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October 8, 2015, 12:00 AM

The Process of Forgiveness



The Process of Forgiveness

As Christians, we understand that we should place a large emphasis on forgiving others.  We understand that we are forgiven by God.  We understand that we need forgiveness from others at times.  We even understand that it is healthy for our minds if we will forgive.  We will admit that we should forgive and forget.  But, at least for me, that is where our understanding of forgiveness breaks down.  How are we supposed to forgive and forget.  To some degree, that goes against our most basic survival instincts. 

Perhaps the first question we should ask is: “Is the idea of forgive and forget even biblical?”  Without chasing too many rabbits, I would like to say yes I think so.  It is certainly God's method of forgiveness.  Psalms 103:12 “as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.”  Jeremiah 31:34 “......For I will forgive their iniquity and I will remember their sin no more.” Isaiah 43:25 “I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.” 

The list of verses could continue on, but I think that it is clear that God forgives and forgets.  If our forgiveness is supposed to mirror His forgiveness of us, then it is clear that we too must strive to forgive and forget as well.  Maybe I am proving a point that you already believe to be true, but I believe this is a large road block for real forgiveness. 

I believe that our breakdown in thinking comes in how we view forgiveness.  We teach little kids that they are supposed to apologize and forgive immediately.  This may work when we are young and someone won't share a toy, but the stakes seem to grow as we get older.   I believe that we should view forgiveness as a process or a path that we are traveling down.  Forgiveness is not a simple act of saying a couple of words.  Much like sanctification, it is equally a destination and a journey. 

I believe that there are at least 3 steps along the path of forgiveness.  There are probably more, but I am only smart enough to recognize 3 at this time.  They are “Release the Grip”, “Rebuild the Foundation”, “Restore the Relationship”.  

Release the Grip

Anytime forgiveness is needed, a hurt has taken place.  We have a tendency to hold on to the hurt in our life.  Sometimes out of selfishness.  Sometimes out of fear of future hurt.  Sometimes out of shock.  No matter the reason, holding on to hurt will only rob you of joy.  Holding on to the hurt can feel like self-justification, but it is really self-harm.  To release our grip on our hurt, we must confront the issue at hand and consciously choose to let go. 

Rebuild the Foundation

Every relationship has a foundation.  Anytime forgiveness is needed, the foundation of that relationship has been shook.  It may have even been destroyed.  But, if we do not move from releasing the grip of the hurt to rebuilding the foundation of the relationship, then the wrecked foundation will become the new foundation.  Without doing the hard work of fixing the foundation, what was once a trusted asset of friendship will become an awkward liability of acquaintance.  

Restore the Relationship

This is the step that we often want to jump into.  Or, we feel like we are supposed to jump straight to this point and pretend that nothing ever happened.  While it is the end goal, we must remember that it comes at the end.  If we do not complete the work of the first two steps, no attempt to restore the relationship will ever work long term.  We must remember that the close relationship that we want to regain was built on a foundation that did not have any faults.  That is no longer the case.  In order for the the relationship to be restored, those faults must be addressed and repaired.  Then, and only then, can the trust that brings closeness be restored.  It is this process that leads to relationships that are closer in the end than they were in the beginning. 

This process of forgiveness is also the the story line of scripture.  Man's relationship with God was perfect and whole in the Garden of Eden.  Man rebelled and sin wrecked the foundation of the relationship.  We see God show up and release His grip on the hurt.  He could have destroyed man, but instead He confronted their sin and began to foretell of  the day when forgiveness would be complete.  We see Jesus do the work of rebuilding the foundation of our relationship with God on the cross.  Then finally, in Revelation 21:3 we read “I heard a loud voice from the throne sayingBehold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.””  The relationship is fully restored. 




October 1, 2015, 12:00 AM

Weak, Wounded, and Wanting



As Christians, we need to get into the habit of always inviting people to church, especially when they need it the most.  We all face circumstance in life where we need someone, or group of someones, to lean on.  For many of you that group is your Sunday School Class.   But, many of the people you know have no such support group in their life.  We need to build habits into our life that allow us to be the greatest help at the greatest time of need.  Inviting people to church all the time is one such habit.  But, I think that there are certain situations where it is especially important.  Three of those situations are when we recognize that people have been left either weak, wounded or wanting.

 

Weak

We all go through times of weakness: physical weakness, spiritual weakness, relational weakness, emotional weakness, etc.  If we are not careful, a weakness on one area of life can overload another area of life.  Much like compensating for an injury in one leg can create soreness and trouble in the other leg; compensating for weakness in one area of life can lead to weakness in multiple areas of life.

 

We need to recognize weakness when we hear people say things like: “I don't know if I can handle this” or “This is just too much for me” or “I just was not prepared for this”.  This is the  perfect opportunity to invite them to church and plug them into your Sunday School Class.  They need the godly support of a loving group of people.  But more importantly, they need to discover that Jesus is the one who says: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give your rest”

 

Wounded

Life has a way of wounding us.  It is the result of sin.  But, simply knowing the cause does not seem to help alleviate any of the pain.   When we hear people talk about a loss in life, we need to recognize that they are talking about a wound.  When we hear them talk about their wounds, we need to remember that what they need most is the Great Physician. 

 

Wanting

We need to remember that sin is like drinking salt water.  Salt water may look refreshing, but drinking it will only lead to a greater need for fresh water.  When we hear people say things like “There has to be more to life than this” or “This isn't as fulfilling as what I thought it would be”, then we need to realize that they are searching for something deeper than they have found.   They need to hear Jesus say to them the same thing he told the woman at the well in John 4:14: “whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

 

Our relationship with God is our strength in troubled times.  Our church and Sunday School Class is to be our support group during those dark days.  We must realize that when we see people struggling through the dark days of life, we have the solution to their greatest need. 




September 24, 2015, 1:36 PM

10 Commandments Intro.



The last two weeks we have dealt with the issues of Sin and Obedience. What we decided was that both are issues of the heart. In James chapter one, we see sin because we are drawn away by the desire that are in our heart. In short; we don't sin because we are tempted, but rather we are tempted because we are sinful human beings. Then we looked at the fall of King Saul and decided that God desires something from us that we are often unwilling to give Him. That something is our full and complete obedience. 

We started with those two issues in order to prepare us to take an in-depth look at the 10 Commandments. Before we could start with the 10 Commandments, we needed to remember that the goal of the Bible is not to get us to follow the all the rules. But rather, we must realize that the rules serve to point out that we have a deeper issue. The 10 Commandments serve as a flashing neon sign signaling our soul that sin is a heart problem, not a discipline problem. If sin were a discipline problem, then the 10 Commandments and the Mosaic Law would have worked. If sin were a discipline problem, then there would have been no need for Jesus and the Cross. 

Sin is not an issue that can be solved with more or better discipline. This is the path that the Pharisees were taking in the New Testament. If we are not careful, it is the path that we will begin to wonder down. Sin is a disease of the heart that can only be cured by God's saving grace.

As we look at the 10 Commandments, we must make sure that we keep them in the proper context.  These are not God's rules that save us. They are however the foundation of our obedience to God. They have great application to our life today. They probably have a deeper application than we usually realize. 

We are not going through the 10 commandments so that we can better learn how to make God happy. We are going through the 10 Commandments so that we can better understand how God wants us to love Him and love others. We are going through the 10 Commandments so that we can better understand how they apply to our safety, peace, and joy. Perhaps most importantly, as we go through the 10 Commandments we should gain a greater understanding of how far we fall short of God's glory and we should gain a greater understanding of our dependence on His grace. 

My hope and prayer is that our journey through the 10 Commandments will grow our worship and service of our great God. 




September 17, 2015, 11:14 AM

Sin & Evil


Last week, we addressed the issue of Sin and Evil. Where does it come from? What should we do with it? This week, we are kind of looking at the same issue but from the other side. What does God really want from us. I would contend that God wants something from us that we often are unwilling to give. God wants our obedience. 

As we examine obedience, there is an often overlooked problem with the way we treat sin. There are several obviously wrong ways to deal with sin. Ignoring it is an obviously wrong way to deal with it. Making excuses is an obviously wrong way to deal with it. Embracing sin is obviously wrong as well. At least, we should recognize these as obviously wrong ways to deal with sin. It seems as though we live in a culture that is becoming more and more comfortable with addressing sin in these ways.  But, there is at least one subtly wrong way to deal with sin. It is a trap that we often fall into as Christians. That trap is one of asking the wrong question. 

Often times when we are deciding to move forward with an action, we ask “Is there anything wrong with it?” While this seems like we are doing our due diligence as Christians, it is really leaving Christ out of our decision making process. While it seems like we are trying to avoid doing wrong, it really leads us down a dangerous path. This question results in us drawing fine lines (that are often arbitrary and adjustable) between which actions are right and which actions are wrong. When we get comfortable living on the line between sin and sanctification, we are in a dangerous place spiritually.  This question misses the biggest point of scripture. The point is not that sin is bad, but that God is so great. I hope that you can see how this question draws us closer to sin. The question we should be asking is “Does this draw me closer to God?” 

We often think of fine lines separating righteousness and sin. But, the bible paints a different picture. The Bible uses the word repent, which literally means “turn around”. Basically, the Bible presents it in this manner. You are either heading toward God and leaving sin behind; or you are heading toward sin and leaving God behind. 

I urge you to start asking the right question.  




September 11, 2015, 1:22 PM

When Evil Invades


This week we remembered the tragedy of September 11th, 2001.  Facebook and social media was full of stories, pictures and memorials.   What happened that day was life altering for the entire country. 

Sometimes, we witness evil that is so obvious that it changes the way we understand life.  Days like September 11th, the assassination of President Kennedy, and the bombing of Pearl Harbor are days that have done that for our whole country.  But, many of us have had days in our personal life that has had the same effect on an individual basis.  Days where our life was shocked to the core by the results of evil in the world.  Fortunately, these days are rare.  But, unfortunately that does not mean that evil is rare. 

All too often, evil sneaks up on us.  It is the result of small comprises the happen in simplest areas of life on a daily basis.  All too often, evil invades like the darkness of night: slowly as to not to alarm us,  quietly as to not to alert us, and then completely as to not to let us go. 

On days like September 11th we remember the shock and terror that comes when we are confronted with evil.  The events that took place that day were planned by men who's hearts were bent against the will of God.  We must remember that the horror of September 11th was present in the sin on September 10th.  Our biggest issue is the 7 billion plus sinful hearts that inhabit the earth. 

Evil truly is the result of sin.  To defeat evil, we must turn to the one who defeated sin.  We must remember that to do battle with evil in the world, we must begin with our own struggle with sin.  


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