Category Archives: Forgiveness

Sacrifice, Suffering and Something Worth Living For

Jesus’s sacrifice insures our salvation. That sacrifice started in the Garden of Gethsemane and ended on the cross. It culminated in the Resurrection where God validated and accepted the sacrificial payment by raising Jesus from the dead through the power of the Holy Spirit on that first Easter morning.

The sacrificial experience of Jesus was comprehensive as it touched him physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. We are very aware of the physical aspects regarding the scourging and the crucifixion. He was physically beaten beyond recognition—“marred” is the word Scripture uses. He was abused so that we might be redeemed from our sins, healed of our diseases, and delivered from our torment. That physical suffering began in the garden and ended as he gave up his spirit and died.

In my last blog I detailed the mental suffering Jesus endured. The stress and pressure was so great that his sweat was mixed with blood. The capillaries in the sweat glands of his forehead burst. The awfulness of the cup he would drink was mentally overwhelming.

But sometimes we forget his emotional suffering. Rejection, abandonment and betrayal are three of the deepest—most damaging wounds that can be inflicted on the human heart and soul. These triple torments cut far deeper and bruise even the human spirit. One of his intimate friends—one of the twelve, Judas, sold Jesus for thirty pieces of silver, the price of a slave. Then he betrayed him with a kiss—the symbol of love and relationship.

As Jesus was arrested and seized, the other eleven disciples fled and abandoned Him. Their past bravado did not match their present need to survive. Most ran away and hid—fearing their own impending death. A couple—Peter and John followed at a distance, hiding in the shadows and hoping they would not be recognized.

Later, the crowd that had hailed Jesus as king on Palm Sunday shouted for his crucifixion on Friday. Christ was rejected by religious leaders and the common people, and his own disciples abandoned him in the moment of his greatest vulnerability. Jesus suffered alone—there was no one who made the journey with him through this hellish experience.

Jesus also suffered spiritually. Many have attempted to describe this, but how can a finite one describe what is infinite in its scope? We can’t really grasp his spiritual suffering because we can’t pull back the veil much less understand how the Holy One could become our sin. The Bible is very clear—Jesus not only suffered for our sin, he became our sin so that we might become the righteousness of God.

During this mysterious span of time, the earth became dark and the Son of God experienced what being forsaken by the Father is all about. I can’t explain this because I can’t even grasp it. I can’t conceive it in my mind. But, Jesus experienced hell so that we would not have to. He experienced being cut off from the presence of God and that spiritual suffering was beyond our capacity to understand. Each time I read the words of Jesus, just prior to his death, in Mark 15:34—“Eloi, Eloi, lama sabacthani? (which translated means “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?)—my soul cringes. It clutches something deep inside my spirit and forces me to contemplate the depth of how much the Son of God loved me and his willingness to endure this depth of spiritual suffering so I might experience that love. I can’t grasp its full meaning but I hunger for that kind of love.

Jesus suffered so that we might be spared an eternity of suffering. He died so that we might live. Therefore we should live in a state of constant celebration. We should stand up for our faith. We should be tenacious if we really believe what we say we believe. Jesus was willing to die for his beliefs! Are you willing to live for yours?

Reclaiming Biblical Healing (Part 6)

If the words that have been wasted on debating what the will of God is and is not were collected and stored, the warehouse space needed would force all of us off this planet. This is especially true in the area of healing. Is it God will? If it’s God’s will? What is God’s will? The answer to those questions and a thousand more just like them is…Jesus! Jesus is perfect theology. If you want to see what God looks like or thinks like in high definition—3-D—just look at Jesus. Jesus is, was, and will forever be the invisible God made visible.

If you want to know what God is interested in—take a long hard look at Jesus. An honest and unprejudiced reading of the first chapters of the Gospel of Mark, believed by many scholars to be the earliest account of Jesus life and ministry, show that the message of the kingdom was demonstrated and proclaimed through his ministry of preaching, teaching, and healing. Jesus preached the present reality of the kingdom of God—accessible to all and literal present among the people he encountered. He taught his followers how to relate their lives to God and the kingdom. And—he healed, bringing physical, emotional, and mental health to those sick in body and mind due to physical affliction or demonization.

Twenty percent of the four Gospels (727 verses out of 3,779) record the healings of Jesus and the discussions and controversies they spawned. Healing must be very important to God the Father if the Holy Spirit dedicated one-fifth of his space about the life and ministry of the incarnate Son of God and recorded his healing ministry in those gospels. There are no wasted words in Scripture! The Holy Spirit was not chasing rabbit trails—he had a divine purpose. Healing was a central ministry of Jesus, and if Jesus did it, then perhaps we should pay far more attention to it, and…just maybe, be doing it ourselves as his body.

There are 41 distinct instances where physical, emotional, or mental healings were recorded in the four Gospels (72 accounts in all including duplications). These by no means represent every person Jesus healed because Scripture tells us Jesus sometimes healed “all” who came to him—meaning large crowds and even whole towns. Healing was a major part of his ministry.

What can we learn from this? Several things arise, and these truths are essential seeds that must take root and bear fruit in our belief system if we are to fulfill the promise of Jesus—that we would do what he did and even greater things (John 14:12).

First, Jesus believed that God “is healing”—present tense—right now! He demonstrated that reality every time he encountered a sick person. He believed he had been anointed with power and authority to bring the kingdom of God—the domain of the King—from heaven to earth. He did not believe “God could heal if he wanted to.” Jesus did not have to pray and see “if it was God’s will to heal.” He acted! He knew it was God’s will because healing is a part of God’s nature. Healing is who God is (God revealed himself to Moses and the Israelites as Jehovah Rapha—I Am that I Am Healer). Who God is reveals God’s will. He has not changed.

Secondly, Jesus believed sickness, affliction, paralysis, and infirmity were from the devil. They were not sent by God. This belief was evident in his words and actions. The religious system of his day taught all sickness was the result of sin in a person’s life, the life of his parents, or ancestors. It was God’s judgment. In other words, sickness comes from God. Healing could come only if one repented, confessed that sin to a priest, and offered the appropriate sacrifice.  The ministry of Jesus was in direct opposition to their traditions, interpretations, and religious systems—but not the Mosaic Law. Jesus fulfilled that law and perfectly obeyed it.

Jesus never made repentance a requirement for physical healing. He simply healed people. In his mind and by his actions, healing and forgiveness were synonymous. Remember, sozo (Greek for “save or salvation”) means forgiveness of sin, deliverance from torment, and physical healing. If sickness did not come from God, then it must have come through the devil. There is no sickness in heaven. There is no disease in the throne room of God. Jesus was demonstrating God’s will. Heaven was touching earth.

Peter proclaimed to Cornelius’ house that Jesus healed all who were oppressed by the devil (Acts 10:38). Jesus stated in John 10:10 that the thief takes life, but that he gives life. Sickness and disease take life, they do not give life. Jesus did not act or believe that sickness was the will of God. Instead he gave life each time he healed a person. If sickness is the will of God, then God the Father and God the Son were fighting one another and this is simply not possible. If it was not the will of God in Jesus’ day—it is not the will of God today!

Finally, Jesus did not heal every sick person who was alive in his day. But, he healed every person who came to him for healing. There are no exceptions! His healings were not dependent on faith either. He healed those who had great faith and others who had little or no faith. He healed organic diseases where structure or tissue was damaged. He healed functional disorders where organs or parts of the body were not operating properly.  He healed the demonized who were afflicted in mind, body, and soul. He healed them all, and rejected none who came to him.

Tell me—what has change? Has God changed or have we changed? Far too many people believe sickness is either God’s judgment or a tool God uses so that through suffering we might become better Christians. Who should we believe—the empty theologies of men or the inerrant, inspired, and infallible Word of God as demonstrated and proclaimed by Jesus?

Wordless Worship


I am a wordsmith by birth and by calling.  As a child, I was a talker. My grandmother once remarked, as I burst through the door at a family reunion and unashamedly introduced myself, that I would one day become a preacher. Now as a pastor and a writer, words are my essential building blocks in the construction of concepts, ideas, stories, illustrations, and the unfolding of deep biblical truths that must be communicated.

But there are moments when I don’t have words, or for that matter need words. This happens most frequently for me during worship. Often I am speechless when I consider the wonder of God and his grace. No matter how skillful I might be in using descriptive adjectives or action verbs—I find no adequate words to describe his glory. In his presence I stand speechless—dumb and mute—unable to speak or convey the depth of my love for my God.

It is in those intimate moments of frustrated inability that my spirit must find some form of release that requires no words. Tears fill my eyes, chills clamor up my spine, my hands lift with palms upraised, or my feet begin to dance. Inability gives way to capabilities that are often hidden and closely guarded—yet available if I choose to release and use them.

My all-time favorite picture of worship and the one I often retreat into and emulate in my dreams is found in Luke 7:36-50. It is the story of the woman who anointed Jesus feet with her tears and the precious ointment of an alabaster vial. There is a great deal going on in that story, but in my visits all I can see is “go-for-broke” worship, yet not one word is spoken.

There is emotion. This is a once broken woman who has been restored through the grace of Jesus Christ. She has received worth and value through his ministry and now has a future. She cannot hold back the tears, though it seems they pour out in silence from a heart overflowing with joy. She does not hold back the emotions, yet without words she worships. True worship is filled with genuine emotions.

There is boldness. Once she realizes her tears are falling on her Lord’s feet, she steps out of the shadows from against the wall and quietly kneels while unpinning her long hair and using it to wipe his feet. She is exposed now—she has stepped from the safety of the crowd and courageously released the love of her heart without regard for what other might think or say. She is unashamed in her devotion and confident in her pursuit. True worship is always bold in its expression and sometime brash in the eyes of those who witness it.

There is surrender. This woman prostrated herself on the floor and gave the intimate gift of a kiss to the feet of her Savior. Not just once—but over and over and over. Her gratitude poured out like an uncontainable stream driven out of its banks by an unstoppable rain storm. Her position and her actions are the immutable signs of submission. True worship is characterized by total surrender.

And ultimately there is a cost. Sincere worship always carries an expensive price tag. It is never cheap—or if it is it ceases to be worship and becomes an empty religious ritual. This woman shattered her nest egg. She cashed in her retirement account—her only means of financial security—when she broke the seal on her alabaster jar of perfume and dumped the precious contents on Jesus’ feet. Her most precious possession was poured out as an offering of worship and thanksgiving—a sacrifice of faith. True worship always comes with a cost most are unwilling to pay.

This is what wordless worship looks like, yet its voice speak loud and clear!

Escape from the Box Life (Part 6)


The damaged baggage of the soul

What does emotional or soul baggage look like? Certainly it bears no resemblance to the flashy alligator bags or supple calfskin suitcases that are the crowns of luxury in travel shops. No, these boxes are hidden deep in the cracks and crevices of our wounded souls. We keep them hidden in the back of the closet fearful that once opened our deepest secrets and wounds will be exposed for all to see.  These unhealed wounds lock us in a box of bondage that translates into a happy face on the outside and a hopeless person trapped on the inside.

Perhaps you have been told that you’re worthless by parents, grandparents, siblings, teachers, pastors, and other who were in authority over you. Perhaps you’ve been called stupid, dumb, ugly, fat, loser, too slow, too tall, two thin, or too whatever. Words have wounded your heart and those wounds are as raw today as they were the day they were inflicted. Listen closely—those words were a lie. You are a prisoner right now because you have believed the lie and locked it away in your heart. Expose the lie and embrace the truth.

Perhaps you’ve been hurt and rejected by someone you loved and who supposedly once loved you. You’ve been abandoned and your heart is shattered in a million pieces like shards of glass from a broken mirror. Perhaps you’ve gathered up every little piece and carefully stored them in a box and hid it what you considered a safe place. Yet the pain won’t go away. You’ve tried medication but all it does is make you numb and lifeless. You feel unloved and unlovable, and you are keeping God and everyone else at arm’s length because you’re afraid of rejection. You are drowning in unworthiness, unable to find the love you so desperately long for. Fear has paralyzed you. Listen closely—pour out the broken pieces of your heart before the Lord. He loved you so much he sent his Son to die for you. Allow him to mend your broken heart with his tender love.

Perhaps you are filled with shame. Perhaps you were abused or used by someone who was nothing more than a predator. The enemy has lied to you and convinced you that you are “less than—damaged goods.” Perhaps you have believed his lie that you deserved exactly what you got. That shame has filled you and you are so afraid someone might see the filth you feel you are covered in. Shame, humiliation, and embarrassment are your constant companions. Listen closely—God says you belong to him. You are not what happened to you. That abuse or misuse by a predator does not define who you are—it is not your identity. God says you are the apple of his eye and he has drawn you to himself with lovingkindness. Allow him to restore your heart and your emotions.

Perhaps you’ve made some mistakes. We all have. Perhaps it was a bad decision that led to a behavior or action you can’t undo or redo. You’ve racked your brain raw trying to figure out how you could have been so stupid. You’re ashamed and filled with condemnation, so you’ve pushed it down in a little box and taped the lid tight so no one will ever find out. Like a broken record all you can hear is God can’t forgive this.  Listen closely—take that event, that lapse of judgment, that stupid decision, that hidden sin out of the box and present it to God. Come into agreement with God that it is whatever it is. Forgiveness will come. He will not hold it back. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ.

These are the things that line the baggage boxes of most believers. They will ferment and eat away the linings of our soul unless we offer them up to God. Darkness thrives in darkness, but it flees when exposed to light. Perhaps the time has come to turn on the light.

Escape From The Box Life (Part 5)

All of us drag or carry around invisible boxes stuffed full with memories. For some it might look like a backpack or a carry-on bag, but for others it’s a Pullman suitcase or a steamer trunk. Our stuff is stored in these emotional boxes. There are good things there—our accomplishments, successes, victories, and achievements. There are memories of the perfect day when everything went right and the decisions we made were spot on.

 But deep down inside that same baggage, crammed into the hidden pockets or jammed as deep as we can push are some things that are not so good. We all have a past. We’ve all failed, sinned, made terrible choices, been hurt, wounded, abused, shamed and/or ridiculed.

All those moments, experiences, and events (both good and bad) are imprinted on our souls, whether we can call up the details or not. If it happens to be an emotional wound or hurt and it has not been healed, it is as raw and real as the day it happened even if it occurred years ago. Time does not heal all hurts—that’s a lie the devil perpetrated to keep us wounded and bleeding. It’s what we do with the time that matters.

These unhealed pockets from the past break hearts, imprison us in the enemy’s jail, and create countless types of bondage. They affect us at many different levels, especially on the spiritual level in our ability to respond to God’s unconditional love. The very thing we need to heal is the thing that frightens us the most due to our bad experiences from the past. It becomes junk in our trunk that slows us down and leaves us emotionally stranded and shipwrecked on our journey through life.

This is the unnecessary baggage we drag around everywhere we go and into everything we do. It creates all kinds of boxes with stuff that most would rather not deal with. Just the thought of facing some of those ghosts from the past feels us with terror. So we paint a smiley face on our box of pain and stuff it farther down. But—behind the smiley face is a hurting person…a helpless person—perhaps even a hopeless person.

These are the boxes Jesus came to destroy. Has your bag become too heavy to drag around? Perhaps the latches and zippers find it hard to keep all the stuff in and the pain is spilling over the sides? Are you willing to unpack your bag, clean out those hidden pockets, and offer Jesus your pain in return for his peace and love? God the Father has already placed the junk in your trunk on the shoulders of Jesus as he hung on the cross. Perhaps the time has come for you to leave that invisible baggage where it belongs—with Jesus.


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The Forgiveness Factor (Part 21)

The final step in total forgiveness is the hardest one. It requires a supernatural amount of God’s grace and a little time. Total forgiveness ultimately requires us to pray for the one who has offended, hurt, or wounded us. “No way!” you may be thinking, “That just too hard! I have been praying since this happened that God would get them—that he would give them what they deserve—that he would judge them for all the pain I have endured. Hey, the shepherd David prayed that way, so why can’t I?”

Jesus put it this way in Matthew 5:43-45a: “You have heard that it was said, ‘you shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you in order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven…”


Jesus said to pray for them. No one else will know—just you and God. Try it and feel the freedom as it pours into your soul. Ask God to forgive them, bring them to repentance, and eventually to salvation. Ask God to bless them and yes—even prosper them. This will be very, very tough at first. You may have to go slow, but go no matter what.

There is a progression you can follow that might help you do this. First, pray out of duty. God says do it, so obey. Next, pray out of debt because you understand what Christ did for you. As you do these two things, you will eventually begin to pray out of desire—because you want to. As you obey, God will change your heart and give you his love for the offender. This will soon lead you to pray with delight as love and joy take control. And eventually, your prayers for that person will achieve durability—it will become second nature.

When this happens total forgiveness has occurred. The offense, the wound, or the hurt has been fully healed.

This is a process—something you must choose to do every day. Get ready, the devil will do his best to stir up those old emotions, to convince you to replay the event in your mind, to have a pity party, feel sorry for yourself, and allow the bitterness to creep back in. You must stay vigilant. Remember—forgiveness always comes with a cost. It will cost you a great deal, but the freedom it purchases is priceless!

The Forgiveness Factor (Part 20)

The process of forgiveness gets harder, humanly speaking, the deeper it goes. But, the good news is God will give us the ability and the power to do what he requires if we will simply obey. The last few steps don’t happen overnight, but they can happen if we will place our pain in his hands and trust his heart to fully heal us.

The next step is to start seeing the person who has offended or hurt us through God’s eyes. This means whenever we see that person or hear their name, we refuse to allow what is past to rule the present. This means we must remind ourselves over and over we have forgiven this person.

Very often when someone has hurt you, it is normal to have certain physical reactions like anger, fear, sweating, dread, nervousness, or a churning stomach when we see or think about that person. Our soul is afraid to go where our spirit wants to lead. So it reacts by creating physical issues we are forced to deal with.  We must bring these reactions under the truth of God’s Word and his Holy Spirit. That person is no longer our enemy. We must remind ourselves that the offender is also made in the image and the likeness of God. That person is someone God created and Jesus died for. We must remind ourselves of that as often as it takes.

Over time, the feelings we experience will subside and come under the authority of the truth. We have forgiven that person, therefore we don’t have to be filled with fear, or dread, or whatever the emotion.

On note here—forgiving does not mean you have to be that person’s bosom buddy or friend ever again. It simply means that person is no longer your enemy. You don’t have to resume a relationship but you must release them to God. This happens as you begin to see them through God’s eyes.