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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Beauty of Boundaries: Fences of Protection

As a teenager, I failed to see the beauty of boundaries, repeatedly pushing against any restriction my parents or teachers established. I bear the scars to prove it!

Every outstanding leader honors and recognizes the indisputable importance of parameters on their leadership and with those they lead. Loving parents establish appropriate lines of protection around their children. These fences — sometimes visible, often invisible — keep what is harmful at bay while provided the greatest liberty.

Jesus trained world-changing leaders to follow behind Him. We witness His boundary-establishing techniques at the beginning of their ministry experiences.

Authority

“Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.”
Matthew 10:1

I may have been born in the wrong generation, on the wrong continent, of the wrong gender to take part in the exploits of this group, but my heart cries, “My too!” I long to see a day when hospital wards completely empty, with every disease and sickness brought down. I’m not alone in praying for God to remove the deceptive and deadly claws of the enemy from those we deeply love and care.

“Yes, Lord! Grant us the same authority!”

The Greek word exesti, translated here as authority, means “privilege, force, capacity, competency, freedom, mastery, or delegated influence.” We consider authority to mean the power to give orders, make decisions, or enforce obedience in others. Biblical authority contains a broader meaning within the beauty of boundaries — boundaries, Jesus clearly articulated.

Do Not Go

“These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: ‘Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans.”
Matthew 10:5

Do you see it? Immediately, Jesus set the parameter of their movement. Jesus never conferred authority upon His disciples as a blank cheque to be executed wherever or however they desired.

Power and authority, like intoxicating wine, changes people. Usually to their detriment! But with proper boundaries, that same power and authority becomes mighty in the hands of ordinary men and women.

Multitudes in need awaited the disciples throughout the vast territory before them. The magnitude of the mission, without the beauty of boundaries Jesus established, might otherwise have overwhelmed them. If they or we over-extend ourselves, the immensity of the task incapacitates us, rendering us ineffective.

Jesus scaled back their focus to one people group in one specific area. Within that parameter, they possessed the authority of Christ to function liberally, bringing healing and freedom to those they encountered.

Go

When they clearly understood the “Don’t go!” Jesus then released them to “Go!”

Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel.”
Matthew 10:6

Galilee embodied as much multiculturalism as any nation today. God loves each one completely and uniquely.

As a former farmer/rancher, I understand only a fragment of the heart of the Good Shepherd here. If I noticed an animal from a neighbor’s herd in need, I quickly contacted the neighbor and offered help. But if one of my own animals fell into danger, became ill, or went missing, I immediately amped all efforts. The care and concern for my herd far exceeded that for my neighbor’s.

Jesus, the Great Shepherd, desired to minister first to His sheep, “the lost sheep of Israel.” Lost sheep encounter many deadly dangers. Time is of the essence!

As You Go

Jesus gave not only a “do not go” and a “go” instruction, but He also added important details to an “as you do” directive.

“As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.”
Matthew 10:7-8

First, He called them to present the message and purpose of their authority clearly! God desires that everything we say and do points others to the “kingdom of heaven.” Jesus gave the disciples authority to point the lost sheep homeward to the waiting arms of the loving Father.

Second, supernatural signs and wonders emphasized and validated the message. God had been calling His sheep home for decades. They had grown deaf to His voice. Jesus knew meeting human need through miracles would have dramatic effect, awakening them to their deeper spiritual needs.

Beauty of Boundaries

When we stop resisting the fences of protection and provision God establishes, we discover the true beauty of boundaries. It has taken me far too long, but I’m realizing that the more I respect and honor the boundaries God has placed around my life, the more empowered I become to declare His grace.

God’s impartation of authority continues through all generations. God still moves with divine power, healing the sick, casting out demons, and even raising the dead through the submitted hearts and hands of those who intentionally walk within His boundaries.

Freely, they live among us, declaring God’s love and grace. Liberally, they move with supernatural power and authority. Those who hunger and thirst for the things of God are being filled, empowered, and sent out.

Weekly, I hear people witness to God’s healing and deliverance in their lives.

“The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places, surely I have a delightful inheritance.”
Psalm 16:6

“Lord, forgive us for resisting your parameters of influence. Turn our hearts in surrender to your ways. Release in and through your faithful followers divine authority and power to speak and move within the beauty of boundaries, as Your instruments of healing, redemption, and deliverance. Let it be!
Amen.”

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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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Recipient of Good News: Time for a Good Report

Good News

Have you been the recipient of good news recently? Are you looking forward to, and hoping for, a good report? Perhaps, we all are!

Not all news has been positive, but, over the years, we’ve experienced many excellent reports: the births of healthy babies; a cancer free diagnosis; an impossible healing verified; grandchildren successfully completing a task or excelling in an endeavor; a promotion or new position granted; financial provision just in time. So much to be thankful for.

Exotic Bird

Yet, we’ve dealt with heart-breaking reports as well: brain cancer; spinal injury; creditors calling before paychecks come through; addictions; divorce; and more. Whether the report announces good news or difficult times, we press close to God, knowing He holds us and everything else in His hands.

Good News for a Nation

As I was reading the historical account of Israel’s exodus from Egypt, I couldn’t help but wonder how they responded to such good news. “God is coming to rescue you!”

Were they in disbelief? Did they celebrate?

“The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God. God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob. So God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them.”
Exodus 2:23-25

Over four hundred years previous, their ancestors honored and worshipped God. Now, generations later, their descendents knew nothing of God. Though they forgot God, God remembered them; He knew them and longed to see them set free.

Bird in Cage

“The LORD said, ‘I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them . . .’ “
Exodus: 3:7-8

Consider, for a moment, their bondage to cruel dictatorship and alienation from God. Though they cried in misery, they had drifted so far from God that they didn’t even know how to cry to Him.

Perfect Timing

Only those who experience it comprehend the weight of slavery, the cold-blooded murder of infants, and inhumane conduct of cruel taskmasters.

God heard! Through Moses, He came to rescue. That’s good news. With signs, wonder and miracles, He pulled one nation from another in a single day — not just any day, but the exact day of God’s choosing.

“Now the length of time the Israelite people lived in Egypt was 430 years. At the end of the 430 years, to the very day, all the LORD’s divisions left Egypt. Because the LORD kept vigil that night to bring them out of Egypt. . .”
Exodus 12:40-42

Though God lives outside of time, present in eternity past while present in eternity future, He has a perfect time for His people, both Israel and us. That’s good news!

Another Deliverance

God’s deliverance of His people from bondage marked the high point of the nation. What could possibly compare?

During another brutal season of captivity for Israel, Jeremiah declared an even greater deliverance.

‘The days are coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘when I will raise up from David’s line a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land. In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. This is the name by which he will be called: The LORD Our Righteous Savior.”
Jeremiah 23:5-6

Hummingbird

Jeremiah is speaking of another deliverance for Israel that will make the exodus from Egypt pale in comparison — the greatest deliverance of all time.

He points all eyes, not just to the end of seventy years of captivity in Babylon, but to King Jesus, who would save forever Jews and Gentiles from the bondage to sin and rebellion.

Good News

In the fullness of time, God looked again on the misery of humanity and came to rescue.

“But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, ‘Abba, Father.’ Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child. And since you are his child, God has made you his heir.”
Galatians 4:4-7

At “the right time”, “the fullness of time”, His perfect time, Jesus came, born of a virgin to live a sinless life. He died a cruel death on the cross and was resurrected to newness of life, doing it all to purchase for Himself a family of believers.

Parrots Flying

I often cry when I receive bad news. I sometimes even cry as the recipient of good news. This news, the greatest news ever, stirs my heart to the deepest level. God offers His good news to the worst of criminals, the loyalest of saints, the weakest among us, the richest and poorest, the old and the young, those of every nation, tribe and tongue.

Jesus Christ, The LORD Our Righteous Savior, Jehovah-Tsidkenu, came to rescue!

Get Excited

Whatever bad news you are facing, this good news exceeds it all! Whatever bad report has reached your ears, God came to rescue, through Jesus Christ.

Even imprisonment in a Philippian dungeon couldn’t keep Paul and Silas from praying, singing hymns, and praising God for such good news. An earthquake may have shook the jail, but it was the Spirit of God that shook a Roman jailer to his core.

“The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. He then brought them out and asked, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ They replied, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved — you and your household.’ “
Acts 16:29-30

No one needs to wait for an earthquake or a desperate situation. God offers the same good news to each of us. “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.” It sounds too simple; yet, that simple it is.

Birds Singing

The time is perfect! Today, believe the good news.

I know that there will be seasons of both good and difficult reports ahead for us all. Yet, the good news is we can walk through the good and the difficult with God as our strength and comfort.

Share the Good News

William Carey, who started a worldwide missionary movement in the nineteenth century, said,

“If it be the duty of all men to believe the Gospel . . . then it be the duty of those who are entrusted with the Gospel to endeavor to make it known among the nations.”

Gospel literally means “good news.” Let’s follow his example by first believing and then sharing such good news.

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Forgiven: The Freedom of Forgiveness

To know you are forgiven is one of the greatest gifts this side of heaven. Yet few people experience the fullness of forgiveness toward themselves or others.

A question I often hear repeated is, “How can I counsel others to godliness when I fail so miserably myself?”

The answer is, “We are people of promise not prisoners of our past. The past neither defines nor limits us.”

Like most people, forgiving others and receiving forgiveness is a recurring pattern. I can go through the process of forgiving and think I have overcome, until …

I see the offender,
rehearse injustice mentally or verbally,
or a sadness infects
random moments
with recurring pain.

Have I really forgiven? Am I forgiven?

Justice and mercy

Necessary

Jesus taught the disciples to pray,

“And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.”
Matthew 6:12

Forgiveness is a pivotal piece! To be forgiven, first we must forgive!

“For if you forgive other people
when they sin against you,
your Heavenly Father will also forgive you.
But if you do not
forgive others their sins,
your Father will not forgive your sins
Matthew 6:14-15

To forgive and be forgiven is not optional! God explicitly states, “To be forgiven, one must be forgiving!” Our willingness to show mercy, opens the gate to receive mercy.

Forgivenss Corrie Ten Boom

Forgiveness removes the invisible but powerful bondage of past hurts. Setting others free releases us to live unhindered.

Neil Anderson in his book “The Bondage Breaker” defines forgiveness as a “crisis of the will.” Rightly so!

Misconceptions

There are many misconceptions surrounding forgiveness:

  • Forgiveness is not forgetting. It does begin the healing of wounds, however.
  • The offender is not “let off the hook” through forgiveness. Everyone remains fully accountable to God.
  • Forgiveness is a choice of the will not a feeling. Feelings will follow choice.
  • Forgiveness never approves hurtful conduct.
  • No circumstance is too difficult to forgive. Only after forgiving will you be released from the pain.

Jesus carried every offense to the cross. In the midst of indescribable agony he prayed,

“Father, forgive them,
for they do not know what they are doing.”
Luke 23:34

Forgiven - Robertson

Jesus set the example, giving each of us the ability to forgive and be forgiven. Every act of forgiveness demonstrates God’s grace.

We all remember Peter’s sincere confession before the cross,

“Even if all fall away on account of you,
I never will.”
Matthew 26:33

We also know how that scene played out! Jesus knew the frailty of His closest followers. Three times Peter betrayed the Master; each time more vehemently,

“He began to call down curses,
and he swore to them,
‘I don’t know this man
you’re talking about.'”
Mark 14:71

Tears of grief and shame were powerless to wash the agonizing pain of his betrayal! One moment confessing unquestionable allegiance; the next cowering in fear and treachery.

Peter Restored

As Jesus hung on the cross, He spoke words that span all time or circumstance,

“Father forgive them,
for they don’t know what they are doing.”
Luke 23:34

It would take even more than this to penetrate Peter’s wounded heart.

Often the hardest ones to forgive are ourselves. Where is the limit on God’s grace? Does it include my adultery, my lying and deception, my thievery, or shedding of blood  through abortion or even murder? Does forgiveness have limits?

Agonizing questions many have wrestled long and hard over. Can I be forgiven? Is the blood of Christ enough?

Jesus confronts the point of Peter’s deepest pain, his betrayal. Three times Peter rejected Jesus and three times Jesus presses his hand of compassion and grace on that tender spot:

“Simon son of John,
do you love me more than these?…”
“Simon son of John, do you love me?…”
Do you love me?”
John 21:15-19

The painful public reminder of Peter’s personal failure cut deep. Betrayal of Jesus tore every thread of Peter’s resolve. For days he was stuck in the quagmire of guilt and shame, questioning his identity, purpose and calling to “feed my sheep.” 

Like a skilled surgeon, Jesus took the knife of forgiveness cutting away Peter’s failure. Every cancerous source of doubt exposed and removed forever!

Forgiven

In the natural, I view such public confrontation of a man’s failure as bordering on cruel and unjust. Since the offense was public, Jesus knew the restitution also must be public. What to me seems cruel became a powerful turning point in Peter’s life!

How am I so certain forgiveness became personally grasped and possessed in that moment?

Forgivenss has no rights

A few days later, forgiven and free, Peter declared to the Jewish crowd,

“The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,
the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus.
You handed him over to be killed,
and you disowned him before Pilate,
though he had decided to let him go.
You disowned the Holy and Righteous One
and asked that a murderer be released to you.
You killed the author of life
but God raised him from the dead.”
Acts 3:13-15

Peter could never so boldly confront others for disowning Jesus if he remained haunted by personal guilt, condemnation, or self-loathing. “Forgiven” was stamped across every word! By God’s grace alone, he “fed the sheep”!

Refreshing

His words, unmarred by condemnation, were bathed in the compassionate mercy and grace only those fully forgiven can express. From the depths of a heart radically forgiven, Peter grants to others what he so lavishly received.

Repent, then, and turn to God,
so that your sins may be wiped out,
that times of refreshing may come
from the Lord.”
Acts 3:19

The Greek word rendered “refreshing,” means “breathing,” or “refreshment“, after being heated with labor, running, etc. It denotes “any kind of refreshment, rest, or deliverance from evil.” Only here is this word used.

Peter rested forgiven before the Saviour he once denied. He experienced the deep refreshing, strength and energizing promised!

Many Christians who declare Christ as Saviour continue to

live as powerless victims,
prisoners bound by personal sin or
the offense of others,
weaponless warriors worn from fighting
battles long gone and eternally won.

Mark 2:5

Jesus still speaks clearly as He once did to a paraplegic (Mark 2:5), a woman caught in adultery (John 8:11), and a notorious sinner and social outcast (Luke 7:39),

“My child, your sins are forgiven.”
Mark 2:5

Who are we to withhold from others or ourselves, what Christ has freely given?

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Extra Resources:

Steps to Forgiveness:

Neil T. Anderson recommends making a list of every painful memory and the persons involved. Then one by one go through the list with this prayer:

“Lord Jesus, I choose to forgive (name the person)
for (what he or she did or failed to do)
because it made me feel
(Share the painful feelings,
such as rejected, dirty, worthless or inferior).”

After you have forgiven every person for every painful memory, pray this prayer as well.

“Lord Jesus, I choose not to hold on to my resentment.
I relinquish my right to seek revenge,
and I ask You to heal my damaged emotions.
thank You for setting me free from the bondage of bitterness.
I now ask that You bless those who have hurt me.
In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

(Taken from Interactive Workbook, The Bondage Breaker, Pg 73-74, Harvest House Publishing)

Booklet:

“What Christians Should Know About the Importance of Forgivenessby John Arnott, Sovereign World Limited

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The Tomb Raider and Bondage Breaker! Chains no More!

Chains No More

The tomb is meant to be a burial place for the dead; it is not a habitation for the living.  Jesus made a perilous journey to meet a man who was so bound by tormenting spirits, tomb dwelling seemed the only fitting place to be. Until “Jesus stepped ashore”!

The Gospels of Matthew and Luke present the account through almost opposing lenses. Luke calls the region “the Gerasenes” which means “alien, stranger or foreigner”or more specifically “a stranger drawing near.” Matthew, on the other hand terms it the region of “the Gadarenes” which means “rewarded in the end.”

A Stranger Draws Near

Only one person in the entire region came to meet Jesus welcoming Him. Everyone else treated Jesus like an alien, a stranger or a foreigner!

“When Jesus had stepped out on land,
there met him a man from the city who had demons.
For a long time he had worn no clothes,
and he had not lived in a house but among the tombs.”
Luke 8:27

The living among the tombs

This was neither his original home nor his original condition!

We don’t know how long his existence was relegated to the tombs; only that it was “a long time“. A long time

without family or relationship,
crying out night and day,
cutting himself with stones,
naked and exposed to shame,
rejected and ridiculed,
bound and chained.

It is no wonder Jesus was willing to endure the severest of storms to come and to release this man from bondage.

Most of us would have caught one glimpse of his condition and scampered right back into the boat paddling hard in the opposite direction. Not Jesus! Then too, most of us are impressed by crowds. Not Jesus!

For this one man, Jesus came!

Though an entire city was close, only one man welcomed Him!

Among the Tombs

What causes a man to trade a home for a tomb? This isn’t normal human behaviour, after all.

“…(For many a time it had seized him.
He was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles,
but he would break the bonds and
be driven by the demon into the desert.)
Luke 8:29

Though no earthly chain could hold him, this poor man was completed bound by the demons that inhabited him. Up until this moment, they had complete control.

When Jesus stepped in, everything changed!

All around us are people “out of control!” Daily we encounter hurting people who hurt people. Our lives and neighbourhoods are affected by those who have long ago forgotten personal worth or identity. Behind closed doors many are driven by drugs, addictions and lust. They appear to be alive, but reside within personal tombs of death.

For these Jesus comes!

The Pigs Nearby

Living among pigs!

A large herd of pigs was feeding on the nearby hillside.
 The demons begged Jesus,
“Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them.”

Mark 5:11-12

The imagery is more than symbolic! Jesus allows the demons to enter the pigs who quickly make a suicidal dive into the nearby lake.

The saddest part of the story is about to unfold. The people of the Gerasenes were perfectly comfortable to have a demon possessed man among them, naked and screaming in agony night and day. However, they were totally unprepared to allow Jesus, The Healer, Deliver, Tomb Raider, and Bondage Breaker to stay one moment more.

“…they came to Jesus and found the man
from whom the demons had gone,
sitting at the feet of Jesus,
clothed and in his right mind,
and they were afraid.”
Luke 8:35

As twisted as a living man dwelling in the tombs is, the reaction of the locals was even more so. Rejoicing over the man’s deliverance would seem to be a more appropriate response.

Enjoying the pleasures of sin for a season!

Pigs were considered “unclean”. Their delight in wallowing in “mud” representing the human tendency to enjoy and cling to our pet sins. Jesus came into their region to free everyone who lived there. Only this destitute and demon possessed man responded. The rest preferred to “enjoying the fleeting pleasures of sin.”

Jesus came to release them all from sin’s cruel bondage! They preferred the swine, instead!

Only One Man

Only one man from the region of “the Gadarenes” was “rewarded in the end.” He was the only one — unnamed but completely changed.

“And all the people in the region of the Gerasenes
begged Jesus to go away and leave them alone,
for a great wave of fear swept over them.
So Jesus returned to the boat and left,
crossing back to the other side of the lake.”
 Luke 8:37 

The evidence of Jesus’ authority and transforming power sat before them, gentle, calm and dressed. Perhaps up until this moment, they could look at him, aiming their pointed fingers while wagging condemning tongues, “We’re not as bad as he is!”

But standing before Jesus, the Truth and Deliverer, they were without excuse. No other man, except this one, was willing to fall on their knees and surrender to Jesus as Lord.

“You are already clean
because of the word I have spoken to you.”
John 15:3

One man received The Word and was cleansed. Every other person treated Jesus as a stranger. rejecting Him. Out of fear, they clung like pigs to their own filth.

When Jesus came, only one received the reward of surrender.

Tomb Raider

Jesus stepped ashore!

He raided the tomb of death, restoring dignity, value and life. He broke the bondage of sin and shame, releasing its prisoner to everlasting freedom.

Grateful the man pleaded with Jesus to allow him to come with along. Jesus lovingly refused.

Tomb Raider and Bondage Breaker! Freedom in Christ!

Jesus did not let him, but said,
Go home to your own people and
tell them how much the Lord has done for you,
and how he has had mercy on you.”
Mark 5:19

Jesus restored him to his home, family and relationships. He sent him back into his community with purpose and value. There is no greater testimony to the mercy and grace of God than a transformed life.

Reluctantly, the man obliged! Though his heart longed to stay with Jesus, his mission was to his world.

Jesus steps into lives again and again, giving opportunity for freedom. What is my response? Will I consider Him a “Stranger drawing near” and refuse? Or will I welcome Him, allowing Him to do whatever He desires in my life, ultimately being “rewarded in the end“?

Jesus never stays where He is not wanted

 “…So he got into the boat and left.”
Luke 8:37

On the other side of the lake
the crowds welcomed Jesus,
because they had been waiting for him.”
Luke 8:40

Today I ask, “Which side of the lake am I on? Which side of the lake are you on?”

Jesus is stepping ashore!

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Resources:

If you need help, there are many organizations that will assist you:

Freedom in Christ

Pure Desire Ministries

or a local bible believing church.

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Addiction – Hidden Secrets – Flying with the Dragon

Hidden Secrets - Flying with the Dragon

Addiction doesn’t come in single file; it contains multiple elements!  As a result, the life-sucking tentacles of addiction sink deep and hold fiercely. Nonetheless, addictions can be broken.

I see the devastation of addictions on individuals and their families on a weekly basis. The visibly obvious comes in the form of chemical addictions to alcohol or drugs. With increasing regularity however, it is those entangled in the bondage of sexual addiction who sit before me with downward gaze.

Conservative figures record 48% of women and 78% of men battle this dragon. It is a battle originating from hell’s deepest recesses.

Marriage

Addictions create a threefold cord that is difficult to break over the mind, the body and the soul.

Difficult?
Yes!
Impossible?
No!

I have been on this battle ground with sexual addiction in my home, family, church and community for decades. It is a battle worth fighting! It is a battle worth winning!

[bctt tweet=”It is a battle worth fighting! It is a battle worth winning!” username=”MAWardAuthor”]

A Parable

In a faraway kingdom a quest was in progress to capture the great dragon that was attacking villages by night with fiery fierceness. The King’s own son was sent out to find and subdue the dragon.

Dragon Hunter

When all alone, the prince came upon the sleeping beast. The prince found it difficult to envision this placid creature as the man-slayer the King described.

The dragon spoke first, “I’m not as fierce as the King has said. As a matter of fact, quite the opposite! I am the one to set you free. Come for one flight with me and I will show you.”

The prince was uncertain and confused. He knew he should be more cautious than he was now feeling.

“Sit upon my back and I will take you to unbelievable places. I will give you your heart’s desire.”

The prince instinctively knew he should not trust the beast. “Just one ride would not hurt!”

The prince dismounted his faithful stead and slipped himself between the spines of the dragons back. One swoop of the dragon’s powerful wings lifted them into the night. Upward they went with exhilarating speed. The dragon was true to his word. Never had the prince experienced such things.

As the prince entered the gates of his city, shame cloaked him. “Why was I so easily deceived? I, a prince, have befriended the enemy?”

Silenced by shame, the prince hid himself. Yet, he thought often of the excitement of the ride. Soon he sought out the dragon. Another ride…another night…then another…and another…

On the way into the city by the moonlight he noticed his hands were beginning to form scales. Quickly he covered them with his gloves concealing how much he was becoming like the deadly dragon.

Addiction Exposed

Each night their journey would take them into more and more grotesque places. The prince rode secure upon the dragon as it breathed its fire into homes and villages. Blood stained the princes armor – the blood of his Father’s people!

Under cover of darkness, the prince attempted to slink back into the city. A crowd of angry villagers surrounded him, “He was there! He was riding on the dragon when it destroyed our homes!”

The King approached his son, “Is it true? Were you with the dragon?”

Shame

The prince’s secret could no longer be hidden. “Yes, Father,” was his hollow response.

He was sure the King would enforce the punishment he deserved – life for life. On his knees he waited for his Father’s angry blow. With the hand of mercy his Father touched his shoulder, removing the cloak covering the ugly spines growing on the prince’s back.

“My son,” the Father spoke tenderly.

Looking around, the Father asked, “Who else has ridden the dragon?”

To the prince’s surprise his older brother slowly stepped forward, then his young sister. One by one, many villagers came and bowed mournfully before the King. Few had escaped the dragon’s subtle lure.

[bctt tweet=”Few had escaped the dragon’s subtle lure.” username=”MAWardAuthor”]

Princes and Princesses

In a culture like ours with tolerance and acceptance of sexual perversion, the dragon is constantly fed.  As with any addiction a little taste draws one into ever deepening levels of attraction and bondage.

Apart from the grace of God the noose of addiction destroys completely!

Noose of Addiction

The dragon of addiction is overcome through truth and a community of supporters.  Don’t try to fight alone! Fight to win gaining victory over mind, body, and soul!

“But everything exposed by the light becomes visible –
and everything that is illuminated becomes a light.”
Ephesians 6:13

It is amazing to watch how those who have overcome “become a light” of help, hope and strength to others in the battle. A necessary but painful part of recovery is coming clean – letting God’s light shine into the secret place. There is no easy way. It will be difficult.

All of us also lived among them at one time,
gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following
its desires and thoughts.”
Ephesians 2:3

“All” is an inclusive word. None of us have room to boast. We each have our own battlegrounds. We all deserve the full weight of punishment for our personal sins. Yet, God has made us for better as His princes and princesses.

First Steps

There is good news!

“But because of his great love for us,
God who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ
even when we were dead in transgressions –
…For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith –
and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God
not by works, so that no one can boast.”
Ephesians 2: 4-10

God’s love and mercy extends to all! To overcome will take work done through His grace alone.

The first step is honesty and transparency. Begin with a visit to a pastor or addictions counselor. There is an army willing to step into the battle with you. You will need to become accountable to others to help you through the process.

Accountability and Freedom

There are no quick fixes. It has taken you years to get to where you are. It will also take years to completely overcome.

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more
than all we ask or imagine,
according to his power that is at work within us…”
Ephesians 3:20

Your freedom awaits!

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Parable taken from “Pure Desire – How One Man’s Triumph Can Help Others Break Free

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Leave a confidential comment or get connected here!

 

Satan – A Roaring Lion, A Barking Dog, A Buzzing Bee

Satan

I would prefer to chat about Jesus, the King of all kings and Lord of all lords, than about the defeated one. There was a little incident this week that made me chuckle, reminding me Satan is nothing more than a roaring lion, a barking dog or a buzzing bee.

A Barking Dog

As a child I would veer off the road to uncharted paths; now I often walk the back allies of the place I call home. At one particular spot, a high chain link fence confines two dogs. Inevitably with jaws flapping, they bolt full tilt at every passer-by, dashing back and forth within their confinement. Their predictable path behind the fence trampled.

Barking Dog

Usually I ignore them. Today I did not! I stood still maintaining absolute eye contact with the lead dog. He continued his aggressive barking, pacing his restricted ground. I stayed quietly staring him down. He stopped directly in front of me barking intensely, then continued his back-forth run. Finally he slinked behind the hedging. Peering through the leaves, he was waiting for me to blink.

Blink? Not a chance! Again he picked up his pattern of intimidation. Again he stopped, this time directly in front of me. He flinched looking away – to the side, to the sky, behind him, above me… Feebly he barked; quickly he stopped. Then with head hung low slowly he headed back to the place he came from, almost looking over his shoulder, but not quite….

Inwardly I chuckled! One more dog stared down!

In Freedom

You see I know where I stand! I am standing and walking in the free zone. The dog is bound by a fence! I have liberty. He does not!

 

Freedom

As a Christian does this make sense? Through the cross of Christ the enemy was debilitated and publicly humiliated.

And having disarmed the powers and authorities,
he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.
Colossians 2:15

One more note! When Christ was raised from the dead, we were raised victorious IN HIM!

Since you have been raised to new life with Christ,
set your sights on the realities of heaven,
where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand.”
Colossians 3:1

This is our reality! We are the ones who walk in freedom, power and authority!

A Roaring  Lion

Yes, scripture says Satan is like a roaring lion looking for someone to “devour”. We don’t need to cower (crouch down in fear). The same passage in I Peter 5 gives instruction.

Stay alert…
resist him…
standing firm...”

Eyeball him down, friends! Eyeball him down!

A Buzzing Bee

Buzzing Bees

One of the biggest challenges I face is the one between my ears. The subtle ungodly thoughts that buzz around like bees, distracting me from the reality of

who I am
the authority I walk in
and my true position in Christ.

Next time you hear the lion roar, a dog barking or a bee buzzing around your head, I hope you stop in your tracks. Then take a look around at the true freedom you have in Christ. Stare that noisy intruder down moving forward rejoicing in the power of the cross and resurrection over you. Don’t forget to grin a little as you do it!

Freedom

Thank You, Lord
for the unbelievable freedom
You have given through
the cross and the resurrection.
When I hear the growls, barks or buzzes
of life,
grant me the wisdom to stand
in the fullness of all
you did.

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Feel free to comment on this or any other post. Blessings!