Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Learning to forgive...

I wish I could take the credit for this photo, but I can't, I found it through Google images.

The last few days there has been something really in the forefront of my mind, forgiveness.  I did some searching through a scripture reference book I have and found many scriptures that talk about forgiveness, but one really, really stood out …maybe “stepped on my toes” would be a more appropriate term.

“And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.  But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.”  Mark 11: 25-26

And this one….

“For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”  Matthew 6:14-15

I don’t know about you, but I want forgiveness from God.  I mess up on a daily basis and do not want to be separated from His love.  The thing about God’s forgiveness, it’s instant.  As soon as we ask it’s done.  He forgets our past sins and forgives us even though we don’t deserve it.  We deserve the worst possible punishment.

It makes me very remorseful and guilty, when I think of all the times I’ve stood in church an prayed, but had things in my heart that were separating me from God.  I  don’t think God wants us to feel guilt., I think He wants us to give up the bitterness and anger and be free from all the junk that fills our lives and drags us down and away from Him. 

It’s something I struggle with, but after some very sincere and tearful moments in prayer last night, I was finally able to forgive.  Today I feel like a burden has been lifted from my shoulders.  I’ve forgiven people who don’t even know I was angry and hurt with them, but now that relationship doesn’t have to be damaged because of my negativity.   The relationships may not be the same, but I know that I will do whatever God wants me to do to restore them.   I can honestly say that I have released some of the anger toward someone I have been holding on to for a while (aka a couple of years).  My anger wasn’t hurting that person, but it sure was hurting me.  It was keeping me from having an honest relationship with God.  When I pray, I can pray without anger, and hurt, and bitterness, and all the worldly junk that clogs up our lives.

Anger, hatred, and bitterness remind me of an oil spill.  It’s dark, stinky sludge that suffocates us, choking off life a little at a time, but Jesus IS the Living Water that cuts through the mess, removes the sticky, stinky sludge, and washes us clean so we can breathe and laugh again.  When we let the anger, bitterness, and hate fill our lives it robs us of our joy, and joy and true happiness can only be permanent through Christ and through the grace, mercy and peace that He freely gives to those who want a clean heart.

I want a clean heart, what about you?  Is there someone you need to forgive in order to have a relationship with God?  I do, and I’m working on making it right.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Living by Paul's example....

The last couple of days I have run the full gamut of emotions.  I've been happy, sad, hurt, angry, and in pain.  I reached the point of exhausted insomnia and decided to pick up my little box of Resolutions cards again.

I have let them sit on the nightstand, untouched for several days.  I would like to think it was because I was just too busy with the surgery and pre-op doctors appointments, etc, but that wasn't it.  The truth was, they just got too hard.  It hurt to read them.  It hurt to admit my shortcomings and my own failures at living a life focused on God.  I want to live an authentic life, and I had to face my own faults....and there are many.

Last night, however, after writing in no less than 3 written journals (I may have a novel completed before I get off the housebound, post-surgery thing), and working a little in my art/art therapy journal I was still not sleepy.  I picked up the little box of Resolutions for Women cards and steeled myself for what God had ready for me tonight.  God knows exactly where we are at any given moment, and tonight's card said this: "I will courageously work with the strength God provides to fulfill this resolution for the rest of my life and for His glory."  The scripture reference:  "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."  Philippians 4:13.  Wow!  Exactly what I needed to hear exactly when I needed to hear it.

Today I am really struggling with discouragement and doubt.  I've been letting things of the world, that don't really matter in the grand scheme of things, change my focus.  I have allowed myself to be hurt by the actions of others (or lack thereof) when I know I should not worry about things like that.  I have allowed those things to steal my joy.

As I continued to read through the book of Philippians (I highly recommend it), I realized it is one of the most encouraging books of the entire Bible.  To read it you would think the author was experiencing a season of peace and great joy with no worries or problems, but the truth doesn't even come close.  The apostle Paul wrote the book of Philippians which was a letter of encouragement to the church at Philippi.  He was not in a season of great joy, he was in the confines of a Roman PRISON.  He was facing death.  During a time that most would view as dark and hopeless, Paul was still filled with JOY.  He encouraged the church (which includes today's believers) to focus on the good things, the things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, and praiseworthy (Phil. 4:8).  Focus on the good things and don't let the junk drag you down.

We call it optimism.  It's a good thing.  It keeps us going through the valleys.  It's the hope and peace that only come from the One True God.  We aren't to shirk our earthly obligations, but we shouldn't let them consume us to the point where we have no joy, or hope...or peace.

Paul kept his joy and hope in a hopeless situation because his life was focused on the right goal, to do all things to the glory of God.  Paul knew God was in control and no matter what happened, he would be okay.  We are not promised another day, we aren't even promised another hour or second, but I am secure in the knowledge that God is on His throne and, as a believer, I will be okay, and that I will have a place with Him in glory.

So today, I choose joy.  It has been a tough journey to get to the point when I can cast my cares on Him and try really hard not to pick them back up.  I'm not saying I won't, but I am really trying.  I am blessed.  My life is easy compared to the "affliction" that caused Paul constant pain.  While I am healing from surgery (I can almost relate to the woman who had an issue of blood and her healing came from touching them hem of Jesus's tunic), I will be healed and whole again.  I want to display the outward peace and joy that only comes from a personal relationship with Christ.  I'm excited.

Please join me and pray for all those who have given up hope.  Pray that they will turn back to the God who heals all wounds.  Pray for them to find rekindled hope, and joy, and especially peace that comes only from God.