Friday, May 30, 2014

Hostage No More (Part 2)


Unforgiveness makes me a spiritual hostage

Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.1

As he hung there on the cross, Jesus revealed his ability to understand, that human thought is incapable of knowing how to do what is right without guidance from God. Only God has that ability to comprehend that our failure to know what is right also means that we often don’t know what we’re doing. I realize that although I’m not God, I tend to act like a little god when it comes to forgiving others. I hold on to those past hurts, offenses and grudges.

Why?

In my former way of thinking, I believed a person (or persons) needed to be punished for what they said or did to me. I took things personally, very personally! I wanted vengeance, I wanted to return the hurt and I wanted to know you were being punished severely. Although I’m incapable of elevating myself to the level of deity, I am quite skilled in devaluing others so that they received (what I thought was their just) punishment. The only way that happened was by making myself a spiritual hostage to unforgiveness. I’ve blindly witnessed (the consistency of) how this unforgiveness scenario played out in my life:
  1. I charged someone with an offense
  2. I prosecuted the offender
  3. I sentenced the offender
  4. I punished the offender
Whether you’re passive aggressive or openly hostile, I believe unforgiveness follows this road which leads to becoming a spiritual hostage. Going down this road has taught me that I will encounter the same (predictable) results. If I don’t want to be a spiritual hostage, then I had to stop following these steps. I needed a new understanding of biblical forgiveness.

The way of forgiveness (Hostage No More):

For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.2

God then, doesn’t ask me to forgive, He commands me to forgive! I am compelled to obey God if my desire is to please Him in my life because:

…to obey is better than sacrifice…3

I believe in order to be a spiritual hostage no more; I must choose to say the words: I forgive you, when someone offends me. I may not believe this at first, I may even want to repeat that judicial process I’ve gone through in the past and revert to being a spiritual hostage. But by speaking the words of forgiveness, I discovered the truth of forgiving:

I no longer place more value on the offense than the person who offended me.

I choose to forgive by losing (letting go and forgetting) the memory of the offense; I can no longer recall it.

How do I let go and forget?

Stop replaying the experience over and over again in my mind by forgetting it.

Speak the words of forgiveness and be a hostage no more.

If you are harboring hurts, memories and pain from others, you need to free yourself and those who hurt you. I remember a comedy skit by The Three Stooges called, Niagara Falls. In this skit, every time the phrase Niagara Falls was mentioned, the character would become enraged; beating poor Curly until he regained his composure. It’s the same for the spiritual hostage of unforgiveness. The memory of the experience is a continuous loop, replaying in our mind again and again; keeping us a spiritual hostage. People say, “I can forgive, but I will never forget”, and think that they have done everything God requires. I do not believe this to be complete because:
  1. I was unwilling to devalue what happened and therefore unwilling to forget.
  2. I was unwilling to forget what happened and therefore I refused to honestly forgive.
  3. I was unwilling to forgive what happened so I condemned a person to my own personal form of punishment.
But when I look at biblical forgiveness, how God forgives me, I see just the opposite of what I choose to do as an unforgiving spiritual hostage:

God the Father looks at the cross where Jesus hung and died for my sin. This memory of His Son, is a reminder against any accusation of my redemption. The reality is that Christ saved me, washed away my sins. My sin isn’t a memory, it’s gone and forgotten! We tend to forget about things that we no longer value. I’m a creature of habit because I need to repeat the same things in order to remember it. When I come home, my keys are always put in the same place. What about my clothes, shoes, coat, gloves, important documents, wallet, tablet, or cellphone? A place for everything, and everything in its place. When I change my routine, and put something in a different place, what happens? I can’t find it!

Biblical forgetting, is no longer having a memory of something. When I eliminate a value to an offense, I will forget it happened.

As a condemned sinner, I had no hope of forgiveness without Jesus Christ. The bible says,

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.4

There are particles in the air that cannot be seen without magnification. My life as a condemned sinner cannot be magnified to a visibility where it overshadows the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. At one time, I carried my sin and condemnation with me wherever I went. At Calvary, it was nailed on the cross with Jesus; swallowed up by his atonement. As the bible says,

Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting…The sting of death is sin…But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.5

Paul writes in Hebrews:

This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.” Then he adds: “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.6

This scripture taken from the Old Testament book of Jeremiah 31:33-34, illustrates the beauty of the grace of God. Where grace is given, sin is forgotten. The grace we receive from God must be extended to others by us.

Do you want to forgive?

Begin by giving grace and forgetting; then say, “I forgive you”.

It’s time to be a hostage no more!

MTJ

Footnotes:
  1. Luke 23:34, NIV
  2. Matthew 6:14, NIV
  3. 1 Samuel 15:22, NASB
  4. John 3:16, NIV
  5. 1 Corinthians 15:54-57, NIV
  6. Hebrews 10:16-17, NIV
A Note of Thanks: I would just like to say Thank you, to each of you who visit My Thought-filled Journey. Taking time out of your busy schedule to read a post on this blog encourages me. Many of those who visit, will from time to time leave a comment, but it really doesn't matter whether a comment is left. What matters, is that you came here. I hope you find encouragement and inspiration in these words. Please know I will pray with you regarding any circumstance you may be facing. Feel free to write me to say "Hello", request prayer, or share what God is doing in your life. I have not said it enough, but thank you for the light of Christ in your life which illuminates the way for us all.

Note: This post is linked to Spiritual Sundays (hosted by Charlotte).Spiritual Sundays

Friday, May 23, 2014

Hostage No More (Part 1)


Are you being held hostage by unforgiveness?

During the past twelve months, I’ve had the opportunity to meet people from Croatia and Bosnia; people who shared their stories of what life was like in their country. What do you say to a person who lost a husband when neighbors stormed their home in the dark of night and shot him dead? I’ve never lived in a war-torn region, so I don’t know what it’s like to huddle in a bomb shelter. I don’t have a sister who was raped by soldiers. I’m reminded of the mass murders which occurred in Rwanda. Routine shootings that have become commonplace in urban cities like Chicago and Los Angeles.

Some face the sting of racism, bigotry, or hatred. Political philosophies differ causing people to say or do hurtful things. Religious behavior can dictate actions which bring shame upon the core values we claim to believe. Sometimes a hurt can't be caused in such a subtle way that it doesn't heal. We who cause hurts, move on past the rubble (while we are oblivious to the damage) much like a driver navigating around an accident they caused.

Experiencing pain caused by others leaves some of us with an emptiness and sadness. Some are left with feelings of resentment, bitterness, and anger. We face experiences in our lives that genuinely cause pain, sadness, and sorrow (to our self and others). What I’ve learned is that it’s not what I experience in my life that matters most. What matters most is how I respond, how I react, how I deal with my painful, uncomfortable, and troubling experiences.

Many years ago, I heard a speaker talk about forgiveness using Matthew 18:18 as his text:

Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.1

The point of emphasis in his message is that when we fail to forgive, regardless of the offense, we bind that sin to our life as well. He shared some statistics about alcoholics being the children of alcoholics, and abusers having themselves been abused. It was very compelling to hear. The problem with hearing something compelling is that far too often, we identify it with someone else; not me, myself and I.

I believe that because of my unwillingness to forgive, I was held hostage by my own emotions of anger, ego, resentment, and my personal need for vengeance. Something which I’ve written about before on the subject of forgiveness is that I refuse to forgive because it doesn’t allow me to act as prosecutor, judge, and jury against someone who hurt me. The funny thing is that when I’ve hurt someone else, I have always determined that the evidence against me is inadmissible.

The scriptures which speak to my heart with resonance are:
  • For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.2
  • And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.3
This tells me that if I don’t forgive others who sin against me, or others I perceive to have sinned against me, I will not receive forgiveness from God; in essence, becoming a hostage to my own unwillingness to forgive. The thing about being a hostage is that the captors never allow the hostage to determine the terms of their release or time of being released.

Imagine being kidnapped and telling your abductor, “OK, I’ve had enough of this, I’m leaving!Well, that’s exactly what Jesus is saying we get to do in the area of forgiveness; we have a choice! I can choose to hold on to unforgiveness, or I can choose to forgive.

The way of unforgiveness (Being a Hostage):

I was abandoned by my father, that why I am this way. It’s all his fault.

I lived a terrible childhood, growing up on the streets. It’s society’s fault I’m this way.

I can’t stand to look at you! Every time I see your face, I see your father.

You’re just like your mother!

People may justify the reasons why they won’t forgive, but how does one find forgiveness from God when they refuse to forgive? Sometimes a hostage has no idea where they’re being held. Hands and feet are bound. Eyes are covered so they can’t see, and their mouth is gagged so they can’t cry out for help. In instances like that, a hostage experiences fear, panic and hopelessness. But the spiritual hostage is simply ignorant of the spiritual power they have within to set themselves free. The spiritual hostage of unforgiveness binds their own hands and feet. They refuse to see the need for forgiveness by covering their eyes with the blindness of their own sins. They remain silent to the words of Jesus who said:

Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.4

They don’t hear the words of true freedom that sets them free from the bondage of unforgiveness. The words remain imprisoned inside their own attitude unforgiveness; they remain a hostage.

Next week, I hope to continue this topic on forgiveness. In the mean time, try to speak the words of forgiveness and be a hostage no more.

MTJ

Father God,

I've been hurt by others but my words and behavior caused injury as well. I've sought out those I've injured and when possible, I've acknowledged my sin and asked for forgiveness. I may not have been forgiven by everyone I've hurt but I am truly sorry for the trouble, sadness and pain I've caused. I ask you to hear my prayer of forgiveness. I no longer want to bind the pain of unforgiveness in my life, I no longer want to be a hostage, I no longer want to prosecute and punish anyone, I forgive them Father. I don't need them to say anything to appease me; they may never feel the need. In my heart, mind and spirit, I acknowledge that they don't know what they did. I'm not just praying for myself Father God, I plead for the release of those who've been hurt by others, hurt in the church, hurt by churchgoers, and hurt by those who do not recognize you, hurt by racism, bigotry, and hatred. Those hurt by religious persecution, political affiliation, class or gender, I speak the word of freedom in their life that they may emerge from the spiritual bondage which has held them hostage. Thank you Father for the power to heal our lives, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.


Footnotes:
  1. Matthew 18:18, NIV
  2. Matthew 6:14-15, NIV
  3. Mark 11:26, NIV
  4. Luke 23:34, NIV
A Note of Thanks: I would just like to say Thank you, to each of you who visit My Thought-filled Journey. Taking time out of your busy schedule to read a post on this blog encourages me. Many of those who visit, will from time to time leave a comment, but it really doesn't matter whether a comment is left. What matters, is that you came here. I hope you find encouragement and inspiration in these words. Please know I will pray with you regarding any circumstance you may be facing. Feel free to write me to say "Hello", request prayer, or share what God is doing in your life. I have not said it enough, but thank you for the light of Christ in your life which illuminates the way for us all.

Spiritual SundaysNote: This post is linked to Spiritual Sundays (hosted by Charlotte).

Friday, May 16, 2014

Ending The Relationship


Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

It came quite unexpectedly to me. After all these years together, how could it be so easy to say it was over? She had been by my side through every frustrating moment, yet never offering one encouraging word of support. Not once did she console me with the words, “Don’t worry, the Lord will give you the grace needed to go on.

No, with her it was quite the opposite:
  1. What are you going to do?
  2. How did you allow this to happen?
  3. Why did this have to happen now?
  4. Didn't I tell you this would happen?
At least she was consistent!

Unfortunately, I could no longer accept her companionship. The conflict she created was overwhelming. I lost sleep, focus, and time just listening to her constant questions, second guessing, and complaining. Every time I hoped for a moment of silence and rest, she would squash those thoughts with the swift skill of a lion attacking a gazelle. She could get into my head the way no one else could. I remember lying in bed, afraid to face my tomorrow, wanting to have a moment of solitude. I prayed to God for help, knowing I was powerless on my own. As soon as my prayer ended, she chimed in with her questions. What? How? Why?...Didn't I?

I said nothing in response. I closed my eyes and I could still her voice as my mind drifted off into sleep. When I awoke the next morning, she was still talking. What was I going to do about her? Is this really a healthy relationship?

I turned to my bible and began reading 1 Peter 5:6-7, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

I read those verses again.

I was amazed when it suddenly dawned on me that she was silent!

All these years, I allowed her to permeate my thoughts. She literally sat on my shoulders like a huge weight, never allowing me any rest or peace. She questioned everything and caused me to doubt in the only one capable of helping me.

It was time to get rid of this burden, and I finally understood what to do about her.

As I sat there, I closed my eyes and said, “Thank You Lord!

Decision time finally arrived and I had to be honest with her and myself. It was time to tell her what I decided to do.

I can’t live like this anymore. I refuse to live like this! You’re not any good for me and I see now that I’ve clung to you as desperately as you’ve clung to me, but no more!

She said nothing as I continued to speak.

We started out together when I was so young, but I didn’t know just how wrong you were for me. You don’t really care about me, you never did! All you’ve ever wanted was for my life to be miserable. You took great pleasure in knowing which buttons to push, how to frustrate me, aggravate me, discourage me; but I’ve had enough!

She offered no argument, her voice remained silent.

The word of God says,Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you, so that’s just what I’m going to do. You and I are no longer a couple…Anxiety, I’m casting you on the Lord.

In that moment, I felt such peace and hope for my life. I would no longer allow myself to be consumed by anxiety. I would humble myself before God as I had never done before, trusting Him to exalt me in due time. I would no longer concern myself with the why, how or what questions which anxiety always quizzed me with. I would genuinely trust God with the outcome of any circumstance I face in life. I didn’t have the answers to how, what, or when, but it no longer mattered; my life is in God’s hands. That’s what He wanted for me, and I was finally committed to giving Him my life.

The look on her face said, “Are you sure this is what you really want to do?

I didn’t hesitate and wait for her to ask the question. My voice resonated with conviction as I spoke from the depths of my heart…

Anxiety, I’m ending the relationship, you and I are through!

MTJ

A Note of Thanks: I would just like to say Thank you, to each of you who visit My Thought-filled Journey. Taking time out of your busy schedule to read a post on this blog encourages me. Many of those who visit, will from time to time leave a comment, but it really doesn't matter whether a comment is left. What matters, is that you came here. I hope you find encouragement and inspiration in these words. Please know I will pray with you regarding any circumstance you may be facing. Feel free to write me to say "Hello", request prayer, or share what God is doing in your life. I have not said it enough, but thank you for the light of Christ in your life which illuminates the way for us all.

Note: This post is linked to Spiritual Sundays (hosted by Charlotte).Spiritual Sundays

Friday, May 9, 2014

Mother’s Day Reflections


Happy Mother's Day!

I don’t ask myself why she did it, I know the answer; the question has always been, how? It wasn’t easily recognizable back when I was a child, but looking back I always wonder how she did it! Every morning, she would get up early to take the bus to work, and then after logging eight hours, a part-time job at a local clothing store awaited her presence.

We males tend to take it for granted that things just occur by random chance, but women/mothers know that random chance occurrences are nothing more than wishful thinking. Women/mothers know in order for it to happen, someone has to do it; and mothers do it. They have that sense of sight that some call intuition, but what it boils down to is genuine love; a mother’s love.

I watched my mother. I was privileged to witness the mother of my children. I see my daughter’s, and the wives of my sons; all of them, women and mothers. Growing up, I never knew my father, but there was never a day I didn’t see my mother. Women take being a mother seriously. Unlike some men who do not honor the role of father, a woman who gives birth to a child without accepting the mantle of motherhood is an aberration.

I never heard my mother complain about me or my brothers; she just did the job. Whatever that job was, she was more than qualified. She never looked for time off, or took a sabbatical; she was a model of consistency. She embraced motherhood. When you’re a child, you want to be loved, encouraged and supported. As a child, life can get twisted, but at some point you get a glimpse of what it took to get you where you are in this present moment. It took some sacrifice, and that sacrifice didn’t begin with you. For men like me, it began with a mother.

God bless you if you have two parents who love you! I’ve never known that privilege, but it is something which I continue to believe is important. I love my sons and my daughters, but I know that I could never have understood that without their mother. She enabled me to look back and see my mother, and my grandmother; how much they loved me and my brothers. They enabled me to look ahead to my sons and daughters, along with my grandchildren; how much I love each of them.

How do they do it?
  1. They do it by choosing to be a mother because they want their life to have meaning in the lives of their children.
  2. They do it from a desire to love; loving someone other than themselves.
  3. They do it because they don’t live with the belief that it’s someone else’s responsibility.
They do it because they understand what it means to be A Mother!

Sending a Happy Mother’s Day blessing to all mothers (especially those mothers I know and love)!!!

MTJ

A Note of Thanks: I would just like to say Thank you, to each of you who visit My Thought-filled Journey. Taking time out of your busy schedule to read a post on this blog encourages me. Many of those who visit, will from time to time leave a comment, but it really doesn't matter whether a comment is left. What matters, is that you came here. I hope you find encouragement and inspiration in these words. Please know I will pray with you regarding any circumstance you may be facing. Feel free to write me to say "Hello", request prayer, or share what God is doing in your life. I have not said it enough, but thank you for the light of Christ in your life which illuminates the way for us all.

Spiritual SundaysNote: This post is linked to Spiritual Sundays (hosted by Charlotte).

Friday, May 2, 2014

Needing to Pray


Needing to Pray

I've been asking the Lord, "Give me words to say that encourage". I have several topics I could probably write about, but instead, I will offer this prayer. It is both personal and intercessory. If you are inclined, please join with me and pray as well. Leave a prayer in the comments, or leave a prayer request. Please know that our faith is in The I Am, The Eternal Almighty God. There was a time when I was ignorant and blind to him, but through the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ, my eyes see clearly now. He is Deliverer, Healer, Comforter, Forgiver, and words which can only describe the smallest aspect of His invisible attributes.

Lord God,

You who are high above the heavens, live within our hearts by the grace of your Holy Spirit. You see us, our lives, our struggles, our pain, and our sorrows; you are not ignorant to any aspect of of our life. You know everything about me, and yet you grace me with your eternal love. I want to ask you to hear this prayer, but Father, I already know you have. I am not wavering in my prayer, I am confident that in my spirit I may come boldly before the throne of grace and find mercy in the time of need; that time is now Lord God. You see what no other eyes can see. You hear what no other ears would listen to. You speak what no other mouth can say.

Look now on those who are sick and need a comforting word of healing. You are able to touch with a thought, word, your Spirit, your loving grace. I don't question Why Lord because I trust in your wisdom. I believe that you are perfecting the lives of your children in ways which are too far beyond comprehension for our limited understanding. You prepare us, strengthen our resolve, give us courage to hold on. When others turn and run, you say, "Stand". Not because we are towers of strength, but because you want to be mighty through us. You choose us for the tasks we face, not by accident, but by your divine purpose. You designed us to reflect you. So we pray Lord God asking you to stretch forth your hand, touch and heal this body overcome with disease, confirm to your child that your grace is sufficient for the task at hand. We will not be fearful, trembling that you are not I AM. We know you are able, but even if we must go through this trial, that burns with a consuming, intense fire, we will not yield our faith in your risen Son, Jesus Christ.

So many suffer from unemployment, yet somehow, your grace continues to flow. We awake by your grace to see another day. We don't know how to make it through, but somehow, you provide grace in our time of need. We need you Lord! Help us Lord to launch creative ideas that capture our passionate treasured thoughts. Inspire us to see doors which we never imagined would open. Some have talents beyond our current status, we are capable of doing so much more. Help us channel our energy and efforts in ways that bless and encourage others. We humble ourselves before you and declare that we are able to do what you say we can do. Do I fear success Lord? Is victory beyond my reach? Are the obstacles too difficult to overcome? No Lord! You have made us conquerors!! No Lord, you have made us more than conquerors through the blood of your Son, Jesus Christ!

Look on our families, our husband, wife, children, children's children, mother, father, sister, brother, aunt, uncle, cousin, and friend. Watch over their life with your loving hand of grace. Lead and guide them in ways I never could. Use me to love them as I ought, as I desire, as you would love them. Help me to be an example of Christ on earth, someone who overcomes evil with good, someone ready, willing and able to pick up my cross daily and carry it with an appreciation and joy that can only come from you. I know I cannot do this on my own, but by your grace, I can persevere. I may be worn and tattered, my life may not glimmer as gold, but there is a light which illuminates my life that is incomparable! It is the light of salvation, the light of hope, the light of Christ.

Watch over and protect the borders of our land from dangers and conflicts. There may be efforts to undermine and create fear and chaos, but I ask you to allow your peace to rule and abide. Guide our political leaders to serve as leaders, to govern not on the basis of political affiliation or favored status, but guide them to be courageous leaders that inspire each of us to be citizens honored to be filled with patriotism. Watch over the lives of those who serve in our military, law enforcement and judiciary. Help them serve not simply with pride, but with honor. Confound the actions and plans of criminals, who would do harm within our borders. Protect the lives of the innocent.

How can I pray with being thankful Lord? What is my prayer without thanksgiving? I'm not talking about a solitary day in November. You know that the appreciation in my heart for who you are, what you mean extends so far beyond the memory of one day. No Lord, I woke up today grateful for your love and grace, thankful for the truth of your word. So I will say, "Bless the name of the Lord, because he is holy, good, right, loving, truthful and gracious!" Thank you Lord God for hearing our prayer, in the name of your most holy Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.

MTJ

A Note of Thanks: I would just like to say Thank you, to each of you who visit My Thought-filled Journey. Taking time out of your busy schedule to read a post on this blog encourages me. Many of those who visit, will from time to time leave a comment, but it really doesn't matter whether a comment is left. What matters, is that you came here. I hope you find encouragement and inspiration in these words. Please know I will pray with you regarding any circumstance you may be facing. Feel free to write me to say "Hello", request prayer, or share what God is doing in your life. I have not said it enough, but thank you for the light of Christ in your life which illuminates the way for us all.

Note: This post is linked to Spiritual Sundays (hosted by Charlotte).Spiritual Sundays