Saturday, August 31, 2013

Wrestling to Comprehend God’s Incredible Love

     Romans 5:7-9 “Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 

     Wrapping our human minds around the love of God is so difficult.  Even with the pictures and demonstrations of His love expressed in Scripture, it is still difficult.  Last Sunday I attempted to show one way God communicates His feelings of love for us by telling us stories that we can relate to.  If you were unable to listen to the message, please follow this link to the audio message  "Biblical Pictures Of God's Love".
     In preparing to preach any message there is often far more materiel that I have studied or run across that there just isn’t enough time to include.  That happened with this message.
     This video was produced to express how much God loves us, through a modern illustration of the story of Hosea.  Since there wasn’t adequate time to show it as a part of the message, I’m including it in this blog.  I hope that it helps all of us understand the love of the Father for His rebellious children.  Until next time.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Forgiveness - Some Additional Thoughts

It's tough to forgive.  If it is easy for you the offence probably wasn't that deep.  Because for all of us, whether we follow Jesus Christ or not, it is tough to forgive those who betray, abuse, neglect, spread lies and gossip, etc. 

If you attended service this past weekend I spoke on the topic of forgiveness.  I appreciate the number of you who have communicated with me about how much Sunday's message ministered to you.  If you were unable to be here, you can follow this link to the message which is entitled Forgiveness - It's About Taking Care Of Your Heart.
Today's post is just to encourage you to keep on forgiving.  “70 times 7” for me is often for the same offence.  I can remember being betrayed by a couple in another church.  They embarrassed me and the church, they said things that were untrue or a half truth, and they presented themselves as models of spirituality.  And it hurt each and every time I saw them or heard someone talk about them.  And every time it happened, the thoughts returned, the feelings returned and I had to go through the process of forgiveness once again.
Then God took me one step deeper, he asked me to "bless" them. "What do you mean bless them?", was my response.  "I want you to pray a blessing over their marriage and over their lives."  WHAT? Wasn’t it enough for me to forgive! I certainly did not want to pray blessing upon them.  I did not want them to have a great marriage; I wanted their marriage to be hard.  I did not want them to have financial success; I wanted them to suffer.  I suffered and my family suffered because of them and I didn't want them to be blessed.  And I knew that if I blessed them and prayed for their good, God would answer that prayer and bless them.  NO, they don't deserve that!
But the Holy Spirit reminded me of Luke 6:27-28 “. . . Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you." And then Romans 12:14 "Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse." 
Forgiveness was hard but praying blessing upon people who hurt me deeply, that was even harder.
To be honest I resisted for quite a while, but the Holy Spirit was persistent and I did want to obey and so I started to pray, "Bless _________ and ______________.  May their marriage and family prosper.  May they be blessed financially and have success in serving you."  There were no positive feelings behind those early prayers.  I did it strictly out of obedience.  Sometimes it felt like I had to literally force the words to form on my lips and speak them, which was something else the Lord had me do.  I couldn't just think prayers of blessing, I had to speak them out load and I had to use the names of the individuals in the prayers. 
And guess what, my heart began to gain additional freedom.  There was the freedom that came with forgiveness, but this was different.  The pain and the wound began to break off of me.  The feelings of hurt and betrayal lessened and now no longer have any influence in my life.  I can think of this couple and there are no negative feelings. 
They never did apologize.  They probably didn't think they did anything wrong - but it doesn't matter.  The process of forgiveness and then speaking and praying blessing over them was for me.  I needed to be free.  Lewis Smedes said, "To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you."