Forgiveness

Matthew West a contemporary Christian singer puts my thoughts today in perfect perspective.

It’s the hardest thing to give away
And the last thing on your mind today
It always goes to those that don’t deserve
It’s the opposite of how you feel
When the pain they caused is just too real
It takes everything you have just to say the word… Forgiveness

For a very long time I didn’t know what forgiveness looked like. I knew what it was to hear someone say they were sorry, but to acknowledge that their sorry meant something was a foreign entity to me. I had a hard time saying I was sorry when I had wronged someone, but to forgive another person when I had a good head of righteous anger going on? You have got to be kidding. Then I was hit with an even bigger task, forgive someone even when they haven’t apologized, apologized poorly, don’t care they have wronged you or have even left this world before the issue can be addressed. Why would I ever want to do that?

I don’t think there is a one size fits all for what forgiveness looks like. Each person has to decide how far to take it and what it will look like to be able to set them free. Yes, I said set them free because lets face it rarely does forgiveness effect the other person as deeply as it can us. Not forgiving someone can rot away at our very soul and give us a root of bitterness in our gut. We relive the situation or season over and over again in our heads with different scenarios, sometimes hoping that the other person would understand how deep the hurt goes.

It tells us in the book of Ephesians 4:31-32 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” I know, I know it’s hard for me too and I want to become that 4-year-old again that sticks out their lower lip, stamps their foot and says, “NO!”  But then I imagine Jesus giving me the look and I have to do it even if I don’t want to. I want to make God understand that the other person broke my heart or made me angry, but guess what He is God and already knows that.

Forgiveness is not forgetting, we don’t automatically get a case of amnesia about the situation that got us to this place. Forgiveness is also not an elimination of all consequences,  Proverbs 6:27-28; “Can a man take fire in his bosom and his clothes not be burned? 28 Or can a man walk on hot coals and his feet not be scorched?”  Forgiveness isn’t really even a feeling it’s a commitment to forgive our debtors. Forgiving someone doesn’t mean that the situation is over with and everything will go back to the way it was or better, but it does place you firmly on a road to inner peace and contentment.

I really think Matthew West’s song got it right;
It flies in the face of all your pride
It moves away the mad inside
It’s always anger’s own worst enemy
Even when the jury and the judge Say you’ve got a right to hold a grudge
It’s the whisper in your ear saying set it free.

Prayer

Prayer; it’s something that we as Christians are encouraged to do and it seems that many people pray for everything which would be a good thing, IF we learn to also listen and accept the answer that He gives us.

In 1 John 5:14-15 we are told “This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.” This passage is talking about asking for and praying for everything. Not just the big stuff but the little stuff too. However, where I think a lot of people fail is we don’t ask in His will, we ask in ours.

God gave us free will so that we would come to Him willingly and of our own accord. I know that is a hard concept to understand since we are taught that God has sovereignty over all. He does, but He also allows us to make decisions, He just knows the outcome of each decision. He knows what will happen when we pray and when we ask for things too. I think where we fail as humans is to understand that when we pray we need to align our will with His and learn that sometimes the answer to a prayer is, “NO.”

I am sure we would all like our relative to have perfect healing, or that baby to be born perfect, or that job offer to come through, or that house to become ours and sometimes all those things happen, but sometimes none of those things happen. It stinks at times and it can be very painful, but our God is awesome even in the worst moments when we don’t understand why.

I also think we miss the mark when we pray and the prayers become more about the words than the thought behind it. The most simple and honest prayer is, “Lord please help me!” I don’t believe that God gives more help to those whose prayers go on for 5 or more minutes or who use flowery words, or whose every other word is Lord or Father. He knows our hearts and He knows when we are being insincere, or it is truly the cry of our heart. We as humans make it so much more complicated than it needs to be. Little children when saying their prayers at night have been known to bless the carpet on the floor, but maybe it was because their feet didn’t get cold climbing into bed, or for the juice that they had today because it was their favorite. As adults, we begin to complicate prayer and make it more about the way it sounds to others than the heart behind it.

It’s hard to listen for that still small voice in the whirlwind of the world. It’s hard to stop long enough to hear God’s answer and it’s easy to become busy enough to ignore the no or the not yet. God is the best Father there is and sometimes a great father must say not now or no, but our great Father also gets to tell us yes more times than I think we are even aware of.

I need to learn to pray more prayers of Thanksgiving. Not all my days are rotten and not all of them find me calling out for help. Some days are simply wonderful and other are just fine. It’s in those times that I need to be mindful and thank God for even just a peaceful day sans drama.

Father thank you for getting me through today. It has been shall we say, a day and yet I find myself wanting another one. Help me to be mindful of your presence… oh and by the way could you maybe do something to help the scale move a bit faster in the lose column? Thanks!

Who Am I To Stumble Another

I am sure you noticed that there was no blog yesterday, or you didn’t notice and it really didn’t matter to you because you stumbled upon this blog searching for something else. Either way there is a reason that there was no blog yesterday, one word….CHURCH.

We try and make it to church every Sunday if we can and if we can’t we discuss scripture or listen to a podcast or rebroadcast of a sermon. I enjoy church most Sundays. It’s a time to spend with God intentionally. A time to praise and worship Him in song and be fed by the teaching. Most times (because I am human after all) during the service I keep focused on what is happening and I rarely know what is going on around me other than my little spot, but before and after church are completely a different story, that is when my pet peeves and my flash rear their ugly heads. So, I am going to lay it all out here, the good the bad and the ugly for all to see.

I was raised to be on time or early to anything and everything.  My mom taught me that it was rude to be late and that rarely was there an excuse unless an unforeseen incident occurred like an accident that blocked traffic, a child that threw up right before leaving, a storm blew in suddenly or something of the like. Let’s face it we all know what time services start at our home church especially if we have been going there for a while. Yet there are people and families that are consistently late. Every week they come rushing in like they were surprised that service started without them. Most of the time praise and worship is going on and they think nothing of walking up the aisle and sitting down while people are praising Jesus in song. The music to me is a way to pray. I and most people walking in late during praise and worship would stop moving if someone began to pray, yet walk up the aisles get themselves or their families settled sometimes not so quietly while prayer in song is going on. If you are faced with something stopping you from making it to church on time each week, maybe it’s time to get up earlier or leave the house sooner.

Since I talked about praise and worship let’s go to one of my other fleshly complaints. There are some beautiful Christian songs by some very talented artists, that doesn’t mean they are meant to be praise and worship songs in church. One of the ones that I personally do not like to hear sung in church is “Oceans”. Can you really tell me that the tone deaf 80-year-old grandma can sing along with that song? Praise and worship should be inclusive not exclusive. I am sure each congregation has its age dynamic and the P&W leaders need to be aware of that and cater to it. Which brings me to another burr in my bonnet about P&W. It becomes difficult to believe that the leaders are using their gifts for God when it becomes more about how well they sing or play and less about Jesus. The average congregation can’t follow along with runs and intricate harmonies that even the Gaithers wouldn’t do. It also shouldn’t be about how fast your p&w group can become the next Hillsong United or Elevation Church or even Casting Crowns. Do not get me wrong there are some extremely talented leaders when it comes to p&w and some awesome musicians, but when it becomes more about chasing recognition and maybe even fame and less about chasing Jesus then something got skewed somewhere along the way.

I know I must work on areas on my life and churches all over have their issues because they are full of………. people. I think that there are times though that some churches let it become like a high school experiment all over again. There are cliques and groups that are not welcoming and others that believe they should be special because they serve a purpose to help the usually overlooked. When that happens, it should be time for the elders, deacons, and pastors to step in, but sometimes they are part of the problem. No one ministry should become the “rock star” of the church, nor should one leader or group of leaders.

I think we fall short as Christians when we ignore issues that are being talked about in by the faithful. Those who have tried to use their gifts and have been rebuffed or just plod along in a ministry because they know this is where they are called. Church should help to heal the exclusions of the world outside, not exacerbate them or even create them.

Yes, I know, not everyone feels this way, and that’s ok. But I know there are some people who share the same pet peeves as I do, or have ones of their own. I think as Christians we need to talk about them, get them out in the open before they become a negative attitude, a time to gossip, or a festering wound that has never healed.

Romans 14:13
 13 Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this—not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way.