Resolute Resolutions: I’m really gonna do it this time! No really, I am.

Happy New Year, everyone!  Yup, 2016 is around the corner and it’s the season of wishful thinking, BIG dreams and self inflicted petty heartache.  You know, it’s the season of, “I’m really gonna do it this time! No really, I am.” You can probably hear the remnants of my “Resolutionary Ebenezer Scrooge Syndrome.”  Yes, I’m a recovering anti-resolutionist.  There, I confessed it.  Hey, I am in recovery and here’s why.  A year from today, you and I may wish we had started that project, began that change, or fixed that whatever, today.  I’m not sure about you, but I don’t want today to mark another year wasted.

Besides, failure is no reason to quit.  Actually, It’s cause to refine.  Success comes from that relentless heart that won’t quit, that won’t give in.  Michael Jordan said, “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”  Funny thing is, most of you guys call that guy the greatest ever.  Another reason not to accept the majority opinion.  Sorry, I digress.  My Michael Jordan haterism aside, he was pretty good and I believe he’s on to something.

I’ve read a lot of blogs about New Year resolutions which talk about setting practical goals, like stop procrastinating, begin losing weight, and blog 3-5 times a month.  Wait…oops…sorry, those are my resolutions.  Again, I digress.  Anyway, my goal is to take a step back and attempt to help us prevent resolution implosion, define why we fail and offer the solution.  Yes, I said the solution.  I don’t mean this as if I have a “one size fits all” practical program.  I’m attempting to bring light to a spiritual reality that undergirds all of our planning and resolving.

We simply leave God out. We should never feel so secure that we leave God out of our calculations.  This is the spiritual issue that causes so many of our failings.  It’s our arrogance.  We who are created, don’t consider the Creator and make plans as if we can ever be successful without His intense involvement.  What we often do is make a plan, then ask God to bless it.  We do the heavy lifting and then ask God to kiss the dice like we’re at a craps table.  We make God into a pretty lady providing the luck.  Well, at least that’s how it happens on TV when they do scenes about Vegas.

Riddle me this: How is it possible for a professed follower of Christ, to make plans before or without the approval and/or direction of Jesus Christ?  How is it possible for a follower of Christ to be out in front of Christ?  Is this not oxymoronic?  Yet, isn’t this the norm!  Have we forgotten the admonishment of James, the brother of Jesus.  James reminds us that we outta say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.”

In one phrase, James redirects not only our planning and resolutions back to God;  James redirects our very existence back to God.  The fact is that we exist or we live simply because the “Lord wills.”  We are so accustomed to existing without God we have no idea how to plan with God.  The first principle of the phrase James speaks is that our very existence is due to God.  “If the Lord wills, we will live.”  The planning or conduct is secondary.  That’s why, “and also do this or that,” is listed last.  The fact is this: before planning is existence, and before existence is the will of God.  If our way of life isn’t to exist with God we will never plan with God, but rather we will plan for God.  This is the ultimate human hubris and Christian arrogance.  Godly humility releases human will, human life and of course it releases human planning.

We know that God calls us to plan.  Proverbs 16:3 states, “Commit your plans to the Lord and they will succeed.”  So yes, please make big plans in 2016, make life changing resolute resolutions, for Jehovah is a big God!  Yet, don’t make a plan, don’t make a resolution, until you’ve intensely consulted God 1st!!!  God 1st!  If the former anti-Resolutionist can do this, you can to.  Yet, let’s  begin with God, proceed with God and trust God with the results.

For the love of God, be a bridge,

Happy New Year Everybody!!

 

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Stop Promoting A Selfish Forgiveness

You’ve heard it right?  “Forgiveness makes YOU stronger and frees YOUR heart” or “forgiveness sets YOU free!”  I know you’ve heard it, come on, you’ve seen it on social media right?  Let me help you, here’s another one, “Forgiveness is not something we do for other people, we do it for ourselves to get well and move on.”  Wait, one more, here’s my favorite, “Hating people takes too much time.  Forgive them, not because they deserve it, but because you are on a higher level than they are.”

I’m not sure how we’ve done it but boy have we done it.  We have somehow managed to create a selfish forgiveness.  Think about that for a second, a selfish forgiveness.  I didn’t even think that was possible.  Forgiveness has become about me, and not about my sister or my brother.  We have exchanged humanity for “self-ity.”  It’s actually the predominant ideology and theology being promoted on social media and even from the mouths of pastors.  We have found a way to make forgiveness about us and not about the other.  Reinhold Neibuhr said, “forgiveness is the final form of love.”  We have made it the final stand for selfishness.

I’m not sure how we have taken something as sacred as forgiveness and made it as common as the Cubs losing before the World Series, but we sure have.  James 2:8 reads, “You do well when you really fulfill the royal law found in scripture, love your neighbor as yourself.”   Somehow we’ve translated this to mean love your neighbor for yourself.  Once we’re hurt, we no longer have to love our neighbor, now it’s time to love ourselves.

Maybe it’s the, “piling burning coals” doctrine from Romans 12:20.  It reads, “Instead, If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink. By doing this, you will pile burning coals of fire upon his head”  I’ve actually seen people give high fives to the idea of smoldering heads of fire on their enemy’s.  Actually, historians say that piling burning coals was an act of kindness similar to giving a neighbor a cup of sugar. The text encourages feeding one who is hungry and providing a drink for one who is thirsty.  The text is promoting kindness.  You see, if a person’s fire went out, he needed to borrow live coals to restart that fire.  The act of giving a person coals in a pan to carry home “on his head” was like giving them a cup of sugar.  It was a neighborly act of kindness.  It was a way to make friends, not enemies.  At the same time in history, Egyptians believed this practice of “piling burning coals on your head” led to repentance, to restoration.

Now, I don’t want to be disingenuous, there is a selfish and biblical reason to forgive.  It’s so that God will forgive you.  God seems to take it personally when we act like what’s been done to us, is worse than what we have done to Him.  God is so serious that he says, “But if you don’t forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your sins.” ~ Matthew 6:15 (Ouch).  It seems that God expects us to be hungry to forgive.  It’s like God expects us to appreciate that we’ve been forgiven so much that forgiving others is a privilege and an act of worship.  Weird huh?!

It’s not that everything in the listed forgiveness clichés above are wrong, it’s that they lead to a forgiveness that’s not about others or even about God.  Did God forgive us to set Himself free, or did God forgive us to set us free?  If you missed everything I’m attempting to say, don’t miss that.  God forgave us to set us free!  Go and forgive others to set them free!  Make God’s model of forgiveness your default setting.  Reject a forgiveness that makes you the primary concern.  Practice godliness, not “self-ity.” Make your concern God, and the person in need of forgiveness.

Forgiveness does not mean we ignore accountability or the wisdom of making healthy choices.  Forgiveness is a financial concept where one’s debts are forgiven but that doesn’t mean you restore someone’s bank account.  The person who is forgiven is taken from the negative but they aren’t placed in the positive either.  Don’t give away free money so to speak.  Apply measures for health and accountability but forgive, set them free.  Give them the opportunity to build up their good standing again.  For the love of God, be a bridge…

5 Necessities of Forgiveness 

(All of this is only done by prayer and fasting)

  1. Combat the selfish nature.  Consider their need for forgiveness more than your personal need for retribution or dignity.  Walk in generosity.
  2. Combat the victim nature.  You’re not the only one to be abandoned, lied to, abused etc.  Walk in victory.
  3. Combat the prideful nature.  You’re not beyond being abandoned, lied to, abused etc.  The same things happened to Jesus.  Walk in humility.
  4. Remember forgivingness is debt removal not credit accrual.  Wipe the slate clean.
  5. Ask God to feel about you, and to treat you, the way you feel about, and the way you treat the people who have wronged you.  See yourself.

 

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