FULLY ALIVE!

Your life will be as bright as the noonday sun. Job 11:17


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I Don’t Want to Forgive

Have you been hurt so deeply that you feel trapped by the pain, yet there is something deep within you that refuses to forgive?

At times it seems there are two forces pulling at you, kinda like those cartoons we’ve seen of characters having an angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other.  That angel whispers the Scriptures into your ears – “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).  “Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive” (Colossians 3:13).  “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you…” (Luke 6:27). “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” (Romans 12:19). “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” (Matthew 5:44).  “Do not say, “I will repay evil”; wait for the Lord, and he will deliver you” (Proverbs 20:22).

That devil on the other shoulder is whispering, too.  “Don’t forgive them; they don’t deserve it. Don’t you remember what they did to you?”

The angel whispers all the more…,”Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless…” (1 Peter 3:9).  And the devil ramps up his whisperings, too…, “What you need to do is get even.  If I were you, I’d get them back!”

Forgiveness is hard.  It’s even harder when you don’t really want to forgive.  Yes, you want to empty yourself of all that bitterness, and you want to enjoy a close relationship with God (because in case you didn’t realize it, bitterness and refusing to forgive separates you from God).  But deep down within, you crave vengeance.  You just want to even the score somehow, pay them back.  After all, that’s what they deserve!

Confession.  I have held bitterness toward a certain “them” and “they” in my heart for quite some time now.  I said that I forgave, but I didn’t.  I thought for a while that I had, but I haven’t.  I was sure that I wanted to, but I don’t.  I don’t want to forgive them.  Oh, in my head I do; I know right from wrong.  But the awful, cold, hard truth is that in my heart, I don’t want to forgive them.

I realized that today when I had an opportunity to celebrate “them.” To praise “them.”  To congratulate “them.”  I didn’t want to do any of those things.  Rather, I wanted to remind “them” of their evil, their spite, their prejudices and their mean-spiritedness.  But therein lies the rub.  I couldn’t remind them of any of their shortcomings and faults without being reminded of my own.  Dang.

And so today I realized, fully realized what I already knew in my head.  Forgiveness is not really for “them.”  It is for me.

You see, by refusing to forgive, I imprisoned myself.  I shut myself away in a lonely, desolate and miserable place where I played and replayed the videos and recordings of all that they had done wrong.  Meanwhile, they went about their lives – happy, laughing, enjoying.  I am sure that they haven’t spent one minute thinking about what has robbed me of peace for more than a year now.

Today, I decided it’s time to be released from prison.  I forgave.  Once, for all and for always – with the help of the Holy Spirit!

As children of God we are commanded to forgive.  It really is not an option, but God will not rush us.  He’ll let us linger and languish in the prison of bitterness as long as we desire.  When we come to our senses, we understand that He empowers us by His Spirit to forgive just as Jesus forgave when He looked down from the cross at His false accusers, the naysayers and the soldiers who had beaten and whipped Him and now cast lots for His clothing.  Amidst all that, He said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).  Surely, I can forgive those who hurt me, and I did.

Here’s what we can be sure of – What God commands us to do, He empowers us to do by His Spirit. And that includes forgiving just as Jesus did!

THIS WEEK break free of any prison of unforgiveness that has you bound.  “As those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you” (Colossians 3:12-13).  Identify your shortcomings and seek the Lord’s forgiveness for those then, if possible, reconcile with your offender.  If you cannot reconcile because your offender is not ready, know that you have done what the Lord has required of you, and go in peace (Romans 12:18). 

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Lion Killing, Part 2

Benaiah son of Jehoiada, a valiant fighter from Kabzeel, performed great exploits. He struck down Moab’s two mightiest warriors. He also went down into a pit on a snowy day and killed a lion.  And he struck down an Egyptian who was five cubits tall. Although the Egyptian had a spear like a weaver’s rod in his hand, Benaiah went against him with a club. He snatched the spear from the Egyptian’s hand and killed him with his own spear.  Such were the exploits of Benaiah son of Jehoiada; he too was as famous as the three mighty warriors.  He was held in greater honor than any of the Thirty, but he was not included among the Three. And David put him in charge of his bodyguard. 1 Chronicles 11:22-25 (NASB)

The Scripture says, “He…went…and killed a lion.”

So, the question I left you with was, “How?” “How do you kill a lion in a pit on a snowy day?” “How do you kill your lion?”

You fight.

Sorry. I’m sure you thought I would be sharing a secret.

We know that Benaiah won because the Scriptures tell us. But they do not reveal the details. Sometimes I just hate it when the Scriptures seem to skip over some important detail, but then I stop and think. “God had a reason why.” Proverbs 25:2 tells us, “The glory of God is to conceal a thing, but the glory of kings is to search it out.”

So, while we still do not know all the details, we can be sure that Benaiah fought. He fought his lion. He didn’t simply lie down in the pit, cross his fingers, close his eyes and hope for the best. As a matter of fact, look back at Verse 22 and you will “search out” a clue.

Benaiah son of Jehoiada, a valiant fighter from Kabzeel, performed great exploits. He struck down Moab’s two mightiest warriors. He also went down into a pit on a snowy day and killed a lion. It seems that Benaiah wasn’t drug into the pit. He didn’t fall into the pit. Nobody pushed him into the pit. He went down. He went after his lion. He was determined to take it out! Easy? Absolutely not; it was a lion!

Turn the tables on your lion, the Devil, who prowls seeking to devour. He thinks he has you on the run. Like, Benaiah, flip the script and put him on the run. In an old joke, a Sunday School teacher asks her class what to do when Satan knocks at your door. A little girl responded, “I send Jesus to answer the door.” Ahh, out of the mouths of babes!

To defeat Satan we must turn to God (Matthew 6:13). To resist the Devil, we must submit to God (James 4:7). To stand against the Devil, we must put on the armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-11) and arm ourselves with the greatest weapon, the Word of God (Matthew 4:1-11).

Winston Churchill, rallying troops and indeed an entire nation, during World War II said, “You ask, “What is our policy?” I will say: It is to wage war, by sea, land, and air, with all our might and all the strength that God can give us…You ask, “What is our aim?” I can answer in one word: Victory…at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory however long and hard the road may be… We shall go on to the end…we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be; we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.  Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in… Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”

What enemy is greater than the Devil, our lion? None! We must, therefore, fight – in the fields, in the streets, in the pits on snowy days. Never give in. Never give in!


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Lion Killing

Yesterday felt like the title of a book I read some years ago, In a Pit With a Lion on a Snowy Day (Mark Batterson, Author).  Just read that title and ponder each word while adding the next word and image to it.  In a pit.  Bad.  With a lion.  Worse.  On a snowy day.  Worst!  But actually, there is good news in this story from 1 Chronicles.  Paul tells us in Romans 15:4 (NASB) that “whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that…we might have hope.”  So what are the lessons from the text that gave title to Batterson’s book?

First, let’s read the Scripture.

Benaiah son of Jehoiada, a valiant fighter from Kabzeel, performed great exploits. He struck down Moab’s two mightiest warriors. He also went down into a pit on a snowy day and killed a lion.  And he struck down an Egyptian who was five cubits tall. Although the Egyptian had a spear like a weaver’s rod in his hand, Benaiah went against him with a club. He snatched the spear from the Egyptian’s hand and killed him with his own spear.  Such were the exploits of Benaiah son of Jehoiada; he too was as famous as the three mighty warriors.  He was held in greater honor than any of the Thirty, but he was not included among the Three. And David put him in charge of his bodyguard. 1 Chronicles 11:22-25 (NASB)

What instruction does this text, written in earlier times, have for us?  Well, let’s see.

Benaiah was the son of a Priest.  We have a personal relationship with a great High Priest – Jesus. (Hebrews 4:14)

Benaiah was a valiant fighter.  You are a fighter.  Daily, you must fight the good fight of faith! (1 Timothy 6:12)

Benaiah was from Kabzeel, a city in southern Judah. The name means “gathering of God.”  As a Christian, you are part of God’s gathering, the church.

Benaiah struck down two warriors from Moab.  The Moabites were closely related to the Israelites, but they were enemies of Israel.   There are those who are close to you, but they are your enemies.  Perhaps your closest enemy might even be you – your flesh, that is.  And you must strike down those enemies – yes, flesh included.

Benaiah went down into a pit on a snowy day and killed a lion.  Bet you’re thinking, “Hmm.  Let’s see her make a connection with this one!”  1 Peter 5:8b says, “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” Renowned Pastor, Ray Stedman said in a sermon addressing this topic, “Benaiah slew a lion — a lion, not a leopard, not a wild hyena or a boar or a buffalo, but a lion… it is not for nothing that the lion is called the king of beasts, because it is indeed a very powerful animal.”

But I did a little research.

The “king of the jungle” doesn’t have the strongest bite.  There are many other cats and many other animals that surpass the lion for bite.  As a matter of fact, ListVerse says, the lion has the “weakest bite of the genus Pathera or big cat.”  Wow.  But the research clearly points out that the lion doesn’t need a strong bite.  This big cat is really a social animal and presents as quite cooperative during the hunt.  It is not by power of bite that the lion kills; rather, it is by strangling its prey – biting the trachea.  ListVerse says lions “lack the need of a strong bite.”

Our enemy, the Devil, prowls like a roaring lion seeking to devour.  Like a lion, he is often social.  Like a lion, he is often cooperative.  Like a lion, he doesn’t need a strong bite.  Like a lion, he often slips up on us and strangles the life out of us.

Every one of us has a lion prowling and pursuing us – that something, someone or some situation that is waiting, seeking to devour us.  It might be a loss that we just can’t seem to move beyond – the grief of it has entangled our hearts and minds and even our lives.  We may even feel as though a part of us died.  There may be a physical disease that is daily draining our bodies of strength or our minds of clarity.  Possibly your lion is a habit – a bad habit, that you know is killing you – a substance addiction, gambling, overeating, gossiping, worrying…  Your lion might be fear – of the unknown or of something very specific, but it has you paralyzed.  You know your lion.

But let’s get back to Benaiah.

Benaiah met his lion in a pit on a snowy day. Bad enough to meet a lion – anywhere.  (I once met one on an African road.  The body and windows of a little old minivan separated us.  That was not enough for me, so in a pit?  Not!)  But Benaiah met his lion in a pit.  Pits tend to be small.  They tend to be deep.  They tend to have slippery sides.  They tend to be hard to escape.  And then it was snowing!  When I first read this Scripture, my response was, “Really!”  (Not as in I doubted, but as in “Really.  Can this get any worse?”)

Have you been there yet?  In the pit with your lion?  On a snowy day?  Ray Stedman said, “He met the worst possible foe, in the worst possible place, under the worst possible circumstances.”  Now, that’s the Devil for you.  Getting you right where he wants you and setting you up for the kill.

Turn to Benaiah once more.  The Scripture says, “He…went…and killed a lion.”

Victory!!!!!

Hopefully, you are encouraged that you can face your lion. You can go down into the pit with him – even on a snowy day, and emerge victorious.

But there is one remaining question. How? How did Benaiah kill the lion? How do you kill your lion?

See you next blog entry…


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Hold the Ketchup, Please

I should have known that it was coming.

Life has been good. Real good! I retired – for the second time. I spent the summer resting. It was wonderful. I read. I cooked. I napped. I rediscovered trash TV. (Thankfully I am over that now!) But even better – I prayed. I journaled. I began this blog. Did I say I napped? Yes, it was all good!

Then my phone rang. It was a job offer. It seemed good, so I said, “Why not?”

Then an email came. The very next day. It was a job offer. It was something I thought I’d enjoy, so I said, “Sure.”

I’d forgotten that I had registered for three seminary classes, but still I wasn’t worried. I was confident that I could balance it all. And so, after about 60 days of sweet, blissful rest, I returned to the world of work and homework. My days (and nights) are busy, but they are enjoyable. The pace and culture are very different from my last season of work. I soon got caught up in setting my new calendars, meeting new people, rethinking my days and even shopping for a few new outfits because the hose and heels weren’t necessary every day. I got caught up in this new life which was such a change and such a relief from the past that I forgot.

I forgot the warnings of 1 Peter 5:8-9. I forgot to be self-controlled and alert because my enemy, the devil, prowls around seeking to devour.

But he didn’t forget, and this week he came. The prowling enemy. The devil. He sought to devour. He sought to steal my joy, to make me doubt, to make me second guess myself and my work, to thwart the success I was experiencing, to scatter obstacles in my path, to confuse my mind and to trouble my spirit.

He caught me off guard because I was having such a good time in life. He opened wide his jaws to devour me. And at the first snap of his teeth, I gave up. But thank God I quickly regained my senses and my footing. I realized that the devil may come, actually the devil will come to devour, BUT I don’t have to spread the ketchup on myself making me all the more tasty for him.

Isn’t that what we do sometimes? At the first nip we give up and give in. We surrender to him our thoughts, our sleep, our peace and our joy. Rather, we should fight against him. Take captive every thought (2 Corinthians 10:5), refuse to lose sleep understanding that our Lord never slumbers or sleeps (Psalm 121:4), hold fast to the peace that our Lord has given us (John 14:27) and guard our joy realizing that it is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10).

Too often we have given the devil far more credit than he is due. He is NOT an all-powerful being who is the evil equivalent of God. He and God are NOT two equal forces in opposition to each other – one good and one evil, one light and one dark. Jesus Christ defeated Satan on the cross of Calvary. He us under the foot of Christ and, therefore, under out foot.  As we submit to God and intentionally resist the devil, we can enforce the victory Jesus won thereby forcing Satan to flee from us.

Hold the ketchup. Please!