Forgiving Others

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What’s the one thing that will block our development and maturity more than anything else? God cares about relationships, and having unresolved relationship issues in this one area stagnates our Christian growth more than virtually anything else. Even the world recognizes this issue – as Bitterness. In the Kingdom of God, the Bible has another name for it – Unforgiveness.

Forgiving others is a two-part process.

First, we have to acknowledge that they actually sinned against us. Often, especially in our family of origin, we excuse and rationalize it instead. “Dad really worked hard” or “he never beat me unless I deserved it.” Forgiveness is not pretending it never happened or pretending that what was done to us wasn’t wrong. Even if we’ve convinced ourselves otherwise, our spirit knows wrong was done to us, and harbors judgement against the other person – even if we’re not aware of it. So by pretending it didn’t happen or wasn’t wrong, we actually condemn ourselves to live in the prison of unforgiveness. So the first step is recognizing the evil the person did to us, being honest about it without minimizing it.

The second step is deciding to believe the person is not the evil they did to us. Hurt people hurt people. They have their own story and their own pain and lived under their own deception that lead them to do evil to us. When we come to the point where we accept that they are not the evil they did to us, when we let them out of the “bad guy” chair, we come to the point where, in our hearts, they don’t owe us anything. That’s forgiveness – in our heart we’ve dropped the debt they owe us because of what they did. We can still hate what they did, but we no longer hold anything against them for it.

Not holding anything against someone who’s sinned against us does not mean they aren’t responsible for their actions. We can still put up healthy boundaries, especially if the person is unrepentant and hasn’t changed. But those boundaries are there because of their unhealthy behavior, not because we vindictively are holding something against them or are trying to punish them for the past.

I have an friend we’ll call “Damien” whose wife left him. There was no abuse or anything like that, she just decided she didn’t want to stay in the marriage anymore. While getting prayer ministry, he saw a vision in his mind of Jesus hanging on the cross. The Lord asked him very matter-of-factly, with no condemnation, “Have I hung here long enough to pay you back for what she did to you? Or do I need to hand here longer?” Damien broke down. He answered in his heart, “No, Lord, it’s enough. You’ve done enough.” From that moment on, even though his wife had not repented, Damien forgave her.

Damien tells me that, to this day, whenever he starts to get bitter, he goes back to that moment. Even though he had to place some boundaries in his dealings with her after that because of her continued bad behavior, Damien does not hold anything against her. That’s living in forgiveness. In fact, Damien prays blessing over her without any begrudging feelings in his spirit. That’s the litmus test of true forgiveness.

How about you? Is there someone you need to forgive? Have you experienced the incredible freedom that forgiveness brings? Tell us your story in the comments or shoot us a message by clicking here. We’d love to hear your story and pray for you.

I Like Winning Banners

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In Song of Solomon 6:4, the Lover (Jesus) calls his Beloved (you and me), “majestic as troops with banners.” Armies carry banners to celebrate battles they’ve won, and to show off to any potential future adversaries how BA they are.

In the next verse, Song of Songs 6:5, the Lover (Jesus) says to his Beloved (you and me), “Turn your eyes from me, they overwhelm me.” The Lover is saying to his Beloved, “Don’t look at me like that – the love in your eyes for me is overwhelming me with emotion and I might lose it,” while he smiles and looks away, so she can’t see he’s blushing. Jesus is blushing!

When you don’t feel like you’re winning at all, when life has the better of you, when you’re sure you’re going down for the last time, when you can’t feel his presence, but you still choose his ways and choose to trust him instead of give place to fear and anxiety – in those times when you felt nothing but chose him anyway, he felt everything! You just won a majestic banner, and he blushed.

I like winning banners. Out of his overwhelmingly great love for us, he puts us in those situations where we feel overwhelmed and don’t feel him at all. So we can win a banner. So we can choose to trust him instead of dwelling in fear, out of our love for him, and it makes him blush!

On that Day when we finally see him face-to-face, the walls of our mansion in Heaven will be decorated with the banners we won in this life in those moments when we trusted him instead of ourselves or something else. Wow.

What situations have you been through where you won a banner? Are you going through an opportunity to win one now? Tell us in the comments.

To Fear or Faith, That Is the Question

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At the end of the day, there are only two motivations for all actions in the human experience. Only two. Fear or Faith. That’s it. It’s that simple.

In the garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were like, “This fruit will make us wise? A wisdom God wasn’t going to give us? He’s been holding out on us!” They were afraid they were missing something. They didn’t have faith anymore.

Then, after the ate the fruit, they were really living in fear. “Oh no, I’m naked! I’ve got to cover up!” And we’ve been living to cover up our shame ever since, out of fear of being exposed.

Fear says, “I have to take care of myself before I help you, because otherwise I won’t have enough.” Fear of failure. Fear of being known. Fear of being alone. Fear of being rejected. Fear of not being loved.

Faith says, “I can afford to sacrifice this for you, because I know God will make it up to me.” Faith God will provide even though we can’t see it. Faith it will be ok even though we don’t see how or when. Faith through uncertainty. Faith we are loved.

All negative, sinful actions are motivated, ultimately, by fear. So when someone’s being a hurtful jerk, ask the Holy Spirit to show you what they’re afraid of. And what you can do to serve them, bless them and disarm their fear. When we realize this, we treat people differently and it works.

Have you experienced this? Has someone disarmed your fear? Have you disarmed someone else’s? Tell us in the comments your experiences.

The Cop-Out of “Don’t Judge Me”

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Does not judging mean I have to tolerate abuse or evil behavior against me? Abusers would like us to think so. Abusers pervert the whole “don’t judge” principle to their advantage. So let’s get this sorted out and bring some balance here.

Judging, accountability, and our emotions are all totally separate things. Our society, and even the church, often gets these confused. You can forgive someone and hence not be judging them, while at the same time holding them accountable for their behavior, while still being angry and hurt. If their behavior was criminal, you can prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law while still completely forgiving them.

We should always hold abusers and criminals accountable for their behavior, for two main reasons:

  • To protect others from being victimized like we were.
  • So (hopefully) the person, when confronted with their sin, repents and turns to the Lord who sets them free from it, healing them from the pain in their lives that made them vulnerable to that sin in the first place.

Working through our emotions over the sin against us is totally separate from whether we hold the other person accountable or not. If the sin against us was grievous, we may need to walk our emotions through the stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance). Get Christian counseling, inner healing, deliverance, probably all of the above, whatever help you need to work through it. It’s normal to need help to work through the emotions in a healthy way. An excellent plan is to work with both a Christian counselor and your Pastor.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean pretending it never happened, or not holding the person accountable. It means releasing them from owing us anything for it. Because we realize they are not what they do. We can still set healthy boundaries as long as our heart is right – not to punish them but either to (1) keep ourselves safe, or (2) hold them accountable (for example, if it’s an authority-to-subordinate relationship like parent-child or employer-employee).

Judging and forgiving are not activities centered in our emotions, but in our will. They have nothing to do with how we feel about the person who hurt us. They have everything to do with what we choose to believe about that person. They have everything to do with what we declare about that person.

So what do we declare about the person who wronged us? Are they the evil they did to us? That’s judging. Or can we declare that they are not the evil they did to us? That’s forgiveness. It really is that simple, but it’s not easy.

What do you think? Is this striking a chord with you? Tell us in the comments.

Created to Be

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Can we decide who we are? Can we decide who we want to be? Can we, like Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner, decide our gender? Can we, like Rachel Dolezal, decide our race? Did God make a mistake when he made us the gender or race we were born as? Did God make a mistake when he hard-wired us with the personality we have? Or with the unique giftings we have, different from everyone else? Should we spend our lives wishing we were, and trying to be, someone else?

Is it ours to decide who we are? Or did God create us to be who we are? Let’s ask God’s opinion:

Psalm 139:13-14: You created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. (NIV)

Jeremiah 1:5a: Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart. (NIV)

God’s of the opinion that he’s our Creator, and that he got it right. We are not a mistake. We do not have the right to decide who we are, including our gender or our race. That’s rebellion against who he made us, and hence against God himself. Our life does not belong to us; it belongs to God. He made us, we did not make ourselves.

Some of us have been wounded by sin against us so deeply that we don’t know who we are. Sometimes it even confuses our gender identity or our racial identity. We wrongly think the sin against us was our fault, and we hate ourselves for it. Our shame has taught us that we are the evil done to us. If we could only remake ourselves into something different, then we’d be okay. Then we’d stop hurting.

But that’s a lie from the pit, and nothing could be further from the truth. Trying to remake ourselves, trying to be God in our own lives, only leaves us a hollow shell of a person. And the pain just gets worse.

Isaiah 45: 9-10: What sorrow awaits those who argue with their Creator. Does a clay pot argue with its maker? Does the clay dispute with the one who shapes it, saying, “Stop, you’re doing it wrong!” Does the pot exclaim, “How clumsy can you be?” How terrible it would be if a newborn baby said to its father, “Why was I born?” or if it said to its mother, “Why did you make me this way?” (NLT)

Arguing with God about who he made us to be is a recipe for disaster. We can’t be God in our own lives because we’re not God. The truth is, we will only live a satisfied and fulfilled life if we live who God created us to be.

1 Corinthians 12:7: Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.

And the truth is, the people around us desperately need us to be who God created us to be. By confusing our identity, the enemy has robbed them too.

This life is not a hollow, selfish journey of “who do I want to be today.” That horrible deception robs us of the richness of life. Instead, life is a wonderful, awe-filled journey of discovering who God made us to be.

Who did God make you to be? Is there pain in the way? God has healing for you. What part of your being do you not like? What part of yourself are you at war with? I’m not talking about bad habits or character flaws here. I’m talking about what part of you – your gender, your race, your height, your hard-wired personality traits, etc – don’t you like and why? Tell us in the comments or send us a private message from the “Contact Us” page. Let’s get some healing started.

Shame vs Guilt

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Guilt, or conviction, is what the Holy Spirit gives us, because he loves us, when we do something wrong. He’s correcting our sinful behavior because it (1) is self-destructive, and (2) interferes with our relationship with him. The message of godly guilt is, “I did something wrong.”

Shame, on the other hand, is not from God, but rather is Satan’s perversion of godly guilt. Shame is the belief that I am uniquely and fatally flawed. The message of shame is, “I am something wrong.” That’s the “flawed” part. In addition are the “uniquely” and “fatally” adjectives of shame:

  • “I am uniquely flawed.” No one is as bad as me. I am the only one with this problem.
  • “I am fatally flawed.” I can’t be fixed. My flawed-ness is permanent. The best I can do is hide it.

Shame holds so many Christians in prison, keeping them from living out their true identity, or often even knowing what it is. But each of shame’s three lies described above get smashed to pieces by the Word of God:

  • I’m not something wrong. I was made in God’s own image (Genesis 1:27). I have been made a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17), and God loves me apart from what I do (Ephesians 1:3-14).
  • I’m not uniquely flawed; I’m not the only one like this. No temptation has seized me but that which is common to mankind (1 Corinthians 10:13).
  • I am not fatally flawed. Jesus’ blood is bigger and stronger than any and all of my sin, and by his stripes I am healed (Isaiah 53:5, Romans 6:10, Hebrews 9:28, 1 Peter 3:18).

So who are you going to believe?

Have you been down this road? Does this strike a chord with you? Tell us in the comments.

Who’s the Enemy?

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Have you ever been so angry you could spit fire? I sure have. Usually it comes from being deeply hurt. When we’re hurt and angry with another person, we often forget who the real enemy is. We easily get deceived into thinking the other person is the enemy.

There is an enemy. He wants to destroy both us and the other person with every fiber of his being. Satan, the prince of this world, is our real enemy. But we forget that in the heat of the moment.

Not knowing who the real enemy is condemns us right up front to fight a losing battle. Why? Because we’re fighting the wrong person with the wrong weapons. Once we get the real enemy right, we can fight effectively with a whole different strategy and a whole different armament. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of this world (2 Corinthians 10:4). This was brought home beautifully in the movie War Room which I highly recommend and strongly encourage everyone to see.

If this strikes a chord with you, pray with me: Lord, I repent this day for wrongly thinking ________ is the enemy. (Fill the blank for you.) They aren’t my enemy, Lord; they’re just a hurting person like me that you love. I acknowledge my true enemy is Satan, and I ask you Lord for your strategy against Satan in this situation. Help me be a blessing to ________ even when they aren’t to me.

Does this resonate with you? Ever been down this road? Tell us your story in the comments.

You Are Not What You Do

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For so many of us our identity is in what we do or what we’ve done. But that’s not who we are. God loves us based on our position not our accomplishments – our position as His son or daughter. Nothing we ever accomplish (good or bad) can ever change that. Nothing we do can make Him love us more or less than He does in this moment. In every moment. He’s that consistent.

We all say we believe that, but many of us secretly don’t. I say “secretly” because often it’s secret even from ourselves. We can test ourselves to see if we inwardly believe we are what we do, though. When we get mad at someone for disagreeing with us, when we take someone’s disagreement with what we said or did as a personal affront, it’s often because we believe that we are what we do. “If you attack what I do or say, you’re attacking me!” Do you see it?

You are special to God because you are you. You are valuable because you bear the image of God (see Genesis 1:26-27) whether you realize it or not. The trick is to understand who you really are, the unique person He made you to be.

Psalm 139:13-14 says, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” So before you were even born and had done anything good or bad, you were God’s wonderful work. And nothing we do can ever undo His work.

So let’s stop trying to be what we do. Let’s discover and walk in who we really are. Ask Him to take you on a journey of discovery.

Have you started this journey? What are you discovering? Do you identify with this? Tell us your story in the comments. What do you think?