Can You Say “I Forgive You?”

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My Musings – “Forgiveness is a strange thing. It can sometimes be easier to forgive our enemies than our friends. It can be hardest of all to forgive people we love. Like all of life’s important coping skills, the ability to forgive and the capacity to let go of resentments most likely take root very early in our lives.” ― Fred Rogers.  Yesterday, my family and I went to see “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” starring Tom Hanks.  It is a wonderful movie, more a lesson on forgiveness than it is a biopic of a truly remarkable man.

Forgiveness is the conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed (real or imagined) you, regardless of whether you believe they actually deserve your forgiveness.  Interestingly enough, right there in the middle of the word forgiveness is another very important word – give.  To give means to freely transfer the possession of (something) to (someone).  Freely, means no strings attached.  No conditions.  No “quid pro quo.”  No, I’ll forgive you if.  No, I’ll forgive you but.  I forgive you, period.  Even if I have to do it “seventy-seven times.

Strangely enough, the giving is as much a gift to oneself as it is a gift to the one that we are forgiving.  For holding onto feelings of resentment and vengeance is a terrible burden for one to bear.  Refusing to forgive consumes us.  And the longer that we withhold it, the harder our hearts become, and the tighter we hold onto the very thing that we so desperately need to let go.

My Advice – It was a delightful movie.  A welcome change from so many movies about vengeance and getting even.  For you really never can get even, because you end up losing a big part of yourself when you refuse to forgive.

What am I thankful for this special season of Thanksgiving?  Many, many things.  But most of all for a Savior who paid the ultimate price for forgiveness.  We can never sufficiently show our gratitude for that, but we still need to do what we can by “paying it forward.”  Is there someone you need to forgive?  Before another day goes by, let go of that terrible burden you are carrying.  “As far as it depends on you,” make every effort to restore the relationship.  For each day that otherwise passes, allows the roots of bitterness to grow deeper into the soil of your soul. For “the ability to forgive and the capacity to let go of resentments most likely take root very early in our lives.”  As time goes by, the ability and capacity lessens.

Hang Two

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My Musings – “All the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments.”  Love God (all heart, soul and mind) and love your neighbors (as yourself).  Our vertical relationship with our Creator and our horizontal relationship with our fellow creatures.  Common denominator is love.  Demonstrated to us through the death of Jesus Christ on the cross.  Greater love has no one than to lay down their life for another.   We may not be called to do this literally, but we should be figuratively laying down our lives everyday.  Jesus said the extent we do this for others (horizontal), we do it for Him (vertical).  Not only do all the law and prophets hang on these, it is hard to separate the two.

My Advice – We could use a whole lot more of the vertical and the horizontal. By this (love) they will know we are His disciples.

I’m Not Alone

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My Musings – Although our troubles are temporary, while we are in them, we all have a tendency to be consumed by them.  We fix our eyes on them.  We can hardly focus on anything else.  Yet because we are in Christ, if we fix our eyes on Him, things can be different.  Hard pressed but not crushed.  Perplexed but not in despair. Persecuted but not abandoned.  Struck down but not destroyed.  Wasting away but being renewed.  With the proper focus we can see the all sufficient grace of God while still in the midst of what is pressing against us, perplexing us, persecuting us, or striking us down.

My Advice – In the less than memorable movie Noah’s Ark, starring Russel Crowe, there is one brief exchange between Noah and Tubal-Cain that I do remember quite well.

Tubal-Cain (menacingly):  “I have men at my back, and you stand alone and defy me?”

Noah (matter-of-factly):  “I’m not alone.”

Remember, no matter how desperate the situation, if you are in Christ you are never alone.  Fix your eyes on Him, not the situation.

Be and Go

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My Musings – “The ends of the earth” may be out of the question for most of us, but each of us has their own “Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria” in our spheres of influence.  Notice that we are not called to make converts, that is the job of the Holy Spirit.  We are called to be witnesses, by our words and by our deeds, working together.

We are, on the other hand, called to make disciples, not just be disciples.  Being mentors to others in the faith that may not be as far along in becoming like Christ as we are.  The command is to go, or as some commentators state, as you go.  In other words, as we go about the life that God has given us, we are to give back by teaching others what we have already learned.

My Advice – We need not go out of our way to be witnesses or to make disciples.  If all went to the ends of the earth, what would become of our Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria if all of us did.  But as we go, wherever we go, let us be witnesses and make disciples.

 

Confident In Prayer

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My Musings – God answers all the prayers of His children, they just may not be what we expected.  To me it seems that His answers fall into four broad categories:

No – God is not arbitrary, capricious nor vindictive. After all, do we give our children everything that they ask for?  If not, isn’t there usually very good reasons?  When the answer to our prayers appears to be no, we can be sure there is a good reason. Instead of questioning His good intentions we should search our motives and our heart to make sure they are in line with God’s will.

Wait – Sometimes, we conclude that the answer is no because it does not come when we want it or expect it. It could be that God has determined that the answer is yes, but the timing is not right.  His timing is always best.

Yes – When we ask, when our motives are pure, when the timing is right and it is in line with God’s will, we have the assurance that the answer will be yes.

Better – Sometimes God has something even better to answer our prayers with.  After all, He is able to do abundantly more than we can think or imagine.  In these cases, if His answer was simply yes, we would miss out on even greater blessings.

My Advice – Make sure your motives are pure and that what you request is not in obvious conflict with God’s will.  Then trust Him to do what is best, even if you cannot see it right away.

The Secret Every Baby Knows

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My Musings – To be content is to accept or to be satisfied with ones circumstances.  Perhaps the best image of contentment is that of an infant or small child in the arms of their mother.  No matter what else may be going on around them, they feel safe and secure – content.

Paul is writing from prison.  Death is imminent by execution.  One would think he had little to rejoice about, much less greatly.  To reassure the Philippians, who were concerned about him, Paul related to them that he (in jail and facing execution) had no needs.  He had, in fact, learned to be content whether in need or in plenty – whatever the circumstances.

Of course, whether we are in want or when we have plenty – each circumstance presents its own challenges to being content.  When we have, we have a tendency to want what we do not have, leaving us discontented.  When we have not, it seems only natural to be discontented.  Yet often those in need are more likely to be contented than those who want.

So what is this big “secret” that Paul had learned?  Do not focus on the circumstances (“in need” or “have plenty“), focus on the relationship (“through Him who gives me strength“).

My Advice – One might be tempted to think that Paul, being a giant in the faith, couldn’t possibly understand our circumstances.  Think again.  Better yet, read the following written by Paul.  “I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?”  (2 Corinthians 11:23–29, NIV 1984).

So, if he can, we can.  But not in our own strength, but in Him who give us the strength to be so.

Today’s musing was inspired by Pastor Kevin Rutledge’s sermon on November 24, 2019. Check it out at https://www.fbcsycamore.com/sermons. If you live in or are visiting the area, come and join us Sundays at 10:30 a.m. We’d love to be partners in the Gospel with you.

Listen Up!

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My Musings – Did you hear me and are you listening to me are two completely different things.  One is merely mechanical, occurring without effort, while the others requires a mental effort.  One detects, while the other perceives.  If one is a follower of Christ, they not only know the Master’s voice, they listen and follow.  They are not just hearers or the Word, they are doers of the Word because they are listening.

My Advice – Are we hearing without listening?  We know how frustrating that can be to us.  How disappointing it must be to God. But it can also be very dangerous to us.  There are many false doctrines (noise) out there that can easily deceive if we haven’t been carefully “listening” to what God’s Word has to say (meaning).  Make the effort to listen closely with discerning (mental processing) ears.