Love to Forgive

 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.
Colossians 3:12-13

Bearing with one another is hard.  I get so irritated with people. Someone parks too close to my car in the parking lot.  A customer service person ignores my multiple attempts to get her attention. My teenager talks back.  No one comes to the table when I tell them dinner is ready. Some stranger next to me at the movies is scrolling facebook while the movie is playing.  I could spend the next ten pages listing out examples of people who irritate me.

But God is telling me to forgive those people just as the Lord has forgiven me.  So, how do I do that? The answer is in that second part, “Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.”  Forgiveness is the most beautiful example of God’s love, and the testimony of forgiveness tells the one forgiven that Jesus also wants to forgive them.  It’s like becoming an ambassador of God’s forgiveness.

Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
2 Corinthians 5:20

I’m not making this stuff up!  We are supposed to be representing Christ to a lost and broken world.  Does that mean we can’t be irritated? I don’t think so. I think it just means we don’t act on those feelings, but instead act on the righteousness of Christ that we have become.  We need to represent Jesus and His forgiveness. How else will people know His love?

Forgiving irritating people is hard enough.  What about forgiving people who have hurt you?  How do you forgive a rapist? How do you forgive a murderer?  How do you forgive yourself? These are harder questions, but the answer is still the same.

And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.
Colossians 3:14-15

Love is hard. Really, really hard.  But representing Christ by forgiving people is what makes His love most known.  

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
1 Corinthians 13:1-3

Without love, we show the world nothing.  It is the ultimate embodiment of who God is and what He has done for us.  To share the love of Christ with the world, we must love the world. And if we love the world, we must forgive just as Christ forgave us.

4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7

In the fullness of every Believer in Christ, is the Spirit of the Living God.  He is capable of doing more and more than we could ever even fathom. As Ephesians 3:20 says, “He is able to immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His great power at work within us”.

God doesn’t ask us to forgive on our own.  He knows we aren’t capable of that. That’s why He gave us His Spirit: to seal us as His own and to help us do the impossible.  It’s not by Power, Not by Might, but by the Spirit!

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
Philippians 4:13

We have a promise from God to be able to forgive.  He doesn’t expect us to do it on our own. We’re not alone.  We have the Spirit of the Living God pulsing through us. And God can and does forgive all who would accept it.  Therefore, we can too.

Jesus, teach me to forgive.  Give me the power and courage to trust You to help me forgive people.  Help me forgive myself. Help me to testify to Your love through forgiveness. It’s so hard, God.  But You have promised me that I can do all the things You ask of me because of Your power at work within me.  So, help me get out of the way so You can work, God. Help me put aside pettiness and insecurity and anger, so that Your pure love and forgiveness can be channelled through me.  Shine Your light through me, Father. Amen.

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Being Wrong

The only thing worse than being wrong is getting advice from someone who is wrong.  But if I’m being honest, I’m wrong all the time. I infer wrong things, I presume wrong things, I interpret wrong things, I say wrong things, and I hear wrong things.  And the people with whom I interact, behave similarly. It’s a truth of life.

Being wrong is going to happen.  

So what am I supposed to do when the people I interact offer me advice with sincerity and genuine concern and love, and they’re wrong?  Awhile back I went on a rant about some people I care about who had completely misunderstood a situation I was involved in that they knew nothing about.  

You can see the full article here: Dealing With Offense

It hurt and I was angry.  For a time I refused to receive any of it.  Why should I? They were wrong. But that’s the thing, even though they had made a lot of wrong assumptions, even though they had presumed a lot of things by way of other people, even though they didn’t know the whole story, some of what they said was still true.

How would I ever be able to receive the valuable truths from God hidden within the confines of broken people with broken ideas who loved me and genuinely wanted to help me?  I had to eat a big helping of humble pie, that’s how.

After a lot of whining and processing and crying and feeling like a victim, I finally had the sense to ask God to help me figure it all out.  God’s answer: “humble yourself, see My truth”. Not an easy task, that’s for sure!

So, knowing that God is in fact the only stable and consistent truth I know, I asked Him to show me.  I asked Him just to help me stop being angry, to stop feeling judgemental and victimized toward people I knew cared about me deeply, and just listen for God’s voice in it all.

Of course, the Lord answered my cries for help, and He began to walk me down the road of truth that could be found in all the words I’d been so offended by.  Wow. He revealed way more than I thought He would.

I humbled myself before the Lord.

I humbled myself before the Lord.  I acknowledged that God can and does use broken people to speak His truth.  And I learned a lot.  I learned people are wrong, but God is always right.  He loves me and He wants what’s best for me.  That means humbling myself to His truth and letting myself see His truth in broken human beings.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
   and do not lean on your own understanding.
6 In all your ways acknowledge him,
   and he will make straight your paths.
7 Be not wise in your own eyes;
   fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.
8 It will be healing to your flesh
   and refreshment to your bones.
Proverbs 3:5-8

Abiding In the Light

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
John 1:1-5

Light.  It does so much.  Without it we are blind.  With it we can see so much!  Light reveals everything. Nothing can hide in shadows if the light shines on it.  Obstacles make shadows, but light shining on the shadow brings it completely into view.  Darkness cannot overcome light, but light overcomes all darkness. To say that Jesus is the light, is to say that Jesus is the revelation of sin in us, and also the obliteration of our sin.  The light overcomes the darkness. The darkness within us is overcome by the light of Jesus. When our sin is revealed and we repent, we allow the light to shine in us, revealing more and more of God’s truth and love.  

5 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
1 John 1:5-9

We can’t walk both in shadow and in light.  If we are in the light, we are walking in the power, grace, forgiveness and love of Jesus.  We know this because the light reveals everything to us. It shines brightly, revealing all sin, revealing all darkness, without saying a single word.  When we are walking with Jesus it is clear that we are secure, because we are walking in His light. Our sin is revealed and thoroughly destroyed. So, when we walk in the light we know we are walking with God.

Just like if we walk in darkness, we know that we are keeping God’s light from ourselves.  In order to walk in darkness we must refuse the light of the Lord. To walk in darkness is to deny the light of the Lord and fend for ourselves in blindness, unable to see the very sin that condemns us.  The light is offered to all, but not all are willing to receive it. Receiving light means to agree to reveal all the hidden things in our own darkness, hidden things that bring shame and breed death.

9 The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
John 1:9-13

Receiving God’s light, through the manifestation of light in bodily form, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, we are completely with him, and brought into unity and fellowship with Him.  He uses His light to ignite a light within us through His Holy Spirit, and we become little representations, little ambassadors of the Light of Jesus. We continue what Jesus began through his earthly ministry by carrying this light He has given us to a dark and deceived world.  

When we let the Lord’s light shine through us, we don’t even need to speak.  Light needs no words to shine. The light that comes from God is the Word of God and also His Light.  The Word of God speaks through us when we let His light shine. We fellowship with God in the light, and by doing so, we share the light with all who see it.  

Oh Jesus!  Shine through me!  Shine Your light in the darkness through me!  Let me be Your lighthouse. Lord, let all Your children be unified in a singular purpose to shine Your light in this dark, dark world.  Help us to always abide in Your Light, that the world may see its sin exposed and allow Your light to reveal conviction, repentance, and forgiveness.  Amen.

 

 

Beneath the Throne of God

I had this vision a few months ago.  It was very powerful for me, and I’ve decided to share it.  May it bless any who read it.

I saw the throne of Christ, and seated on the throne was the Lord.  Like in Revelation, He was a lamb, His neck broken and bloodied from being slaughtered, but He was (of course) alive and majestically sitting on His Throne.  Hovering above Him floated the Presence of the Lord as an ethereal Light that filled the room but specifically spot-lighted Jesus. Beneath the throne, a small, frail child hid, his tiny arms circled around scrawny legs drawn up to his chest.  He was frightened and hiding in the shelter of the Most High God (beneath His throne) but he was afraid to come fully into the Lord’s Presence as if the Light of the Lord would burn him up.

Jesus poked His broken head over the edge of the Mercy Seat and looked lovingly at the child, a gentle smile on His face.  Still, the child was too frightened to come out. At this point the Holy Spirit came in the form of what I could only describe as also a little child, though His Presence was like the wind, completely imperceptible with the eyes, but somehow utterly relatable, available, approachable, and safe.  The Lord allowed me to perceive the Spirit on His hands and knees crawling under the throne of God to meet the little child exactly where he was and lead him out from under the throne into the full Presence of the Lord.

I felt the Lord say, “Don’t be afraid.  Your fear has you thinking that even though you have found your protection in the shelter of the Most High God, you think that you will be burned up by His Presence if I see You.  But look, I see you! And my Spirit will meet you where you are and draw you out. Your sin has already been burned up by My Presence. You have nothing to fear. Come and experience the fullness of My Presence and be comforted.”

Lord Jesus, draw us out from under Your throne and into Your Presence.  We want to trust You and be with You.  Help us to overcome our fear and shame to be closer to You, Jesus.

On Being Thankful

11 Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance 13 and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”
14 When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed.
15 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16 He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.
17 Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?18 Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?”19 Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”
Luke 17:11-19

I complain a lot to God.  I know that sounds bad, but I don’t think it is.  I complain about my circumstances. I ask for provision.  I ask for healing. I ask for salvation for my loved ones.  I ask for hope. I ask for courage. I ask for help in a million different ways, and if I look at my requests with a critical eye, I can see the complaint in every single one.  On the surface, my prayers seem dependant on the Lord. They are filled with the helplessness that we should always assume about ourselves. It’s the notion that, “there but for the grace of God, go I.” And that’s very, very true.  But I know it’s more often my doubt and my fear that plunge me into these prayers. I doubt provision. I doubt healing. I doubt hope and courage and strength. If my life and my salvation truly are by the grace of God alone, shouldn’t I be more confident in the lesser things?  

For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?
Matthew 16:26

My salvation should be enough for me.  The whole world and the things of the world are nothing in comparison to the profound gift of eternal life that Jesus has provided.  James put it forward in an interesting light:

You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.
James 4:3

I say all of this to examine honestly my motives.  Do I ask for my passion? Do I ask for my fear? Do I ask for my safety?  Or do I ask for the Lord? And am I thankful for it?

33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
John 16:33

Is the overcoming of the world not enough for me?  Really? Do I praise God for my life and salvation or do I wallow in fear and anguish over the things of this world?  And that brings me back to the lepers. They want Jesus to have pity on them. They want healing. They want to be restored.  They want to return to their lives. But only one acknowledged the author of his salvation. Only one came back to say thank you and to praise God.  That one leper knew that the Lord had saved him from more than his disease. He had given him life, and being thankful for that became his primary goal.  He didn’t just take the blessing and run along with his life. He praised the author of his salvation. He praised the King of Kings for his sovereignty, his authority over life, and his mercy.  

Lord Jesus, I want to trust You in all things.  I want to have confidence in your sovereignty in all aspects of my life.  When I come to You, Lord, I want to come in confidence, not fear. I want to come in the knowledge of Your divine grace and mercy.  You saved me!

9 “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!
Matthew 7:9-11

I want to trust You more, Jesus.  I want to trust in Your provision, Your life, Your deliverance, because you know what I need and are delighted to give the good gifts we ask for.  You love me. Help me trust in Your love so that I can truly worship and praise You with thanksgiving instead of fear.

 

The Intentional Love of God

It seems to me that the word “intentional” gets thrown around a lot: “be intentional with your finances”, “be intentional with your relationships”, “be intentional with your worship”, “be intentional with your friendships”, be intentional, be intentional, be intentional.  This got me thinking about the Lord and His very intentional love for mankind. He chooses to love us in very intentional and specific ways in order to teach us about His character, and ultimately to show us that His love is sincere, unchanging, and forever for us. One could likely fill volumes on the subject of God’s love, but the Lord brought a few key verses to my mind as I meditated on this idea.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
   his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
   great is your faithfulness.
24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
   “therefore I will hope in Him.”
Lamentations 3:22-24

God intentionally loves us by showing us mercy and compassion.  No matter our sin, no matter our guilt, no matter our circumstances, the Lord of Hosts offers us His love through compassion.  His heart is moved by our trials. His desire is to show us mercy, though we are dreadfully entangled by sin. This mercy and compassion comes from His faithful love.  It is a love that doesn’t change. God’s nature is to love mankind, His glorious creation, made to worship Him, and free us from the enslavement of our own sinful folly.  That is the epitome of mercy and compassion. And it is truly new every day. Everyday, every moment, we find ourselves caught up in sin, and yet, His great love never dies or grows weary.  His love is eternal and fresh for us everytime we choose to receive it.

4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8 Love never ends.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7

The thirteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians is beloved and known by many as the “Love Chapter”.  It defines the specific characteristics of what true love looks like. It is often read at weddings as a lesson to newlyweds about how to love one another.  But how often do we look at this passage and consider it in reference to Our Lord? Who better to exhibit the pure light and love of God, but Jesus Christ? Jesus bore all things for us on the cross.  His love never ends. How beautiful to recognize this list as we look upon the face of Jesus and see His proclamation of love expressed through this passage. Understanding God’s intentional definition of love helps us to understand God’s character in a deeper way, and when we understand what love is, it becomes much easier to accept.

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.
1 John 3:1

In order to show us His love in another way, God calls us His children.  He brings us into his family and gives us all the rights and authority He has given to His Son.  We don’t deserve any of that, but he doesn’t care that we don’t deserve it. He adopts us anyway!  He adopts us because He loves us. And in that adoption we are given all the rights of His children.  All we ever have had to do is accept His offer of adoption.

and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
Romans 8:17

How much more proof of God’s love do we need?  He has made us equal inheritors of all Jesus has.  We get to share in all of that! What a powerful testimony of God’s deep love for us!

But it doesn’t stop there.  In fact, I think the most important and most intentional way that God shows us His love for us is in this:

16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
John 3:16-17

God shows us His deep, compassionate, merciful, familial love fully in those verses.  His love is a love that would die for us to live. He gave us salvation from our own troubles, our own folly, our own failure, by giving us His Son, Jesus, to pay the ultimate price for our wrongdoing.  Nothing is more loving and more selfless than that. He paid the price for our sin! He took the blame on himself for what we have done! You can’t get any more intentional than that.

So, the next time you hear someone talk about intentionality in this thing or that, I hope You will remember the intentional love of Jesus Christ for His people.  It is a love that is compassionate, merciful, never failing, familial, and sacrificial to the point of death.

At the King’s Table

What is man that you are mindful of him,
   and the son of man that you care for him?
Psalm 8:4

It is easy to be reminded in this world how unworthy we are of the love of God.  For a follower of Christ, every moment of our lives is a battle between the desires of our flesh and the desires of our heart.  We long to serve and obey the Lord and yet we fail so miserably at every turn. Crippled from the start, our tendency is toward sin in all its forms.  It’s been that way since the fall of man. And the more we grow in our relationship with the Lord, the more we recognize our complete depravity without Him.  Who are we, that God loves us so much? Who are we, that God would call us His children? Who are we, that God would come into Creation as one of us, in a decayed body bent toward sin, and suffer and die just to save us?  Who are we?!

While reading about David’s victories in 2 Samuel, it quickly becomes clear who we are to God.  Considering that David is the prophetic forerunner of Jesus, we can safely look into the actions that David took as opportunities to reflect on what Jesus has done for us.  First, we have received the blessing of victory through Christ. The phrase: “And the Lord gave victory to David wherever he went” appears twice in 2 Samuel Chapter 8, first in verse 6 and then again in verse 14. God gave David victory because David’s heart was filled with love and faith in God.  Our victory is received by that same faith in what Christ has won for us through His death, burial, and resurrection.

David didn’t deserve his victory anymore than we do, but God honored David for his faith and trust in Him.  Even more importantly, God honored David because of God’s promise to Abraham. And God doesn’t go back on his promises.  Now take a look at David’s treatment of Jonathan’s son.

And David said to him, “Do not fear, for I will show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan, and I will restore to you all the land of Saul your father, and you shall eat at my table always.” 8 And he paid homage and said, “What is your servant, that you should show regard for a dead dog such as I?”
2 Samuel 9:7-8

Doesn’t that sound a lot like Jesus.  I can just hear our Lord saying, “Don’t worry, kid, because of my promise to Abraham I’m not going to destroy you.  Instead, because you trust me, you can join me at my table forever.”

Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out,
“Hallelujah!
For the Lord our God
   the Almighty reigns.
7 Let us rejoice and exult
   and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
   and his Bride has made herself ready;
8 it was granted her to clothe herself
   with fine linen, bright and pure”—
for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.
9 And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.”
Revelations 19:6-9

Just like the sweet, crippled son of Jonathan, Mephibosheth, we are inheritors of the promise.  David loved Jonathan and therefore took his son into his own court, and fed him from his own table.  God loved Abraham and therefore took any who would believe in Him, brings them into His courts, treats them as his own children, and feeds them from His own table. Beautiful!

So Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem, for he ate always at the king’s table.
2 Samuel 9:11

Lord, I want to have confidence in Your provisions and promises.  I want to know You are my father and that You love me. I want to feel the power of Your promise and love for Abraham and receive the promised blessing of that promise.  I want confidence in Your love, Lord. Fill me with Your unending and precious favor. Thank you for adopting me as your child. Thank you for giving me Jesus and letting me be a joint heir with Him and all You have given Him.  Let me come into your presence with thanksgiving always. I will praise You, God! I will trust You by Your power at work within me. Amen.