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Thursday, May 26, 2022

I Don’t Have to Forget

In Romans 8:28 I read, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." (NIV)


There is a very common phrase, “Forgive and forget.” There’s only one problem with it: I’m not able to do it. It’s impossible!


I really can’t forget a hurt in my life. In fact, there’s no reason to try. When I’m trying to forget, I'm actually focusing on the very thing I want to forget.  


What I’m learning is that forgetting is not what God wants me to do. Instead, he wants me to trust him and see how he can bring good out of the hurt. That’s more important than forgetting because it allows me to thank God for the good that he eventually brings from the situation. I can’t thank God for things I forget.


Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (NIV).


The Bible doesn’t say that all things are good, because all things are not good. Cancer is not good. Disease is not good. Divorce is not good. War is not good. Abuse is not good. Many things in life are evil. Not everything that happens in this world is God’s will.


But God says he will work good out of the bad things in my life if I will trust him. When I come to him and say, “God, I give you all the pieces of my life,” he will exchange my pieces for his peace. He gives me peace in my heart that comes from knowing thateven if I don’t understand the hurt in my life—I can still forgive, knowing that God will use that pain for good.


So, I don’t have to forget the wrong thing that someone did to me. Instead, I need to rely on God to help me forgive, and then see how he will bring good out of my hurt.  


In summary, there is a very common phrase, “Forgive and forget.” There’s only one problem with it: I’m not able to do it. I really can’t forget a hurt in my life. There’s no reason to try. When I’m trying to forget, I'm actually focusing on the very thing I want to forget. What I’m learning is that forgetting is not what God wants me to do. He wants me to trust him and see how he can bring good out of the hurt. That’s more important than forgetting because it allows me to thank God for the good that he eventually brings from the situation. I can’t thank God for things I forget. The Bible doesn’t say that all things are good. Many things in life are evil. Not everything that happens in this world is God’s will. But God says he will work good out of the bad things in my life if I will trust him. When I give him all the pieces of my life,” he will exchange my pieces for his peace. He gives me peace in my heart that comes from knowing thateven if I don’t understand the hurtI can still forgive, knowing that God will use that pain for good. I don’t have to forget the wrong thing that someone did to me. I need to rely on God to help me forgive, and then see how he will bring good out of my hurt.  


God works in "everything", not just isolated incidents, for my good. God is not working to make me happy, but to fulfill his purpose. I am learning to trust in God and not in life's treasures, my security is in heaven, not on earth. My faith should not waver in pain and persecution, because I know that God is with me. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

What Forgiveness Really Is

In Luke 23:34 I read, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." (NIV)


Forgiveness may be the most misused, misapplied, and misunderstood quality in our culture. I may think I know what forgiveness is all about, but, if I’m like most, I really don’t.


Here’s a quick quiz to help me gauge my understanding of forgiveness; decide if each statement is true or false.


1. A person should not be forgiven until they ask for it.

2. Forgiving includes minimizing the offense and the pain caused.

3. Forgiveness includes restoring trust and reuniting a relationship.

4. You haven’t really forgiven until you’ve forgotten the offense.

5. When you see somebody hurt, it is my duty to forgive the offender.


When I read the Bible and learn what God has to say about forgiveness, I discover that all five of those statements above are false.


Since I may not really understand forgiveness, I’ll be spending the next few days looking at what forgiveness really is.


To start with, first, real forgiveness is unconditional. There are no requirements attached to it. I don’t earn it. I don’t deserve it. I don’t bargain for it. Forgiveness is not based on a promise to never do it again. I offer forgiveness to somebody whether they ask for it or not.


When Jesus stretched out his hands on the cross and said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing,” nobody had asked for it (Luke 23:34 NIV). Nobody had said, “Jesus, please forgive me for what we’re doing to you.” He just offered it. He took the initiative.


Second, forgiveness isn’t minimizing the seriousness of the offense. When somebody asks for my forgiveness and I say, “It’s no big deal. It really didn’t hurt,” that actually cheapens forgiveness. If the offense wasn’t a big deal, then I wouldn’t need to ask for or offer forgiveness.


Forgiveness is for the big stuff. I don’t use it for slights that are just minor issues; life’s small slights just require patience and acceptance. It’s life’s big wrongs that require forgiveness—and those wrongs shouldn’t be minimized. If an offense was a big deal, admit that it was. And then forgive, or ask for forgiveness.


Understanding forgiveness is the first step to living it out. So the next time I’ve offended someone, or have been offended myself, remember these two things: First, forgiveness is unconditional. And, second, forgiveness never minimizes the wrong.


In summary, forgiveness may be the most misused, misapplied, and misunderstood quality in our culture. I may think I know what forgiveness is, but, if I’m like most, I really don’t. Here’s a quick quiz to help me gauge my understanding:


1. A person should not be forgiven until they ask for it.

2. Forgiving includes minimizing the offense and the pain caused.

3. Forgiveness includes restoring trust and reuniting a relationship.

4. You haven’t really forgiven until you’ve forgotten the offense.

5. When you see somebody hurt, it is my duty to forgive the offender.


When I read the Bible and learn what God has to say about forgiveness, I discover that all five of those statements above are false. To start with, first, real forgiveness is unconditional. There are no requirements attached to it. I don’t earn, deserve, or bargain for it. Forgiveness is not based on a promise to never do it again. I offer forgiveness to somebody whether they ask for it or not. When Jesus stretched out his hands on the cross and said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing,” nobody had asked for it. Nobody had said, “Jesus, please forgive me for what we’re doing to you.” He just offered it. He took the initiative. Second, forgiveness isn’t minimizing the seriousness of the offense. When somebody asks for my forgiveness and I say, “It’s no big deal or It really didn’t hurt,” that actually cheapens forgiveness. If the offense wasn’t a big deal, then I wouldn’t need to ask for or offer forgiveness. Forgiveness is for the big stuff. I don’t use it for slights that are just minor issues; life’s small slights just require patience and acceptance. It’s life’s big wrongs that require forgivenessand those wrongs shouldn’t be minimized. Understanding forgiveness is the first step to living it out. The next time I’ve offended someone, or have been offended myself, remember first, forgiveness is unconditional. And, second, forgiveness never minimizes the wrong.


Jesus asked God to forgive the people who were putting him to death, Jewish leaders, Roman politicians and soldiers, bystanders, and God answered that prayer by opening up the way of salvation even to Jesus' murderers. Jesus was suffering the most horrible, painful death ever devised by a sinful man, and he looked at the people responsible for his suffering and prayed for their forgiveness. The Roman officer and soldiers who witnessed the Crucifixion said, "This many truly was the Son of God!" Soon many priests were converted to the Christian faith. Because I am a sinner, I too played a part in putting Jesus to death. The Good News is that God is gracious. He will forgive us and give us new life through his Son. 

Monday, May 23, 2022

My Choices Can Change My Life

In Romans 8:28 I read, “Every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good." (The Message)


As Psalm 139:14 says, God made me “wonderfully complex” (NLT). So, to fulfill God’s purpose for me, it’s essential to look at every dimension of my life and understand the five factors that influence my identity.


For the last few days, I’ve looked at how my chemistry, connections, circumstances, and consciousness affect the way I am shaped.


If these factors are like the five cards I’m dealt in a game of poker, then the fifth factor would be my wild card. Why? Because the fifth factor is my choices, and that wild card affects all my other cards. I can’t control the hand I was dealtbut I can use my wildcard to change my life by the choices I make.


The Bible says that I was created in the image of God. No other creature was created in the image of God! Dogs have instincts, but don’t know the difference between right and wrong. Elephants have no moral compass. But I get to choose to do right or wrong. The freedom to choose is humanity’s greatest blessing; it’s also our greatest curse because we make poor choices all the time that harm us and everyone around us.


What does a wild card do? It can change the suit and number of the other cards I'm dealt. I didn’t choose my chemistry, but I can choose what I do with my body. I didn’t choose my connections, but I can make new relationships and mend or nurture the ones I already have. I don’t choose all of my circumstances, but I do choose how I respond to every circumstance. I can’t change the fact that my consciousness—my thoughts—control my life, but I can choose what I think about.


The Bible says, “Every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good” Romans 8:28 (The Message). It may be hard to see the good that can come out of some aspects of the hand I was dealt. But the good choices I make are one of the ways God works those difficult parts of my identity into something good.


My identity is shaped by my choices. What choices will I make today that will positively affect the rest of my life?


In summary, God made me “wonderfully complex”. To fulfill God’s purpose for me, it’s essential to look at every dimension of my life and understand the five factors that influence my identity. My chemistry, connections, circumstances, and consciousness affect the way I am shaped. If these factors are like the five cards I’m dealt in a game of poker, then the fifth factor would be my wild card. Because the fifth factor are my choices, and that affects all my other cards. I can’t control the hand I was dealt, but I can use my wildcard to change my life by the choices I make. I was created in the image of God. I get to choose to do right or wrong. The freedom to choose is humanity’s greatest blessing; it’s also my greatest curse because I make poor choices all the time that harm me and everyone around us. A wild card can change the suit and number of the other cards I'm dealt. I can choose what I do with my body. I can make new relationships and mend or nurture the ones I already have. I do choose how I respond to every circumstance. And I can choose what I think about. Every detail in my life of love for God is worked into something good. It may be hard to see the good that can come out of some aspects of the hand I was dealt. But the good choices I make are one of the ways God works those difficult parts of my identity into something good. My identity is shaped by my choices. What choices will I make today that will positively affect the rest of my life?


God works in "everything", not just isolated incidents, for my good. God is not working to make me happy, but to fulfill his purpose. I am learning to trust in God and not in life's treasures, my security is in heaven, not on earth. My faith should not waver in pain and persecution, because I know that God is with me.