Canada · Faith · Forgiveness

What Has Been Forgotten

Do you ever have a time where a picture pops up on your memories that says “Two years ago today” but it brings sad memories and not happy ones? Where the picture are a memory of what was lost? Freedoms, friendships, a time of peace and safety?

I’ve had a lot of those moments in the past.

We were forced out of a church and “shunned” by many of its members five years ago today. It was hands down the most confusing and painful experience of my life. Afterwards, there was period of time where seeing pictures of my old best friend or even driving past our old church would literally break me into a sobbing mess.

A time when a worship song would come on and it reminded me of them, so I couldn’t sing.

A time when opening my Bible brought pain, because I used to read it with those I loved and they had rejected me. Gods word reminded me of them, and it was too painful to read.

I’ve been reading the book “Seven Woman” by Eric Mataxas and yesterday I got to my favorite of the women – Corrie Ten Boom.

At one point she outright says these words: “We need to realize that forgiveness is the ONLY pathway to freedom from our tormentors.”

My heart was warmed as I remembered how much healing her story brought to my life when I faced my own path to forgiveness. How I learned from her that I could forgive, even if I never received one apology from the church. That journey brought me freedom.

It brought me peace.

Our world doesn’t see things this way anymore. On the news the other day, a mother got a chance to speak to her daughter’s killer on the air and she said these chilling words: “I hope you NEVER get another moment of peace.”

My heart broke for this woman, not only for her loss, but for the undeniable truth that until she forgives that man, it is SHE that will never have another moment of peace. Bitterness isn’t going to bring harm upon your perpetrator, it will only harm you. Likewise, forgiveness isn’t setting them free, it is setting yourself free from the continual torment of the past.

I see much of what is going on in our world in the news and I have to say, we have a real problem with forgiveness. We are becoming a very bitter and hardened people because of it.

Today this passage is on my heart:

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor. They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations.”
‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭61:1-4‬ ‭NIV‬‬

There’s a lot of rebuilding that needs to happen in our world right now.

As the truth about our history comes out, my country has a lot of rebuilding to do. Canada can no longer pretend that the residential schools weren’t in our history. We tore innocent children from their parents arms, abused them and covered them up in unmarked, forgotten graves which splatter our land with the guilt of the past.

As the ugliness of our church split comes out, my church has a lot of rebuilding to do. We can no longer pretend that all is well. We can no longer act like we have everything figured out and are all put together. The sheep that are scattered all over the place should break our hearts, should cause us regret and self reflection.

As the ugliness in my own heart comes out: attitudes against people, against leaders, against government policies, against rules upon rules upon rules – that bring so much division – I can no longer pretend that I am any better than anyone.

I need a Saviour.

Father, rebuild the ancient ruins and restore what’s been broken along the way. Somewhere along the way we have lost sight of the mission, of the simple gospel. We have gotten caught up in the mess and refused to come to you for forgiveness, love, hope and freedom. We need your healing.

Every single one of us.

Faith · Forgiveness

Believers Need to Love the Church

There is a disturbing trend I’ve been noticing in those who claim to be Christians. It goes something like this:

I don’t go to church. Oh I love God. I especially love Jesus. But the church? It’s full of greedy hypocrites. They’re judgemental, they’re selfish, they do not follow what they preach. No, I can serve God better without them.

I’m not going to refute the statements above with my own thoughts. I think we sometimes get far too caught up in our own arguments.

Rather, I’m going to let the word of God speak into these lies…

“Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother or sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.” 1 John 4:20

You cannot hate Christians and claim to love God. You are fooling yourself. These aren’t my words, they’re God’s!

“Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor your leaders.” 1 Peter 2:17

Interesting that Peter addresses four behaviours that servants of Christ should follow. And the second one is to love the family of believers. Is this not enough proof that God is calling us to love the church?

Want to hear it from Jesus himself?

“A new commandment I give you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” John 13:34

“This is my commandment, that you love one another just as I have loved you.” John 15:12

“This I command you, that you love one another.” John 15:17

You don’t think Jesus was serious? He repeated it over three times in one speech!! It wasn’t a suggestion. He didn’t say, “Oh, it would be rather nice if you could learn to love each other.”

He commanded it!

If we hate the church but claim to love God, we are fooling ourselves. We are liars.

These are some harsh words for those who can’t stand Christians, yet have the audacity to bear the name themselves.

Now you may be upset at me, for speaking this way. You may think that I just don’t understand the pain you have faced at the hands of believers.

That may be true.

I may not know the pain you faced.

But I most definitely know the pain I faced at their hands. I am not a stranger to the pain people in the church can cause.

A few years ago I was sent away from a church after being brutally wounded by many untrue words. Spoken by people who thought they knew how God saw me, people who claimed to have God’s sight into my heart. In reality, I was misunderstood when asking for help with my children while my husband led worship. I was called bitter, merely for expressing my complete loneliness in the church. I hadn’t accused anyone, rather asked. But I was first harassed, then eventually sent away.

To make matters worse, the pastor himself called up my best friends and told them not to meet with me. Instead of standing up for me, they obeyed.

If this wouldn’t crush one’s faith in the church, I don’t know what would.

But I think that’s our problem, isn’t it? We have placed too much faith in the church, expecting the church to be perfect, that we have completely forgotten who the church is: We are merely sinners in the process of being saved.

This calls for a lot of grace. It is in Christ alone that we are supposed to have faith.

I have never stepped foot back into the church that sent me away. But I would, if they welcomed me. For I have forgiven them. Because the funny thing about forgiveness is that I need a whole lot of it. If I’m not willing to give it out, who will be willing to give it out to me?

Yet, even though I haven’t been welcomed back into the church that sent me away, many other churches have opened their arms to my family. This has brought me so much love for the body of Christ. Yes there are some hurtful people in the church… But there’s also people who have brought so much healing into my life.

There are really amazing people in the church. They are not all hypocrites! Some would give their last crust of bread to feed someone else in need. I have met people who truly open up their homes to the homeless. I’ve met people who pray for strangers as they would for their own children. I have met people who would give their entire savings to help a brother in need, without blinking an eye.

This is the church!!

I’m glad I gave her another chance. I would not have healed from my experience if I have not tried again to meet with a body of believers.

Have you been hurt by a church? Forgive and don’t write off an entire group of people based on the actions of a few. In the world we would call that prejudice. Why do we think any differently in the church?

Faith · Forgiveness · Reconcilliation

It was Never Your Grudge to Hold

There’s a family who has completely shut mine out for almost four years now.

At one time I loved them like my own family. We spent many days a week together. And then suddenly, we were shut out. Just like that. They shut us out of their lives. Out of their church. Out of their friendship circles.

Out of everything.

In fact, if I meet up with either of them, they will try to look past me as if I do not exist. If I smile and say hi anyway, they barely nod, mumbling an inaudible greeting in return and only because they know it would make them look bad to say nothing.

Why, you may ask, am I sharing this? Because of the warning their lives have become for me.

I do not know them anymore, because they have made sure that we can’t. They were once great people, godly people. They weren’t some angry, bitter souls that looked to destroy and tear others down. They were helpful people. They had a strong family and a beautiful faith. They were talented and inspiring.

Yet somewhere along the line, they have become convinced that what they perceive as wrong in our lives, is what God perceives as wrong… and that God is pleased with this grudge they continue to hold, this “godly shunning” of others.

Let me just say this: Other people’s sin is not for us to hold against them.

Ever.

God does not need us to hold on to the burden of hating others for his sake. He doesn’t need our help to convict them, to discipline them or to punish them in any way. In fact, there are very strong warnings in scripture against bitterness because that is really what bitterness is: holding other people’s sins against them, refusing to forgive. The only difference is that this has been done “for Christ’s sake” so it feels much more godly.

In some cultures this sort of zealous self-righteousness results in honor killings. A “sacrifice” to God.

Can I be so bold as to say that God takes no pleasure in honor killings? Neither does he take pleasure in grudges or in self righteous shunning. In fact there is a story where Jesus responded to this type of religiosity.

A woman was brought before him, caught red-handed in adultery. The real righteous folk, those leaders of the church, brought this woman to Jesus, trying to trap him. Smirking and desperate for bloodshed that day, they said:

“Good teacher, the law requires us to stone her. What should we do?”

Jesus bent down to write in the sand. And then he stood to say something absolutely phenomenal: “He who has no sin, cast the first stone.”

Every single person present silently walked away, one at a time. No one was worthy to cast it.

Not one.

Every single one of us has sinned. And when we judge one person’s sin as worse than ours, holding onto it, we are literally spitting on the grace that Christ has shown us. Holding onto the sins of others and feeling as if their mistakes are just somehow not worthy of the grace that God has shown us, is hypocrisy.

When Christ was being nailed to the cross, he did not say, “Father, once these vile sinners repent and realize their sin, forgive them.”

He said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Jesus did not hold on to grudges, regardless of the actions of those around him. He simply forgave and left the rest in God’s hands.

So why would we think it is our duty to live any differently?

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Matthew 7:1-2

Do I really want to hold onto another person‘s sin and take the risk that God will hold onto mine?

I’m not taking that chance.

Let it go, move on and love people deeply.

Because friends, it’s not our grudge to hold.

Faith · Forgiveness

Two Authors, Two stories, Two Perspectives

I often read books on difficult topics like the holocaust, residential schools, slavery, war and about the horrors of living under communism. Some might think that I favor books like these because I’m a person drawn to drama – focussing on the negative events in world history…or that I’m a Debbie downer, one of those extremists who always seem to have their undies in a bunch about something.

In reality, I hate drama, especially in my own life and I’m incredibly sensitive when I read about it. I have to be careful how much I allow myself to dwell on these things, because I know that it affects my mood and my day-to-day life.

What was interesting is that in the past week I read two books: one written about slavery and the other about the horrors of residential schools in Canada. Both addressed the horrendous acts of those who felt that they had “God’s right” to behave the way they did. Both books shed light on some of the most shameful behaviour done by those claiming to follow God. Both highlighted racism, extremism and abuse. And of course, my heart broke for both of the authors and the torment that they had to experience in their lives.

But that’s where my comparisons end because each book was so starkly different from the other. They were obviously written for different purposes: One was written as a path to healing and the other tried to become the victim all over again, ever trying to draw sympathy out of the reader. It got me thinking about the real difference between the two books, and not just these books, but the differences between each of the books I have read about suffering.

I realized that the majority of stories on suffering can be lumped into two categories:

1) A message of forgiveness and redemption

2) A theme of bitterness and regret

The first category is refreshing and hopeful. The writing is hard, but uplifting. The experiences dark, but the message is light.

The second category is equally dark and hard, but comes about it with a feeling of hopeless. And honestly I feel gross after reading such books.

The one book, which I will not name in respect for the author and her experiences, ended her story with these words: “Some people say I need to let go of the past and learn to forgive… I say bullshit.”

This, my friends, is the saddest, most hopeless end to a trial I can think of.

In the well written words of author Lynn Austin:

Bitterness is one of the deadliest emotions we ever feel. You can’t look forward when you’re bitter, only backwards. Thinking about what you’ve lost, stuck in the past. In the end it devours all hope.

Bitterness is a subject that I don’t like to talk about much, particularly because it is one of those “acceptable” sins where we justify our legitimacy to feel the way we do. It’s also an awkward thing to address in others as one cannot simply listen to someone sharing about a difficult experience and then joyfully say, “just forgive and forget!” That would be cruel and cold hearted! Only a person with zero empathy could respond in such a flippant way towards suffering.

But one only needs to spend a few minutes with a soul who is deeply bitter, to realize that it is the most draining, depressing and deadly things to be.

I’ve shared before about a past church and the painful rejection my family experienced there with a leadership couple, but what I didn’t share much about was that at beginning it started with the confrontation: You are bitter.

To this day, this remains one of the most painful things that has been said to me. Not because it was said of course, but because of the timing and manner in which it was said. I was going through depression, health issues, loneliness, and a lot of changes in my life at the time. We had just moved homes, churches and jobs, and we had a baby that cried constantly. I was just beginning to open up about my struggles with it all for the first time and this well-meaning confrontation caused such a devastating break of trust in my life. Because of this painful experience, I avoided even using the word “bitterness” for a long time. But the truth is, no matter how hard it is for me to talk about, it needs to be addressed!

Bitterness.

Is it a lack of forgiveness? Is it a negative outlook on life? Is it resentment towards your position in life?

I think to some degree, we all experience bitterness in different areas of our lives. Some experience it to a much larger degree than others. And some people are more easily offended than others! Whether it’s towards coworkers, or spouses, extended family or friends…

OR maybe It’s not towards people, but towards the suffering in your life, towards your situation that seems helpess…maybe even to God for putting you there!

I know I most definitely have felt bitterness. I’ve seen it too.

During the most difficult time of this conflict in the church, I met another couple who were going through a church split. I was having a hard time forgiving and processing our own experience so I felt some comfort in being able to share my struggles with this woman. However, when she began sharing her experiences and I heard the hateful words come out of her mouth: “I just wish they were dead!” I realized that forgiveness wasn’t just a good option, it was the ONLY option.

Bitterness unchecked is ugly. And it kills.

Offences committed against us and the pain that follows MUST be dealt with in a compassionate way, with much grace. The more painful the wound, the more time it needs to heal. One cannot expect to be fatally injured one day and then skip about smiling joyfully the next…such an expectation is unreasonable and unhealthy.

Forgiveness is much like taking a difficult course. At first, you may sit down and have no clue what the professor is talking about. The books don’t make sense, the assignments are daunting… but as the course goes on (provided you’ve decided to continue), you begin understanding more and more about the subject. The longer you take to study and absorb the material, the more your experience and capacity is expanded. Only after long months of lectures, homework and studies, are you ready to write the exam.

However, just stepping into the room and writing the exam on the first day would’ve never worked out! It couldn’t of been expected of you, you wouldn’t have passed! You needed time, growth, knowledge and experience.

You can pass the exam, but you need to first decide to say in the class and keep working at it!

The first step to forgiveness is simply deciding to walk that path.

At first it’s so confusing and difficult you may even doubt you’re on the right path. But as you begin learning and seeing the situation in the right perspective, the path suddenly doesn’t seem so impossible.

Yet there are always difficult days! Dark thoughts and painful feelings will come out of nowhere. This is expected. Don’t get down on yourself.

Keep walking forward, don’t look back. The secret to forgiveness and redemption is this: Don’t give up.

The moment you give up trying to forgive, is the moment you let go of the lifeline that is saving you from the deep pit of bitterness and offence.

Faith · Forgiveness · Repentance

The Day I Cursed God…And Lost My Voice

At the beginning of this year I lost my voice, for three days. The end.

If I had my way, that would be all there was to the tale. I would stop this post right here and move on. Nope God. I’m not telling them the full story. Obviously I had some sort of cold…right?

Except that I’ve never, not even once lost my voice in my entire life before this. And while my voice was gone, I didn’t have a cold or a runny nose – not even a hint of one. In fact, my throat didn’t even hurt. But my voice was gone. It was so gone that I couldn’t even make those raspy, crackling noises of a teenage boy… I could only whisper. And it hurt to whisper, so I stayed mostly silent.

Three full days to listen to others speak.  Three days to realize how many things I can accomplish without using words. Three days to think about how much I take talking for granted, how often I’ve used my voice for evil rather than good.

Three days to consider what happened the day before my silence.

The day before… was a windy one. The snow blew across our driveway in a big three foot drift. My husband had specifically done something that I had asked him not to and I was furious at him. In fact, because of my anger, I decided enough was enough, that I was going to drive away for the afternoon and leave him with the kids while I went out and did whatever I wanted for once. I grabbed my purse, stormed onto the van and backed out of my garage door only to get stuck in the drift that I hadn’t thought of looking for. Furious, that I was now trapped, I got out of the van and began to kick at the snow around my back tires….Maybe if I move forward and take a speed, I’ll make it out. So I drive forward and then hammer the van into reverse and try to barrel through the drift, but my bald, all-season tires are no match for the deep white fluff that surrounds them.

I am now a prisoner in a snow drift.

Then, oh God, no, please no! Who should peek out of the window, but the grinning face of none other than my beloved husband, who I’m so desperately trying to escape.

I feel like a child. An immature, angry, helpless child, stuck in my own mess. I beg God not to let him come out and help me. That would be too much, too embarrassing …humiliating actually. But, of course, he calls out to me from our front door already with his jacket on, beaming at me as if he’s greatly amused at my anger: “Need some help??”

I shout back that “NO, I do NOT” – but we both know I do. And he begins putting on his boots and grabbing for the shovel as angry tears pour down my face.

 I mean to pray, but what comes out of my mouth are a string of curses directed at God. How dare he humiliate me so in my anger! How dare he put me in this humble position after what was done to me! I sit sulking in my van as Ryan patiently digs me out of the snow bank. Without a word, I drive forward and park in the garage. I walk straight into the house and disappear into my room for the next couple hours, crying myself to sleep. I feel foolish when I wake up that evening, but don’t quite understand the magnitude of everything that happened until the next day when I wake up and try to speak…

Not a single sound comes out. Not one word.

At first I’m simply confused. I’ve never lost my voice before, and here, I can’t even squeak! I try again to clear my throat but this doesn’t even make a sound. Panic fills me as the harder I try to talk, the more I wonder if I will ever make another sound again! And it’s a Sunday, the day that I’m supposed to go to church and worship! How can this be?!?

Finally, to my relief, I realize that when I gently whisper, I can still make a sound. But it is only then that I realize why my voice is gone as memories of my careless, thoughtless words to an all-powerful God fill my mind. I hear a voice in my head which speaks loud and clear: “Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.” (James 3:10)

Tears immediately spring to my eyes as I realize the mercy of my all-powerful God. He could’ve struck me dead the moment I decided to speak to Him as if he were someone that was put there just to serve me. He could’ve put me in my place in fierce anger and he would’ve been fully justified in doing so.

But he chose to gently take away my voice.

He was lovingly disciplining me as a a Father would a child, not lashing out at me as an enemy, which shows me, not only can God do whatever he wants with whomever he wants, but he really does discipline for our good.

Also, He has a pretty funny sense of humour. “Fine, my angry, childish daughter, if you will speak to me that way, then no longer will you speak!”

Three days of silence does a lot to calm an angry heart and to open the ears of a child who doesn’t want to listen. It’s humbling. It got my attention.

Fast forward four months.

God’s still teaching me about my hurtful words, he’s given me so much grace, showing me and guiding me through. God really doesn’t leave us if we truly desire to walk in his ways. Next post, I want to share with you the steps he’s given me to lead me to freedom from using hurtful words. I believe these steps are a tool that can be used not just to control our tongue, but to walking in freedom from every kind of harmful habit or addiction. Until then, know this: that God is absolutely faithful…even when we are faithless. He disciplines us only because he loves us so dearly. Sit on that truth today.

He loves you and will do whatever it takes to get your attention.

Thanks for taking the time to read.

Love always,

Heather.

 

Faith · Forgiveness · Social Media

Helpful or Harmful?

If you’re on Facebook, you’ve probably seen at least one of those “helpful” lists on “what not to say if…”. And believe me, there are SO many situations for which these lists are written! A few examples: What NOT to say to someone who is grieving. What NOT to say to someone who is depressed. What NOT to say to someone who is gay. What NOT to say to a mother of four or more children. What NOT to say to someone who is unable to conceive. What NOT to say to someone who has had an abortion. What NOT to say to someone struggling with a terminal illness. What NOT to say to a homeschooler…

And can I just say for a second, that as helpful as these lists can be for those who are trying to comfort or support, or maybe even help those in the situations above… these lists actually can cause more damage than good?

Some of you, who are naturally empathetic and who naturally want to protect those around you who are hurting, may have no idea what I mean. You may even have written one of these lists yourself or shared them on your news feed, trying to protect your loved ones who have been the brunt of some very rude comments. And hear me out, because I have actually been in a few of the situations above… and those lists, they NEVER helped me…they hurt me.

How? You may ask? How in the world can some compassionate advice HURT you?

Well for one, not everyone reads these lists and so it actually doesn’t stop the comments from coming. And now, the only difference is that I have read the lists, so when the hurtful comments do come (and they will), instead of brushing them off, realizing that well-meaning people can say some thoughtless things… I begin to feel a very real sense of being wronged.

For example: I’m at the grocery store with my five kids. People stare, I don’t really pay much attention to them. But a man I don’t know stops and says: “Are these all YOUR children?!?” And I smile proudly and nod at him, then he goes on to say, “Don’t you know how to use birth control?” (This comment also comes in the form of: Don’t you know when to stop?) To which I force a smile and, depending on the mood I’m in that morning either say a quick, “I love children, they’re such a blessing!!” or a gentle, “That’s not a very nice thing to say with my children present” or once in a while a sarcastic, “You know what? I’ve never thought of that!!! You’ve just saved me from having 20 more children!!!” And once the man has left, I shrug off the event, thinking that maybe he was just “simple” or maybe he had never been taught manners, or maybe he himself had a large family and was giving me advice he had wished someone else had given him! Whatever the case, I can move on, because he has really just made himself look bad and done nothing to harm me.

BUT…after I read the list of “what not to say to a mother of four or more children” suddenly I view the event very differently. Suddenly, I feel a very real sense of, ‘that man wronged me’, or ‘my friend needs to read this article’. And I begin to believe that those who do not understand me have actually wronged me.

This opens a HUGE door to offence! If I truly begin to believe that those who do not understand me are wronging me, think of the bitterness I will begin to feel toward those well-meaning people, who really don’t know any better! And think of how many situations I would be wronging people, just for not being able to understand them!

I don’t understand how it feels to be told that I have cancer, and to feel as if I’m staring death in the face.

I don’t understand the pain of a woman who has been trying for years to get pregnant and ends up with another negative pregnancy test!

I don’t understand the unimaginable pain and aching loss of burying a child or a spouse!

I don’t understand!! And as much as I try to empathize, to listen and to comfort, I will NEVER completely understand! Not unless I’ve gone through it myself. Just like there’s no human being out there who truly understands me, and all of the trials I’ve gone through! And if we are going to start holding grudges against our fellow brothers and sisters, just because they don’t understand us, then WE are a part of the problem.

People, this isn’t about that one person going through that one painful situation, but rather many people going through many different journeys. And we absolutely can work at becoming more compassionate, but even in my most well-meaning encounters, I run the risk of hurting those I don’t understand. Should we rather distance ourselves from those different from us? Should we rather avoid talking to strangers, lest we offend them? Should we avoid that friend who was just diagnosed with depression, because we have never dealt with depression and may hurt her?

No! I would far rather have people talk to me and say the wrong things, then to not talk to me at all! That is, if I keep in mind that they really mean well and do care for me.

So maybe that man at the grocery store has no idea how to relate to large families, but maybe he has stage four cancer and would be an excellent comfort to those facing that difficult road. Who am I to demand that he understand absolutely everyone? And if I am rude to him back and embarrass him for talking to a stranger, will I actually be holding him back from speaking to the next person who he may have actually brought comfort to? This is not to say we can never correct people, or to gently let them know that what they’ve said is hurtful. Not at all! I want to know if I’ve unknowingly said something to hurt you, so that I can learn to be a better comfort the next time.

But if you’re going through a trial, the best thing to do is to completely avoid any lists that enable you to be offended at the very people trying to help you. You don’t need to add bitterness or unforgiveness to the hardship you are facing!

Just forgive, gently correct those who say the wrong things and remember above all to realize that those lists, they aren’t for YOU, the one who’s hurting… they are for YOU, the one who’s helping.

Faith · Forgiveness · Poetry

Guilty as Charged

The Accuser paces in front of the room, he clears his throat, his opponent will now face his doom!

“Your Honour,” he begins his eloquent speech, “I’m here because the man sitting before you is guilty. I’ll prove it, it’s true! He’s unfit to live, if only you knew! His face shows his guilt, though his mouth’s full of lies, his thoughts are impure; his life you’d despise! Deep in his heart there are anger and malice within: He complains about work, so ungrateful he is! He talks behind backs, he even yells at his kids! He’s lazy and gluttonous, you can see by his size. He is greedy and hoards his wealth, just look at all he buys! He is full of deceit, and his motives are selfish within! I wonder if he has even one thought that’s not linked to sin. Yes, he does do some good, but clearly those motives are laced with pride, not humility, it’s just to keep people on his side! Even his good acts are filthy and grim! What else is there to say? He should be ripped apart, limb by limb!!!”

“Is this true?” asks the Judge, looking at the Accused. The old man’s eyes stare hard at the floor, never daring to lift, gives a slight nod and no more. He doesn’t dare say a word! His shoulders, they sag with the weight of  the world. His face full of pain, his soul sad and withdrawn. He stands before the judge, guilty as charged.

The Judge raises his gavel high up in the air, “I sentence this man to life put away. He’s hopeless, he’s lost…locked up he will stay…” But before the order is finished, a loud cry is heard!

“Please wait Your Honour! Let me say a word!”

The Judge looks up, surprised: “Who dares defend this man, after all he has done? You dare represent him…this dark, filthy one?”

A Man with Authority steps out from the back. As they see who he is, the people all gasp! Surely this man wouldn’t defend! He’s so highly respected, the Man coming forth, this Man – he was faultless! Set apart! Right from birth! The Man known as Defender, not a mistake to his name! Surely he shouldn’t take sides with this man put to shame.

The Defender slowly walks to the front and lovingly speaks, “This man,” he begins, “is not at all like you speak.”

Then he turns on the slideshow of the pieces He saw, the broken man weeping and reaching for God. The heart always soft to do what he was told, his hands helping the sick…he cared for the old! Slide after slide was shown of the man giving his wealth, when not a single soul saw, of him telling the truth, though it cost him his job! He showed the man blessing those who had cursed, he showed this man praying for those who had treated him the worst!

“But wait!” yelled the Accuser! “What about those things I have said, they can’t be denied! That old man’s good as dead!”

The Defender spoke up, “You know they are true as well as I, but you also know well for those sins I have died! I paid for them fully, how dare you bring up those moments again! My blood was poured out, I made him new right there and THEN! This new man you see, is not who you accused. This poor man, he is mine and he must be let loose!”

The Judge thoughtfully nodded, then softly he spoke: “Then the price has been paid, let him go. Set him free!”

The old man, once accused jumped up, shouting with glee! For he deserved death, but the Defender paid the fee!

Faith · Forgiveness

Living Free from Offense

A couple days ago I got an email from an old friend. There were a lot of painful and hurtful things in it, a lot of assumptions about me based on gossip they’d heard, or people they’ve talked to.

It stung. It more than stung. I wept. I wept and wept and wept because I realized they were completely set on finding all the bad in me and pointing it out, just to prove a point.

And I realized that I could:

a) Write back and pick them apart the way they had done to me.

b) Write back and defend myself.

c) Go tell everyone about this person and how unfairly I had been treated.

or d) Forgive and pray for them.

I am SO thankful that I’ve been reading “The Bait of Satan” by John Bevere, or I probably would’ve chosen the first three options and left the last one out. Fortunately for me, God had already known that this was going to happen, and led me to this book on forgiveness just two days prior to this situation.

If you haven’t read it, GO GET THAT BOOK AND READ IT! It is amazing!!! It gives biblical examples of people who had been seriously wronged like Joseph, or David (looking at their trials make mine seem rather pathetic) but it points out how we need to forgive and forgive and FORGIVE. Even those who seemingly ruin our lives (like Joseph’s brothers) or who hate us and seem to be out to get us (like King Saul) or those who will never say sorry.

One of my favorite quotes in the book says: “Absolutely No man, women, child or devil can ever get you out of the will of God. There is only one person who can do this and that is YOU! If you lay hold of this truth, it will set you free.”

People can do a lot to us. They can abuse us, hurt us, they can wrongfully judge us, they can turn others against us, they can lie to us and about us…but you know what? They can’t get us out of God’s will for our lives. They just can’t! However, if we become enslaved to bitterness and offense against them WE can ruin God’s perfect will for our lives.

Take David for example. If he had become bitter at King Saul, a crazy, demonic man driven to kill him although he had done nothing wrong, he would’ve killed him the first chance he got! He could’ve EASILY justified it too, saying that God delivered Saul into his hands. He could’ve told himself that he was avenging all the innocent priests Saul had murdered. But you know what? He didn’t. He refused to lift his hand against God’s anointed leader! I believe this is one of the reasons that God chose David to be king.

How did he do this? He realized the one simple truth that is so easy to forget: God is a good Father. It is his place to avenge and his alone.

It is not our job to carry out justice against those who have wronged us, it’s God’s. David trusted that God would make things right, even though it was YEARS before God carried out his judgement against King Saul. And in the end, David could’ve cheered that his moment had come!

But he didn’t. He mourned for King Saul as one would mourn for a Father, he showed kindness to his grandson and let him eat at his table like one of his sons. Now THAT is a heart free from offence.

This is who I want to be.

Jesus, when faced with horrible accusations which were totally untrue, stayed silent. He didn’t defend himself EVER. Not a word. Why?

Because he knew who he was!

When we recognize who we are in Christ, we don’t need to defend who we are. We don’t need to fight for our rights. We don’t need to respond to those who accuse us because the devil, who loves to accuse, actually feeds on this.

We can boldly say ‘God I know these words are not from you. Your words bring life! These words speak death.’ The difference? John Bevere put it so perfectly:

“When the Spirit of God show us our sins, He always does it in such a way that it seems separate from us. This brings conviction, not condemnation.”

Oh brother or sister, have you been hurt? I bleed with you! Have you been wounded by those dearest to you? I understand. Yet let us not fall into the trap of satan. Let us not listen to his condemning words against us nor his words that encourage us to feel victimized! Instead let us be like those who have gone before us and forgive. Like Joseph who said, “It was not you, but God who sent me here ahead of you!” Let us believe that He is great enough to work through our suffering! He loves us FAR too much to let us go through our painful trials for nothing.

He is a good, good Father.

 

 

 

Faith · Forgiveness · Freedom · Prayer · Reconcilliation

The Very Best Thing

I realize that I’ve had quite a few heavy posts lately and that usually reflects that I’ve had a hard month. It really had its ups and downs. But today I’m feeling truly blessed!

On Sunday, I went Prayer Summit at my church. If you’ve never hear of it, basically it’s a huge prayer meeting. I’m sure there are well over a thousand people attending from many different countries, languages, and denominations. I was just overjoyed to be a part of so many people worshipping together. And it’s times like those that I really get a different perspective.

I’m sure that if we had all come to search for something we disagreed on, we’d find as many opinions as there were people in the room. But we weren’t there to focus on those things. We were there because we agreed on ONE thing. The very best thing: Jesus. And the love that flows when we focus on worshipping Jesus together is unlike anything else.

Too often the body of Christ is so consumed trying to figure out how to all agree on everything that we really forget how much we have in common. Jesus! Our Hope, Our Life, Our Saviour, Our Righteousness, Our intercessor, Our friend!

And yet there’s this struggle among believers for unity. And I truly believe it’s because we talk too much and don’t worship enough! How can I tear down, gossip about, judge my fellow brothers and sisters if my eyes are on Christ? How dare I focus on the negative things in the very people Christ DIED for?!? How dare we fight over foolish controversies and ideas?!?

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking about ignoring or turning a blind eye to evil and injustice…but really, how easily am I willing to tear down a brother or sister in Christ?  Over political views? Over child rearing? Over fitness or eating habits? Over a wrong attitude they may have? I shamefully admit that all too often, I’ve been quick to point out the flaws in other people. But why? Why do we insist on turning on each other, rather than walking beside each other in humble love? Why do we insist on always being right? Why do we continue to think the worst of others? Should we not rather in holy fear focus our own imperfections and give others the benefit of the doubt? How often do we actually see what’s going on in their hearts anyway?

And here’s something remarkable: When we come together to worship, we suddenly don’t feel like those little things matter anymore. It is here we come and find peace. It is here we come to be made whole.

What is it about worship that binds us together? Why do I look over beside me and see a complete stranger worshiping and feel like I’m beside family?

When we worship it is actually an expression of our reverence for God. And when we stand before a Holy God it complete awe, suddenly we can’t help but begin to feel very small. So far are we all from God’s perfection that all our sins are comparatively equal. And then looking at this perfect Jesus, who lavished his great love on us, dying for us and continues to care for our needs so tenderly everyday, how can we say I’m not willing to love my brother? And it’s here where our differences don’t seem to be all that important any longer: All made in his image, all dearly loved by God.

And he says: “This is my command to you, that you love one another.” He doesn’t say just to love those nice to us, those who look like us, those who agree with us, those who smell nice, or who are fun to be around. Love one another. I’m pretty sure that means everybody.

And with all the hate in the world today, it’s especially important that we don’t follow those patterns. Please dear brothers and sisters, we have so many opportunities everyday to speak life or death to each other. Choose love.

There’s a song I used to sing in church. I wonder what would happen if we stopped just saying the words and started living them:

We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord
We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord
And we pray that our unity will one day be restored
And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love
Yeah they’ll know we are Christians by our love

“If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.” -Jesus Christ

 

Depression · Faith · Forgiveness · Freedom · Prayer

Finding Joy in Hardships

Joy is easy…when times are good. But what about those darkest of times… those days, weeks, months or  even years where you find that everything you dreamed of comes crashing in?

These past few years have been the hardest years of my life.

Now if you know my story, that’s probably a bit hard to believe. But what about your teenage pregnancy?? What about the loneliness of losing all of your high school friends as they went on with their lives without you? What about the months you watched your son suffering in the hospital, wondering if he was going to live to see his first birthday? What about the time where your spouse lost his job and you had no idea how you were going to feed the three young babies depending on you? Harder than those days? Yes. A hundred times…yes.

It hasn’t been the outward kind of hard, where everyone can see what’s going on and rushes in to help. Our health is great, our finances have been good, our marriage is doing well. These are things we so often take for granted until they’re gone. Losing a loved one, failing health, money struggles, or having a rough marriage bring very dark times as well. But these aren’t the type of hardships I’ve faced this past year.

I was quite suddenly faced with a totally unexpected confrontation, during a very difficult season of my life. This brought about a dark feeling of rejection that I can’t, try as I may, find the words to explain. Maybe it’s hard to explain because I’m not free to tell the whole story… just vague little pieces to protect those involved. I think only those who have felt so hurtfully accused, deeply rejected and so utterly confused as to WHY, could fully understand what I’m talking about. But the hardest thing wasn’t that it happened…it’s that was happening for over a year. For months, I went to bed almost every night with my pillow soaked in tears, wondering if I would ever again lie down with peace in my heart. And for the most part, I carried these burdens alone – desperate to talk to someone, anyone who would listen…but my heart was torn because it involved those I loved SO dearly, so I kept silent.

My life, to the very core, was being shaken. At one point I truly believed that I had lost the favour of God on my life. I began to do everything I thought I could do to win his favour back. I tried so hard to admit all my faults, to confess and confess and confess, to not be defensive, to take the blame, to restore the peace…and through it all, I began to let go of something very important; my joy.

My joy was gone. Somewhere along the way, my eyes had turned from looking at Jesus and I began to focus on the problem. Like Peter among the waves, I had stepped out of the boat in full confidence; only to lose sight of the fact that I was never meant to walk on water…I was simply supposed to look at Jesus. When I realized this, healing could begin.

Here I was faced with one of the most difficult questions to ask during a trial: How can something like joy be found again…even if your circumstances haven’t changed?

The first step was to recognize the devil’s lies. I realized that I can’t do works to earn God’s favour. Period. God’s children receive his favour as they look to him. And when we have our eyes on him, he loves to pour out his favour.

I also had to let go of the way I wanted things to turn out. I felt that if I just did my very best, if I prayed hard enough…then God would make things better. As it turns out, God never promises to make the road easy or better. He does promise to work everything for the good of those who love him. And I needed to trust this promise. As soon as I was free from focusing on my problem, I could fully turn my attention to pleasing God.  Then and only then, could I follow the steps HE wanted me to take.

The final piece in my journey to rediscovering joy was found in the book of Philippians. If you haven’t read it before, or even if it’s been a while, read it. It’s a true gem. Here is a book written by a man almost 2000 years ago, who had been through so many trials. At the time he wrote it, Paul was in prison, facing a very lonely future, a trial which could’ve led to his death, and hearing of people against him actually preaching – all while he sits under house arrest. Despite all this, the letter is one of the most joyful and thankful books of the bible. Instead of complaining about the negatives events that surround his current circumstances he chooses to see the positive side of things. He also shares two secrets about finding joy and peace that I began to cling to:

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace…” Philippians 4:6-7

Pray. That much I had done. Telling God what I need. Check! Thank him. Thank him! Thankfulness is part of the secret to having the peace of God in your heart. And I began to thank God, even in my pain. Declaring his goodness out loud is SO POWERFUL! As I began to thank God, day after day, I slowly started to see some good things that had come out of my situation. And then, the final secret to joy:

“…I have learnt the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:12-13

I can have joy because he gives me strength.  

This realization, that God wasn’t just watching me suffer from the sidelines – but actively walking through the fire with me and holding me up, brought me great joy! Every painful moment, he was there. Every night I cried, he was holding me. And in my weakness he is beside me, giving me strength. I am not alone. Now that is a reason to have great joy!

“In your presence is fullness of joy, at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11