Monthly Archives: March 2013

The Forgiveness Factor (Part 4)

The prison of unforgiveness…the eternal Alcatraz

“To err is human, to forgive divine.” This statement by Alexander Pope, an 18th century poet, is a masterpiece of pure truth, a mouthful of potent wisdom, and a maxim to practically consider. As human beings, we all err. We all fail miserably from time to time in our interpersonal and social skills. We have all said things we should not have said or not spoken up when we should have. We have all done or not done things that hurt other people, if not on a physical level, then most assuredly on an emotional one. It is inevitable that all of us at some point will hurt or offend another person.

Why? Hurting people hurt people, and we are all hurting in some way or other. None of us is exempt. We are like porcupines who wander around their neighborhoods piercing the hearts and souls of those we bump into on this journey called life. We are at best offensive, and at worst, quite deadly. We all have the same problem—we want what we want when we want it and how we want it. We are selfish and selfish people always think of themselves first. Selfishness has a way of leaving a trail of destruction in its wake.

There are two categories of people who hurt other people: those who don’t know or are unaware, and those who don’t care. Sure there are accidents, but more often than not if you’ve been hurt or offended, it was by someone with no clue that they had hurt you or someone who could care less. The offending or wounding act or word may have been on purpose or accidental. It might be known or unknown. Or it could be a one-time event or a continual pattern of behavior. Regardless of the reason, the emotional pain is real and it often leaves a deep gash in our soul.

Therefore forgiveness is one of the fundamental tools each of us must have in the trays of our social, emotional, and spiritual tool box. Without it, we are doomed to an existence of bitterness, fueled by an unrelenting need to get even. And to make matters worse, when we refuse to forgive, we build a prison cell, move into that cell, lock the door, and drop the key in our own pocket. We cease to live in the now, choosing instead to repeat the moment of the wounding or offence over and over. The past becomes our present and robs us of our future.

Prison cells are cramp and uncomfortable. They were never meant to be a place to build a life in. They are places of punishment—places where the person in the cell is shut off from everyone and everything. Unforgiveness is a life sentence no judge can or will commute. Even God will not force his way into that cell—no matter how long, how hard, how many times you invite him, or what you promise to give up in return for his healing. Healing never comes to one who has imprisoned themself in the cell of unforgiveness. That cell might as well be located in the bowels of Alcatraz, because you have about as much chance of escaping with unforgiveness in your heart as you do of swimming the San Francisco channel with concrete blocks on your feet. You may carry unforgiveness into the cell with you, but you will never leave that cell if you attempt an escape with it as your companion. 

The Forgiveness Factor (Part 3)

We struggle with forgiveness because we really don’t understand it. We have be taught all kinds of things about forgiveness. Some of it was true, some were half-truths (which by the way are “whole” lies), and some of it was plain old bull (a Greek emphatic for “a bunch of worthless garbage”). Some of it was biblical, some it was psycho-babble, and some of it was nothing more than lies from the devil.

Perhaps you are being held hostage right now to a specific moment in your past—a person’s words or actions. Perhaps it was a deep disappointment that hurt, offended, wounded , or emotionally destroyed you. And…you’ve never dealt with it—with that infection that is hidden deep within you and affects you in ways no one knows but God. Perhaps you pushed it all so deep into your soul that your conscious memory can’t retrieve it, but the enemy is still destroying you with it. Perhaps it’s a pride issue or some misplaced code of honor. Perhaps for some of you it’s an unspeakable atrocity that was perpetrated against you and was beyond your control. Perhaps in the beginning whatever it was wasn’t a big deal, but now it has morphed into a major issue. Perhaps you think you need to forgive yourself or you’re still angry at God because you blame him for what happened. Whatever it is—it is killing you and you know it.

To truly understand forgiveness, we must first understand the anatomy of unforgiveness. We must dissect it and see how it works. Unforgiveness comes with causes and a deadly curse. Once we shine the light on the darkness of unforgiveness, the cost of forgiveness and the cure it brings to the spirit, soul, and body will be better understood and easier to grasp.

It is vital that you understand two simple things. First, all you need is faith to take this journey, and rest assured, forgiveness is a journey. It will take faith to face the past, but God will give it as you need it if you will turn to face it. He is faithful. He has all the strength you need and the desire of his heart is to heal you.

Secondly, you must surrender to the leading of the Holy Spirit. He wants to lead some of you into places you may have forgotten. In doing so, he will allow you to make a choice to step out of the past and into your future. The Holy Spirit will do this gently and he will take as much time as is needed. He knows you far better than you think you know yourself. Trust him! He will walk with you. He will not embarrass you. He only wants to heal you.

Some of you are just hard-headed. You know what you need to do, but because of pride, honor, or the need to get even, you refuse to do it. If you continue to read these blogs, I promise the Holy Spirit will bring a deep sense of conviction not condemnation. Conviction is one of his works and it means there will be no doubt in your heart that your refusal to forgive is wrong. He will convince you and you will not be able to refute the truth he presents. He will show you the futility of what you are holding on to and call you to repentance. Then the choice will be yours. If you repent, he will bring you to the place where you can forgive and he will heal you.

The journey awaits but the path is perilous and tough. Hold God’s hand and he will make sure you reach the destination of forgiveness.  

The Forgiveness Factor (Part 2)

A hospital can be a very dangerous place to a sick person. The very place where expert help is available to bring care and healing is also capable of causing greater sickness and even death. This is also true in the church. The church should be the one place you can visit and receive the help you need spiritually, emotionally, and even physically. It should be, but often it’s not. This healing oasis can become a hurting ogre if the church is unhealthy.

Perhaps an illustration will help. Hospitals are dangerous because a deadly microscopic infection lurks at every turn. It’s called staph infection and it is a constant battle to prevent an outbreak in every hospital. Staph is caused by the Staphylococcus bacteria. Twenty-five percent of people carry it and don’t even know it. It often gets a foothold with a scratch—a small wound, nothing serious—that gets infected. It can range from a simple boil to a flesh-eating infection. The difference is the strength of the infection, how deep it goes, and how fast it spreads. People with weakened immune systems are more susceptible to this infection.

Staph usually starts with an area of tenderness, swelling, and redness. It sometimes begins with an open wound, and at other times it gets inside the body without a sign of where it came from. The usual treatment requires antibiotics, but sometimes the infection must be surgically removed. Staph is highly contagious.

Yet staph infections can be easily prevented if we simply exercise some elementary precautions. If you have a cut or break in the skin, wash it with soap and water, keep it clean and dry, and cover it. That is a rather easy solution in the prevention of an infection that has a potential to kill you. Deal with the wound immediately, and it will not be an issue.

So, what does that have to do with the church being a hospital? All of us are familiar with staph infections in the physical realm, but there is also a staph infection in the spiritual realm. It is not new. It is as old as humanity and one that has the potential of turning a healing place into a killing field if it is not dealt with thoroughly in each of our lives. It is highly infectious, deadly, and must be dealt with if any of us hope to help someone else find healing in Jesus Chris

This spiritual staph is called unforgiveness. Unforgiveness is a spiritual bacteria that infects our soul and ultimately affects our spirit and body. It develops when we are wounded, offended, or hurt, and we don’t clean and deal with the wound immediately. It occurs when someone or something wounds, hurts, offends, or disappoints us. It moves quickly from a surface issue to a heart issue if the proper care is not applied. It is also highly contagious when the symptoms of anger, bitterness, sarcasm, impatience, rage, fear, insecurity, and control start to seep out of the wounds in our soul and come in contact with others who have weak or non-functioning immune systems (spiritually speaking).

The only remedy for unforgiveness is to forgive. That’s the only cure! You can’t be healer of souls if your own soul is deathly sick. We are all wounded healers but to be effective and not destroy others, we must first seek health. Unforgiveness is an infection the church must deal with on an individual basis. Otherwise, the infection lurks in every crack and crevice of our soul and its deadly poison always infects others. Instead of healers we have the potential of becoming killers.

 If we, who know Christ and have received a full pardon for our sins (total forgiveness), are unable to forgive, how can we require others to do what we ourselves are unwilling to do? How can we stamp out this spiritual staph when we ourselves are the carriers of this deadly infection? The answer—we can’t unless we are willing to forgive. 

The Forgiveness Factor (Part 1)

(This is the first in a series of articles on forgiveness and why it is so vital in the church and the life of every believer. Your comments are extremely valuable and appreciated, so please respond as we make this journey.)

 

A healing place for hurting people–the church.

The church was created to be a healing oasis in a desert filled with wounded, hurting, and dying people. It is my belief that your local church is located exactly where it is not by chance or by accident, but rather by God’s divine design so that he might pour out healing in your community or region. Biblical healing is holistic, meaning it should bring health to spirit, soul, and body. The atoning work of Christ on the cross provided healing for all three dimensions of our humanity.

The church is supposed to be a hospital—not a country club where only the elite are welcomed and accepted; not a social club where your looks, your clothes, your automobile, or your home are more important than who you really are; not a bunker to hide in until Jesus finally returns; and certainly, not some clandestine organization where only those who know the secret words and rituals get to participate. No—the church is supposed to be a healing place, a hospital where the broken are mended, the wounded and sick are healed, and the dying are resurrected. It was never meant to be a place where those who are hurting are ignored, sidelined, or worse—wounded even deeper.

A hospital is a healing place, not a gun range or a shooting gallery where religious hypocrites and self-righteous Pharisees use those who have been mortally wounded as target practice. The church was never intended to be a place where we shoot our wounded and then turn our backs and wait till they bleed to death. No, the body of Christ was designed to rescue them from the shark infested waters they are drowning in, clean their self-inflicted wounds and stop the hemorrhaging, provide the antidote for the poisons they have chosen to ingest or been duped into swallowing, and to open the prison doors so those who have been beaten, starved, and imprisoned can find relief, healing, and freedom.

We are the body of Christ and as his body we are called to be a place of refuge, restoration, and relationship—a healing place for hurting people. Jesus healed hurting people in spirit, soul, and body. The time has come for his body to do the same! His example should be our experience if we are to be obedient to both Christ and our calling. One out of three falls far short of the example Jesus left us.

But—becoming a healing place comes at a cost. It is neither cheap nor easy. It requires that the members who make up a local church find and receive healing in their own spirit, soul, and body. True healers have experienced the healing touch of Jesus Christ in spirit, soul, and body. You can only give what you have been given, but sadly for centuries much of the church has been dispensing powerless theory instead of God’s powerful touch. Proclamation must be illustrated by demonstration. Telling is no longer enough, we must do!

In addition, the devil wants you to believe the cost is too high. He wants you to believe that hospitals that cater to the spirit, soul, and body are not cost effective—too much investment and too little return. And he will do whatever he can to scare you away from this divine heritage God has bequeathed to his body. He is terrified of what will happen when those who were once wounded find healing and then become healers. He doesn’t fear the Bride who understands her mission, but rather the Bride who carries out her mission.

If you are not afraid of the cost, or no longer fear the condemnation of the devil, please join me over the next few weeks as God takes us on a journey and brings healing to our spirit, soul, and body with a response that will be directly proportional to our faith.

Musings from a Madman: The Reality of Relationship (Part 17)

Over the past several weeks we have explored what it means to have an intimate relationship with God. Sadly, most believers are not experiencing these things. They are convinced that salvation is enough and one day they will see Jesus in heaven. But there is a big gap between the two and that distance is called life. Convinced they have all they need, they have seized the religious bait of Satan rather than an intimate relationship with God.

Religion allows us to measure our spirituality and compare it with others around us. Relationship forces us to realize we have nothing to offer and the best we can do is simply not enough. God does not need us! Period! And yet—God wants us! He has chosen us for relationship.

Sadly, most Christians have settled for the empty expressions of religion—the do’s and the don’ts—because we are too lazy to pursue relationship. We have turned it into an empty legalistic expression will all kinds of rules, rituals, and regulations. Most have given up, living lives of silent desperation.

Jesus came to restore and model this intimacy, this relationship of the heart with the Father. He also came to demonstrate what this relationship was capable of producing. His own relationship with the Father produced the fruit of love expressed by joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Everything Jesus did or said was the fruit-filled result of his intimate, ongoing relationship with God.

Every intimate relationship produces fruit. The deeper the relationship, the more powerful the fruit will be. That fruit also produces seeds and those seeds are sown producing even more fruit. Relationship reproduces itself again and again.

As we come to the end of this series, examine your own fruit. Take a long look at what is being produced in you. Is it active? Is it alive? Is it passionate? Or is it sterile, stagnant, or lifeless? Fruit is the evidence of whether or not one has a real relationship with God. A name on a church roll, a stroll down an aisle, a prayer with a pastor, or submerged in a baptismal pool has no validity if there is no fruit. The reality of what you may have done does not prove the fruit, but the fruit is proof of the reality.  If there is no fruit, it is likely there is no connection to the root who is Jesus Christ.

Is your relationship with Jesus producing fruit? Is your faith growing—are you willing to step out and into the promises of God? Faith is never developed without trust and trust is a by-product of relationship. Are you obedient or disobedient to the guidance of the Holy Spirit? Jesus said if we love him we will do what he commands. True obedience is the result of love. If you love someone you will desire to please that person.

Relationship is a privilege every believer can access. Jesus bought and paid for it on the cross. It was purchased by the breaking of his body and the spilling of his blood. Therefore failure to experience this depth of relationship, this intimate friendship, is due to our lack of desire—we simply don’t want it.

Perhaps you’ve gorged yourself on religious garbage and you are still empty. Perhaps the time has come to feast on the delights of an intimate relationship with God. What you choose will determine whether or not you experience satisfaction or starvation.

Which will it be?

It really is your choice.

Musings from a Madman: The Reality of Relationship (Part 16)

One never leaves the presence of God in the same way he or she entered. This is especially true when we pursue his intimate presence on purpose. Each time we encounter God, we are changed and we never leave his presence empty-handed.

In Exodus 24, Moses spent an extended period of time with God alone on Mt. Sinai. While there, he experienced the manifest presence of God. He saw God’s glory pass by as God hid his servant in a crack in the rock and shielded Moses with his hand. Moses saw the glory of God’s back as he passed by. As Moses descended the mountain and returned to camp, the people were astonished and filled with fear. His face glowed with the radiance of God’s glory. The surface of his face reflected God’s glory because his skin had absorbed the glory of the One in whose presence he had spent time. No one had to ask Moses where he had been. It was evident!

When we spend time in God’s presence we always receive far more than we give. God will often enhance our covering, authority, anointing, power, or the intimacy of our relationship with him. Intimate time spent in his presence assures us of more of whatever we need at that instant in our lives.

In those moments, we are changed. And—when we pursue the intimate presence of God and experience him on a regular basis—no one will have to ask you where you’ve been or whom you’ve been with. They will know when they see the glow on your face and hear the flow of your words as they spill from your mouth. We always reflect who or what we spend the most time with.

One moment in the presence of the King changes everything!  

Musings from a Madman: The Reality of Relationship (Part 15)

In those quiet, tender moments in the presence of God there is a sense of timelessness that always seems to wage war with our own limited sense of time. Being human brings with it a feeling that we have so much to do in such a short time. Sadly, we often place our time with God in that list and then treat it like a box to check off.

In a genuine relationship, each person must be fully present to fully engage the other person. God wants our presence as much as we need his. He wants it! Let that sink deep in your spirit for a few moments. God wants to be with you! And he knows you think you have a million other things to do. He is intimately acquainted with your schedule.

But occasionally there are moments during our time with God that he will ask us to linger—to stay a little longer. It usually happens when we are slammed to the wall with responsibilities and obligations—when we have far more to do than we have time to do it all in. Deep inside there comes a desire to stay a few minutes longer with God. And the struggle begins!

When, not if, this happens, simply wait. Be still! Listen to your heart—God is drawing you into a deeper place. Here is where God will reveal himself to you in new ways that you will be unable to believe. These are those special moments when God pours out a new anointing or reveals the depth of his love for you in a richer way than you have ever known.

These are the moments you were made for, that you have longed for. These are the moments you must fight for. Time is an ally as well as an enemy. In the intimate presence of God time stands still. Oh, everything around you will continue to gallop along at break-neck speed, but you will find yourself immersed in a timeless moment that has all the trappings of eternity. If you can shut out the demands of your everyday experiences and enter into this relationship, God will take care of what needs to be done.

Linger a few minutes longer. Don’t rush in and then rush out. Allow God to open his heart and then you will receive everything you need to accomplish what he wants you to do and far more. In those moments, he will equip you to handle the time/space continuum you live in. He understands it far better than you—he created it.

So relax, and if the desire arises to stay a few extra moments—then by all means stay. Those few minutes spent with the Lover of your soul will do more for you than all the stuff you could ever get done on the outside.

Be still and know—God says, “I will…”