Saturday, October 29, 2011

Forgiveness Is Impossible

All I can say is this is yet another power-packed chapter. If you are reading Choosing Forgiveness by Nancy Leigh Demoss, you are probably wondering, “When is she ever going to give us a break? Is she ever going to lighten up?” Like unforgiveness keeps pounding away at our hearts and minds, DeMoss keeps chipping away at lies the world has fed us.

These are just a few of the quotes from this chapter alone that jolted my attention:

• “Forgiveness isn’t meant to be free and easy. It is hard. It is costly. It is painful”(106).

• “…whatever has happened in your life to cause unforgiveness to well up in your heart, God could have stopped it. But He didn’t”(107).

• “If you’re a child of God, the ordeal you’re undergoing, however wrong or unfair or heartless it may be or may have been in His providence and skillful hands will be used to take you somewhere good – deeper into His heart, to a place of greater dependence and trust, more perfectly refined into the likeness of Christ”(107).

• Forgiveness is impossible. But NOTHING is impossible for God. Forgiveness is an act of God’s grace performed in your heart and through you. You can’t do it on your own.

• Forgiving yourself means accepting God’s forgiveness first. “If God’s forgiveness is not good enough for us, then what’s so special about ours?”(114) “God is your forgiver – your one and only forgiver”(114). “No sin can create a stain too great for God to erase”(115).

There are many walking wounded, many broken people existing in life because they are clinching onto unforgiveness. They have white-knuckled pain so long it has turned into bitterness. God is steadily chipping away you allowing things to come into your life to break you down. He’s allowing things to put chinks in your walls. How bull-headed are you? What is it going to take before God gets your attention to the point that you are ready to meet Him, get real, and get healed? WHAT WILL IT TAKE? Trust me, I’ve been broken. It’s not a fun place to be, but when He finally gets through our thick heads and even harder hearts, He can perform CPR (Christ Performed Restoration). OMGoodness! It is healing. It is cathartic. It is liberating! Don’t you want to be free? Don’t you want to be unburdened? Then you must forgive and receive His forgiveness. You can’t forgive on your own. It is a work that God performs in you. For some of us we have to choose to forgive daily…sometimes moment to moment, but eventually over time, we get there. He gets you there.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Are You Harsh? Are You Hurt? Have you let kudzu take over your life?

Kudzoo. Is that how you spell it? Maybe it’s “kudzu.” It’s the stuff that is growing in Mississippi that they can’t seem to kill. You know what I’m talking about? That green viny plant that is growing everywhere. It started out as a pretty, little, green vine, and it actually had a purpose. They used it to prevent soil erosion. The corp used to plant it everywhere until they realized what we now know today. Supposedly kudzu can grow about a foot a day during the season, and possibly up to 60 feet in a year. It can climb on anything, over anything, and overtake anything that isn’t moving. The problem…they can’t kill it. It takes root and spreads and spreads and spreads. One suggested apply herbicide for four years in order to kill it. I’ve heard there is a recommendation to buy goats and let them eat it till it’s gone. Some so pretty, lush and green started with a simple idea of preventing soil erosion and now the state is so overrun with it they are looking for ways to get rid of it.

Isn’t that just like sin? It may not start off looking like sin because it has some part of truth mixed in it, but it is sin. If it isn’t 100% truth, then it’s not the truth. We let sin take root in one area of our life. It doesn’t just stay in that area. NOOOOOO! It has to start covering other areas climbing onto anything and everything. It is one of the hardest things to get rid of in your life too.

I can’t tell you how many women in the Bible study have said, “I really don’t have a problem forgiving people.” That may be true, but are they walking around hurt by what someone is doing to them or has done to them? There are some women who have said, “How am I supposed to forgive someone who keeps doing wrongdoing?” I’ve also heard, “How am I supposed to forgive someone who is dead?” Then there are those who are struggling with truly forgiving someone because they think that by forgiving them she is saying, “It’s okay that you hurt me.” Forgiveness isn’t about saying, “It’s okay,” because it isn’t. Failure to forgive is a sin of rebellion. The act of forgiving is not about the offender. It is about the offended releasing the control the offender has over her.

Failure to forgive turns into bitterness, resentment, harshness. In Matthew 18, Jesus tells the parable about the king pardoning the man who owed more money to the king than he could ever repay in his lifetime. After receiving the pardon, the man goes out and finds another man who owes him money, grabs him and tells him to pay up. The king hears about this, and the grace he had extended is revoked. The man is thrown into prison to be tormented. “When we refuse to forgive, we set ourselves up to be turned over to ‘tormentors’.” (65) Refusing to forgive, gives Satan a foothold into your life. Torment can come to a Christian in the form of “chronic mental, emotional, and physical disorders” (65). This is not to say that all of those disorders are rooted in unforgiveness. It just means that for a Christian these are possible ways Satan can torment us.

Think about these things:

1. Matthew 18:35, “So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”

2. “What if God only forgave me to the extent that I’ve been willing to forgive those who’ve sinned against me?”(68)

3. “When we refuse to forgive, something is blocked in our relationship with the Father.” (69)

4. “Bitterness grows in us when we fail to see the trouble and pain in our lives from God’s point of view, and when our expectations of what life should be diverge from the reality of what life really is.” (73)

Those are some statements that can walk all over a person.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss writes, “When we get hurt, no matter how serious the offense or how deep the wound, God has grace available to help us deal with the offense and forgive the offender. At that point, we have one of two choices: We can acknowledge our need and humbly reach out to Him for His grace to forgive and release the offender. Or we can resist Him, fail to receive His grace, and hold on to the hurt” (76). I know people who have chosen the latter. They are bitter, negative, harsh, and offensive repelling people who love them the most. All because they held onto hurt and failed to forgive – allowing sin to take root and spread like kudzu.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Walking Wounded -- How Long Have You Been Drinking Poison

A parent, a spouse, a sibling, a co-worker, a family member, a minister, a superior…someone you trusted violated your trust, broke your heart, tore you down till you felt little worth, took advantage of you, used you or even worse, they’ve done it to someone you love like your child. You now sit there angry, bitter, hurt, resentful…madder than a wet hornet. Justifiable? Absolutely. We’ve all been there at some point in time in our lives…”Walking Wounded.” “And wounded people tend to wound people” (35). Who are you wounding by holding onto your anger, hurt, bitterness and unforgiveness? Are you ready to begin the work necessary to forgive?

Some of you may still be under the effects of the hurtful event or person, and some of you may just be walking numbly around wondering what in the world happened. Some are coping the best way you can. Some have built walls and protection around your hearts and lives. Does any of this sound like you at any point in your life? I’ve been there, done that, and got the t-shirt. Living in that pain and hurt, holding onto anger and clinching onto unforgiveness keeps you from freely worshipping God Almighty. “The question is: Do those wounds – past or present – have to define who you are, where you’re headed, and how you get there?” (37)

“These are God-sized wounds that need God-sized answers” (39). Forgiveness is no easy thing to accomplish, and often times we have to repeatedly forgive someone who will never even ask for forgiveness.

I love this quote, “The outcome of our lives is not determined by what happens to us but by how we respond to what happens to us” (41). You are not defined by what happens to you. Your future does not have to be determined by what someone else has said about you, what someone did to you, or what has happened to you. Living like that is living like a victim, and John 10:10, the Bible says that Christ came to give us an abundant life. A victim’s life is not abundant. It is not a free life. A victim’s life is a life chained to the one who abused, neglected or hurt you. You want to move past? You want to be liberated from your captor? Forgive. Yes, I know it is much easier to say than do…trust me, I know this to be true. The offenses and events will shape your life, but it does not have to be what defines you or your future. I don’t know about you, but I find that empowering. This means the ball is in my court. I have control as to whether or not I allow this wrongdoing to eat away at me, or I can choose to forgive. It’s my choice. There isn’t anything that the harmful situation or other person can do to keep me bound to them if I so choose it. How strong is your will?

As Christians, we have hope. We know that there is a way out. We know that God has hemmed us in from the front and the back. We know that God has ordained our footsteps. We also know that God is our Great Physician healing down to the very marrow of the bone. You want freedom? You want to be liberated from those who hold your chains? Forgive them, and with God’s grace, you can.

Now for those who like to keep score…Nancy Leigh Demoss calls you a “Debt Collector.” These are the ones who want revenge. They want to retaliate and build up resentment in their hearts. You are holding so tightly onto every wrong that has ever been done to you that you don’t have a hand free to receive what God has for you. Did you get that? You are choosing to keep score and get even. We have a rule at our house. If one of the kids retaliates against the other for a wrongdoing, then I, as the parent, will not exact punishment. By retaliating, my child is choosing to take matters into his/her own hands. This usually means things escalates to nowhere good, real quick. If your focus is so set on getting even with someone, then your focus IS NOT ON GOD.

What if you are waiting on the other person to ask for forgiveness? What if it never comes? Are you going to live your life grasping onto the hope of that person asking for forgiveness?

What are you holding in your hands? Are you willing to release it to God, and let Him handle it? When we release our grip on what we think we deserve or want, then God is free to give us His best knowing we can receive it with our hands open. This means we have to LET GO.

Do you enjoy being forgiven by a Holy God? Do you appreciate the grace He gives you and the mercy He extends every time He forgives you? Then you must do the same.

One last quote for you to think about this week: Unforgiveness is “like drinking poison and hoping someone else die.” How long have you been drinking poison?

In the months of October and November, there is a Bible study going on for women using Nancy Leigh Demoss’s book Choosing Forgiveness. We invite you to join us on Sunday mornings at 9:40 AM for a frank and honest lesson on forgiveness.