Thursday, February 11, 2010

Unfailing Love

Romans 5:8:
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

I had the opportunity to talk about Christ today with good friend who is a non-believer. One part of me wanted to be proud of myself, but the other part of me knew that our talk had nothing to do with me. God loved her so much that he made me push through the nervousness that I had so He could love her through me. I just happened to be the person He decided to use that time. He reached me through other people that did the same thing. Jesus expects us to pass along the knowledge of how others can obtain the same gift that we have received.

God loves us regardless of what we believe. God wants us to have a relationship with Him.  God loved us (and I'm using "us" to refer to Christians right now) before we believed enough to send other people in our path to share His love.

Don't let your anxiety, fear, embarrassment, or lack of knowledge stop you from being obedient to God.  Someone else was in your place before you believed.

Monday, February 1, 2010

There's Freedom in Forgiving Your Enemies

Welp, I'm currently at home sick so please pray for me.  But I have seen a benefit in being in a completely silent house, I've been spending a lot of alone time with God and it's been pretty awesome.  I wanted to share something that God is currently teaching me:

I'm reading a book called, God's Outrageous Claims by the author Lee Strobel.  I started reading it before a couple of years back but never made it all the way through.  I started it up at a great time because I had just experienced a situation where I was pretty angry at someone and I knew I'd have a hard time forgiving this person.

The first outrageous claim is that there's freedom in loving our enemies.  Now, I've never actually had someone that I could label as an enemy, but there have definitely been people who have spread lies about me, stabbed me in the back, hurt me, and just plain treated me wrongly.  I have those people in mind when I read about forgiveness.  Do you have anyone that you can think of?

Jesus was very precise told us to "love" our enemies, that doesn't imply emotion as much as it implies an attitude.  We aren't technically supposed to like the person, because at times that's an emotion we can't conjure up.  However, we are to act as though we like the person. People matter to God, just like you and me.  If God was able to forgive us, how could we not pass that forgiveness onto others?

There are psychological, physical, and relational benefits to forgiving others.  I once heard a pastor quote, "Bitterness is like drinking poison and hoping the other person dies." Harboring anger can be a consuming poison. If we are able to forgive others, we are not only healing ourselves but we are also bringing attention to God's Kingdom.

Sometimes, to me, forgiveness seems to contradict everything about my human nature. At times, I want to respond to things by hitting back harder. But that is not the attitude that God requires of us.
Strobel suggests using the "P-E-A-C-E" process.

Pray. Pray for ourselves when we can't seem to find the ability to forgive. Pray for the individual that caused us harm.  It's really hard to hate someone when we pray for them.
Empathize. We always evaluate the worth of others based on their relationship to us, but instead we need to see them in relation to their worth in God. When we start seeing people through God's eyes, they begin to matter more to us.
Act. The Bible tells us to do good to those who hate us.  Can we commit to keep alert for opportunities to serve this person? Can we drop the end of our rope?
Confess. More often than not, we share a part in the blame. Few things accelerate peace as much as humbly admitting our own wrongdoing and and asking forgiveness.
Emulate. How would Jesus treat this person? Jesus actually prayed for his tormentors as he was being crucified. If His torture could not silence Him, what could we possibly experience that could silence us?

Strobel, L. (2005). God's outrageous claims. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan