forgive someone was three times. Therefore, when Peter was asking if seven was the new number to abide by, he was being quite magnanimous. Yet, Peter missed the mark, as Jesus replied “70 times seven”. And no, Jesus wasn’t meaning exactly 490 times, but was speaking in hyperbole to make a point. And the point is: You never stop forgiving.

But, what does it mean to forgive?

Too often, people add things to “forgiveness” that do not belong. And when we do this, it quickly becomes an insurmountable mountain that none of us are able to achieve. However, when you whittle it down to what forgiveness really is, you discover that it is actually very doable.

Now, when you and I get hurt, it is the natural response to become angry, bitter, resentful or even vengeful. There is no need to beat ourselves up over this point. It is completely natural. I don’t think Jesus ever became embittered, but I know that He did become angry. I don’t believe He was ever resentful, but He was tempted in every same way you and I are, so the options were definitely there.

We feel these things because we crave justice.

When evil is committed, we want the evildoer to pay a price.

Along with this, though, is the mistaken notion that if somebody hurts me, or hurts you, and we simply forgive, we are giving them a pass. They get away with the infraction they committed. And, if we forgive a serial offender (70 times 7), then there is no justice!

But, this is a gross distortion of what forgiveness is. Forgiveness has nothing to do with letting anybody off the hook. Nor does it have anything to do with us being okay when justice is not served. Justice is actually woven into the real meaning of forgiveness.

The problem is that when God put you and me together, He did not create us with the capacity to handle hatred. So, anyone who has harbored hatred in their hearts, it changes them into someone we don’t want to be with. When someone’s hatred is unchecked and unresolved, it has a devastating effect to them and everyone around them. And never forget that it will completely crush your relationship with God. Which is why we are warned in Hebrews 12:15,

Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many.

Thankfully, the antidote for bitterness and hatred is… forgiveness.

And we have a choice. When we are unjustly wronged, we can choose to either drink the deadly poison of bitterness and hatred; OR we can choose to smell the sweet fragrance of forgiveness.

But, in order to choose forgiveness, we must first understand what it is. And what it is not.

Let’s start out by looking at the apostle Paul’s words in his book to the church in Rome. Now, keep in mind that the first eleven chapters of the book of Romans, Paul expresses just how guilty we – all of mankind – are; and how incredibly forgiving God is. Then, in chapter twelve, he brings the message of forgiveness home to us.

Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. 18 Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.

19 Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say,

“I will take revenge;
    I will pay them back,”
    says the Lord.    (Romans 12:17-19)

It’s easy to see that it is implied here that there will be some people that we simply won’t be able to live in peace with. Jesus didn’t get the chance to make peace with the Religious Leaders or Roman Government Leaders before He died. They killed Him.

Yet, as we read in verse 19, revenge and payback fall into God’s job description. Not ours. This is how we are guaranteed that justice will eventually be served. Scripture tells us that no one gets away with anything.

And God is so much better at delivering justice than any of us can ever be.

Therefore, forgiveness is you and me relinquishing the right of revenge.

That’s it. Given that definition, we don’t have to worry about justice. Because we allow God to do His job instead of us trying to get in the way and take care of it ourselves (and do a much worse job at it).

Now, what does forgiveness not mean?

It does not mean to forget.

Even with as painful as some memories can be, it’s that very same memory that should motivate us not to deliver that kind of pain to someone else. Many times, it’s that very same painful memory that makes us compassionate toward other people.

Forgiveness does not mean that you like the person who wronged you.

In fact, nowhere in the Bible are we commanded to like everybody. We are commanded to love everyone. But there is a world of difference between loving and liking. Simply put, there are some relationships that fracture beyond repair. No matter what you do, there will be some people who just won’t allow peace to rest between the two of you.

Forgiveness does not mean that you trust the other person.

If you borrow my car and irresponsibly total it, then after I go through all the hassle and headache with the insurance company and car dealerships and DMV to get a replacement car you ask me to borrow my car again – I’ll forgive you. I won’t harbor any bitterness or resentment whatsoever toward you. But you’re not getting my car.

Forgiveness does not mean that we want to hang out with the person who hurts us.

In fact, I don’t believe that reconciliation is possible every time we are hurt. Because, I don’t think that reconciliation can happen until the offending party sincerely repents before God and before the person or people they hurt, asks for forgiveness, and makes restitution for their wrongs. Apart from that, I don’t believe reconciliation is even possible.

Therefore, forgiveness does not equal reconciliation.

These are two totally separate things. But, forgiveness is ALWAYS possible whenever ANYONE hurts us. We can relinquish the right of revenge.

But, these aren’t my own self-constructed opinions. I get this from the Bible.

My first argument, and I admit it is weak, comes from Paul’s next words in Romans 12:20,

20 Instead,

“If your enemies are hungry, feed them.
    If they are thirsty, give them something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap
    burning coals of shame on their heads.”

So, if I read this right, even after forgiving someone, it is still possible for them to be my “enemy”? Paul did not say, “Instead, ‘If your now forgiven and former enemies…’”

If they are not willing to repent, ask forgiveness and offer restitution, it seems as though, even according to Paul, they might still be my enemy. Even as Paul quotes Proverbs 25:21-22, he’s talking about heaping burning coals of shame on your enemy’s head… through acts of kindness.

Paul then offers the antidote for hatred and bitterness:

21 Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.

It’s one thing to say, “I forgive you”, but for me to treat someone kindly even though they repeatedly hurt us… that puts legitimate action to our cheap talk. That’s what happens when we afford grace to those who have wronged us. God will use our acts of kindness to bring repentance to the offender.

So once again, forgiveness is relinquishing the right of revenge. If we don’t, it’s almost as if we place a barrier of protection over the person who harmed us. As long as we are allowing our own bitterness and hatred to cover the person, we are protecting them from the direct hit of God’s discipline. But, if we relinquish that job to God, He has a clear shot to work in the person’s life as God sees fit.

Jesus puts skin and bone to this principle of forgiveness with this parable:

23 Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made. 26 The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, ‘Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ 27 Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt.

28 “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!’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ 30 And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt. 31 So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done. 32 Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. 33 Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’ 34 And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him.

35 “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.”

If we don’t’ forgive, God has no alternative but to abandon us to the hatred and bitterness that will fester in our hearts and souls.

So, when Peter asked his question about how many times we should forgive someone; and Jesus reflected on all the different people who had recently wronged and was planning on harming Him, Jesus still commanded that we relinquish the right for revenge.

Jesus became the poster child for this, as he hung on the cross and said “Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing.”

Another example of this would be Joseph (the Old Testament Joseph with eleven brothers, not Jesus’ dad). As a teenager, he was so hated by his brothers that they conspired to kill him. One brother persuaded the others not to kill him, but so sell him into slavery. He ended up a servant in Egypt under a man named Potiphar, whose wife falsely accused Joseph of raping her, landing him in prison for years. Through miraculous circumstances, Joseph was released from jail and God collected the debt. The land was hit with famine. But, due to Joseph’s leadership, Egypt had storehouses full of food. Consequently, Joseph’s brothers came to beg for food these thirteen years later. Joseph was now a grown man who looked and spoke like an Egyptian. Yet, when they realized that he was actually their brother, their knees knocked together out of fear. He had the opportunity for revenge.

Instead, Joseph gave us an amazing example of forgiveness in action.

20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people. 21 No, don’t be afraid. I will continue to take care of you and your children.” So he reassured them by speaking kindly to them. (Genesis 50:20-21)

So, ask yourself if it is time for you to relinquish your right of revenge and allow God to collect that debt.

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You will experience hurt, fear, frustration, and feelings of injustice.  I’m sorry. It happens to all of us. And then you die. But it doesn’t have to lead to sin.

You see, if we allow ourselves to enter into a sinful attitude following the hurt, fear, frustration and feelings of injustice… then what?  Anger, rage, destruction?

I submit that if you understand the source of sin and when somebody sins they have a problem with God, and not you, then you don’t have to get mad in retaliation. But you will suffer hurt, fear, frustration, and feelings of injustice.

We see an example of what to do in Numbers 16:

15 Then Moses became very angry and said to the Lord, “Do not accept their grain offerings! I have not taken so much as a donkey from them, and I have never hurt a single one of them.”

Why did Moses get mad in verse 15, when he hadn’t gotten angry earlier at the same things that the Israelites were doing? He got angry because he took it personally.

But he didn’t sin.

Instead, he took his anger straight to God. He allowed God to deal with the situation. He allowed God to deal with his own heart. He obeyed and submitted to God’s will despite his hurt feelings.

For many of us – who are out of practice of doing this – it’ll take 20 times a day of surrendering like Moses did. Maybe by the third day, you’ll be down to 16 times a day, but you’ll learn to be angry and not sin.

Here’s the tough part: you have to choose to forgive; you have to give up your “right” to get even; you have to be willing to give the person over to Christ and to His discipline. Christ may even save their soul in the process. Would that be okay with you … even after the horrible injustice they did to you?

Sounds like an oxymoron?

You see, we can forgive even if we don’t feel like it. Many people believe that if they don’t feel like forgiving someone, then they can’t otherwise they’d be a hypocrite because “You can’t forgive someone unless you trust them, and I don’t trust them”. However, these reasons to not forgive are wrong.

If you are disciplined and obedient, then how you “feel” about something or someone is irrelevant to what you do next. If we wait for our feelings to be as God wants them to be before we do anything, we’d rarely do anything. But, if we obey God’s will despite our feelings, then our feelings will come into alignment over time.

Therefore, the Bible says to choose to forgive – no matter how you feel about it and despite whether or not you trust the person afterward. Trust and feelings don’t have anything to do with forgiveness. You can forgive in an instant, but trust takes time and circumstances to arrive.

There are consequences to sin. One of which is a lack of trust. But forgiveness is not one of them. Sin can be forgiven. It can be put away once and for all. If we submit to God’s will and not insist on our own.

On a similar note, you do not have to reconcile with someone who is not repentant. You’re not obligated to have the same relationship with them after the offense as you did before. But, you can be free of the incident, and they won’t own you, if you choose to forgive.

Also, if you choose to forgive someone, it’s probably not a good idea to go tell them that you do unless you know that they need to hear it. Because often “I forgive you…” is a statement of manipulation. But as Matthew 5 says:

23 “if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, 24 leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.

On the other hand, if you have been wronged, just deal with it and know that the responsibility is God’s when it comes to their discipline and correction.

If immorality was involved, then you don’t want to go meet with the person that you were immoral with because the higher command is to simply flee from temptation.

So there you have it – you don’t have to feel like it, you don’t have to trust, you don’t even have to forget; but you do have to give up all rights to get even and give up your grudge.

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I am constantly amazed at the fact that when I am in the beauty of the outside how very close to Jesus I feel.  He woos me, courts me, and wins me over every time as I ponder Him while walking.  In the beauty of His holiness, in the presence of His creation He meets me there.  His splendor is always there when I open my heart to His presence.

  • The first way to really know Him is in the beauty of your surroundings…notice it, ponder it, lean into it.  He is speaking.  The key is to be aware.  Think on Him.  Invite Him there.  Talk to Him.  He longs for relationship with you and is waiting.
  • Knowing Him is not pledging ourselves to religious service.  We can talk about Him, teach about Him, even tell others about Him, but have no intimacy with Him ourselves.    We must learn to yield to our Groom’s gracious embrace.
  • The second way to really know Him is to yield to Him.  We (the church) are the Bride and He is the Bridegroom.  We have to learn to welcome His entrance into our presence the same way a bride welcomes the man she is in love with.  True intimacy means we warmly, beautifully, vulnerably receive our Lord’s presence.
  • A bride can’t hide herself and still be known by her husband.  To unite with Him she has to give of herself.  In the same way we have to be totally committed to make Him our priority.
  • The third way to really know Him is to make Him your constant priority.  If you do this you will find His constant presence in your life a tangible thing.
  • The fourth thing we must do to walk in His presence is to have an unguarded trusting abandon to only Him.

Holy, intimate encounters with Jesus is not for those who are only seeking signs and wonders from Him like the men who wanted to follow Him in the gospels but only because He had just fed 5000 people.   He knew their hearts.  He said it is a wicked generation that seeks signs and wonders but are not committed to only Him in their hearts.   They had it all backwards.  If He is our only priority and we follow Him with a whole heart, then signs and wonders will follow US!!   We won’t have to go looking for them.

  • Intimacy requires commitment, which is the fifth way to stay in His presence.
  • Commitment is to not allow anything else to get in the way of your devotion to Him.  This is not a religious activity.
  • Express the passion of your love and listen to his heartbeat.  Don’t be scared to give all of yourself to Him.  Lift the veil of your heart.  Let Him in to enclose you in His presence.   He wants to be known.

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How can I describe the feelings?

  • Grief
  • Despair
  • Fear
  • Anxiety
  • Sorrow
  • Emptiness
  • Anger

Years ago I was alone with myself and thought I would never recover from the empty shell that was me.

  • My feelings became my faithful companions until I finally started talking to God.  Boy did I have the questions.
  • The most fascinating thing to me was that He never left.  He stepped back, though,  to give me time to come to the place of realizing all my answers were in Him.   He is always so patient with us.
  • As I called upon Him in my solitary place, He began to heal my frayed and broken heart.   I was ruled by my feelings at the point of quiet desperation and had been since the beginning of the dirge into blackness.
  • He held me and let me weep when I finally pushed my arms up to my “Abba, Daddy”, in brokenness.
  • And then the healing began.   I learned so much in the next few years of exile.

One of the things I learned was that my feelings didn’t have to rule me or dictate to me how to act for the rest of my life.

When we call upon Him in our feelings of abandonment and reach deep into our still, quiet heart, where He dwells,

  • Our fears lose their power to control us;
  • Our “out of control” anger loses its power to devastate anyone lying in its wake….and
  • Our depression loses its power to consume us.

Our feelings lose their control over us.

That still, quiet center of us, where He resides, is where we are aware of His presence the most.   Learn how to quiet yourself and find that spot of uninterruption and you will find His voice.

  • He centers us.
  • He is our anchor.

When we call upon Him, we find the power to let go of our resentment and ask for forgiveness.  We can also forgive ourselves and be free.  We can let go of the past and move into the stillness of living large in the here and now.

And then we learn to trade in our profound shame for vulnerability with others, for in Him we are safe; and we trade in our fear of being embarrassed, to finally being transparent.

  • Our feelings provide the fertile ground of captivity for us.
  • If we listen to them they will kill our creativity that God wants to use.  They will squelch our love for others and undermine our knowledge of redemption and grace.
  • What if we just decided to stop listening to our feelings, and started listening to what God says about us; and start focusing in on His still whispers of direction and love?  What if we make a conscious decision to believe we are really hearing His voice and just do it…by faith?
  • And accepting our feelings as real, for they are very real, but not necessarily true if they become our dictating force and despair.  They can betray us in portraying Gods words as not trust worthy.
  • It is  like a drop of soothing, healing water to accept that our feelings are real, but not truth outside of God.
  • I think our shame would dry up and our love would explode and the world would never be the same again if we can get to this place of truth and freedom.

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Quite often, from earliest childhood mostly, we are taught something born out of someone else’s insecurity, prejudice, ignorance, or our very own victimizations.  These things form the way we think about ourselves.  It is amazing how we can go a lifetime believing lies and living them as truth, based only on our past injuries.

Mistaken thinking can interfere with the plan God has for you on this earth.  It can keep you down.  It can keep you stuck in a strong hold that will blind you to God’s plan for you.  We need to unlearn the things we have believed all of our lives in order to get unstuck in areas we just can’t seem to move forward in.

What are some areas you have mistakenly believed and walked in most of your life, or maybe, all of your life?   Here are some examples:

  • I am unworthy of love.
  • God loves me only if I am productive.
  • I need to rescue people in order for them to like me.
  • I am an island.
  • Manipulation works.
  • Don’t trust anyone.
  • I can’t.
  • I am a victim for the rest of my life.
  • Never give up control.
  • People are cruel
  • Self esteem is based on good looks, riches, popularity, or power.
  • I have to be perfect.
  • I can fix people.
  • I must always play it safe.

God desires for you to know who you really are, and realize how deeply He loves, accepts, and appreciates you, so that you can live out the fullness of what all He has ordained you to be. God’s Word tells us that without being rooted and grounded in the love (and acceptance) of God, we cannot experience the fullness of God in our lives.

ASK THE HOLY SPIRIT TO REVEAL TO YOU THE AREAS OF MISTAKEN THINKING THAT IS NOT OF GOD.

  • You will be amazed when you ask God to do this and be willing from the heart to listen to Him how quickly he will show you where your thinking is off.

IN WHATEVER AREA YOU KNOW YOUR THINKING IS OFF, SEARCH THE WORD FOR WHAT GOD SAYS ABOUT YOU AND HOW VALUED YOU REALLY ARE.  MEMORIZE IT AND WHEN YOU GO BACK TO YOUR OLD WAY OF THINKING, IMMEDIATELY PULL OUT YOUR TRUTH INSTEAD!

  • Begin to say those scriptures whenever you are tempted to think in your old ways.    For instance, in thinking you are an island unto yourself and the only one you need in life.  The word says to not forsake the gathering of believers together for we need each other.  It is when we isolate that the enemy comes in to deceive us.  We were created for community, not isolation.  We need each other!

DEVELOP YOUR INTIMACY WITH A VERY REAL, PERSONABLE JESUS!

  • We are who we spend the most time with.  When you really know Jesus in every sense of the word, you become more like Him.  You begin to think like Him!!  Your old misconceptions will change.

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The continued search to find something on this earth to fill our empty places is costly.

  • Life with Jesus is much more than an entrance into Heaven.  It is an abundant, satisfying life.  But how does this work to satisfy my existence now?
  • How does He become the depth of my desire, and get me off this merry go round?
  • I think some clues lie in the life of a woman whom we don’t even know her name.  The Samaritan woman.

Jesus was tired and thirsty and walked over to sit on the rim of a well in Samaria, which was a forbidden place for Jews, by the way.  Jesus was not a rule follower or a conformist.

John 4 is where you will find the story.

 And Jacob’s well was there. So Jesus, tired as He was from His journey, sat down [to rest] by the well. It was then about the sixth hour (about noon).Presently, when a woman of Samaria came along to draw water, Jesus said to her, Give Me a drink—“

  • This was not just by happenstance.  Jesus always knew exactly what He was doing.

“The Samaritan woman said to Him, How is it that You, being a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan [and a] woman, for a drink? —For the Jews have nothing to do with the Samaritans—Jesus answered her, If you had only known and had recognized God’s gift and Who this is that is saying to you, Give Me a drink, you would have asked Him [instead] and He would have given you living water.”

If she only knew who she was talking to…

She said to Him, Sir, You have nothing to draw with [no drawing bucket] and the well is deep; how then can You provide living water? [Where do You get Your living water?] Are You greater than and superior to our ancestor Jacob, who gave us this well and who used to drink from it himself, and his sons and his cattle also? Jesus answered her, All who drink of this water will be thirsty again. But whoever takes a drink of the water that I will give him shall never, no never, be thirsty any more. But the water that I will give him shall become a spring of water welling up (flowing, bubbling) [continually] within him unto (into, for) eternal life.”

  • Is there a clue here?   He goes on to say He knows she has had 5 husbands and is now living with a man, to which she marvels that He knows this.
  • Does He condemn her?
  • Does He judge her or throw rocks?

No, what He does do is tell her if she only knew Who she was talking to she wouldn’t need all of those men to try to fill a need that was impossible by earthly means.

  • But, He would fill her hurting heart.
  • He offered Himself.
  • He went there to talk to only her that day.  Think of it; The town fornicator… the cast off among women in her town.
  • She was lost and needed to know that He could fill her and show His love for her so she wouldn’t need to keep riding the merry go round of men, who were also needy.

He heard the cry of her needy heart.

Here are six things I noticed about this woman as relates to so many of us in one way or another:

  1. She was too needy to keep a man.  She smothered them trying to find fulfillment and importance.
  2. She obviously chose the same type of man each time.  Do we see a pattern?
  3. She was looking for someone to make her feel more than what she felt about herself.
  4. She is convinced she is incompetent and less than.  Why do you think she was at the well at a time of day the other women weren’t there?  (Well, except for avoiding gossip.)
  5. She didn’t feel like a woman without a man.
  6. She could never get enough—a pit of neediness.

Do any of her issues ring a bell in your life at one time or another?

“She said to Him, Sir, You have nothing to draw with [no drawing bucket] and the well is deep; how then can You provide living water? [Where do You get Your living water?]”

  • She asked Him that if He had no bucket how could she draw the water for Him.  This is what I hear (in my translation),

“Sir, You have no bucket for me to draw You water.”

He replied, “YOU ARE THE BUCKET!!!”

  • It seems that when we allow Him to fill us apart from every other earthly thing, we are not only filled to the brim, but it fills Him too!!!
  • He is hungry for us.
  • He wants relationship with us!!
  • She left her water jar at the well and ran into town to tell the people about Him.  She became the first Evangelist!!
  • Metaphorically speaking, she left her water bucket because she became the bucket and He filled her with living water.

Jesus allows us to enter into times of emptiness because He wants us to see that only He can fill us.  Otherwise we would not pursue Him.  He uncovers things that are ugly in us (like the woman’s many men) because He wants to diffuse the bomb getting ready to go off in our heads of pure neediness.  We seek out the filling of our empty hearts with addictions, relationships, children, marriage, jobs, flattery, and so many other things, only to find ourselves still empty and lonely.

  • Relationship with Him should be first, and then He says He will add all of these other things to us.  He knows we will remain in defeat if we don’t find the secret of filling our buckets of need with His living water.

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Have you ever made a choice and when the outcome wasn’t so good, blamed the results of your poor choice on someone else?    Boundary violations are about not taking responsibility for our own choices and trying to lay the responsibility of those choices on someone else.

  • How often do we use the phrase, “I HAD to”, or “HE made me do it.”   Whom are we blaming for the circumstances of our lives?
  • Many of us are afraid to set boundaries in our lives for fear of making the wrong choices as if we are powerless over our own behavior.
  • We have good hearts.
  • So, we need to trust our hearts to know when to say no and when to take responsibility for our own choices.  We are not victims.  Whatever our circumstances we can make choices to change ourselves regardless of what others are doing.

We are to love one another, not BE one another.  Learning to respect someone else’s boundaries is vital if we want to know how to take charge of our own lives.

  • We learn to accept other’s freedoms to say no, and not get angry, feel guilty, or remove our love from them.  When we give others room to say no it sets us free as well.

No one wants their boundaries violated. So why do we allow it? Why do we NOT enforce or uphold our boundaries?  The three main answers are:

  1. FEAR of rejection and, ultimately, abandonment.
  2. FEAR of confrontation.
  3. GUILT.

The truth, however, is that if you don’t learn to put up boundaries for yourself and take responsibility for your choices you only enable others to take control in your life.  You will experience the very things you fear the most as a result and the enemy will come in and devour your self-esteem.

  • Establishing healthy boundaries and enforcing them opens the door for you to step into your authentic self with confidence.   You deserve to be authentically liked, loved, and respected.
  • Have you ever been deeply disillusioned by someone whom you thought was a friend but turned out to be a controller or manipulator and when you didn’t comply with their demands they dropped you?  Do you think because we are to seek to love everyone with God’s unconditional love that means you should allow them total access into your life?
  • Actually real genuine love has many boundaries.  To enable someone to treat you with anything less than respect is actually enabling them to continue in sin.  If you put up a boundary and not allow them to disrespect you then you are actually walking in His love with them.
  • We teach people how to treat us by the behavior we accept or not accept from them.  Think about it.

Scripture invites us to develop relationships with other believers, but it also warns us that not all relationships are healthy ones. If we don’t recognize this it could cause many to be trapped in destructive relationships that will not only erode their own walk with God, but also will, in time, project a wariness of others that will make them withdraw from healthy relationships altogether.  This is not God’s will for He says to not forsake the gatherings together with His body.

  • When healthy relationships work well they will encourage us, comfort us through our darkest moments and help us keep our trust in God. There is no treasure greater in this world than sharing that kind of friendship with believers who are committed to God’s work in your lives.

 “Because of the miraculous signs Jesus did in Jerusalem at the Passover celebration, many began to trust in him. But Jesus didn’t trust them, because he knew human nature.  No one needed to tell him what mankind is really like.” John 2: 23-26 NLT

  • Some believers are plagued by relationships where other believers are manipulating and controlling them. Wanting to be humble and open they make room in their lives for the wrong kind of counsel and advice and are overwhelmed with guilt when they can’t satisfy what others expect of them.  The New Testament tells us to love each other deeply, bear with each other through the trials and forgive each other’s faults as they arise, but it also warns us to recognize when relationships turn dark and destructive and to protect ourselves from them.

We need to learn to recognize if the signs that the relationship we’re having with another proclaimed believer is not going to help us grow spiritually. He warns us to step aside from them, not in judgment or anger, but simply so that they will not dominate our spiritual passion or lead us astray.

What are some of these signs?

♥  People who have an obsession with controversy and gossip…they judge others morals while doing the very same things in their own hearts.

♥  People who flatter you with their lips in order to get close to you to glean your very energy because they have no life of their own…when you put up boundaries they are the first to get offended.

♥  People who blame others or pass out lists of things you can do to be a better Christian.  You know you’re with people who are placing their confidence in something other than the work of God himself when you see this.

♥  People who want to take God’s place in your life. You’ll know you’re near one of these when they attempt to force you to choose between submitting to them and doing what you honestly feel that God has put on your heart.

♥  People who take the joy out of everything. Your rosy outlook on life continues to get squashed with negativity. Before you know it, their negativity consumes you and you start looking at things with gray colored glasses yourself

♥  Negative people who every time you have an idea, they tell you why you can’t do it. As you achieve, they try to pull you down. As you dream, they are the first to tell you it is impossible.

♥  People whom you can never give enough to make them happy. They take you for granted and have unrealistic expectations of you. They find ways to continually fault you and never take responsibility for anything themselves.

Believers who act destructively are themselves broken and fractured people. If God graces you to stay near them to love them and you can do it without compromising your own relationship with him, by all means do it!  But beware that the relationship doesn’t start taking up all of your energy and distracts you from others that God would have you reach.

  • We must learn to recognize the red flags in our relationships and become bold enough to use our boundaries and know when to say “No, that won’t work for me, thank you.”
  • “It is for freedom He has set us free!!”  Galatians 5:1

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