FULLY ALIVE!

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


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Amazed

Having worked in the field of education for more than 30 years, I was sure that I’d seen and heard it all, but I really never cease to be amazed.

I am amazed by the fashions of the students and the adults, like the guidance counselor who came to work with her shirt tied Daisy Duke style because she’d gotten her navel pierced the evening before and wanted to show it off…to elementary students!

I am amazed by the excuses for not doing homework and for coming to work late, like the teacher who said she woke up and decide to try a new route and got lost on the way.

I am amazed by the behaviors, like the teacher who thought a student might have intentionally clogged a toilet with paper too much tissue, so she gave her a paper towel and told her to use it to take all that excess soggy tissue out of the toilet. This one also falls under the category of amazing thinking – a paper towel to keep her hands clean while she took tissue from a nasty, recently used toilet? Hmm.

Fortunately, not all of the things that amaze me are negative. Daily I am amazed by the glory of nature – the beauty of the clouds, the majesty of the trees, the melody of the birds. In the Psalms David declared, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.” (Psalm 19:1-3). Nature alone is proof that He is and that He is great!

I cannot share these amazements, good and bad, without acknowledging that sometimes I have been amazed by my own thinking and my own behavior and surely I confess, it was not always good. Some of it was selfish. Some of it was vengeful. Some of it hurt others. I am especially sorry about that and this, perhaps, is why I am most amazed by God and His grace, His mercy and His love for us even when we falter.

As Deuteronomy tells us, He is “God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God” (Deuteronomy 10:17 ESV). Sometimes we forget that or, at the very least, we take it for granted. The Desperation Band sings, “You dance over me while I am unaware. You sing all around, but I never hear the sound. Lord, I’m amazed by you – how you love me! How wide, how deep, how great is your love for me! Lord, I’m amazed by you – how you love me!”

He formed light; He created darkness (Isaiah 45:7, ESV); He made “heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them; and” He preserves all of them (Nehemiah 9:6, ESV). He is “the Rock, His work is perfect, all His ways are justice.” He is “a God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright” (Deuteronomy 32:4, ESV) and yet, He loves us. He loves us. So much so that He pursues us! As long as we live in this sinful and fallen world we will sin – even those of us who are believers (though Jesus paid our sin debt), and we may still have to deal with the consequence of sin. He knows the pain of sin, so He teaches us and shows us His way, a better way, the way that He desires for us. He pursues us. He never lets go of us. He loves us! He is amazing, and I am amazed!

LISTEN: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N1SoPfCIm80

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Me First!

The first to apologize is the bravest.

The first to forgive is the strongest.

The first to forget is the happiest!

~Unknown

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

~Ephesians 4:32 ESV


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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).