Forgiveness

I recently concluded a long battle to clear my name. I can finally say that it is over. However, in reflecting on the matter, I realized that while it may be done on paper, it will never be over for me until I forgive the one who put me through it.  Forgiveness is not automatic. It doesn’t come easily. There is lots of resistance to the thought of it. Don’t I have the right to be angry? Shouldn’t they pay? There is some twisted idea that if I withhold forgiveness it will hurt them. However, I have been down enough of these roads to have learned that unforgiveness is like debris in a wound. It will fester and never heal until it is removed. It will derail my walk with God; rob me of joy, peace and strength; and prevent me from progressing into success in any area of my life. Yeah – that will show them!! Often when we go through these types of trials we describe them as the “night” and we are praying for morning. But there will never be the dawn of a new day as long as I choose to maintain the darkness with the cloak of unforgiveness.

So what does it mean to forgive? Jesus taught us to forgive seventy-seven times (Matt 18:22). He taught us to pray “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” (Matt 6:12). He illustrated it in a parable about the man who was forgiven much debt (Matt 18:23-35). Clearly the subject was important to Him. What did it look like when Jesus forgave me? He suffered because of what I did and then He offered forgiveness, redemption and love, should I choose to accept it. And when I did, He didn’t let me in with a grunt and treat me like a second class citizen. He ran to me, took me in His arms and rejoiced! (Luke 15:20-24). I have been forgiven much – and He holds none of it against me.

As an ambassador of Christ (2 Cor 5:20), I am His representative. I may be the only “Christ” that this person will ever see. Doesn’t my heart long for them to receive Christ’s forgiveness and redemption? Shouldn’t it begin with the offering my own forgiveness? My attitude and posture also need to reflect my heart. The ability to interact with this person in a loving manner will be a powerful witness. Unless Christ had made the road to redemption welcoming and easy, none of us would have come. And unless I make the road to Christ through me welcoming and easy, they will not come either.

Forgiveness is a choice. I choose to be free – to shed the burden of unforgiveness and to welcome the joy (Ps 30:5) and new measure of God’s compassion (Lam 3:22-23) that comes with the morning. What will you choose?

Blessed Assurance

The baptism of the Holy Spirit has been a subject of great curiosity for me for a long time. My earlier experiences with it were generally negative, so for a long time I viewed the gift of tongues with skepticism. When I married and started attending a church where people do speak in tongues, I watched and listened – looking for signs of manipulation, insincerity and superiority in those who practiced it. But what I found was authenticity and humility. I tried to understand what I was seeing and hearing. How did this benefit these people? They can’t even understand what they are saying – isn’t it just a bunch of gobbley goop? I had never actually witnessed someone receive the baptism either. I became fearful that the only way you get it is if you go to the altar to be prayed over and then suddenly you drop and flop on the floor in a giant public display of weirdness. I definitely didn’t want that!
So I started asking questions of people that I knew had the gift. How did they receive it? I had stories of being alone in prayer, or woken from their sleep, or being in small group prayer or while praying over someone else. What I didn’t hear were any drop and flop stories! That was a relief. I also didn’t hear any stories of tongues of fire or rushing winds. Apparently God can meet and fill you when and wherever – He doesn’t need to follow the original recipe.
Then I started asking what changed in you when you were filled? I mean – if the Spirit of the Living God fills you, something must have changed! This question seemed harder to answer. They didn’t suddenly start healing the sick or raising the dead. Some would say their prayer life became different. Others indicated an indescribable change in perception. I was surprised – I think I must have been expecting halos to appear or wings or something. All I knew was that I wanted to be changed by the presence of the Holy Spirit in me. I didn’t want to speak in tongues just to be part of the group. I wanted the genuine article.
I did enough research to finally belay my fears and then I started seeking. I would pray for myself. My husband would pray for me. But I was hesitant to go to the altar to have hands laid on me specifically for that – what if it didn’t happen? What if I wasn’t good enough to receive? I finally admitted my fear to a dear lady in Christ who assured me that it doesn’t always happen right away and to allow myself to be prayed over. So she did. Then she told me that speaking in tongues also required a step of faith – don’t be afraid to speak it. So from that point on I prayed and waited. And waited.
One Sunday in church I was overwhelmed by the presence of God and a couple of syllables of a language not my own were raised in my spirit. But I stopped it. I was afraid that it was just me. After all I wanted it so much that maybe subconsciously I was making it up. It went away. Then another Sunday it happened again. I allowed myself to whisper a couple words and then stopped again. Was this me? A few more weeks went by.
Then this past Sunday, while in worship, there it was again – only this time I didn’t stop it. As the phrases came in praise, I could feel my body being filled. Starting at my head and working its way down. My soul and spirit said “yes!” as those deep places of longing for the intimacy of the Lord were finally filled. It was like the “Ahhh” when you have a cold drink on a hot day, or when you lay in a comfortable bed at the end of a hard day of work. The yearning for His presence was over – He was here!
As I praised the Lord in worship and was running out of words to describe His awesomeness, the Spirit took over to declare “the wonderful works of God.” (Acts 2:11). My praise was elevated beyond my earthly capacity. My spirit united with His to truly worship.
The power that comes with the Spirit I have not explored as of yet. I haven’t raised the dead (of course I haven’t actually tried…..). I don’t know how He may choose to manifest it in my life, and I have a feeling that I may never fully comprehend the depth and breadth of it. All I know is that I am ready to move with the Lord, wherever He leads.
Most comforting however, if the absolute assurance that I now have. Any doubt that what I believe is only man’s rules, and the thought that my belief is “head knowledge” is gone. My knowledge of God has moved from my head to my soul, spirit and heart. “I know whom I have believed!” (2 Tim 1:12) Oh that all would know Him like this! I believe I now more fully comprehend the lyrics of the great old hymn, Blessed Assurance, sing it with me…
Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.

This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long;
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long.

God Pie

A shiftless sluggard puts his fork in the pie, but is too lazy to lift it to his mouth. Prov 26:15
I wouldn’t generally describe myself as lazy, but I can be “unmotivated” – it is a much nicer word, isn’t it? For instance, I love a clean house, but if I can pay someone else to clean it – I will. I would love to be an expert in my field, not for my own glory, but for the confidence that would result. But, when I think about studying and taking classes, I feel like… I am too old and tired for all that stuff. I would love to lose weight, and I know what I need to do to make it happen, but… exercise… really?? And those cookies…
If I were more motivated, I would be more confident when I bring people into my house that it is actually clean, I would be more confident in my job and I would be more confident as a healthy individual. I know in my head the things that I need to do to get there – I am just simply too lazy to do it. I can think up a thousand excuses: the weather, the kids, the stress, the time, the “woman thing.” Essentially though, it comes down to the fact that I don’t want it enough to put the effort into it. I have got my proverbial “fork” in these pies, as I know what to do, but I am too lazy to lift it to my mouth.
What about the things of God? I would love to be close enough to God that I always recognize His voice and direction and to always to be walking confidently in His will. But confidence comes with experience and effort. Now, I go to church on Sunday (unless I am too tired or vacationing…) and I say grace before my meals, I talk about God stuff with likeminded people and I pray when things are not going very well in my life. None of these things profits me much, nor require any amount of effort. They don’t bring me any closer to God than I was last week or last year. I have my “fork” in the God things, but I am not eating.
Getting to know God and walking confidently with Him requires effort. God has told us:
And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. Jer 29:13

I love those who love me, And those who seek me diligently will find me. Prov 8:17

But from there you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul. Deut 4:29

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. Matt 7:7

This seeking, knocking, searching, and asking are all activities that require effort. But God promises that when we do them, we will find Him.

Even the disciples, when they were asked to wait for the promise of the Holy Spirit, did it with effort. They didn’t sit around the upper room watching TV and eating snacks waiting on the Lord. There wasn’t just one praying and the rest received the Spirit by virtue of the fact that they were in the same room. The folks downstairs didn’t receive the Spirit, and the house next door didn’t. Only the disciples. They were active in their waiting: “These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication” Acts 1:14. And “When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place” Acts 2:2

God is here. He is on the periphery waiting with His presence and power to be found by those who are seeking. It is time to lift the “fork” and “taste and see that the Lord is good!” (Ps 34:8)