Abandoned to be Reclaimed: The Darkness, The Dream, & The Destiny

I haven’t written a blog in a long time.  Well, it’s because I’m having a bit of a “Jonah” moment.  In order to understand what I mean, please read the next sentence as it is punctuated.  A “Jonah” moment is when you know God’s will for your life and rather than obey God’s will you would rather swim in the stomach acid of a whale or fish or whatever kind of beast could swallow a man whole and spit him out like acid reflux or something like that you know what I’m saying?!  Please perceive that run on sentence as me running away from the issue.  Yeah, now you get it, a “Jonah” moment!  I didn’t want to write this blog.  I don’t want to write this blog.  I don’t want to deal with this reality but God won’t let me write anything else until I finish writing this doggone blog!  Here it is, you ready, I have abandonment issues.  There, I said it!

I think the most famous Bible story on abandonment is Joseph and His brothers.  This dude was basically the baby of the bunch and filled with hope.  I mean, of course he was!  He was gifted by God with dreams and visions.   Life was good.  He was favored by his father.  Life was good.  So much so, he was given a coat that was the envy of all his brothers.  Again, life was good.  Then, without warning, his brothers threw him in a ditch and left him to die.  Well, they thought better of it and just sold him into slavery.  Wow, here’s our first nugget, some people will feel good about themselves at your expense.  Why, because their heart turned away from murdering you, to just enslaving you.   You should be grateful.  Right?  Matter of fact, the brothers went on with life as if nothing had happened, like they hadn’t just thrown their brother into a ditch!  Genesis 37:25 reads,As they sat down to eat their meal.”  They sat to eat like it was a normal meal.  They weren’t troubled and distraught so that they couldn’t eat.  No on the contrary, they were more like, “can I get my Double Double animal style please?  OK, thank you!”

I’m sorry, I digress.  At some point, some of the worse words that many of us will speak, will be, “Where did everybody go?”  Joseph had to be asking this question.  Wouldn’t you?  We have all been in the ditch, the ditch of abandonment.  You’ve been there, It’s that place where you realize, “together,” didn’t include you.  Hey, you can substitute whatever word fits better, (crew, partnership, friendship, family) but it remains the same.  When that word, no longer includes you, you are at a crossroads of faith and thrust into reality.  Pablo Neruda says, “Absence is a house so vast that inside you will pass through its walls and hang pictures on the air.”  Hmph, nibble on that for a second.

The thing about abandonment is that it knows no faults.  It doesn’t care if its your fault, their fault, or nobody’s fault.  It leaves you in the darkness needing a hand to pull you to the light regardless of faults.  Tayari Jones said, “Abandonment doesn’t have the sharp but dissipating sting of a slap. It’s like a punch to the gut, bruising your skin and driving the precious air from your body.”  Then, Gregory L. Winfield wrote, “Our natural parents make mistakes. But how do we reconcile our feelings of abandonment when tragedy occurs at the hands of a God who does not make mistakes?”  All who have experienced the darkness know these feelings and are acquainted with these questions but what can you do?

First, let’s look to the Psalms.  Psalms 34:18 reminds us, “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.”  At all times, and especially in these times, the only rail you have to grab is this one, TRUST in the LORD.  He is near and He saves.  When you finally escape the ditch, it won’t be your fam or your peoples, but the hand of the Lord that pulls you out.  It’s like Psalms 27:10 reveals, “For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the Lord will take me in.  You are not at the mercy of fate my friend, you are in the hands of a loving and living God!

Finally, as A.W. Tozer wrote, “It is doubtful, that God will ever use us greatly until we have been hurt deeply.”  So, the next time you’re walking around dreaming with your coat of many colors envisioning the world as it should be, as it could be, remember this.   Your destiny will often be found at the end of a journey of dashed dreams, stolen coats, deep ditches, and restricted living.  That’s a joyous thought huh?  Well actually, it is, once you realize that these things are necessary for the fruition of the promise of the original dream!  Don’t give in, don’t give up, and don’t shun the darkness of the ditch.   Alistair Begg says, “In shunning the trials we miss the blessings, and we don’t have the tender eyes that comes from nights of tears.” Never forget the end of Joseph’s story.  Never forget Genesis 50:24.  “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”  The dream will be dug out from the ditch.  God reclaims that which has been discarded!  Yes, you were abandoned, but not for the reasons you think.  You were abandoned to perfect a dream, that becomes a vision, that matures into destiny, that saves many lives.  You were abandoned to be reclaimed!

OH, and oh yeah, Be A Bridge!

This blog originally appeared at rudyhagood.com

 

Lay Down And Sleep: Faith All Grown Up Is Trust

If one were to walk into the Hagood home at approximately 9:45P, they would walk into a repeating and familiar Hagood conversation.  Many a night, my wife has said to me, “you just lay down and sleep!”  She speaks it as if this is a bad thing, as if I had done something dastardly to her.  In the deep recesses of my mind I’m thinking, “Go to sleep woman!”  What I actually say is, “Aww baby, you can’t sleep??!”  Ha!  Don’t tell her what I’ve been thinking all these years.  You will blow my cover.  Anyway, the real issue is, she can’t just lay down and sleep.  It just doesn’t work that way for her.  At least not in such simple terms.  My wife, she has to make sure that everything is done.  She then has to sit up and watch television with her legs crossed.  She also works on her continual and multiple research projects.  She often finds herself up until early morning hours while her husband simply, lays down, and sleeps.

Psalms 3 finds David surrounded.  If you don’t know the Psalm, this would be a great time to stop and read it.  Go ahead, I’ll wait (picture me whistling and waiting).  OK, you’re back.  Alright, so in Psalm 3, he has been driven from the palace.  He is in a situation that would steal the hearts of men.  His enemies (led by his own son), taunt him with shouts that his God would not deliver him!  David’s reaction to the taunting, to the dire circumstances, and to the hopeless odds, well, sleep.  David, lays down and sleeps.  It’s an amazing movie screen warranting scene and David, the great Hebrew hero responds to his overwhelming circumstance, well, with sleep.  The obvious quandary is how, how was he able to just lay down and sleep?  Here it comes, you ready, David knew God’s character.  He trusted God.  Adam LiVecchi stated, “Faith all grown up is trust.”  That’s it!  David slept because he was aware of God’s protection, because he knew God’s power and because he trusted God.

David experienced the character of God through His certain protection.  This is why he refers to God as a “shield.”  David uses this descriptor of God again and again.  The Lord is my shield!  The character of God as a protector not only meant imminent safety from his enemies.  It also meant restoration of his dignity.  Remember he’s, basically, well, in this moment, a dethroned king/deadbeat dad/wimp wannabe warrior/has been.  David’s view of God’s character allowed him to maintain his composure in the midst of a very current chaotic mess.  In this moment David says, “God is the lifter of my head” David trusts!  God not only kept the enemies out as he lay asleep, God was actively restoring the dignity of his sleeping servant.

Ultimately, David was intimately aware of God’s power.  Though his enemies were powerful, God is omnipotent, his enemies were outmatched.  Though he was surrounded, God is omnipresent, his enemies were outflanked.  Though his enemies were confident, God is omniscient, his enemies were outwitted.  David knew the power of God.  So, in the midst of what appears like unenviable odds he states, “For you strike all my enemies on the cheek; you break the teeth of the wicked.”  He speaks it with the security of one possessing a squad that includes Mike Tyson, Bruce Lee, Thor and Big Mama (hey, nobody can whoop grandma).  He speaks with the confidence of one who has seen this in the past.  He speaks as one who knows the boundless power of God!  Well, cause he has.  So David, lays down and sleeps.

Here’s what Psalms 3 reveals to us.  1) One can seemingly have it all (rich, smart, famous and powerful) and still have intense troubles.  2) One can be the most loving of parents, and still can have the worse family situations.  3) One can be popular and powerful and still have troubles that steal their joy.  4) One can repent, be gravely sorry, and yet still have to go through the discipline of the Father.  And 5), Even in all of this, God will strike all of your enemies on the cheek; and He will break the teeth of the wicked.  We can all lay down and sleep.

I wish I could say I lay down and sleep at night because I’m more spiritual than my wife.  Ha!  That would be a lie, for she is definitely our spiritual rock.  Yet, the Hagood home’s perpetual bedtime conversation does depict a picture of trusting God regardless of odds and human paradigms.  It’s an image of the message in Psalms 3.  Beloved, we have less to do than we think.  We have nothing to stay awake and keep guard of.  We have no last minute arrangements to make.   Very little of anything is based on our power.  We simply can lay down and sleep, because we know the protection and the power of God.  Again, “Faith all grown up is trust.”  This is why, even when surrounded, in the midst of what appeared like a white flag moment to David’s enemies, God turned the tables.  David did wave the white flag.  He just didn’t wave it towards his enemies, he waved it towards God.  In surrender, sweet surrender, David gained victory.  So yes, we need to wave our white flags.  We need to throw our hands up.   Because, “you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head”  Trust God my friends, lay down, and sleep.  And oh yeah, be a bridge!

3 Things You Already Know About Trust But Need To Hear Again

Even with God, TRUST is a two way street

 

  1. Do what God says (He’s reliable).
    1. Participate in His integrity
    2. Be okay with His results
  2. Be honest with God (He’s already honest with you).
    1. Do the work it takes to avoid lying to yourself.
    2. Make honest assessments of your “why” and your “how.”
  3. Be open with God (He already knows anyway).
    1. If you are scared, jealous, envious, selfish, or whatever, say so
    2. Take the time to confess every detail

 

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Overworked, Overstressed, And Underblessed: Being Like God Is Knowing When To Stop

Hey, are you feeling like you’re at your end?  Sometimes, is it all too much?  I know I feel it; overworked, overstressed and definitely underblessed.  See, I hear you wigging out already.  No, underblessed is not an english word!  I know that, but I bet somebody knows what I’m talking about.  Forget all you grammar nazis anyway!  Look, I’m just saying, sometimes it’s all too much.  Isn’t it?  I propose that the reason we get to our end is because we forget how we began.  The answer has always been there from the beginning, from creation.

The most amazing event of the creation account is the seventh day.  God, systematically created the earth and all that mankind needed in order to sustain life.  God worked!  God also created man and woman and did it all in six days.  Now that’s hard work!  God does not sleep, nor does He slumber.  God works!!!  Yet, the seventh day, yes the blessed seventh day, God rested.

Many of us who practice the Judeo-Christian faith look at the 6th day as the climax of the creation account and I’m not necessarily arguing against that assessment.  Yet, the unintended result of that thinking is an under appreciation for the seventh day.  In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.  The beginning initiates with God working.  Yet, on day seven, God, in all His holy creativeness created rest.  According to Matthew Sleeth, “God doesn’t need to rest after creating the universe because he’s tired.  He rests because he is holy, and everything that God does is holy.  God rests.  God is holy.  Therefore, rest is holy.  It’s simple math.”  As the creation story unfolds, we don’t experience rest until God creates it, participates in it and passes it on to us as a part of the character and image of God.  Again, God not only rested, he created rest, and a holy rest it is.

Sabbath, at its root means to cease, to stop, or to be absent.  Practically, there are two ways to participate in the Sabbath.  You are to rest unto the Lord and you are to celebrate the divinity of the Lord seen in creation.  The rest must be unto the Lord and the celebration must be unto the Lord.  Yet Sabbath itself is not rest, nor is it celebration, it is cessation.  It is an end to things.  In God’s context, Sabbath is a break from creation.  In our context it’s an end to our lives of business and work.  According to Walter Brueggemann, “Sabbath becomes a decisive, concrete, visible way of opting for and aligning with the God of rest.”  It’s a time of total and undivided devotion to the Lord.  It’s an imitation of the Father.  Matthew Sleeth words it this way, “The point is that something very important about the character of God is revealed on the seventh day: God stops.”  Did you hear that, simply stated, being like God is knowing when to stop.  Whew!!!  Mind blown!!!  See, the biblical ceremonial Sabbath was a day, Saturday, and it was the seventh day, the day that the Lord rested from creation of the earth.   Today, due to the freedom we have in Christ, and Jesus’ reassertion of the law, the principle of the Sabbath remains without the ceremonial restrictions.  Today, we practice knowing when to stop.

As I close, God created the world in six days and on the seventh He rested a holy rest!  I for one, want to celebrate and I need to Sabbath!  Matthew Sleeth says,  “Sabbath is like a redeemed holiday (holy day) fifty-two times a year.  It is a time to rejoice and celebrate.”.  I sabbath because I want to be fully human, I want to be like God, and I want to be holy.  One of my favorite verses is Leviticus 20:26, “And you shall be holy unto me: for I the Lord am holy, and have severed you from other people, that you should be mine.”  The personal and intimate call of God for me to be close, intimate and holy stirs my soul.  So, if being like God is knowing when to stop, then I want to embody and practice the Sabbath day fully.  Today, I want to practice knowing when to stop.  Walter Brueggemann exclaims, “We used to sing the hymn “Take Time to Be Holy.” But perhaps we should be singing, “Take time to be human.” Or finally, “Take time.” Sabbath is taking time … time to be holy … time to be human”.

Personally, I would add, take time to repent, because God is calling us to be holy.  Failure to have a Sabbath theology is at minimum an evidence of what sin has done to us.  We have to ignore God’s command in the Old Testament and Jesus’ example in the new in order to miss God’s will for us to rest.  We certainly don’t have to see this the same way, but to ignore it altogether, now that’s a “missing of the mark” against your body and your soul.  Let’s be like God, by knowing when to stop.  And of course fam, Be a bridge!!

 

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The Eighth Day: New Beginnings & New Meaning

Do you still get excited for Sunday morning?  Do you??!  Are you overwhelmed by the thought of millions of Christians all over the world getting together to worship the one resurrected King?  Or has your passion grown cold?  The fact is, for most, Sunday morning is still “that day!”  It’s the day of united worship and of family reunion!  Augustine of Hippo wrote in his signature work, City of God, “The Sabbath is brought to a close not by an evening, but by the Lord’s day, as an eighth and eternal day, consecrated by the resurrection of Christ, and also prefiguring the eternal repose not only of the spirit, but also of the body. Then, we shall rest and see, see and love, love and praise. This is what shall be in the end without end.”  I’d like for you to pause and consider the beauty of Augustine’s Sunday paradigm.  Is it not awe inspiring?

We find in the resurrection narratives of all four gospels the phrase “the first day of the week.”  1st century and 2nd century Christians saw Sunday as the beginning of the week yes, but they also saw it as the eighth day.  For early believers every Sunday followed the Sunday before, making it a “new beginning,” an “eighth day.”  If it’s not obvious, eight is biblical numerology’s number for new beginnings.  This is why babies were circumcised and given their names on the eighth day.

Early believers also had this intense connection with the past and a simultaneous expectation of the future.  This is not just based on every Sunday being connected to the Sunday prior.  Sunday was also the close of the Sabbath.  So Sunday was not a day of rest as the Sabbath was, but rather a day of tension and breakthrough.  Sunday highlights crucifixion.  So it’s a day of mourning.  Sunday highlights resurrection, so it’s a day of joy!  Marianne H. Micks says “We confused the first day of the week with the Jewish Sabbath and thereby turned to the past instead of to the future. Rightly understood, Sunday is more a day of tension than a day of rest.”  On Sunday,  in one breath of worship, we wrestle with crucifixion and we wrestle with resurrection.

I consider Augustine and I think, what do we contemporarily say about Sunday beyond, oh please, oh please, oh please come to church.  No one knows who, but someone (mainly everybody), said, “Just because you don’t go to church Sunday morning doesn’t mean you forfeit your right of having any help or guidance from God”  This is true but numbing to Sunday’s significance.  Church leaders say things like Joyce Meyer’s famous quote, “Jesus is interested in a relationship with you, not a 45 minute date every Sunday morning. Make Him first in your life.”  Again true, and yet again numbing to Sunday’s significance if taken too far or out of context, which I believe is its normal case.

As I close this thought, I have to ask myself, am I writing this to say, oh please, oh please, oh please come to church?   Absolutely not!   I’m writing this to bridge the concept of the eighth day to your soul, so that if and when you do show up on a Sunday, you understand what your doing!  Augustine called Sunday “The Lord’s Day.”  Why?  He calls it the Lord’s day because that’s the day our Lord got up, defeated sin, the grave and whooped up on death!  Invincible!!!  In a sense, Sunday is the only day that Jesus heard an alarm clock.  For it is, and will be, the only time where he was dead and now is alive.  He resurrected!  See, for the world, Easter is a once a year event but for the believer, resurrection happens every Sunday!  We celebrate “The Lord’s Day,” The day He got up!  We celebrate the Eighth Day, the day of new beginnings.  Every week for the believer we are reminded that life begins fresh and new, opportunity begins fresh and new because today, the Eighth Day, Jesus’ resurrection reminds us that we all have resurrection power!  We all have been made new!  Sunday is a glorious day!  Anything less than overwhelmed misses the mark, misses the maker, misses the magnificent mayhem (full praise) we ought to lavish on a God who would resurrect lives!!!  My dear friends, remember the 1st Day of the week, the eighth day, the eternal day, and together, lets rest and see, see and love, love and praise!

…And yes, of course, Be A Bridge!

Matthew 28:1-3 

“Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb.  And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it.  His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow.”

Let us, together, celebrate!  For every Sunday, after that Sunday, is The Eighth Day.  Glory!

 

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God’s Love Language: Christianity is A Love Relationship & It’s Love Language is Pursuit

Have you ever really thought about how crazy it is that we are in a relationship with Jesus Christ?  Have you ever wandered what language God speaks?  What would He say to you?  If you have or haven’t, stop and consider that for a moment.  Go ahead, I’ll wait…

OK, you’re back.  Listen, because of our relationship with Jesus Christ, we are in full on relationship with the entire Godhead.  Consider that.  We are intimate with God the Father, with God the Son and with God the Sprit!  Is that unthinkable or what??!  Come on, It’s crazy person imaginative little kid wishful thinking for mere humans to be intimate with God.  It’s bananas!  How could that even happen?  The answer is right in our faces.  God PURSUED us.

I can’t help but think about Gary Chapman who In 1995 came out with his signature book “The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate.”  According to his findings the 5 love languages are;

  1. Words of Affirmation
  2. Acts of Service
  3. Receiving Gifts
  4. Quality Time
  5. Physical Touch.

These may work with people but I believe God has His own love language.  I think God has a way to express heartfelt commitment to His people and a way of receiving love back.  I believe that language is PURSUIT.

Ephesians 2 reveals that we were dead in our transgressions.  Let me scream that word, DEAD!!!  We were without life, without animation, without desire, expired, done and without hope.  Yet, Ephesians 2 reveals that God, with His “great love” it says “made us alive together with Christ!”  Wait.  Wait one minute.  Are you smelling what I’m stepping in??  We had no inkling to approach God and He pursued us!  Really, what kind of love is this?

This morning on my drive to work I’m listening to David Crowder Band and these lyrics wrecked me, “He is jealous for me, Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree, Bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy.”  It’s too much for me.  His love, His pursuit, His grace, His mercy, yes it all has me bending like a tree, at the mercy of the wind, under the weight of such “great love.”  A love that is jealous for me.  It’s an overwhelming flood of passion for you, for me.  It’s unthinkable!

This is not new, this is God!  God has always been in pursuit of us.  God has always gone out of His way for us and He wants us to respond in the same way.  You see, Christianity is a love relationship and It’s love language is pursuit.  Just like God has pursued us He calls us to live a life in pursuit of Him.  Back in the Old text in Leviticus 20:26, God says, “You shall be holy to me, for I the Lord am holy and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be mine.”  Can you feel how passionate God is for those who are His?  Do you see that He has done everything to be in relationship with you and He wants you to pursue Him back in return?  Be holy to me!  Be separate to me!  Be about me!  Can you feel God’s heart and desire to be in existence shattering love with His people, with you, with me?

You know, I see a guy like Paul in scripture and I think, see, he got it!  LOL, that may sound silly to some for me to say but that’s what I think.  He was in full on life pursuit of Jesus Christ!  Paul says he “pressed toward the mark of the high calling in Christ Jesus.”  Paul never took his foot off the gas.  He, like us, was pursued by God and in response he then spends his life pursuing God back.  Listen to this line from Paul;

“that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” ~ Philippians 3:10-11

This is not a statement of conversion.  Paul had been converted for 40 years already by this point.  Yet, he’s still striving to “know” Christ!  He’s still googly eyed!  He’s still in full on courtship.  He’s still pressing in for perfect intimacy.  If relationship with God was a jar of peanut butter, Paul’s scraping everything he can get out of that jar.  He wants the power of His resurrection which means he wants holiness.  He wants to share in His suffering which means he wants devotion.  He, like a son, wants to put on Daddy’s clothes.  That’s why he says, “becoming like Him in his death.”  He has no limits.  He has no pride.  He would do anything to attain the resurrection from the dead.  He would do anything to finish the race and be with the one he loves.  He PURSUES God with a passion that only love could produce!  Simply stated, he gets it.  He loves God, so he speaks God’s love language.  My God, give us all that pursuit.

For the love of God, be a bridge!

 

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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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