Category Archives: Brokenness

FORGIVENESS: TO THE MERCIFUL, GOD SHOWS HIMSELF MERCIFUL

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven… 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?

Matthew 5:43-46

There is neither a greater, nor more difficult calling by Jesus Christ, then the call to forgive even our worst and most spiteful enemies. Jesus himself exhibited this most difficult act, while hanging cold, naked and in agony on a cross. His ability to forgive those who destroyed his body and humiliated him in front of his enemies was truly the product of a life of love, trust and obedience to his Father in heaven…and only when we do the same through the power of the Holy Spirit can this beautiful and powerful fruit of the Spirit be birthed in us.

The Lord’s Prayer is, in my estimation, one of the most important passages of scripture because it consists of Jesus, the guy we pray to (jointly with his Father), telling us exactly how to pray. Every time I read it however, I get hung up on a few certain verses….

12 Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors…. 14 For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

 

I would much prefer it say, “forgive us our sins forever, and punish quickly and with great and unfettered vengeance, those who have dared to disagree with us or hurt us.” J

But it doesn’t say that because that is not the heart of our great God. As long as we live on this earth, we are called to love – and even bless our enemies, not just with words and gritted teeth…but in the depths of our heart. To truly do that, I believe that we must know Jesus as he is in the word, and seek to comprehend exactly what it is that he did for us during his 33 years on this planet.

There are many verses that describe the love of Christ, and his death for us while we were sinners, but to me, the passage below seems to capture his mercy, his love, his obedience and his surpassing greatness, perhaps more than any other pre-Revelation passage:

23 When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. 1 Peter 2:23-24

Surrounded by his taunting enemies, hanging cold and naked on a cross, Jesus Christ, the maker of heaven and earth, the one who could have called down twelve legions of angels to save him, instead chose to suffer, bearing our sins…my sick and wicked sins…in his body, so that I might die to those sins and live for righteousness…for by those wounds, I am healed. Therefore, I must, by his Spirit, also learn to forgive, and even to suffer in forgiveness, just as he did for me.

The parable of the unmerciful servant below is an excellent illustration of what exactly Jesus expects from those who love him:

21 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?” 22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. 23 “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. 25 Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. 26 “The servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ 27 The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go. 28 “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded. 29 “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’ 30 “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened. 32 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34 In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. 35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.”

 

The unmerciful servant sounds a bit too familiar to me. Sadly, it is like a huge, cracked mirror held up to my face.

I know that I must forgive, in the deepest places of my heart, the people who have hurt me, especially those who have hurt me the most. Why? Because Jesus has forgiven me for so much – yet I so easily forget all of the people that my gossip, slander and selfishness have maimed. I have committed so many sins against both God and man that if I truly know Jesus as he is in his word, I will seek to become even more aware of those sins, and of his great, unmerited mercy, towards me so that I might, through the spirit, share that beautiful gift of mercy with those who have hurt me.

I cannot fake forgiveness, but what I can do with the help of Jesus, is make a decision in my mind and in my heart to forgive someone, knowing that even if I still ache inside from the rejection or shame, the choice is made – and it is final. To walk in that forgiveness, I simply ask the Holy Spirit to help me love the one who hurt me and to destroy any root of bitterness growing in my heart. I also make a point of praying for the person who wounded me, never asking that I would be justified in their eyes, or that they would see things my way, but that the Lord Jesus might take hold of them and show them more and more of his love and eternal power. Really, it is the same prayer I pray for myself. And when that bitterness starts welling up like a poisonous fountain, I ask that God would send his consuming fire to burn it up…and he does. Sometimes it is a constant battle, but knowing the life, love and death of Jesus Christ through his word, and knowing the sacrifice our Father made to allow his precious son to come to earth and suffer years of rejection and abuse, makes it a little bit easier.

Each of us has been deeply and even catastrophically wounded by others, including those we love and trust. But in many ways, through Jesus Christ, those wounds are a gift in light of eternity, because they force us to seek his face, since often, only his love can salve the pain. I have also found that deep wounds, especially those caused by the ones I trust, cause me to look intently at my own sin and the hurts I have inflicted on my close friends and family. When I consider the darkness of my own deceitful and wicked heart, it truly does make me more grateful to Jesus for inexplicably saving me…vengeful, selfish, proud me…and it pushes me to desire conformity to his likeness even more, so that when I am scorned and gossiped about, I, like Jesus and through Jesus, can put aside vengeance, and instead entrust myself to the only one who truly judges justly.

While only Jesus Christ can save souls, the wounds we receive from other people, especially the deep ones can be used as instruments of mercy to draw others to him, through the power of the Holy Spirit. We must all grasp the depth of our own selfishness in order to understand the depth of the love and mercy of God, which, through his precious son, has freely offered to us all. In a small way, our human mercy, extended even to those who despise us, is an opportunity to show that beautiful and eternal gift to others who may have no other chance to see it. May Jesus Christ help me grasp my own sinfulness so that I might, through his spirit, share this great gift of mercy.

The purpose of this short life is to know and love the one true God, and his son Jesus Christ. It is not, as I often think, to avoid pain and slink into heaven as quickly and as safely as possible. It is funny how my personal journey to seek Jesus as he truly is, became harder but much more focused, intense and authentic, during and after being rescued from my greatest failure and deepest pain. What the Lord did in my heart during that time period reminds me of the story of the Pharisee and the prostitute in Luke 7:36-50, where Jesus tells the self-satisfied and scornful Pharisee, that the prostitute who is washing his feet with her hair loves much because she has been forgiven much. Were her sins worse than the Pharisee’s? Not likely – they were just more obvious. But God judges the deep things of the heart, and she was clearly more aware of her sin, and understood what a beautiful gift it was to be forgiven by God. I too have been forgiven much…may I also love much.

I strongly believe, that, in order to truly understand Jesus Christ, we must always be aware of our sin – not out of a sense of failure or guilt, but as proof that the Holy Spirit in us, since Jesus told us in John 15, that after he departed the Spirit would convict us of sin. We must continue to walk in repentance, so that we don’t become like the church of Laodicea in Revelation 3, where our love and awareness of him wanes to the point where he is just about ready to spit us out of his mouth. The closer we are to him, the easier it seems to capture sinful thoughts and deeds before they metastasize. Thus, it isn’t a burden, but a joy to live in a place where the death and resurrection-life of Jesus are woven into every aspect of our existence.

EPILOGUE

If we only love and forgive those who love us or apologize to us, then we really are no different than the world. Jesus tells us, in no uncertain terms, that in order to be forgiven by him we must forgive others…with our hearts and without condition. The only way to authentically do that is by understanding the life of Jesus Christ, who bled and died for our many sins. How can we not, through the power of the Holy Spirit, forgive those who have hurt us, making the choice to free them from the chains of guilt and unforgiveness, and freeing ourselves from the poisonous vine of bitterness?

Each time that someone who has wounded us comes to mind, regardless of whether they have apologized to us, according to the clear mandate of scripture, we are to take that thought captive, and bless them, praying sincerely, that they might grow in the knowledge and love of Jesus. That is the only way to squelch the bitter and spiteful voice of revenge that rears itself in our flesh. And as we do this, with our eyes firmly set on Jesus, we will come to understand even more deeply, the height, breadth and depth of his love and mercy towards us. Because, he did after all, bear my sin in his body on the tree, so that I might die to sin and live for righteousness…for by his wounds I am healed. May we generously extend that same love to others.

Favorite scriptures #3: Whether the Lord Gives or Takes away…Blessed Be His Name! (Job 1)

Portraits of Jesus Christ in the word: Who Exactly is our God?

Favorite Scriptures #4: God Chose the Weak and Foolish Things of the World (1 Corinthians 1:17-25)

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THE LOVING DISCIPLINE OF THE LORD

                                              THE LOVING DISCIPLINE OF THE LORD

11 My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline and do not resent his rebuke, 12 because the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in. Proverbs 3:11-12  

One of the most important lessons I have learned as a follower of Jesus Christ, is that the Lord does discipline those He loves, just as any loving earthly Father would. His goals are not for us to be happy and prosperous on this earth. His ways and His thoughts, which are far superior to our ways and our thoughts, are set firmly on eternity. And He knows that the only way for us to truly remain in Him – and to have true joy while on this planet – is for us to keep our eyes fixed on Him at all times, lest we be deceived by the lies of this world, and as a few of the verses I will cite state, perhaps gain the short term pleasures of this world but forfeit our very souls.

Job, who experienced extreme material and familial destruction at the hands of God, not as discipline, but to test his heart, had great insight and understanding when it came to the chastening of the Lord. Even in the midst of what appeared to be a total and inexplicable rejection from God, Job, in great wisdom, said:

17 “Blessed is the man whom God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty. 18 For he wounds, but he also binds up; he injures, but his hands also heal.”

Job understood that the Lord does discipline those He loves, and that all such discipline, if heeded, ultimately leads to great healing and restoration…from the hand of God Himself. Job finds out first hand, exactly how great and mighty the restoring power of the Lord is only a few weeks later, due, in great part to his unwavering trust in God, even in the most horrific of circumstances.

In Psalm 39:10-11, David asks the Lord to remove the mighty blow of His hand from him, for by it he was overcome. He then acknowledged how God deals with His precious children by stating that it is with rebukes that God corrects a man’s iniquity.

In Psalm 94:12-13, the author states that a man whom the Lord chastens and teaches is blessed, because through those things he receives rest from adversity.

Psalm 118 is one of my absolute favorite Psalms because it sets forth, with great clarity, the mighty attributes of our God. In it, the author praises the Lord for His mercy and power, and apparently, after turning away from serious sin says:

18 “The LORD has chastened me severely, but he has not given me over to death.”

 And despite this severe chastening, in verse 29, he writes:

 29 “Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.”  

What resonates with me so deeply about these two verses is that, not only does the writer understand that he needs the discipline of God to avoid what he describes as death, but he also understood that the Lord chastened him out of love and mercy…not out of anger and wrath. May I always see the Lord’s strong, reproving hand the same way!

Psalm 119 also speaks to me in a very personal way about the Lord’s discipline, perhaps more than some of the other passages, because many of the statements by the author seem to match how the Lord has dealt with me on many occasions. In verse 67, the psalmist writes that, before I was afflicted I went astray…but now I obey your law; while in verse 71, he writes that it was “good to be afflicted” that I might learn your statutes.

These two deeply profound statements speak directly to me, loudly and clearly. Often I don’t really seek the Lord with all of my heart unless I am suffering some type of failure due to pursuing sin or striving in the flesh. I have come to truly understand that it is a great blessing to suffer, even deep affliction…that I might turn to the Living God, receive His mercy, and be healed. Great intimacy with God has sprung up like a flower in the desert of my selfish heart from my acceptance of His loving discipline.

In Psalm 119:75-76, the psalmist states that he understands that the Lord’s judgments are right, and that “in faithfulness” the Lord has afflicted him. He then asks the Lord for His unfailing love to be his comfort.These are powerful and beautiful statements, illustrating a very different side to the love and faithfulness of God than the one the world is used to hearing. For, like Job, the author knows that whatever God does, it is good, right and true…and in faithfulness God afflicted him. Why? As verse 67 stated, he was suffering under the strong and loving hand of God because he was straying from the truth…living in the flesh…and God was jealous for him. He was weak, and he knew it, and God, like any loving father, turned him back to the way of truth through the only method that would work…discipline.

The author then goes on declare that he will meditate on God’s precepts (verse 78b) for, as verse 72 says, the law of the Lord is better to him than thousands of gold and silver coins. May we all view the riches of the everlasting word of God the same way! I

n 1 Corinthians 5, Paul confronts the church about the extreme sexual immorality going on amongst the brethren, which was beyond even what was typical amongst the unsaved. Apparently, one of the brothers was sleeping with his father’s wife and that sin wasn’t being dealt with as Paul expected. So…Paul instructs the church to…”deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit might be saved on the last day.”

Paul, like Jesus, was concerned about one thing…our souls making it to heaven to be with God forever. If we need to suffer – even great pain – on this earth to avoid the unquenchable fires of hell, then so be it. God (with Paul as His ambassador) truly is a loving father, who understands the unceasing horrors of an eternity in hell. Therefore, He is willing, and even eager for us to experience earthly affliction under His loving hand…because He knows that it will lead to the destruction of our flesh and a more perfect union with Him in spirit and truth, via repentance.

Even Paul, who lived a life of unrelenting intimacy with and dedication to Jesus Christ, suffered severe preemptive discipline at the hand of the Lord. In 2 Corinthians 12:1-10, Paul describes his journey up into the third heaven, where he heard and saw great and unspeakable things. Because of these great revelations, he received from the Lord a thorn in the flesh…a messenger from Satan to torment him lest he become proud. He begged the Lord to remove it, but God declined, telling him that His grace was sufficient for Paul and would carry him through his pain. And Paul, like Job before him (Job 1:21-22), embraced God’s decision to destroy his flesh, and accepted the fact that in his weakness, the power of God would be more fully evident…for where Paul was weak, God was strong.

In Revelation 3:14-21, Jesus rebukes the church of Laodicea for being lukewarm. Instead of pursuing Him, they were seeking the wealth and comforts of this world, and Jesus was just about ready to spit them out of His mouth. Instead of seeking temporal riches Jesus counsels them to buy from Him, gold refined in the fire to cover the shame of their spiritual nakedness. He then, as He always does, reminds them of His great love and mercy, and says that He rebukes and disciplines those He loves, so that they might repent, overcome and sit with Him on His throne in heaven.

The deep truth of the above passages is that eternity matters infinitely more to God than this short life does, and God is willing to allow…and even cause…suffering to come upon those He loves if it will turn their hearts away from the short term pleasures of sin and towards Him. I often reflect on my own journey and how I, even when I truly thought I was walking in His will, suffered great afflictions, only to discover through the truth of His word, that I was straying from Him in the deepest places of my heart. Be it wealth or earthly distractions, my heart has often wondered from the eternal riches of the Living God, and He, in His great love and mercy, has used pain and failure to bring me back to a place of humility and repentance, turning my eyes, my mind, and my heart back to Him. May they remain fixed on His glorious face all the days of my life…..  

Heaven: Your Best Life…Later Part 2

Portraits of Jesus Christ in the word: Who Exactly is our God?

Favorite Scriptures #1: Paul’s Perspective On This Short Life (Philippians 3:7-14)

Favorite Scriptures #5: The Power and Love of God in the Psalms

Forgiveness: To The Merciful, God Shows Himself Merciful

Favorite Scriptures #3: Unconditional Surrender

“Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him….”

‭‭Job‬ ‭13:15‬ ‭KJV‬‬

In the darkest, most emotionally painful moment of my adult life, when I was lonely, broken and afraid, the Lord led me to an Old Testament book I rarely read…Job. He didn’t send me to Job because I, in any way, exhibited the honor, grace and faithfulness of this great man. I was sent to Job in order to fully grasp the unimpeachable righteousness and sovereignty of our great God…whether I have plenty or am in need, whether I am full of joy or lying on the floor in such darkness and pain that it feels like emotional death.

My personal circumstances do not change the absolute truth that God is sovereign, loving and glorious. In ALL things and at all times the great and Living God is to be praised. The scripture quoted below begins the very moment that Job is told that, not only are all his children dead, but every cent of his wealth…is gone: 20 At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship 21 and said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.” 22 In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.

What an amazing disposition Job had toward God in the midst of these horrific losses. What an unbelievable statement of faith, while in unimaginable despair – and with no end in sight to his misery. In what must have felt like total condemnation from, and rejection by, God, Job embraced the only truth that will remain after this world burns…God alone is sovereign, at all times and in all things…blessed be His name!

The above passage from Job 1 absolutely destroys the perspective on “christianity” that is held by so many in the western world. Somehow we think that God’s purpose is to bless us and prosper us materially. Here, the wealthiest man in the world loses literally everything he has and loves in an instant. Even his wife and friends tell him that God is against him and that he should curse God and die…but he refuses. Job stands with God in his pain and does not abandon the faith. His hope is not in prosperity or even in earthly health and happiness…his hope is in God alone. His hope truly was in an eternal kingdom that can never, ever be shaken, ruled by the One who made all things and who promises glory, peace and joy forever to those who love him with their hearts. Surely God was testing Job’s heart by destroying everything…everything he held dear on this earth. Would we pass this test?

If we know that we would not pass a similar test, I would go to to quiet place before the Lord, fall on my face and beg Him to transform my heart by his Holy Spirit so that whether he chooses to give- or take away everything I hold dear, I can say, even in anguish…Blessed be the name of the Lord!!

Favorite Scriptures #1: Paul’s Perspective On This Short Life (Philippians 3:7-14)

The Deceitfulness of Wealth: Your Best Life…Later Part 1

Forgiveness: To The Merciful, God Shows Himself Merciful