Forgiveness isn’t optional.

I threw away most of the notes I took during Bible College, but this teaching hit home for me as a survivor of childhood and domestic assault. I discovered a long time ago that forgiveness ties us to our offenders and that letting go of our pre-conceived right to resent them holds us back while they go on their way. Forgiveness is for us, not them. It frees us of the hold they have on our hearts, our innocence, and our growth.

Forgiveness is agreeing to live with the consequences of another person’s sin. Forgiveness is costly; we pay the price of the evil we forgive. Yet we’re going to live with these consequences whether we want to or not. Our only choice is whether we will do so in the bitterness of unforgiveness or the freedom of forgiveness.

An unforgiving spirit destroys respect.

We cannot forgive while we’re hanging on to our rights and our sense of injury. We cannot forgive without consenting to suffer the loss ourselves.

See yourself standing in a circle which is called the will of God. Nothing therefore can touch you from outside the circle, unless it has first penetrated that circle. The thing in question may be hurtful, unfair, and callous, but no matter how it originated, by the time it has reached you it has passed through the circle of the will of God; it has become God’s will for you; it has been permitted for wise and good purposes of His own. Therefore, by resenting and refusing it, you are in reality rebelling against God and His will.

In forgiveness, God is not asking us to do anything which He has not done for us to an infinitely greater degree.

What then is forgiveness? It is a miracle of grace whereby the offense no longer separates. The offense is real, and the hurt is real, but forgiveness means that this real and horrible offense shall not separate us. Forgiveness means that the power of love that holds us together is greater than the power of the offense that separates us. That is forgiveness. In forgiveness we are releasing our offenders so that they are no longer bound to us. In a very real sense, we are freeing them to receive God’s grace.

There is no torment like the inner torment of an unforgiving spirit. It refuses to be soothed; it refuses to be healed; it refuses to forget.

When tragedy comes into your life, allow yourself to grieve. It is a God-given source of healing. Refusing to grieve can harden the heart.

Embrace the hurts of life. God is in them. Allow His purposes to triumph.

Forgiveness is crucial. Not only should it be felt, but it needs to be expressed. Without it, we cannot move on. If we desire to grow, mature, and become more like God, we need to let go of the hurts and offenses that shaped us and let God do His work in our lives.

It is time.

It is time.
Time to deal with
the pain,
the past,
and let it go.
Forgiveness.
Rejection
is no longer
a fear.
Your confidence
is in your God,
not in man.
His acceptance
is all you need.
It will
quell
those voices
from the past,
those that say
“You are not
worthy.
You do not
deserve this.”

See, you
are His child.
And you deserve
what He says
you deserve.
And that
is good.
Peace.
Joy.
Hope.

But God, don’t You see me?

Yes, child,
I see you.
But not as
you see yourself.
I look at you
through
eyes of
mercy
love
compassion
and forgiveness.

You need to
forgive
yourself.

For what?

For falling short
of your own
expectations.
For failing
in what
you thought
you should
do or be.
See, My plans for you
are not what
you would choose.

What a shock. I thought I had that one figured out. After all, look where I am and how I’m living.

But
that
is
coming
to an end.

Let
Me
Work.

Yield to Me.
Be sensitive
and willing.

Oh, what I have for you, My child! Let Me work it in you. Stop the fighting. Let go of your pride and fear and let Me work. For I am not some vengeful master, but a loving Father. I desire good for you if you will accept it. I don’t wait for you to stumble so I can whack you. I am not your dad – I am your Father.
©1-29-1997

In Search of Worship

I have been searching for a new church since I moved back to this area a year ago. I have had to leave several services early because the music was so loud it gave me a migraine. Is this really worship, or is it a concert? Does it enable the average church member or visitor to set aside the cares of the world and focus on God, or is it meant to entertain? Do we need a darkened auditorium, spotlights, and fog machines to proclaim the majesty of Almighty God? What I see from my seat in these environments is less and less participation, especially when the “worship team” chooses songs with too many words or a melody line outside the range of most average singers. It is becoming a spectator sport instead of a way of coming together as believers to give reverence and awe to the God who gives us hope in a lost and dying world.

I know this will age me, but I was taught that praise and worship served a purpose, and that was to bring us into the throne room of God and prepare us to hear what God wanted to say to us. It was a way of setting aside the worries and concerns of daily life, unifying us as a people, and focusing on the One who could give us hope when all hope was lost. It was, at times, a sacrifice, especially when we were struggling or hurting or angry. It was a way of declaring that even in the midst of our trials and tribulations, God was still on the throne, and we were going to set aside this time to focus on Him instead of ourselves.

Our worship team was seen not only as a vital part of the ministry of the church, but also as people who set an example for young believers and newcomers. We dressed appropriately, wearing modest clothes so as not to draw the eye of the weak to areas they shouldn’t be looking at. We were not seen as the focal point, but rather as vessels. Our goal was leading the church into the presence of God. Being on the worship team was a privilege and a responsibility.

I fear that in the search for contemporary relevance and relatability, and in an attempt to get more backsides in the seats, we have lost sight of our vision. We have watered down the truth of the Gospel to pacify people who want to come to church, but don’t want to change. They want to feel good about what God has done for them, but they don’t really want to do anything for God. They don’t want to alter their lifestyles, give up their sinful behavior, or make any significant modifications to their lives.

We have taken the phrase “Come as you are” and forgotten that an intense, sincere relationship with God will not leave you where you were when you began. Failing to challenge believers to become more holy, to be in the world but not of it, and to seek to become more Christ-like is falling far short of the mark of excellence we are called to as Christians. We should be different. We should be peculiar, odd, & seen as out of place on this planet where sin, hate, strife, and division are spiraling out of control. We should be a light in the darkness.

It is simply not enough to come to church on Sunday, sing three songs from the current CCM radio station playlist, listen to a feel-good sermon, and walk back out the doors unchallenged and unchanged. That is not worship…. It is entertainment.

C.S. Lewis on Christmas

Xmas and Christmas: A Lost Chapter from Herodotus

by C. S. Lewis

And beyond this there lies in the ocean, turned towards the west and north, the island of Niatirb which Hecataeus indeed declares to be the same size and shape as Sicily, but it is larger, though in calling it triangular a man would not miss the mark. It is densely inhabited by men who wear clothes not very different from the other barbarians who occupy the north western parts of Europe though they do not agree with them in language. These islanders, surpassing all the men of whom we know in patience and endurance, use the following customs.

In the middle of winter when fogs and rains most abound they have a great festival which they call Exmas and for fifty days they prepare for it in the fashion I shall describe. First of all, every citizen is obliged to send to each of his friends and relations a square piece of hard paper stamped with a picture, which in their speech is called an Exmas-card. But the pictures represent birds sitting on branches, or trees with a dark green prickly leaf, or else men in such garments as the Niatirbians believe that their ancestors wore two hundred years ago riding in coaches such as their ancestors used, or houses with snow on their roofs. And the Niatirbians are unwilling to say what these pictures have to do with the festival; guarding (as I suppose) some sacred mystery. And because all men must send these cards the marketplace is filled with the crowd of those buying them, so that there is great labour and weariness.

But having bought as many as they suppose to be sufficient, they return to their houses and find there the like cards which others have sent to them. And when they find cards from any to whom they also have sent cards, they throw them away and give thanks to the gods that this labour at least is over for another year. But when they find cards from any to whom they have not sent, then they beat their breasts and wail and utter curses against the sender; and, having sufficiently lamented their misfortune, they put on their boots again and go out into the fog and rain and buy a card for him also. And let this account suffice about Exmas-cards.

They also send gifts to one another, suffering the same things about the gifts as about the cards, or even worse. For every citizen has to guess the value of the gift which every friend will send to him so that he may send one of equal value, whether he can afford it or not. And they buy as gifts for one another such things as no man ever bought for himself. For the sellers, understanding the custom, put forth all kinds of trumpery, and whatever, being useless and ridiculous, they have been unable to sell throughout the year they now sell as an Exmas gift. And though the Niatirbians profess themselves to lack sufficient necessary things, such as metal, leather, wood and paper, yet an incredible quantity of these things is wasted every year, being made into the gifts.

But during these fifty days the oldest, poorest, and most miserable of the citizens put on false beards and red robes and walk about the market-place; being disguised (in my opinion) as Cronos. And the sellers of gifts no less than the purchaser’s become pale and weary, because of the crowds and the fog, so that any man who came into a Niatirbian city at this season would think some great public calamity had fallen on Niatirb. This fifty days of preparation is called in their barbarian speech the Exmas Rush.

But when the day of the festival comes, then most of the citizens, being exhausted with the Rush, lie in bed till noon. But in the evening they eat five times as much supper as on other days and, crowning themselves with crowns of paper, they become intoxicated. And on the day after Exmas they are very grave, being internally disordered by the supper and the drinking and reckoning how much they have spent on gifts and on the wine. For wine is so dear among the Niatirbians that a man must swallow the worth of a talent before he is well intoxicated.

Such, then, are their customs about the Exmas. But the few among the Niatirbians have also a festival, separate and to themselves, called Crissmas, which is on the same day as Exmas. And those who keep Crissmas, doing the opposite to the majority of the Niatirbians, rise early on that day with shining faces and go before sunrise to certain temples where they partake of a sacred feast. And in most of the temples they set out images of a fair woman with a new-born Child on her knees and certain animals and shepherds adoring the Child. (The reason of these images is given in a certain sacred story which I know but do not repeat.)

But I myself conversed with a priest in one of these temples and asked him why they kept Crissmas on the same day as Exmas; for it appeared to me inconvenient. But the priest replied, “It is not lawful, O stranger, for us to change the date of Chrissmas, but would that Zeus would put it into the minds of the Niatirbians to keep Exmas at some other time or not to keep it at all. For Exmas and the Rush distract the minds even of the few from sacred things. And we indeed are glad that men should make merry at Crissmas; but in Exmas there is no merriment left.” And when I asked him why they endured the Rush, he replied, “It is, O Stranger, a racket”; using (as I suppose) the words of some oracle and speaking unintelligibly to me (for a racket is an instrument which the barbarians use in a game called tennis).

But what Hecataeus says, that Exmas and Crissmas are the same, is not credible. For first, the pictures which are stamped on the Exmas-cards have nothing to do with the sacred story which the priests tell about Crissmas. And secondly, the most part of the Niatirbians, not believing the religion of the few, nevertheless send the gifts and cards and participate in the Rush and drink, wearing paper caps. But it is not likely that men, even being barbarians, should suffer so many and great things in honour of a god they do not believe in. And now, enough about Niatirb.

Where is your faith based?

If your faith as a Christian is based on how much you are financially blessed or the state of your health, you’re in for a rude awakening. NOWHERE in the Word of God are we promised an easy ride. What we are promised is that God will be with us along our journey. I can uncategorically testify that the struggles I have been through in my life have strengthened my faith, and despite the fact I can’t afford the finer things in life, don’t have perfect health, and live on disability because of my health issues, I have an unshaken, unwavering, undoubting faith in Almighty God and His ability to turn even the worst things that have happened to me for His good. He is faithful. He is good. He is my security and hope in the middle of the chaos that is my life. His unchanging love makes my life worth living….that He cares enough to love me in the here and now, in this mess of a body, with these failings and shortcomings, gives me the strength to keep going. It’s not about what I have or don’t have, whether I’m rich or poor, whether I live in a mansion or a tent….God is God is God….and that is enough.

“I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace. In the world you have tribulation and distress and suffering, but be courageous [be confident, be undaunted, be filled with joy]; I have overcome the world.” [My conquest is accomplished, My victory abiding.] {John 16:33 Amplified Bible (AMP)}