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God Wants To Forgive

Written by: Alicia Hostetler of Covered By Mercy

Yesterday God and I were having a conversation, and I was pretty distraught. I was feeling guilty about saying something that was rude, and I was really kicking myself.

I ended up crying, and through the tears I heard God say, “I want to forgive you, Alicia.” That put it all in perspective for me. Immediately the Holy Spirit gave me the “ah-ha!” moment that I’ve needed. I thought that since God helped me realize His truth, that today I would share it with all of you. After all, I received a free gift. Why not multiply God’s glory by telling others who may need to hear that same message?

Here’s how the Holy Spirit put it: think of the verse John 3:16.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (ESV)

He told me to think of it this way: for God wanted to forgive mankind so much, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.

Receiving that new perspective on a verse that I’ve known and have had memorized for so many years was a breath of fresh air into my faith. It doesn’t change the meaning of the original verse. God loves us, and He does want to forgive us. Otherwise He wouldn’t have sent Jesus. Right?

Of course, that isn’t an excuse to live in sin and abuse God’s grace and mercy. I believe that God showed this to me because He knows that I am earnestly seeking Him, and He didn’t want me to beat myself up over sinning. I truly hate sin. Glory to God for that.

I’m sure that someone out there is in need of this same message that I received. God is just, sovereign, and all powerful. He is also loving, kind, and forgiving. That is the truth.

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Thank you for reading this today! I pray that The Lord will be magnified in glory through this post. God bless you all! <3


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God is Not an Elephant — But Most of the Rest of Us Are

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My last time in Zambia I had an interesting encounter.  After a couple of days work with some remote churches, my hosts and I were heading back to Lusaka, Zambia’s capital city.  En route, we stopped at a roadside café for some tea and scones (delicious).  Looking out across the veranda, we saw an elephant loitering by the outside tables.  We learned that this elephant often hung around the café and had been adopted by the staff.  It seemed quite domesticated for a four-ton animal. 

Elephants are curious creatures:  their trunks, their tails, their big ears, their ivory tusks all contribute to the curiosity factor.  Plus…there is one reputed trait of elephants that bears exploring:  Elephants, we are told, never forget. 

Researchers have scrutinized elephants to help understand elephantine memory and have confirmed that there is, indeed, something to it.   Elephants have been observed to follow the same migration pathways and apparently have a way to “hand down” memories of the wheres and whats of their annual trips.  Elephant clan groups have distinct burial sites to which they will inevitably head when “their time comes” and elephants have been noted for their high-level family affinities. 

All of which is to say that elephants are quite unique creatures and that notion serves as a prelude to a grand theological statement: 

God is not an elephant.

Having cleared that up, I wish you well.  No, indeed God is not an elephant.  Particularly with respect to memory:  where (apparently) elephants never forget, God can and does choose to forget our sin.

This is a wondrous aspect of life with God in Christ.  Not only does God forgive our sin (“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” 1 John 1:9) but He has a supernatural ability, fueled by His great love for us, to forget our sin (“I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more” Isaiah 43:25).

This is a blog and not a theological treatise on the nature of God’s forgiveness.  For the moment, we will simply rest in this dimension of God’s grace and mercy toward us:  all the wickedness we bring before God, is forgiven and forgotten…no longer held against us…by Him. 

But there, as they say, is the rub.  Because while God is not an elephant, most of the rest of us are.  

I was reminded of this recently when, in bolt out of the blue fashion, someone chose to remind me of one of my own most grievous, sinful, relational-fracturing, odious failures.  And, while clinging tightly to the fact of forgiveness from God, I was immediately transported (in my thoughts, emotions, and spirit) back to the place of that failure.  I heard the words I said and the way I said them.  I saw the looks of horror and hurt in others’ eyes.  I felt their anger and woundedness afresh.  I re-read the emails and notes and letters I had (yes) mentally filed away.  I felt it all (all of it) all over again.  It took me a while to climb back out of that “tar pit” of despair.  Even when I had gotten out, I still had sinful memory “tar balls” stuck to my spirit.  It hurt…a lot.  The hurt became anger; the anger became fury and then…well… 

And then I was taken back to my own proclivity for doing exactly the same thing.  Because while God is not an elephant (with respect to memory), I certainly am.  Simultaneously blessed and cursed by (I am told) a better than average memory, I have the tendency to rehearse and repeat others’ sinful failures when confronted by the squeeze of relational circumstances. 

It is so easy to dig out others’ failures and bring them to my mind (like a warped cable TV “on demand” feature) and then (of course) bring them to their minds when in skirmish mode.  It is a sad state and, with respect to memory of failures, I wish I was not an elephant…and yet it seems I am. 

It’s as if the memories of others’ failures are balloons with very, very long strings attached.  We can (I can), it seems, let the balloon go until it is far distant, out of sight, and seemingly forgotten.  But like carnival balloons, I have tied the long string to my wrist and can pull the balloon back within reach anytime I choose.  I somehow cannot seem to choose untying the string and just letting the balloon go. 

I have often struggled with these verses from the Apostle Paul:  “Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13,14).  

For Paul, “forgetting” does not seem to be a memory wipe.  After all, he had just finished rehearsing his reasons for “confidence in the flesh” and counting them as “garbage.” It seems that Paul was making a conscious, Spirit-guided choice to not let the memories impact his forward progress in Christ.  And this is the choice I must make if I am not to be an elephant. 

I must choose to not draw the memory of others’ sinful failures back into my presence…not to lord the failures over them nor to delight myself with my own relative “righteousness.”  “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”  “All” includes, well, all; and that certainly includes me.  And, as much as I would sometimes like to take out those memories of others’ sin and play with them, I must choose to not. 

I have enough trouble not resembling an elephant with my carbohydrate-fueled physique.  I don’t want to be the elephant-like person who “never forgets.”  I want to forgive AND forget.  I want to “press on” unhindered by my own decisions and I want to let the balloons go.  And…it would be nice…if others on this journey with Jesus would make that choice too. 

“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:13). 

Howard blogs at:  howardsruminations.com 

© All rights reserved.  Scripture from the NIV, Zondervan. 


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THE COST OF FORGIVENESS


by Neil Anderson

 

April 30
 
Matthew 18:35 NIV 
Forgive your brother from your heart
 
Forgiveness is agreeing to live with the consequences of another person’s sin. Forgiveness is costly; we pay the price of the evil we forgive. Yet you’re going to live with those consequences whether you want to or not; your only choice is whether you will do so in the bondage of bitterness or the freedom of forgiveness. That’s how Jesus forgave you–He took the consequences of your sin upon Himself. All true forgiveness is substitutional, because no one really forgives without bearing the penalty of the other person’s sin.
 
Why then do we forgive? Because Christ forgave us. God the Father “made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Where is the justice? The cross makes forgiveness legally and morally right: “For the death that He died, He died to sin, once for all” (Romans 6:10).
 
How do you forgive from the heart? First, you acknowledge the hurt and the hate. If your forgiveness doesn’t visit the emotional core of your past, it will be incomplete. This is the great evangelical cover-up. Christians feel the pain of interpersonal offenses, but we won’t acknowledge it. Let God bring the pain to the surface so He can deal with it. This is where the healing takes place.
 
Ask God to bring to your mind those you need to forgive. Make a list of all those who have offended you. Since God has forgiven them by His grace, you can forgive them too. For each person on your list, say: “Lord, I forgive (name) for (offenses) .” Keep praying about each individual until you are sure that all the remembered pain has been dealt with. Don’t try to rationalize or explain the offender’s behavior. Forgiveness deals with your pain, not another’s behavior. Remember: Positive feelings will follow in time; freeing yourself from the past is the critical issue.
 

Prayer: Lord, I desire to be free from the hurt and the hate of offenses in my past. Today I move beyond desiring to forgive and asking Your help to forgive. Lord, I forgive _________ for ___________.


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THE CHOICE OF FORGIVENESS


by Neil Anderson

April 29
 
Ephesians 4:32 
Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ has also forgiven you
 
Most of the ground that Satan gains in the lives of Christians is due to unforgiveness. We are warned to forgive others so that Satan cannot take advantage of us (2 Corinthians 2:10, 11). God requires us to forgive others from our hearts or He will turn us over to the tormentors (Matthew 18:34, 35). Why is forgiveness so critical to our freedom? Because of the cross. God didn’t give us what we deserve ; He gave us what we needed according to His mercy. We are to be merciful just as our heavenly Father is merciful (Luke 6:36). We are to forgive as we have been forgiven (Ephesians 4:31, 32).
 
Forgiveness is not forgetting. People who try to forget find that they cannot. God says He will “remember no more” our sins (Hebrews 10:17), but God, being omniscient, cannot forget. “Remember no more” means that God will never use the past against us (Psalm 103:12). Forgetting may be a result of forgiveness, but it is never the means of forgiveness. When we bring up the past and use it against others, we haven’t forgiven them.
 
Forgiveness is a choice, a crisis of the will. We choose to face and acknowledge the hurt and the hate in order to forgive from the heart. Since God requires us to forgive, it is something we can do. (He would never require us to do something we cannot do.) But forgiveness is difficult for us because it pulls against our concept of justice. We want revenge for offenses suffered. But we are told never to take our own revenge (Romans 12:19). “Why should I let them off the hook?” we protest. You let them off your hook, but they are never off God’s hook. He will deal with them fairly–something we cannot do.
 
If you don’t let offenders off your hook, you are hooked to them and the past, and that just means continued pain for you. Stop the pain; let it go. You don’t forgive someone merely for their sake; you do it for your sake so you can be free. Your need to forgive isn’t an issue between you and the offender; it’s between you and God.
 
Prayer: Lord, I stand amazed at the example of Your forgiveness. I desire to grow in my willingness to forgive those who have hurt me.


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Bad Bosses and Irritating People, part IV

god stuff 4

Standing in Judgment

“Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions…who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.For not one of us lives for himself, and not one dies for himself; for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.” So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God. 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…(Romans 14:1, 4, 7-13, NAS).”

“Do not judge so that you will not be judged (Matthew 7:1, NAS).”

It is exceedingly difficult, nay, impossible, for the flesh of mankind to not pass judgment on those who offend and/or irritate us. However, it is through the Spirit of God exclusively that we are supernaturally capable of overcoming such judgment against others. Sufficed to say, there is no one who can honestly say that judgment does not cross their mind and heart from time to time – after all, it is human nature and we dwell temporarily is this earthen vessel.

In order to be successful in this or any area of God’s commands, we must remember that we are no longer of the human race, but of the heavenly race – the Kingdom race. We are but strangers and aliens in the earth sent from heaven to bring heaven down to earth. This is so because we are dead and our only life is Christ. In other words, once in Christ, our earthly origin ceases and our heavenly origin begins.

If you are like I, people irritate you! In our irritation, judgment can easily take hold of our hearts and grow bitter roots. Hebrews 12:15 is clear about bitterness: “See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled.” Operating in a judgmental/critical spirit against others no matter how innocent it may seem, causes bitter roots to spring within our hearts like weeks and they taint not only our walk with God with it takes others down with us.

Because of the nature of the flesh in which we currently remain, it is altogether a necessity to hone in on the Spirit of God within us through our spirit-man. If we do not daily (moment to moment) purposefully tap into Holy Spirit, we will find ourselves in the midst of fleshly judgment. We can defend it all day long but unless we, one, choose to recognize that we have indeed passed critical judgment in our hearts as well as, two, choose to repent of it and lay it at the foot of the cross, things will not change as we would otherwise hope. Pray though we may for God to remove us or the irritant, nothing will change until we allow God to transform us from the inside out and love and accept others as they are.

We are not to regard a brother with contempt. This is why we are urged to go to a brother with whom we have a problem so as to resolve the matter. We are to conclude our conflicts, not simply for our selves, but for the greater good of the Kingdom of God. For this reason, there is to be unity between the brethren and we should seek peace at all times, respecting one another.

One who is rebellious, for instance, will be perpetually faced with people who “force” them to rebel because, from where God stands, He recognizes the need for the weaknesses of rebellion to be exposed so that the individual will choose to deal with it through God’s strength. Otherwise, if they continue in their rebellion, the same old obstacles and irritating people will continuously come in their path; hence, frustration remains.

Likewise, one who is impatient will continually come in contact with people who try their patience. One who is timid in their faith will continuously be put in situations where they need to be bold. One who is confrontational will be put in situations where they need to submit in both humility and silence, and so on.

For me personally, the nature of the flesh in which I dwell is exceedingly confrontational. I have to be diligent with my time tapping into Holy Spirit continuously so as to be able to clearly discern when to confront a situation and when to be silent. In everything we say and do, it is a walk of balance that can only come from personal intimacy with Holy Spirit. There should never be a break in our communion with Yahweh.

Until we begin to view everything in everyday life as for the Kingdom of God instead of for or against us personally, not only will circumstances not change, but they will invariably grow worse. Since everything ultimately originates from God whether it comes from Satan’s hand or wicked men, we must say with humility instead of irritation, “What is it You, Yahweh, are trying to show me that I have not yet seen? Reveal my weaknesses to me so that Your strength may prevail in order for Your Kingdom to be advanced through me in the earth. I trust You and submit to You for Your honor and Your glory. Whatever You desire, I desire. Whatever You love, I love. Whatever You hate, I hate.”

There’s always a lesson. There’s always a God-plan. There’s always hope. There’s always growth that He desires to come forth from us, for us and, most importantly, for His great name’s sake. No situation or scenario is in vain or to hurt us. It isn’t even for punishment’s sake; it is always for the Kingdom of God. May we keep our spiritual eye open to see the bigger picture always and remember that you do not belong to yourself, but to the Lord our Great God. I remind myself of this daily so as to stay on heavenly point instead of veering away from the path of God.

 

“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you (Matthew 6:33).”

 

I hope you’ll come back next week. If you’re interested in reading more, please go to my website and check out my books or my ministry Facebook page.

Peace and blessings,

Alexys V. Wolf

www.thefierysword.com

https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Fiery-Sword-Global-Ministries/185299884822251

http://thefierysword.wordpress.com/


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Forgive? You’re Kidding Me, Right?

Hug it out

(Hugging it out…)

The concept of forgiveness can be a hard thing to digest.  If someone wronged us, granting forgiveness can feel almost as if we’ve been hit twice.  The first time when we were so generously issued the wrong-doing; the second when we struggled to set-aside our ill-feelings and extended the gift of forgiveness.  After all, he/she may have deserved anything but a gift.

Our minds cannot grasp some acts deserving forgiveness.  Can you think of something that has been or would be hard to forgive?  I’m sure you could—I just thought of three in about five seconds flat.  Forgiveness doesn’t always appear justifiable.  Why should we let our perpetrator off the hook?  Withholding forgiveness can deceivingly present itself as our last hope to even the stakes.  However, is keeping the culprit on that hook really enforcing justice … or do we feel the weight ten-fold from supporting the hook itself?

 “Forgiving those who hurt us is the key to personal peace.”

~ G. Weatherly

This residual weight strapped to our shoulders is not only a nuisance, but can be draining, tormenting, and even suffocating.  To choose to carry this pain can feel as if the incident is recurring with each passing day.  Neither party wins.

My Glimpse in the Mirror

I’ve recently asked myself, “Where would I be if I was never granted forgiveness for my own transgressions?”  Sadly, the answer wasn’t pretty.  We all appreciate forgiveness for our mistakes.  God forgives us over and over again every single day.  Upon acknowledgement of our blunder and a sincere request for forgiveness, His mercy awaits.  So wouldn’t it be hypocritical not to reciprocate this generosity to others?  

“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” 

Ephesians 4:31-32  

(NIV)

We are left with a choice:  do we forgive, or do we carry the weight?  It’s not an easy decision.  Given we make the decision to forgive, our next step(s) toward allowing that act to transpire can be even harder.  Here’s where prayer comes in, asking God to locate the strength and perspective within us to not only want to forgive but also follow through with that desire, surrendering to His wisdom when our need for justice yanks us backward.  We give our Father our torment and baggage and embrace the metamorphous of our heart.  We do this each and every day, over and over again until we are able to welcome this road as if no other choice had ever been appealing.  We simply can’t do it alone.

But How Often Should We Have to Forgive?

Ever feel like your forgiveness is constant?  Why do we continue to hand out forgiveness—shouldn’t we reach a threshold at some point?  We don’t have a limited bank of forgiveness to grant.  God emulates for us limitless love, grace and mercy.  He doesn’t issue this sparingly.  Forgiveness is a choice, not a well that will run dry.  The option will always be available.  So what stops us from giving it?  Only ourselves.

“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?‘ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.’”

Matthew 18: 21-22

(NIV)

Wow.  Seventy-seven times.  Does your mind present this as, “seventy-seven opportunities for another to take advantage of me”?  Or instead, “seventy-seven opportunities for personal peace”?  The choice is yours.

Always wishing you peace,

Alicia M. Smith

Twitter:  @AliciaMSmith7

 

Jesus on Cross


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What Have You Placed At The Foot Of The Cross?

Jesus on Cross

“Our sins twisted the crown of thorns; our sins drove the nails into His hands and feet; on account of our sins His blood was shed. Surely the thought of Christ crucified should make us loathe all sin.”  ~J.C. Ryle

http://eph5v2.wordpress.com/2011/04/22/our-sins-drove-the-nails/

“He (Moses) chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin.  He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.” Hebrews 11:24-26 (NIV)

Martin Luther put it very well when he said, “Sin is, essentially, a departure from God.” When standing in the all-consuming fire of God’s great love, any sins still clinging to our garments will find themselves exposed. Nothing is hidden from our Heavenly Father. He sees all, knows all, and is all. Therefore, it is a spiritually immature child who images iniquity can remain concealed from an all-knowing God.

Our reaction to having personal sins exposed will be one of two possibilities. Either we will shudder and shriek in shame and fall to our knees in humble and contrite repentance, or we will grab onto our sinful vice with unspeakable determination and flee the presence of God….. Choosing temporary pleasure over His grace and forgiveness. Mind you, forgiveness is necessary in order to have fellowship and a true relationship with the Creator.

When Jesus died upon the Calvary cross, He took all of our sins with Him, and then threw the iniquities as far as the east is from the west. Because of His great love for us, He willingly suffered an unthinkable death. It was only through His obedience and sacrifice that a way to the Father was procured. Jesus is THE WAY. He is our mediator! He pleads our case and intercedes on our behalf both day and night. So why, WHY would anyone choose sin over the fellowship offered by God?

Hebrews 11:24 tells us that sin is pleasurable, but fleeting. The human race is obsessed with pleasure, whether it is attained through the food we eat, sex, or objects bought on credit. A juicy steak may delight us for a few moments but the thrill is short lived, and we will soon find ourselves thinking about the next delectable to devour. The flesh is never satisfied.

So sin gives us pleasure but it is only temporary. And because the enjoyment is not long lived, many of us are cursed with the addiction of finding new and better ways to curb our cravings for gratification. With our focus on the “next good thing” we forget that all things in this life will pass away. We ignore the warning to lay up heavenly treasure, where moth and rust have no affect.

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will also be.” If Christ is our treasure, we will crave fellowship with Him. If the lusts of the world are the treasure we desire, we will exit the presence of God in order to pursue them. Being short sighted in such cases is a gross understatement, for those who toss aside the eternal to live for the temporal can’t see past their next pleasure fix. They lack self-control.

The Devil tries to use our sins to erode the significance of our Savior’s death on the cross. He casts out his nets of deception and daily collects a multitude of sinners, entangling them in a latticework woven by human iniquity. Jesus suffered so that all of us might live eternally with Him. When we CHOOSE a life of sin over a life of gratitude and obedience, it is as if we are helping the Roman soldiers hammer the nails in the flesh of Christ. Jesus was crucified for our salvation. Unrepentant sin is our damnation.

Will you continue to hold onto your sins for the mere temporary pleasure they give you, or will you surrender each one now and lay them at the foot of the cross? It is never too late to start! Begin building your treasury in heaven. You will be glad you did, for eternity is for an eternity and life on earth is but a blink of the eye.

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”   Matthew 6:19-21 (NKJV)