How to Discern God’s Will

We daily face decisions — big and small. Should we wait or go? Which direction should we take? Can we even discern God’s will for our lives?

We’ve all asked these questions at one time or another. Have you ever wished handwriting would appear on the wall to remove all doubt? I have! God usually chooses more subtle means to answer us, however. He desires that we clearly sense His direction and move within the epicentre of His blessing.

Paul encourages the new believers in Rome with these words:

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
Romans 12:2

I find a few significant details here:

  1. The world cannot offer the answers we need.
  2. We should seek spiritual transformation and a renewed mind.
  3. We can discern, “test and approve,” God’s will.
  4. God’s will for us is perfect!

Be Transformed

Rather than offer a few gentle suggestions, Paul commands his listeners to change mindsets and heart attitudes — “do not conform … be transformed!” Bombardment by culturally and politically motivated thinking has become our daily norm. It infiltrates our schools, blasts through media, and asserts itself through authoritative voices.

However, the world’s views differ greatly from God’s all-knowing perspective. We choose whether to flow along the broad stream of cultural thought or look within the pages of God’s inspired Word, the Bible, for needed answers.

“Transformed” comes from the same Greek word we translate metamorphasis — the transition of a caterpillar into a butterfly. I call the process of spiritual transformation the “messy middle” between salvation and Heaven. It is the real living out of our daily lives.

Transformation requires changed patterns of living which are every bit as radical as a caterpillar’s crawling on the ground one week and the butterfly’s effortless wafting between flowers the next.

Transformational renewing comes through time spent reading and meditating on the Bible, seeking God in prayer, and trusting in the Holy Spirit’s guidance.

Test and Approve

As we look to God in these ways, we will discover the answer to many of our questions have already been clearly written for us. Other things aren’t quite so evident, however. How do we test and approve God’s will when there is no chapter and verse answers available?

I’ve found these three basic questions helpful:

First, “Is this God’s plan?” The source of inspiration will either come from ourselves, the enemy trying to lead us off course, or God directing us into His perfect will. If any aspect contradicts Scripture, we confidently know it isn’t God’s plan. God seeks to advance and promote His people, but if we sense a push for money over people, or the desire for self-glory rather than God being glorified, we again have the assurance it isn’t God’s plan.

Second, “Is this God’s plan for me?” Maybe, we tested the idea and proved it to be God’s good plan, but is it God’s plan for me? He actually might desire someone else to fulfill His plan, even though we earnestly want to step into it. It may even feel like a perfect fit for us. Yet if we lack the internal peace to proceed, God might be intending someone else to fulfill it.

Finally, “Is this God’s plan for now?” Maybe, the hesitation we sense comes from God, holding us back until we are better equipped or other circumstances are strategically moved into place. Other times, we recognize a window of opportunity opening for a brief period of time, requiring an immediate, “Yes, Lord!” on our part.

The “not now” feeling has always been the hardest for me to wrangle with. When I sense God’s leading, I want to run with it. Testing and approving God’s plan also includes evaluating the timing.

Beautiful, Satisfying, and Perfect

As we discern God’s will, we discover His wonderful plans for us. The Passion Translation records Romans 12:2 like this:

Stop imitating the ideals and opinions of the culture around you, but be inwardly transformed by the Holy Spirit through a total reformation of how you think. This will empower you to discern God’s will as you live a beautiful life, satisfying and perfect in his eyes.”

The power to discern God’s will leads to a “beautiful life, satisfying and perfect in His eyes.” Wow! Isn’t that what we all long for?

God doesn’t promise painfree ease. His plans for us include something more beautiful, more satisfying, and more perfect than we can imagine. As we consistently endeavor to discern God’s will, we will experience these qualities in ever increasing measure.

Discern God’s Will

Am I being inwardly “transformed by the Holy Spirit?” Have I experienced a “total reformation” of thinking? Am I developing an increased ability to discern God’s will for my life? How about you?

Let us commit together to daily read and meditate on God’s Word, being transformed in our thinking and renewed in our minds. May we resolve to allow the Holy Spirit to influence our viewpoints, while revealing the motivations of our hearts.

As we face decisions may we honestly answer three simple questions:

  1. Is this God’s plan?
  2. Is this God’s plan for me?
  3. Is this God’s plan for now?

When we discern God’s will, may we all have the boldness to step into His beautiful, satisfying, and perfect will. Bless you as you continue on your adventure to discern, test, and approve His perfectly perfect will!

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Speak the Truth in Christ

When Paul wrote to the churches in Rome, he said, “I speak the truth in Christ.” Do I, like Paul, speak the truth in Christ? If not, what am I speaking? Do my words reflect an accurate or a warped perception of reality?

“I speak the truth in Christ — I am not lying, my conscience confirms it through the Holy Spirit.”
Romans 9:1

The Holy Spirit works through a tender conscience to bring personal revelation about the matter. How are my words misaligned with the truth found in Christ?

As I read that little phrase this morning in Romans, I paused and mediated upon every word. “I . . . speak . . . the truth . . . in Christ.” I’m not sure if the Holy Spirit halts you like He does me, but this morning was just such a day.

I couldn’t help but ask, “Do I?” The honest answer came, “Not always!”

The writer of Proverbs refused to be silent about the influence of our words. “The mouth of a righteous man is a well of life (10:11),” and “the tongue of the wise is health (12:18).” Then 16:24 says, “Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the bones.”

God clearly desires us to understand that our words contain the hidden potential to bring life and healing.

Powerful Words

Many seniors occupy the condo where we live. Often their conversation turns to physical alignments plaguing their aging bodies. Although I try to add light to the conversation, they will often return to negative banter.

In talking about our attitude, John Hopkins say,

“What is clear, however, is that there is definitely a strong link between “positivity” and health. Additional studies have found that a positive attitude improves outcomes and life satisfaction across a spectrum of conditions — including traumatic brain injury, stroke, and brain tumors.”

I recently read about a heart specialist who refuses to perform surgeries on patients with a negative attitude, saying, “Too many die during the procedure.”

Can words influence our health? Studies show that negative words release catabolic hormones into our bodies that proceed to actually break the physical body down. On the other hand, positive words release anabolic hormones which help to heal and rejuvenate our bodies.

God affirms in the Bible what science is recently discovering.

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue.”
Proverbs 18:21

Power is the word yad, meaning “in the hand of” or “under the direction of.”

Words of Life

When we speak the truth in Christ, we literally speak words of life over not just our physical bodies, but over destinies as well. It remains critical to our health, both physically and spiritually, to agree with what God says about us?

Is God saying, “You can!” while we mutter, “I can’t, it’s too hard, or that’s impossible?” Is God saying, “You are able!” while we protest, expounding on our inadequacies?”

I find the quickest way to steer the words of mouth into truth is through declarations of God’s Word. Let me use Romans 6 as an example. Paul reminds us that since we have been united with Christ in both His death and His resurrection we are now free from the confines of the past and free to confidently approach our future. He uses the symbolism of baptism to illustrate his point.

With my words, I declare this living reality.

“What shall I say then? Shall I go on sinning so that grace may increase? Absolutely not! Because of baptism I have died to sin in every way and can no longer live according to the patterns of my past. Every old way of thinking, speaking, and reacting has been buried with Him in baptism. I don’t have to eat that, smoke that, think that, say that, or do that old thing anymore. Christ has set me free, totally free, through His death and resurrection!!!
I am united with Christ in His resurrection — no longer a slave to or controlled by sin, but alive to everything that brings life, healing, and hope. My destiny and future is determined by Him alone. Because I am united with Christ, He makes all things possible for me. I have come to obey from my heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed my allegiance. I have been set free from every destructive way and become a bondservant of righteousness. Righteousness reigns within every part of my thinking and behavior. I am alive, forever alive, in Christ!”

I encourage you to read the whole chapter to understand the full message. As you read it out loud, speak it over your life, your family, and your situation. There is nothing magical as we form God’s Word into personal declaration, but something extremely significant occurs as we align our thoughts with His, and speak the truth in Christ.

Accountability

I can’t tell you how often, I have prayed with someone for healing and watched them receive a significant touch from the Lord. Even before they leave, however, negative patterns of speaking begin to undermine what God has radically done for them.

“It comes and goes, you know. Maybe it isn’t God’s will to heal me.” Through words of doubt, they keep the door open for sickness and disease to continue to harass them.

Other times, people receive a healing with thanksgiving and joy. They declare the things God has done with those around them. Their words align with God’s and their healing is secured as they speak the truth in Christ.

God has placed people in my life who hold me accountable by what I say. If I slip into degrading self-talk, usually jokingly, they call me on it. When I set my direction to accomplish a goal, they follow my progress and prod me on if necessary. If I’m attempting to overcome a problem, they make sure I see it through to completion. Accountability also keeps me from speaking careless words.

“I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak.”
Matthew 12:36

Careless come from the Greek word argos meaning “inactive, unemployed, useless, barren, nonworking, and unprofitable.” Argos represents the opposite of speaking the truth in Christ.

Speak the Truth in Christ

As we speak the truth in Christ our words become action-packed, employing the power of God, useful for His purposes, reproducing godly fruit, working God’s intention within and around us, and profitable for the expansion of His Kingdom.

Just as careless or idle words destroy, God-inspired words build.

Tim Sheets, in his book Planting the Heavens (page 159), says,

” . . . God wants to give us the desires of our heart, but it’s our responsibility to steer our lives toward that desire with our words.”

Jesus repeated the words of Scripture found in Deuteronomy when He said,

” . . . Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”
Matthew 4:4

As we speak the truth in Christ, we align ourselves with “every word that comes from the mouth of God.” God’s desire and our heart’s desire come together, steering our lives with God-breathed words.

God-Breathed Words

This is a continual process as we endeavour to match our words with His. Whether our vocabulary needs a minor tweek or a major overhaul, let’s continue to speak the truth in Christ. God alone knows what transformational change might await us as we do.

“May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.”
Psalm 19:14

“God fill our mouths with words agreeing with Your words of declaration over us, our families, and our communities. May Holy Spirit guide our use of words so that we may live with clear consciences before You. We desire to speak life-given, kingdom-advancing words. Anoint our tongues as mouthpieces for Your glory and praise. Amen.”

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Jesus Christ, The Source of All Hope

Without hope the human soul withers and dies. The Source of all hope waits with open arms, whispering to the faint and weary, “Come to Me.” The need for hope rivals the basic necessities for food, water, and shelter.

These last few years have drained so many people of aspirations, expections, and ambitions. A loss of confidence in once reliable systems of government, justice, education, and medicine has created a deep void in many people’s lives. Hope has become a rare commodity for a vast segment of our population. The things once believed possible now appear as a cruel mirage.

We have all faced significant losses. Loved ones have gone through the portal of death, businesses have collapsed, and deep divisions have formed within families. The societal cost cannot be overstated.

We have learned again that confidence placed in anything or anyone other than Jesus Christ will produce disappointment and discouragement. He alone is the Source of all hope.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Romans 15:13

I have overcome the crushing feelings of hopelessness and despair. For many years, they were my constant companions of gloom. Not any more!

Lost Hope

Recently, someone commented on a post I had written a few years ago. He felt the suffocating reality of hopelessness. On the verge of ending his life, God led him to read the words within the post that pointed Him to faith in Christ. As a result, he prayed, accepting Jesus as His Lord and Savior, and turned his life over to God. The hopelessness lifted as he found his Source of all hope in Jesus.

This morning, another young man contacted me. A short time ago, he too received Jesus as Savior, but he has gradually turned back to old and harmful ways of living and thinking. The hope he once felt has become distant and illusive. God is shining His light on this young man’s path and calling him to return. Both the choice and the consequences of his choice are his.

A long time ago, I too experienced enough of God’s love and grace to embrace it. Yet, the overwhelming circumstances of life and the nagging voices of shame seemed too strong to endure. I too turned from God, attempting to find another way. The choice of going my way led to decades of depression, suicidal thoughts, and deep spiritual darkness.

“May your unfailing love be with us, LORD, even as we put our hope in you.”
Psalm 33:22

The moment I turned back to God, surrendering completely to Him, His light broke through the fog of despair. He will do the same for you.

Healing Hope

As we turn our lives over to Jesus Christ, the Source of all hope, aspirations, expections, and ambitions become re-centered around and in Him. Renewed hope becomes an unshakable anchor that holds fast through even the most difficult life circumstances.

May Holy Spirit open our eyes wide to know this hope!

“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people.”
Ephesians 1:18

The road to hopelessness turns steeply into an abyss. The path out usually takes time, effort, and grace. While there may be an instantaneous and supernatural lightening of grief and despair, at the same time persevering faith will bring us fully through.

Path of Hope

For me, and many others, strategic steps propel us to solid ground where renewed joy and anticipation reign.

” ‘The LORD is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I hope in Him!’ “
Lamentations 3:24

  1. Consistent prayer, Bible reading, and mediation — There is no substitute for a healthy, vibrant, personal relationship with Jesus Christ, as we talk with Him and He talks with us.
  2. Supportive Christian community — The potential to thrive exists within a body of believers where honest, open relationships develop. Healthy churches produce healthy people, growing in faith through discipleship training and prayer support.
  3. Forgiveness toward others and the relinquishing of judgment — Past wounds heal only through forgiveness. As we forgive we will also be able to abandon any thoughts of judging those who have hurt us.
  4. Practice humility — Pride will continually hold us in shame and guilt. As we humbly acknowledge our needs before God and other believers, we gain freedom. The supportive structures within church community help us overcome.
  5. Serve — Even those new in their faith will reap the benefits of volunteering in the local church. Others need us as much as we need them. Through acts of service we develop strong mutual friendships, grow in areas of gifting, and become a vital part of a faith community.

Each one of these steps may initially appear overwhelming, but one at a time, little-by-little, they empower us, enabling us to believe and hope again.

Always Hope

With Jesus, hope always wins.

“But those who wait for the LORD [who expect, look for, and hope in Him] will gain new strength and renew their power; they will lift up their wings[and rise up close to God] like eagles [rising toward the sun]. They will run and not become weary (and) walk and not grow tired.”
Isaiah 40:31 AMP

At first, the truth of this verse may sound like a far reach. The more we allow it to seep into our spirit, the more it becomes our practical experience. Today, God extends renewed strength and promise to us. In Him, broken wings are mended, becoming strong enough to soar. Weariness falls away and faint hearts find courage to hope again.

Whether the loss of hope originated through broken relationships, addictive behaviors, financial pressures or any other cause, Jesus is the Source of renewed hope. In every area, He brings us to victory.

I pray that today a fresh wind of hope sweeps into your soul, dissipating every lie of the enemy that speaks contrary to God’s truth. May you hear the whisper of God calling you to Himself. It is not too late. You haven’t roamed to far from Him. His good plans for you haven’t changed.

” ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’ ”
Jeremiah 29:11

Jesus Christ, the Source of all hope, holds a future filled with hope for you. May God give you the courage to reach out and receive it.

Blessings, my friend.

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Shake Off Shame and Walk Free

Shake Off Shame

Whenever we experience failure, shame and pride attempt to cover. God offers the only sure way to shake off shame, allowing us to walk free.

Three times in the last few weeks, I have been confronted by hidden shame. We may attempt to hide areas of shame in a thousand different ways, but it will insistently peak through cracks in our facade. Often we don’t even recognized the root, but the desire to conceal any area of our lives reveals shame as the underlying source — a source resulting either from my failures or the failures of others.

Whenever I am asked to share my testimony, feelings of shame inevitably rise. The root may spring from my foolish or even sinful decisions. Other shame originated in the violations others perpretrated. After intentionaly seeking repentance, and receiving, as well as extending forgiveness, I live relatively free. Yet, faint shrouds of shame still haunts, causing frustration. Why?

Fear not, for you will not be put to shame, And do not feel humilated, for you will not be disgraced, But you will forget the shame of your youth, And the reproach of your widowhood you will remember no more.”
Isaiah 54:4

This verse offers hope! In it Isaiah connects four integral components: fear, shame, humiliation, and disgrace.

Fear

King David faultered and fell in a huge way. First through committing adultery and then, out of fear of being discovered, he murdered an innocent man. Shame will lead anyone, even a righteous king, down a path they otherwise would never have gone. Afterward, shame always seeks a place to hide.

Jon Bloom describes the deadly combination of pride and shame well. As if shame didn’t carry enough of a burden, it frequently partners with pride. Rather than expose ourselves to shame, pride convinces us to bury it in all the wrong places.

Paul beautifully wrote,

“But we have renounced the things hidden because of shame, not walking in craftiness or adulterating the word of God, but by the manifestation of truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.”
2 Corinthians 4:2

David eventually renounced his hidden sin, which wasn’t as hidden as he hoped. When he openly confessed it all to God and others, he received the ability to shake off shame and walk free of his past.

Shame

Dictionaries define shame as a painful emotion caused by consciousness of guilt, shortcoming, or impropriety. It carries strong regret and reproach.

King David’s shame resulted from his own sin. Often the most intense shame we feel comes by the misconduct of others, through disrespect or violation through words and deed. Shame-filled people often shame those around them as a means of covering their own condition.

“Instead of your shame you will have a double portion, And instead of humiliation they will shout for joy over their portion. Therefore they will possess a double portion in their land. Everlasting joy will be theirs.”
Isaiah 61:7

What a beautiful promise! Those who have experienced abuse or misuse will receive a double portion. Get ready! God is about to give double for the trouble others have caused. He will bring honor, praise, respect, and esteem to you in double the measure for wrongs inflicted upon you. As we resist proud coverups and walk humbly, God will bring you blessing.

Because sin resides both in and around us, shame may subtly come to cloak us. Either consciously or subconsciously, we begin to align ourselves with the accuser in self-condemnation.

“Behold, I am going to deal at that time with all your oppressors. I will save the lame and gather the outcast. And I will turn their shame into praise and renown in all the earth.”
Zehaniah 3:19

The woman who suffered from bleeding for twelve long years, secretly attempted to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment. Cultural humiliation of her condition drove her low. Jesus healed her, reversing the shame unjustly placed on her.

I honestly believe the weak and broken will maintain a higher position in heaven, receiving eternal rewards to compensate for the misplaced humiliation and shame they endured here on earth.

Disgrace

Disgrace refers to a loss of reputation and respect. God reverses the plight through His unprecedented and unmerited grace. Any degradation, discredit, or dishonor experienced, He removes, replacing it by with His grace.

Instead of hiding behind pride, expensive clothes, educational titles, successful businesses, lofty positions, or glass pulpits, God invites us to the only sufficient hiding place, Jesus Christ. As long as we choose to cower behind bitterness, resentment, sarcasim, or insecurity, we will remain prisoners of shame. To shake off shame and walk free, we follow the humble road to Christ.

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”
1 John 1:9

Here is the catch! We may have memorized hundreds of Bible verses, sought God’s forgiveness, and liberally forgiven others without finding freedom from shame. The residue of shame may continue to limit our ability to move forward.

A Spiritual Issue

As much as shame roots itself in human behavior, it contains a spiritual dimension. When we choose to take a stand and say, “No more!” shame must go.

“But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: ‘God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.’ Submit yoursleves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”
James 4:6-7

Here’s the real deal! We may have humbly approached God, honestly confessing our sins and the violations of others. If so, we have received His beautiful grace, and submitted to a new way of thinking and living. One last, most crucial step remains — resist the devil.

In my instance, to shake off shame and walk free, I had to verbally declare,

“Devil, you no longer have the right or authority to hold shame over me. Jesus Christ has taken care of it all. His double-portion promise of honor, praise, respect and esteem now belongs to me. So get lost! Get out! In the mighty name of Jesus, I command all shame to leave. You are no longer welcome in my heart, mind, or soul.”

Honestly, with the verbal renouncing of shame, I “felt” a new sense of freedom, and God enabled me to finally shake off shame. Praise His Name!

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Easter Part 2— Cleansing, Healing, And Restoration

At Easter, we celebrate the power of the blood of Jesus to align humanity with God’s intentions, bringing cleansing, healing and restoration. Since the original rebellion and turning away from God, all of us are bent in a similar direction. The corruption of our nature ebbs deep.

If ever we question God’s love for us, we need only look to the cross for the answer. The Father provided everything for our cleansing, healing and restoration through Jesus. Jesus gave everything for us through His blood.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
John 3:16

To restore humanity’s brokenness and renew their relationship with the Father, Jesus only needed to die — the innocent for the guilty. But Jesus went all the way, to the very last drop, to redeem us and purchase back everything the enemy had stolen.

Healing

People misunderstand Jesus as much today as they misunderstood Him over 2000 years ago. Isaiah hundreds of years before that wrote these compelling lines:

“Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought
us peace was on him
and by his wounds we are healed.”
Isaiah 53:4-5

He suffered a brutal beating, standing in the gap for our pain, suffering, transgressions, iniquities, sickness, and diseases. Transgressions define the outward sins we commit, both knowingly and unknowingly. Iniquities form the under currents — the twisted and evil thoughts, attitudes, and intentions of our hearts.

After the resurrection of Jesus, Peter quotes Isaiah, changing the wording slightly to declare,

“‘He himself bore our sins’ in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; ‘by his wounds you have been healed.'”
1 Peter 2:24

It is finished! Sins forgiven. The guilty made righteous. Healing imparted to souls and body. Complete!

Cleansing

As the hammer descended, violently driving the nails through Jesus’ hands and feet, cleansing blood flowed and seeped into the dusty ground.

From the time of the first deadly assault between Cain and his brother, Abel, the blood of violence has been crying from the earth, appealing to heaven for justice and reconciliation.

“No, in your heart you devise injustice,
and your hands mete our violence on the earth.”
Psalm 58:2

Bloodshed shadows every nation and all peoples. No race or tribe rightly claims exemption. We all need the cleansing that only Jesus blood provides. His blood heals the earth contaminated by cruel assaults, one against another.

Ana Mendez Ferrell articulates it well:

“From this blood we obtain triumph over iniquity, over sin, over the twisted, crocked way of our footsteps. This blood opens the way of righteousness, restoring the paths of our destiny. It opens roads to carry the Gospel where there is no path or any way to get there.”

Through Jesus, we all receive cleansing from past agression (by us and against us), allowing hands to embrace others in love and feet to walk faithfully in God’s ways.

Restoration

Even after Jesus’ death, one last affliction caused a life-giving flow to be released on our behalf.

” . . . one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear bringing a sudden flow of blood and water.”
John 19:34

“Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God, this is the one who came by water and blood — Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood . . .” 1 John 5:5-6

The Israelites, on their wilderness journey, felt their lives ebbing away as their water supply disappeared. They cried out to Moses for help. Then he cried out to God. God commanded Moses to strike a rock, and when he did, water gushed out. Water enough to sustain millions of people and their livestock.

The smitten rock in the wilderness was Jesus.

“They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.”
1 Corinthians 10:3-4

Later, when the people were in a similar situation, Moses struck the rock again instead of speaking to it as God instructed. God gave them water, but it cost Moses His destiny. In the same way, Jesus only had to die once for all! No other sacrifices are needed.

It may have been a soldier’s spear that pierced Jesus, but God released through Jesus’ body the blood and water that brings life — true life, daily life, eternal life — to us all! That life still flows, following us through our desert situations.

Celebrate

This Easter as we celebrate the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, may we thank Him again for His blood. May we appreciate, with renewed understanding, the cleansing, healing, and restoration found in Him alone.

No other ingredient or action removes the dreadful stain. No other Name heals our dis-ease and twisted motivations. Human decrees and laws prove powerless and feeble to unite and restore. As the old hymn writer, Robert Lowry, penned, “Nothing but the blood of Jesus.”

But God! God, through Jesus Christ, secured it all! Praise be His Name forever!

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A Correction Line: Correction and Discipline

God offers a correction line to bring both correction and discipline into our lives, realigning us to His intentions for us, while progressively bringing us to perfection.

Yesterday, I left home early for an appointment, allowing ample time to drop a package off for a friend who lived in the country. I thought I remembered the approximate distance and appropriate landmarks for each necessary turn. Perhaps my energetic off-tune singing and enthusiastic enjoyment of the open landscape influenced my obvious lack of concentration. Nonetheless, I soon entered unfamiliar territory. When I crossed the correction line, I knew I had missed the turning point and was heading further and further away from my intended destination.

You might ask, “What is a correction line?”

Simply put, a correction line marks the places where a north-south grid road jogs to correct for the northward convergence of meridians. In other words, they indicate minor corrections in direction to ensure a traveller always heads due north or south. If our world formed a perfect cube, rather than a sphere, such corrections would be unnecessary.

Correction LIne

I hope you see the parallel to where I’m leading with this blog. I want my life directed to the true spiritual north, focused and heading toward the heart and purposes of God. Often, however, I sway off course (sometimes slightly, sometimes severely) and need realignment. Thankfully, God offers just that. Unfortunately, it usually comes through His correction line called discipline.

A Sign of Love

May there be no misunderstanding; I never purposely seek His correction. Nonetheless, God’s discipline clearly demonstrates His love for me and all those who He identifies as His children.

“My child, don’t reject the LORD’s discipline, and don’t be upset when he corrects you. For the LORD corrects those he loves, just as a father corrects a child in whom he delights.”
Proverbs 3:11,12

I often find it difficult to accept His discipline. It absolutely upsets me to realize how far from His ways I so easily wander. Afterward, I usually understand more clearly.

Of all the ways God reveals His love, I discover it most profound through the path of correction. I realize the graciousness of His love as I experience His discipline offered without shame or harshness. He corrects with a gentle invitation to adjust my course and realign myself with His heart and ways.

Road through Fog

Without God’s correction, I would continue aimlessly down a path dangerous to me and others. His correction line alerts me to my internal blind spots, resetting my course.

Rewards of Correction

God’s Word reveals the benefits of correction. First, it brings holiness, causing one to become more like the Heavenly Father. Second, it produces peacefulness in our lives — a peacefulness both internal and external, both with God and others.

“For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness. No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening — it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.”
Hebrews 12:10-11

Some of the hardest lessons I’ve learned came through the painful road of discipline. Yet, beyond a doubt, lessons learned well and solidified in my life. God intends our ears to be willingly open to His continuous instruction, avoiding the more difficult path of later, more public, correction by others.

Country Road

All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.”
2 Timothy 3:16

The Greek word for correct used in Timothy also means “to set right again or to make straight — specifically to correct moral posture.”1 The Holy Spirit desires to activate His Word within us. He longs to be the Driver at the steering wheel constantly correcting the vehicle of our life down the highway of progressive growth and development — imperceptibly shifting and compensating to avoid our drifting toward the hazardous ditches of complacency and arrogance.

God Invites

The gentle whisper of God leading me through and around several correction lines continues to fill this current transitional season. For a few weeks, we were “homeless.” Shacked up in a hotel with every rhythm, normalcy, and busyness of life silently stripped away, I found myself uncomfortably face to face with nothing but God. Not visibly, but remarkably tangible. Prayer, Bible study, listening and waiting in His Presence occupied the majority of my days.

Repeatedly, He revealed hidden areas of off-centered thinking, misplaced motivation, hard-hearted attitudes, and self-centered agendas. He pointed out each ugly deformity with stunning clarity, but without condemnation. He simply invited me to see as He sees.

Though God can and will allow painful infliction and punishment to realign His loved ones, He chooses first to draw us with loving-awareness of our errors. Only when we refuse to listen will He then come with greater and greater force. He offers the choice to either listen and respond to His correction or to persist along a dangerous path.

Most people, including me, would consider my spiritual life stable and healthy. God leads us beyond comfortable stability to genuine and pure — to the more!

The church in Ephesus perhaps held the noted position of being one of the strongest New Testament churches. Yet, Paul wrote,

“I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.”
Ephesians 1:17-19

Bends in Road

Supernaturally, God reveals hidden motivations. He leads through His correction line with wisdom, revelation, and enlightenment to His better way. Through discipline, the “eyes of my heart” open, leaving me amazed how I could miss something so obviously off-course in my life.

Embrace Correction

I struggle to fully rest in God’s Presence, receiving both encouragement and correction. But oh, my friend, what benefits result! May we each embrace whatever God reveals and offers to us.

“But consider the joy of those corrected by God! Do not despise the discipline of the Almighty when you sin.”
Job 5:17

As I encounter correction lines along the grid roads surrounding our city, I automatically reduce my speed, proceeding with confidence knowing I am heading in the right direction. Correction lines give me the assurance I’m traveling due north and release the freedom to enjoy the journey. This holds true of both my country drives and spiritual walk.

Each correction presents an opportunity to either welcome or reject His discipline. Joy accompanies the knowledge that God has better things ahead for those who yield to His leading.

Open Road

Whenever I allow God’s correction, I find Him nearer than I thought, more loving than I imagined, more gentle than I perceived, more holy, inviting, merciful, awesome, wondrous, and amazing than I hoped. Will you follow me through the open country of God’s gracious discipline, rejoicing in His great love and goodness through correction?

(1. The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament: p. 613)

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“I Forgive You” — Forgiven and Free

Forgiven And Free

No other words eliminate guilt and shame as well as these, “I forgive you.” Undeserved and unmerited, they come. Forgiven and free, we leave. The cost of forgiveness always runs heavy. The one wounded carries both the wound and weight. Yet, by God’s immeasurable grace, the one who forgives gains the most and receives the best.

Whether “Please forgive me” or “I forgive you,” I’ve hesitated too long to utter these necessary words on both sides of offense. I’ve stuttered and stammered, delayed and doubted, justified and judged.

I’m not alone!

The rich reward of freedom flows only through forgiveness. Isaiah watched his people perform unlimited religious duties and ceremonies with excellence while ignoring compassionate care for others. God rebuked them sharply for it.

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?”
Isaiah 58:6

None of us need to look far to witness injustice, yokes, and oppression. How do we — in this generation — respond better than they and previous generations to similar issues? How do we move compassionately with love toward those around us? May I suggest that forgiveness plays a strategic role.

Dog Tied

Injustice

My dictionary defines injustice as “an absence of justice, violation of right or of the rights of another, and unfairness.” It also defines justice as “the maintenance or administration of what is just, impartial, or fair; to treat fairly and adequately; to show due appreciation for; the establishment or determination of rights according to the rules of law or equity.”

Truthfully, everyone faces injustice — some minor, some extreme.

God doesn’t mince words,

“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
Micah 6:8

What does God mean by “loose the chains of injustice” or as another version puts it, “to break the chains of wickedness?” The Hebrew word for chains means “bond, pain, or torment, referring to unjust, wicked bonds usually indicating social, economic, or political oppression.” How do abusive cycles break — cycles where the rich dominate the poor, the strong intimidate the weak, and people emphasize differences and ignore similarities?

Tiger in Zoo

Jesus showed us. He came low and stayed low.

Humility

” . . . he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross!”
Philippians 2:7,8

Forgiveness follows the low road that leads to the high way. Jesus never needed to be forgiven, but forgave us all. Jesus, worthy of honor, dignity, and praise, came only to serve. He thought of us, putting us first before His own needs or desires.

Forgiveness is the highest form of servanthood. Forgiveness bridges the widest gaps, breaks through the strongest chains, and levels the field of injustice. But it requires humility.

Undoubtedly, the unbearable chains of your past exceed mine. However, even some of mine have been difficult to overcome, including molestation and rape. Perpetrators rarely seek forgiveness, but when the abused offer it (even if only before God) chains break — for real, for good, for always.

The greatest injustice in history occurred at the cross where the holy Son of God died for wicked humanity. Yet from that cross, He prayed,

“Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’ . . . “
Luke 23:34

Ever since, chains break and people experience freedom.

Untie the Cords

The Hebrew word for untie contains two separate meanings. The first is “to jump, leap, or startle, describing a rapid rush forward that startles or shocks.” The second meaning encompasses “setting free, loosing, releasing, and letting something go.” To “untie the cords of the yoke” requires decisive action, both a moving forward and a letting go of the past.

Yoke

Owners place yokes on horses, mules, or oxen to pull heavy loads. It is the owner, not the animal of burden, who also removes the yoke. Isaiah states clearly our responsibility to remove yokes worn by others, placed there by whoever, and kept there for whatever reason. Action is needed!

Perhaps nothing startles the kingdom of darkness as much as the words, “Please, forgive me.” Nothing rattles the enemy so deeply as, “I forgive you.” That one radical choice to forgive looses offense, keeps accounts short, and removes unbearable, even generational, yokes.

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
Ephesians 4:32

If all my offenses lay exposed and visible before others, how ugly and disturbing they would prove to be — thoughts I’ve thought, attitudes I’ve carried, and sins I’ve committed. But God!!! But God forgives even me, releasing me from them all.

In the same way, He calls me to forgive — to forgive the grotesque, forgive the unjust, forgive the vindictive, and forgive the defiling. He both asks and gives the ability to do what He commands. Through forgiving others, I instantly become forgiven and free. In one shocking, startling undoing, I’m set free! Yokes break! Cords sever.

Set the Oppressed Free

The word oppressed means more than I thought. It means “to crack in pieces.” Are you willing to see the cracked remnants of humanity? Am I? They live close to us. They walk beside us. The broken bundle themselves behind busy facades, glossy exteriors and fake smiles. They are here. And there. Everywhere.

Often our own brokenness overwhelms us, incapacitating us from releasing others. As we begin to live as those forgiven and free, we gain the tools to free others. Until we forgive, we remain slavesvictims of the crimes of our assailants. Only through forgiveness does healing flow and gates fling open.

Bird in Cage

Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”
Colossians 3:13-14

What grievance do you carry? What bitterness clouds your wounded heart? May I encourage you today, set yourself free by freeing others through forgiveness. Open the cage of oppression, so that healing may enter and every broken place be restored.

Forgiven and Free

God has graciously led me into many areas of ministry. None brings me greater joy than to walk people through the steps of forgiveness. Yes, there are steps! The most effective steps I’ve found come from Neil Anderson’s The Steps to Freedom in Christ.

  • Forgiveness is a decision of the will. As long as we refuse to forgive, we remain “hooked” to that person, bound to the past, and held by bitterness. Until we willingly forgive, that person maintains the power to continue hurting us.
  • Forgiveness agrees to live with the consequences of another’s sin. The sins of others affect us all. Will it be through the bondage of bitterness or the freedom of forgiveness?
  • To forgive must be genuine — from the heart. We must truthfully acknowledge the pain we feel, without diminishing or excusing it. God heals from the inside out as we honestly face the pain others have caused us.
  • Forgiveness chooses to not hold someone else’s sin against him, her, or them. God does not tolerate sin. Neither should we. In forgiveness, we release others to God. He will deal with them. Through forgiveness, we take a stand against sin by exercising God’s grace.
  • Forgive before you feel like forgiving. Emotion will follow action.
“We don’t heal in order to forgive; we forgive in order to heal.”
– Neil T. Anderson
Halter Cow

“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.'”
Matthew 18:21-22

We live forgiven and free by forgiving quickly and continuously, without keeping score or counting the times.

A Prayer

Here is a sample prayer to assist you as you continue your process of forgiveness. Don’t rush! Take your time to feel the pain, acknowledge the disappointment, and face the consequences you have endured because of another person’s hurtful and destructive decisions. Then surrender it to God. He is the only one strong enough to bear the burden.

“Dear Heavenly Father, I choose to forgive __________ for __________, because it made me feel __________. Lord Jesus, I choose not to hold on to my resentment. I relinquish my right to seek revenge and ask you to heal my damaged emotions. Thank You for setting me free from the bondage of my bitterness. I now ask You to bless those who have hurt me. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.”

If this is a struggle for you, please contact Freedom in Christ Ministries in your area. Someone will walk with you as you process these steps. My desire is for everyone to walk forgiven and free, with chains of injustice loosed, yokes untied and broken, and the oppressed free forever.

Bless you on your forgiveness journey.

Forgiven and Free

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A Samaritan Woman — A Lifetime of Rejection

A lLifetime of Rejection

What makes Jesus’ visit with a Samaritan woman so significant? What personal lessons may we glean from her encounter with Jesus? Why is she given so much space in John’s writings?

As you can see, many questions fill my mind. This nameless woman intrigues me. Why Jesus intentionally met her alone intrigues me even more. Let’s begin at the beginning of the story.

“So (Jesus) left Judea and went back once more to Galilee. Now he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.”
John 4:3-6

John sets the stage for us. Ancient, well-trodden paths made broad circles around Samaria. The road though Samaria was perhaps the least travelled route between Judea and Galilee. Yet Jesus deliberately went through Samaria. Tired from the journey, Jesus found momentary relief and solace, waiting alone beside Jacob’s well.

Well

History tells us that Jacob’s well was situated on a plot of ground he purchased and “pitched his tent” on. He made an altar there, calling it El Elohe Israel, The Mighty God of Israel (Genesis 33:20). The names Israel and Jacob were synonymous with each other. Jacob experienced a deeply personal encounter with God on this patch of ground generations earlier.

Rejected People

When Jacob came full circle, tired of running, deceiving, tricking, and stealing, he also came to the end of himself. After years of fighting God and those around him, at the end of all self-effort, He encountered the beginning of God. Here he dug a well. Here he found refreshing. And it was here near a place called Sychar, meaning “end,” that two weary souls met. One weary from His day’s travel; another weary from a lifetime of rejection.

Jews hated Samaritans; Samaritans reciprocated the feeling. Samaritans, a mixed breed of people, worshiped a blend of gods and God. Though they considered themselves genetically connected with Jews, generational rejection ran deep currents of pain and angst through the people. Samaritans, like other mixed races assigned equally derogatory names, lived isolated among themselves. Accepted by none. Rejected by all.

Samaritans believed in the God of the Pentateuch — the first five books of the Bible. It gave them a correct but limited view of God. Considered “unclean,” the Jews denied Samaritans access to worship at the temple in Jerusalem. Consequently, they worshiped on Mount Gerizim.

Water Well

“The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.”
John 4:9

Rejected Woman

Usually, women congregated at the well during the cool evening. Together they walked, and worked, and enjoyed each other’s company.

The Samaritan woman came alone — a rejected woman within a rejected people. She, like Jacob, knew pain, struggle, and defeat. Married five times and now living in an adulterous relationship, she carried the deep marks of a lifetime of rejection — past failure, present shame, and a hopeless future. For this woman, Jesus “had to go through Samaria!” For this woman, Jesus came “tired as he was from the journey.”

Here at Sychar, the end, she met El Elohe, The Mighty God, in His Son, Jesus Christ. In the privacy of their one-on-one meeting, He refused to skirt around her pain or ignore her reality.

Stone well

” . . . Jesus said to her, ‘You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”
John 4:17-18

Rather than the familiar stabbing of accusation, she sees and feels and knows there is something different about this Man. But what is it? She probes further, responding with pointed, hard-hitting, and even confrontational questions.

Hope Again

Jesus ignores her sharp-edged response. He offers her the living water of fresh truth — truth that frees, truth that heals, and truth that sustains.

“Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”
John 4:23-24

John tells us in the very next chapter,

” . . . ‘Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.”
John 5:19

Because the Father seeks true worshipers, the Son “had to go through Samaria.” Even in her limited understanding, the Samaritan woman believed. She believed the Messiah, called Christ, would come. He would answer the questions of her heart and her people. And here He stood saying, “Worship happens within us not in a building or on a mountain.”

Fountain

“Then Jesus declared, ‘I, the one speaking to you — I am he.’ “
John 4:26

Jews considered any man talking with any woman (not in his family) in a public setting highly unconventional. Even Jesus’ disciples wanted to question His reasoning for talking with someone they despised. I, too, wonder why Jesus revealed His identity to this rejected woman before anyone else. Astounding!

“Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, ‘What do you want?’ or ‘Why are you talking with her?’ “
John 4:27

One Encounter

That one encounter caused the woman to run back to town, shouting

” ‘Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?’ ”
John 4:29

The town’s people listened to the least and lowest among them. They listened and responded, coming in droves to see Jesus for themselves. That one encounter with Jesus changed the Samaritan woman’s life forever. Her outlook changed. Her countenance changed. How she viewed the critics and criticism changed. And then change came to her whole community.

We have all faced rejection and criticism. Rejection leaves its jagged effects deep within us, waiting for the next time, the next slight, the next jab, the next dismissal, the next exclusion . . .

Studies reveal people relive social pain more vividly than physical pain. Our brains register a broken spirit as intensely as a broken limb.

Water Fountain

I’ve given birth to five sons. As much as I try, it is impossible for me to remember the pain of childbirth. How I responded to physical pain remains in my memory bank, but the actual pain does not. Yet, if I allow myself to think of deep moments of rejection, emotional pain immediately breaks to the surface, forcing fresh tears to spill forth. The need for inclusion, to be welcomed and valued, ranks high in our God-given priorities.

Jesus saw in the Samaritan woman a true worshiper — a woman worth reclaiming, redeeming, and restoring. One encounter with Jesus changed everything!

“Come, See a Man”

How are you doing today? I’m serious. Can you relate to the Samaritan woman more deeply than perhaps you thought? Has the pain of rejection cut deep swathes in your soul? Are you sitting in a personal “Sychar” — the end of hope, the end of trying to fit into someone else’s mold, the end of struggling to be valued for who you are?

Maybe, like this woman, you believe in the Messiah called the Christ, but you long for a similar life-changing encounter. Perhaps, you grew up in the church and know more Bible stories than most scholars, but you’ve never met Jesus in a personal life-transforming way. I welcome you to come to the well today. Allow Him give you a drink of “living water.”

Water Fountain

Many times, I’ve come to “Jacob’s well” — bringing unhealed wounds, unreconcilable disappointments, unanswered questions, and unresolved issues. Often, I “pitch my tent” staying in His Presence, until my soul is renewed and peace restored.

“Come, see a man!” Come, see Jesus. He will prove Himself to be for you what He showed Himself to be for the Samaritan woman, for Jacob, for me, and innumerable others, El Elohe, The Mighty God. Though others reject, He never will.

Come! Come, see a man!

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5 Steps to Navigate the Path of Forgiveness

5 Steps to Navigate Forgiveness

All of us have experienced rejection, betrayal and offense in some manner. Walking through the process of forgiveness occurs step by step. To navigate the path of forgiveness, we intentionally take several difficult but rewarding steps. From time to time, we must revisit these godly principles, ensuring freedom from the lingering residue which otherwise may hinder our Christian progress.

Success, on so many levels, depends on our ability and faithfulness to conquer the treacherous terrain of forgiveness. Forgive, in Hebrew, means to “absolve” or “release fully.” It first appears near the end of the first book in the Bible.

” . . . I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly.’ Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father.”
Genesis 50:17

Joseph spent fifteen long years in prison and slavery, being harshly and unjustly treated, because of his brother’s jealousy and anger. Separated from family and alone in a foreign land, Joseph had plenty of time and reason to harbor bitter resentment against them. But he didn’t! Now, at the death of their father, they only vaguely confess, stating their father wanted Joseph to forgive them.

Steps to Forgivenss

The Hebrew word, שָׂ֣א (śā), also means “to lift, bear up, carry, and endure.” Rarely do people openly apologize. Usually, dealing with offenses occurs in seclusion — a yielding to God the wrongs done to us by others.

The Unforgiving Servant

Jesus’ disciple, Peter, asked Jesus,

” . . . Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”
Matthew 18:21

By the standards of any day, Peter might seem extravagantly generous to forgive someone so many times. We, like Peter, often feel there must be some kind of limit to forgiveness. Jesus clearly explains that grace goes much further.

” . . . I tell you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.”
Matthew 18:22

In reality, Jesus said, “Seventy times seven times!” In other words, “Don’t count! Just forgive!” He used the opportunity to explain forgiveness more fully through a now familiar story about two men — one willing to forgive and the other unwilling. A servant owed his master the equivalent of twenty years of wages. (Before deducting living expenses!) Of course, he had no way of repaying his debt. The Master mercifully forgave the entire amount.

We encounter five key steps on the road to forgiveness. These godly principles endure through all circumstances, generations, and cultures.

Step #1 Desire

The Master in Jesus’ parable was no ordinary master. This Master, the King of Heaven, the One we have all insulted, betrayed, and violated, approached the indebted servant, wanting to settle the outstanding debt.

“Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants.”
Matthew 18:23

The first step in forgiveness requires a searching of our own hearts and intentions. Do we legitimately desire to forgive? Are we willing to “carry or endure” the pain of offense, even if the offender has no desire to resolve the issue.

Climbing

Neil Anderson often reinforces the truth, that forgiveness is a decision, or crisis, of the will. It begins with a decision within us. Forgiveness never implies that the offence doesn’t matter or gives room for continued disregard for another’s wellbeing. In forgiving, we acknowledge fully the depth of the offence and the pain we have endured.

Both the Master and the servant were clear about the extent of the harm, but forgiveness involves mercy.

Step #2 Mercy

In the parable, the deceived servant believed he could somehow reconcile the debt. The King knew the impossibility of his claims. Whether the offenses done against us are small or great, no human effort repairs the damage. In forgiving, we recognize that reconciliation is not always possible, or favorable.

The servant’s master took pity on him, cancelled the debt and let him go.”
Matthew 18:27

Mercy requires NOT giving someone what they deserve.

Instinctively, when someone wrongs us, we choose either to retreat or retaliate. We desire to either withdraw, avoiding further injury, or fight back, giving them a bit of what they’ve handed out to others. Jesus calls us to a different approach; He calls us to compassion.

The Greek word used for “pity” means “compassion in an absolute sense — feeling deeply for another based on emotion rather than on intellect or reason.”

Climbing Mountain

Talk about a massive boulder plopped in the middle of the path to forgiveness. Not only does Jesus call us to forgive, He calls us to a deep level of compassion for our offender.

While serving on guard duty, I have to position my heart free from critical judgments over the incarcerated. I see them at their worst. I watch over them during extreme times of crisis and intervention. Only God fully knows the twisted paths that have brought each one to this place.

Forgiveness doesn’t ignore or deny someone’s cruel behavior. It acknowledges the painful consequences we endure from their actions.

Forgiveness reaches across the chasm of personal pain to empathize with another, facing the blunt force of that pain head on. It looks the offender in the eye and says, “Despite what you have done, I forgive you. I no longer consider you indebted to me.”

Step #3 Revoking

In the same verse, Jesus tells us that the king “canceled the debt.” Can you imagine forgiving someone for twenty years of continued indebtedness, twenty years of insult and injury, twenty years of negligence and abuse? Some who are reading this relate all too well. The offense against you may span much longer — years have flowed into decades.

In this step, the sheer rock face of personal pain impedes our movement. To press through requires nothing less than the grace of God.

We know our offender owes us —
        owes us apology
                owes us restitution
                        owes us recognition of what they’ve done.

I wish every offender, including me, would quickly see their error, apologize, and make restoration. Unfortunately, few seldom do.

Team Work

Only by writing “PAID IN FULL” across the bill of their indebtedness will we overcome and conquer, moving toward full forgiveness, restoration, and personal freedom.

God called Job to forgive his friends, who turned into harsh critics.

” . . . My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer and not deal with you according to your folly . . . After Job had prayed for his friends, the LORD restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before . . . The LORD blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part.”
Job 42:8,10,12

Praying for our offenders provides the strength and wisdom to take the step of revoking the wrongs done against us. Through prayer, we release our assailants to God. Then, and only then, can God freely restore blessing to us.

Step #4 Let Him Go!

In practical terms, “letting him go” means refusing to dwell on the situation any longer. When I allow myself to regurgitate past offenses, I become stuck on the plateau of self-pity.

The plateau of pity appears quite pleasant — honestly, way too comfortable. No risky routes around boulders. No knuckle-whitening grips up granite cliffs. Parking in the pleasurable place of pity perhaps presents the greatest peril.

The Peril of Parking

The longer I park, the better it feels, the more self-righteous I believe I am, and the more critical I become of others. Pity deceives and lures.

Interesting how the right kind of pity, a compassion for others, sets our grand course. Yet, this misdirected pity and self-seeking gratification keeps us from reaching the destination of forgiveness.

“Letting him go” releases not just him, but us! It sets us free from being held back by the poor behavior of others, releasing us to reach the pinnacle of our destiny and purpose.

“But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
Matthew 6:15

Parking in pity is a luxury none can afford!

There is one more point Jesus makes in the parable.

Step #5 Release Judgment

God judges justly! When we master the narrow path of forgiveness, extending mercy and compassion, considering another’s debts “PAID IN FULL,” and releasing our offenders completely from their wrong, God still holds them accountable.

Forgiveness never belittles or denies the incredible pain of offense. Only through the act of forgiving comes the power to walk free from it. Earthly powers lack ability. Even monetary recompense fails to satisfy. Only through the cross of Jesus Christ does justice reign.

Forgive as You Have Been Forgiven

Jesus paid for every offense on the cross, We measure the weight of sin on faulty human scales. Sin is sin to God. Only He sees the full picture. Only He judges justly.

“The LORD arises to contend
And stands to judge the people.”
Isaiah 3:13

As we listen to the voice of Jesus, leaning into His heart, and choosing the path of forgiveness, we will find He is with us, guarding our steps. With Him, we will overcome every obstacle, reaching the high place of forgiveness, where someday we will view all things from the Kingdom of Heaven perspective.

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Overcome Spiritual Fatigue: Minister Out of the Overflow

Overcome Spiritual Fatigue

These last few months have been a sometimes-up-sometimes-down battle to overcome spiritual fatigue. It’s a battle I’m winning! Sensing the pressures, first emotionally and then physically, I realized too slowly the true intensity of the battles I was facing.

God desires that we minster out of the overflow of the Spirit, rather than a dry well of exhaustion. Recently, I knew I was due for a personal inventory check. It was time for me to lean into God’s promise through Isaiah.

“He gives strength to the weary and
increases the power of the weak.”
Isaiah 40:29

At times, we all become weary and weak. However, when fatigue lingers, becoming constant and limiting, we are wise to take heed and evaluate the cause.

Fatigue

“As a father has compassion on his children,
so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;
for he knows how we are formed,
he remembers that we are dust.”
Psalm 103:13-14

Dust is the humbling, present reality of these bodies we occupy.

Taking Inventory

My first step to overcome spiritual fatigue began with this basic inventory check:

  • healthy diet
  • adequate sleep
  • routine exercise

It sounds far too practical, but these daily consistencies are critical for overall health and vitality. Any lack in these areas seriously affects my ability to function and reach my potential. Unhealthy cravings, irritability or lethargy often trace back to imbalance in one of these three elements.

Lethargy

Jesus set such a wonderful example in caring for His disciples. When they were hungry, He provided food. He often drew them away from the demanding crowds for much needed rest.

“Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’ “
Mark 6:31

A healthy diet goes far beyond food. What am I filling my mind with? Am I pacifying, or medicating, an important need with a cheap substitute?

What about rest? Am I getting adequate sleep and guarding a “Sabbath” rest? (This has honestly been a struggle for me!) Exodus 31:17 tells us that God, who never runs low on energy, “rested and was refreshed” on the Sabbath. How much more important for us? Recreation gives God time to re-create and re-fresh us. Having fun is seriously important for stress packed lives.

Sometimes, to overcome spiritual fatigue, we must begin by taking care of physical and emotional needs.

The Problem

Because much of the work I do involves people in critically disturbing situations, it often drains my energy reserve and leaves me feeling fatigued. Some of what I witness is extremely dehumanizing. Ultimately, behind the scenes of each one of these lives lurks spiritual entities, attempting to “steal, kill and destroy” people whom Jesus loves deeply.

Sleep

Regardless of the situations which are making withdrawals from our inner reserve, God’s promise remains,

” ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest, Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.’ ”
Matthew 11:28-30

Just reading these words offers insight and breathing space. Whenever I’m feeling “weary and burdened” and the “yoke” weighs heavy, I know I’m carrying something God willingly offers to relieve me of. Only He possesses the strength and power to carry the weight of human oppression, injustice and indignity.

“Come to me,” Jesus invites.

The Solution

Don’t discard God’s solution as overly practical. “Come!”

Do you know Jesus Christ? Are you living in personal relationship with Him? Great!

“. . . He saved us through the washing of rebirth
and renewal by the Holy Spirit.”
Titus 3:5

The renewal by the Holy Spirit is ours. Not just a onetime, special, salvation offer, but a continual opportunity to come to Him for a redo!

Tired

The solution to overcome spiritual fatigue also appears simple and practical. In coming, we:

  • spend time with Him daily in prayer, Bible reading and meditating on His Word
  • pursue a heart attitude of worship, quietly or expressively
  • adopt praise, being thankful to God in the midst of all situations and struggles

“Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles: they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not faint.”
Isaiah 40:30-31

When you’re feeling more than a little fatigued and stumble, don’t panic. For those who “hope in the Lord,” it is a temporary condition.

Sit at Jesus’ feet, receiving and being filled anew with His Spirit, He will renew your strength. Just like exhaustion came gradually, often restoring takes process as well. Come! Drink deep from His reserve — drink again and again.

Resting

Overcome Spiritual Fatigue

To overcome spiritual fatigue might require one more step — identify unnecessary hindrances.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith . . .”
Hebrews 12:1-2

I’ve been asking God to examine my heart to expose any unresolved issues of unforgiveness, bitterness, critical judgements, selfishness or pride. Yours may be different, but these are often my tangle points. God clearly says the responsibility to “throw off” these weights belongs to us.

After this last step, the flow into our lives through Holy Spirit runs pure and strong. As we identify the problems and develop solutions to overcome spiritual fatigue, the overflow comes clear and constant.

Horse sleeping

How much better and more fulfilling to minister out of the overflow of Holy Spirit, rather than from the stagnant sludge of spiritual fatigue. Through these practical steps, God’s renewing and revitalizing pours through us and from us to others.

I hope my brief progress report on how to overcome spiritual fatigue encourages you. My dad would say, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Whether we’re needing prevention or a cure, an ounce or a pound, God is able. Come!

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