Forgive – and set yourself free!

Philippians 3:13 NIV

The Bible says that the greater the offense, the greater the need to forgive your offender in order to go on with your life. Remember when you were growing up, how your parents would tell you to close the door? That’s because in winter you were letting in the cold and in summer you were letting in the heat. Forgiveness shuts the door on your past! Paul, who martyred Christians before becoming one, writes, “This one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching…unto those things which are before.” Only when you release your grip on the past can you secure your grip on the future. Forgetting is a decision, one you sometimes have to make daily or even hourly. Bottom line: You need to forgive every time the issue that’s hurting you rears its head (See Matthew 18:21-22). Complete healing can take months or years. When someone hurts you deeply, you must purpose in your heart to keep forgiving them until you’re free from their influence. No matter what they took from you through abuse, abandonment, betrayal, manipulation, or deceit, bitterness will take more! Like making a rod for your own back, unforgiveness lets the person who hurt you keep doing it. So until the issue is resolved, you may have to get down on your knees every day and pray, “Lord, by an act of my will, I forgive ________ and ask You to bless them. I’m turning them over to You and getting on with my life.” There’s no shortcut – it’s the only path to freedom!

Soul food: 1 Chr 16-18; John 9:13-23; Ps 105:1-15; Prov 25:23-25

The healing power of forgiveness

Luke 6:28 NKJV

Night after night, Mary was beaten by her father when he came home from the bar in a drunken rage. So the first chance she got, she left home. Given time, most physical scars begin to heal, but emotional scars can last a lifetime. They can keep you stuck in the pain of the past and cost you valuable relationships. Even the people who love you can grow weary and despair that you’ll ever get better despite their efforts to help you. Do you know someone like that? Are you that someone? Do you want to move toward healing and find joy? You can. Mary found it when she decided to forgive her dad and start praying for him. That’s when she started to become spiritually and emotionally whole. And she kept on forgiving him and praying for him until her old memories no longer held her prisoner. Jesus said, “Pray for those who spitefully use you.” The word “spiteful” implies you did nothing to cause or deserve it, that your offender hurt you for reasons you may never understand. That’s why Jesus prayed on the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34 NKJV). That doesn’t let your offender off the hook. They will live with the guilt of what they did, and unless they turn to God for forgiveness they’ll have no peace. But you will have peace! When you decide to forgive someone and pray for them, you take back your power and reclaim your life.

Soul food: 1 Chr 7:20-9:44; John 8:31-41; Ps 30; Prov 25:13-17

Steps to getting well

John 5:6 NIV

Jesus asked a sick man an unusual question: ‘Do you want to get well?’ This man had been unwell for 38 years, so it seemed like an obvious question to ask. But we can often find ourselves needing to be asked that same question. We have probably all been hurt in some way in our lives. But if we are still focused on it years later we are not victims of our circumstances, we are victims by choice. That can pretty hard to accept. When we are hurting, we don’t want to think we are choosing to feel that way. But we can often choose to let the hurt rule our lives rather than forgive the person who hurt us. Jesus said, ‘If you are angry with someone, forgive him so that your Father in heaven will also forgive your sins’ (Mark 11:25 NCV). Sometimes the ‘victim lifestyle’ gets quite comfortable. We like having the sympathy of others, and we like the thought that what’s going in our lives, and the way we are dealing with it, isn’t our fault. But forgiving others sets us free. Whatever others may have taken from us in the past, if we remain bitter they will take more from us in the future. God’s got new plans and new opportunities for us, but for Him to be able to work in us and through us, we need to make the choice to let go and forgive. If we are holding onto the past, we are not ready for God to do something new. He says: ‘Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!’ (Isaiah 43:18 NIV). Are we ready to let go, forgive, and move into the new things God’s got for us?

Deut 8-10; Matt 12:22-37; Ps 78:9-16; Prov 16:25

Steps to getting well

John 5:6 NIV

Jesus asked a sick man an unusual question: “Do you want to get well?” For thirty-eight years this man’s condition had immobilized him, bought him the sympathy of others, and perhaps given him a reason to say, “I’m not responsible.” But all of us are responsible for two things: our attitudes and our choices. The fact is we’ve all been hurt in some way. But if you’re still focused on it twenty years later you’re not a victim by circumstance, but by choice. What exactly is a victim by choice? Someone who thinks negative attention is better than no attention at all! Jesus said, “If you are angry with someone, forgive him so that your Father in heaven will also forgive your sins” (Mark 11:25 NCV). Those words presuppose someone has hurt you. They also hold you responsible for your reaction to that person. Jesus taught that if you don’t forgive, you can’t receive forgiveness yourself when you need it. Whatever others may have taken from you in the past, if you remain bitter they’ll take more from you in the future. Maybe you’re thinking, “If only they’d come back and ask for forgiveness.” Is that what you’re waiting for? Don’t waste your time! The key to happiness is in your hands, not theirs. And that key is forgiveness. Are you waiting for someone to say, “I forgive you” before you can forgive yourself? What if they never do? Here’s the formula for freedom: (1) Apologize if you need to. (2) Make amends if you can. (3) Forgive yourself. (4) Move on. Do you want to get well? These are the steps.

Soul food: Deut 8-10; Matt 12:22-37; Ps 78:9-16; Prov 16:25

Forgetting and reaching forward

Philippians 3:13 NKJV

As long as you’re holding on to the past, you’ll never be able to take hold of the future. The past can be an unbearably heavy burden when you try to carry it. The way to let go of it is to stop thinking about it. Get it off your mind and out of your conversation. Satan will constantly remind you of your past because he wants you to remain stuck in it. But you don’t have to. You can choose your own thoughts. You say, “I can’t help thinking about it.” Yes, you can! Before he met Christ, Paul destroyed churches and put Christians to death. Now he was going back into some of those same towns, and who was waiting for him there? Widows. Orphans. People whose lives he’d devastated. Had Paul not been able to move beyond that, he’d never have fulfilled his God-given assignment. Now, Paul didn’t suffer from amnesia; he could remember the actual events. But knowing God had forgiven him, and that he’d forgiven himself, he chose to forget the past. “But one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forward to those things which are ahead.” Note the words, “but one thing I do.” When you decide to forget, God will enable you to do it and give you the grace and peace to move on. Indeed, He will make you stronger and wiser as a result of it. If you’re struggling with guilt, condemnation, shame, blame, or regret about your past, let God forgive you, set you free, and enable you to move forward.

Soul food: Jer 51-52; Matt 7:1-14; Ps 137; Prov 15:15-17