I used to say this often in my former way of thinking when I would travel on a religious high horse: “I forgive ________, but I will not / cannot forget!” And I remember clearly the night…the precise and painful moment…that God “knocked me off” my metaphorical religious high horse. ((Ouch…and ouch.))
Yet God says, “I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for my own sake; And I will not remember your sins.” ~Isaiah 43:25
Who are we to say…how DARE we say…that we will not forget the transgressions (revolt) of another when God does that for those of us who belong to Him??
This is not relenting to a state of perpetual amnesia. God doesn’t have amnesia because He is omniscient. How does He do it? What example do we follow?
To “remember no more” is to make the conscious decision NOT “to mark (so as to be recognized)…to mention…be mindful, recount, record…bring (call, come, keep, put) to (in) remembrance.”
Partial forgiveness is not true forgiveness. True forgiveness must involve the not remembering part…not entertaining or giving quarter to that offense/sin/trespass…not mentioning it…not counting it or keeping record.
How long or how many times must we do this not remembering stuff to truly forgive? As long as it takes and as many times until it sticks.
70 x 7 x 7 x 7 x 7 x 7 x 7…((Matthew 18:21-35))
You see, we are not omnipotent like God…His true and full and eternal forgiveness sticks and stays the first time. We have to practice until it is permanent and forgiveness becomes more powerful in our lives than our flesh.
Yeah…I’ve been busybusybusy…in a season of waiting and transition…and stuff. To start off 2017, I want to share this video message with you. My iPad quit recording before I was finished and because I was looking at the camera lens…looking at you…which is at the opposite end from the record indicator, I did not notice. 😜 ((Oops.))
Anyways, the core message is in tact, and you can read the second Scripture address I was sharing about when it cut off.
Oh…and excuse the poor camera presence. I can express myself in writing and have no reservations taking a mic and a stage, but I get reeeeeaaaaallllly uncomfortable recording myself while looking at myself. 😬 Working on that.
This has always been one of my biggest battles since being born again ((TWENTY)) years ago…not just WHAT I speak, but HOW and WHEN, as well. When my God-given gifts are operating in the flesh, I tend to be snarky, sharp-tongued, and insensitive with my speech. I have wounded others throughout the years…and I work to reconcile and restore when possible.
I heard a teaching today (Tony Evans) on this Scripture, and it caused me to reflect on some pearls that I’ve learned and practice still…well, mostly. These are a couple things that Jehovah Mekaddishkem (The LORD that Sanctifies) has taught me:
1) I will speak my will from the overflow of my heart, and my heart is the soil for what I meditate on in my mind. If I find myself verbally vomiting, then that tells me that I need to adjust what I am feeding my focus. What you focus your attention and thoughts on WILL travel to the fertile soil of your heart and produce fruit, which WILL travel out your mouth and show through your actions.
2) In those seasons where I am working on adjusting my focus from the horizontal to the vertical, I have a very immediate and effective tool to take unhealthy words captive to the obedience of Christ. When I feel damaging words travel from my heart to knock on my vocal cords, I employ my teeth to clamp down on my tongue. Now, this will often prove to be very uncomfortable as your veins feel like they will explode (I promise you, they won’t) and also proves to be very painful as your tongue feels like it might bleed (I promise you, it might). But, it’s better to let your own bruised ego and wounded tongue heal than to damage the soul or kill the spirit of another.
There is more than enough salt water, death, evil, and condemned words working out there.
Let’s provide our world some spring water, life, good, and justified words in our speech.
“For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect.” Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:9-10a (NIV)
Overwhelming, abundant grace…this is what has been resonating in my spirit, saturating my soul lately. In reflection, His grace has been evident during every season of my life…even and especially when I was not called His. God extends His loving grace to every living being, even to those who are spiritually dead in His sight. His grace is what sustains each of us. As long as we have breath in our lungs and blood pumping through our heart, we experience some degree of God’s grace.
Just as Paul confessed in this Scripture, I, too, have persecuted the church of God. Before I entered into that saving knowledge and decision through Christ, I persecuted the church by the way I lived. I set myself against the Living God because the gods I served were carnal pleasures, promiscuity, accomplishments, and the craving of man’s approval. God’s grace permitted me to exist in my sin. God’s grace wooed me and compelled me to confess Him as my Lord and Savior. God’s grace continues to grow me and increase my faith. God’s grace draws me into the depths of His love and His will. “But by the grace of God I am what I am…”
You see, when I picture God’s grace, I think of the ocean. As an unbeliever, I dwelt on the scorching, thirsty sands of the beach. Have you ever tried to walk or run in the sand? It is difficult and labored because your feet sink into the sand with each stride. That was me…running and striving to make progress in the sands of sin but not getting far and and doing that very slowly. The sands of sin worked their abrasive persistence into every vacancy and broken place in my soul…my life. Then, during a specific season in my life, something caused me to stop my striving in the sand and shift my focus. I heard waves lapping up onto the shore…waves that had always been there but had gone unnoticed. Each wave came in to reach at me, then drew back as an invitation that whispered, “Come in.”
As we all fear what we do not know or understand, I tentatively stepped towards the traces of where the waves reached…the wet sand was refreshing to my tired and scorched feet. Successive waves lapped up to embrace my ankles for brief moments of relief. This is where I remained for two years as God drew me to salvation. The sands of sin – though appealing and familiar – became less and less as a draw for me as I experienced more of God’s grace.
God’s Grace: Are you wading, swimming, or resting?
Many Believers will reflect and find that they are wading in the shallows of God’s grace and purpose for their lives. I was in the shallows…for years after I was saved. Perhaps it is fear that prevents some from going deeper – fear of the depths, fear of the unknown, fear of what they cannot see or anticipate…fear of not being in control. Maybe it’s a refusal to wander too far from the sands of sin. Or, it could be that some are comfortable in the shallows because it doesn’t require much effort…doesn’t demand commitment or accountability.
God’s Grace: Are you wading, swimming, or resting?
Others will discover that they have moved out deeper, and they are swimming in His grace. These Believers know the joy of being able to experience more of His grace in ministry, in relationships, in life. Even though they can still touch ground, the waves of His grace move and sway them like a bouy. As the waves move toward the shore, they sway these Believers some. But, as the water moves back out to the depths, the pull of the undertow beckons. They must stand their ground…dig their toes into the saturated sand under the waters…to resist the pull…to resist being carried out to the deep. This is where I found myself about ten years ago. I called out to Him one night, “Lord, what is the hold? Why am I not experiencing more of You? I know there is more! What is it?”
God’s Grace: Are you wading, swimming, or resting?
He answered gently and affectionately, “Let go, Tammy. Stop fighting the tide of My grace. Lay back and rest. I will carry you out to the depths. I will not let you sink…I will not let you drown. Rest in My grace…trust Me.” I did. You know what? He has not let me sink, and He has not let me drown. Absolutely, I have experienced stormy waters that caused me to fear and doubt and sometimes fight against the waves and the current, but God has sustained me and protected me through the storms and into the calm. In the depths of His grace and will are the greatest experiences of this journey. It is in the depths of His grace that we discover our identity and a growing understanding of our Father. We realize an intimacy and familiarity with His voice and His ways. What a beautiful place to be where I cannot see land…but to look around and see only the waters of His grace.
“But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect.” v. 10a
His grace is apportioned for very specific purposes. A primary purpose is to bring us into salvation and to grow us in our faith. However, there is much, much more. So much more. We were never meant to dwell in the shallows of salvation. There is intentionality as God purposes His grace to work in each of us. When we know the depths of His grace, we are compelled and count it a joy to share that grace with others.
Fabulous Rhema dropped in Friday night during our small group’s study of James. I have never really understood or spiritually connected with this verse…always wondered “Why emphasize the fatherless and widows? There are all kinds of needs…we ALL matter to God.” Then God.
He brought revelation through Mr. Husband to make the spiritual connection that the fatherless are any who are not adopted children of God. Then another in our group added that widows are without a groom (Jesus Christ…as born-again Believers are the Bride.). Wowza! It took the breath out of me as the Breath of God moved through our living room.
This was too powerful not to share. Good stuff, guys. We are to be visiting and attending to the needs of those who haven’t been introduced to Jesus – the fatherless and the widows – in a truly loving way…in a way that points to Him and His transforming power…and not to ourselves and our efforts.
You are cordially and humorously invited to view the 3 1/2 minute video below to hear what God “planted in my garden” yesterday. He has a sense of humor, and so do I! 😜 After viewing the video, scroll down to read some more on the topic.
((i ❤️ COFFEE))
((a little bit more…))
Okay, friends. This really did happen. That chip had wedged its way in there good and settled in so that every time I moved or shifted, it would dig into my skin. Kinda like how life’s irritations ((and irritating people)) and offenses ((and offensive people)) seem to drop into our daily routines – unsolicited – and wedge their way into the tender and broken areas of our own soul (mind, will, emotions).
As I was (briskly) power walking my way about 1/4 mile down the hall to the restroom so as to extract and dispose of the potato-fried nuisance, my mind quickly meandered through corridors of these rambling associations: “This chip is not the only thing that’s irritating me today! I’m also irritated with … and also … oh, “and let’s not neglect that gem of a human being…”
Yeah, you get it. You know the internal monologue. We all struggle with these moments. Then God. I was chuckling to myself as He revealed the truth I shared in the video. I imagine people also traveling to the bathroom thought I was strange as I power walked that way myself whilst chuckling.
Here’s a pearl of truth to bring some insight to the ((unrehearsed)) video message:
We all struggle with stuff. We all get irritated with particular people. We all get authentically offended at times. It’s not “if”…but when we do, a most damaging thing we can do is allow our emotions to manage our mindand will in guiding us to take our griefs and (incessant, habitual) rants to social media. I am not saying be fake and wear masks and pretend to be happy…Iamsaying, “Practice wisdom!” If you have none, read the Scriptures. “Change your filter or clean it out!” If you need help with that, ask the Holy Spirit. “Use discernment!” If you have none, ask God.
Instead of taking these issues and people to trial on FacebookTwitterInstagram in an attempt to mask our broken places and build our alliance in SocialMediaSurvivor, howzabout trying one or all of the following:
Allow yourself to cooperate with God in working through that issue/struggle/irritation/offense through the counsel of His Word and ministry of His Holy Spirit, or…
Confront or correct that other individual (in love…) prayerfully and privately and properly, or…
Drop it. aka…Forgive that other person (in love…or at least in grace).
If none of these options works for you, then stay miserable and mad. It’s your choice. Just know that I will employ one of the above options when your miserable and mad collides with my peace and joy…((in love…or at least grace…of course.))
“Woe to the world because of offenses! For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes! If your hand or foot [or Facebook] causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life lame or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet, to be cast into the everlasting fire. And if your eye [or Twitter] causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire.” Jesus Christ in Matthew 18:7-9
I had forgotten, but recently one hour into a youth group’s Bible study reminded me of an intimate God session that had consumed my soul…the kind of Rhema-instruction that totally opens your understanding to an element of Scripture. It was about this time last year. Our Ag teacher had asked ((more like cashed in an obligatory favor 😜)) if I would help tabulate scores at an archery competition he was putting together for his students. Hey…he knows my (seriously lacking) math skills and still asked. I’ll submit myself to the torture of simple, mental math for a friend. Wouldn’t you?
Anyways, the competition had three phases: High-point from 10 meters, High-point from 15 meters, and “21” from 15 meters. As I sat there and observed these kids taking their practiced stance as they held their bows in position…taking careful and patient aim to draw back the arrow that was notched into the bowstring…and the rapid, fluid release as the arrow quickly met its target…I was intrigued. Ten meters and practiced shooters made for clustered arrows in the center of cluttered targets.
Then, fifteen meters. Welllllll…I will just say, THIS is when God got my soul’s attention and “took me to school.” The outer rings of the targets – and even the white space around the targets – were not neglected by the kids’ arrows in this round. There was not such a party going on in the two, inner orbs of yellow and red anymore! What made such an impactful, difference? Same kids, same bows, same arrows, same targets.
Not the same proximity. There were now five more meters of gymnasium real estate between their stance and their target. Distance made the marked difference in the physics stuff involved with the accuracy of their archery-ness…ya know, stuff like velocity, air conditioner wind interference, vision (for those poor ol’ near-sighted kiddos), oscillation, Archer’s Paradox, inertia, yada…yada…yada…
Now to the good stuff…God spoke to me about sin while I watched these kids take aim and miss the bullseye more often than not. Many applications of the word “sin” (Greek is hamartano) means to “miss the mark (and so not share in the prize)…to err…” What is the mark we aim at? Metaphorically, it’s that small, yellow circumference in the middle of the target. Realistically, as Christians, we are aiming at looking like Jesus Christ, which is narrated for us in the Scriptures…and especially and particularly in the Gospels through Jesus’s earthly ministry.
For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace. ~~Romans 6:10-14 (NKJV)
The analogy is this…the target is the Word of God, the life of Jesus Christ, the yielding to the Holy Spirit. To aim at our goal, we must get in position and focus on it…and the closer we are to the mark, the more accurate our aim. Here’s a kicker, though: much like those kiddos with their bows and arrows…before we can shoot for the target, we have to let go of something, release, surrender. Ouch. Sometimes we find false comfort in maintaining a practiced stance and hanging on to what’s in our hands. Sometimes…it is hard to commit and follow through in that release.
Also, when we move away from the target (notice the target does not move), it becomes more difficult for us to aim and hit that target. Every time we sin, it’s like taking a step away from the goal. The common-sense way to close that relational distance is to move closer to the mark. I’m no Katniss Everdeen, which is why I have to stay close to God with His goal for me in sight. I have to practice my stance and continue releasing and surrendering. As my favorite disciple once said…
“Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” ~~Paul in Philippians 3:12-14
Know your target. Get as close as you can. Focus. Take aim. Release.
((This is an excerpt from a Bible study I’ve written: “G.R.O.W. U.P.: Six Disciplines in Sowing Spiritual Maturity”)).
James 5:13-16…”Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.”
Prayer. Every book in the Bible devotes some portion of itself to prayer. From Genesis to Revelation, you will see something mentioned about prayer or as a prayer. In fact, the whole Book of Psalms is made up of prayers and songs! Some books dedicate whole chapters or sections to the topic or discipline of prayer. Throughout the Gospels, it is documented that Jesus took time away for Himself to pray. We will find prayers of thanksgiving and praise, prayers of distress and laments for God’s help, prayers of intercession for the deliverance from calamity or demonic possession, prayers for healing, prayers for needs to be met, prayers seeking Gods guidance or direction, and prayers after prayers after prayers for an unlimited number of human conditions – physical, emotional, spiritual.
Prayer is the discipline and function that threads through and binds other spiritual disciplines together to produce a beautiful life-tapestry that glorifies God. Prayer is the line of direct communication with our Father. It is a powerful tool, it is a privilege, and it is proven; however, it is also and often misunderstood, neglected, or misused by a large number of Christians. I remember a season early in my marriage with Mr. Husband when I was jealous for his attention. In my mind’s imagination, we would meet each other at home after a long, driven day at work and collapse in the solace of each other’s company. After a brief recap of the day’s events, we would prepare dinner together and sit at the table with our five, very well-mannered ((ahem…cough, cough)) children and enjoy a peaceful, uplifting meal with conversation. Once the kids were all bathed and tucked into bed by the respectable time of 8:30 p.m., and without a single child’s protest, Mr. Husband and I would sit on the couch with worship music playing softly in the background. We would talk about our hopes and needs, read some Scripture, and seal every evening with praying together. Yes, I know. I hear you laughing and humph-ing. Perhaps you are sighing with chagrin because you have had the same delusion…uh…I mean – image – in your mind.
The reality for me did not match the expectations…not even remotely. Instead, we often found ourselves bringing the day’s frustrations home and allowing it to spill into our family interactions. We often met without words and went straight to the tasks of managing a home and raising five children. I cooked dinner by myself because – honestly – I don’t share my kitchen easily. Even though we did succeed at intentionally eating at the table as a family most nights, our precious children’s behavior did not match that of the children I envisioned. Mr. Husband and I would often find ourselves wedged in the middle of a belching competition at the dinner table, or an argument over whose turn it was to unload the dishwasher, or a hashing out of the day’s events. HA! Then bath and bedtime would come. 😳 Whoo! By the time we wrestled with kids over who was going to bathe first, wash your hair, USE SOAP, quit popping your brother with the towel!, who got water all over the floor?!?, get into bed, stop picking on your little sister, no you cannot have a another drink of water, get into bed, I love you too, get back in that bed!, turn the light off, stay in bed, I hear you talking and quit playing because you have to get sleep before school tomorrow, don’t make me come in there again…Mr. Husband and I were ready to retreat into ourselves. I would go my way in the house, and he would go his. This routine persisted for several years until I found myself utterly isolated from my husband and desperately craving fellowship with him. I remember distinctly the day God spoke to my heart so clearly about this.
At a friend’s house, I was lamenting the condition of my marriage and how I was jealous for Mr. Husband’s attention, but I could not compete with where his focus was in that season. God heard my petition and spoke truth through my friend. She said, “Tammy, the thing you are wanting from your husband is the very thing that God desires from you. Just as you want to take your hand and turn your husband’s focus to you, God has His finger under your chin and wants to turn your attention from your husband to Himself.” Wow…immediate conviction.
This is a pearl of truth, precious friend. God desires to have a relationship with us. I believe Scripture supports that He does not desire our religion, but our very and whole selves. He wants to spend time with us…He wants to hear from us…He wants to speak to us…He wants to love on us. He wants an open and dedicated line of communication with us, which is facilitated through His Word and through prayer…prayer that sounds like us. Even though God is omniscient, He revels in hearing us verbalize our concerns, praises, needs, frustrations, victories, and doubts in our individual, distinctive voice. What am I suggesting? God sees our every behavior, hears our thoughts, knows our attitudes, and listens to every word we think and speak.
Consequently, He knows our vernacular, but does He “recognize” the way we speak to Him in prayer as the same way we speak in the course of our daily life? I am not suggesting that God has trouble recognizing some of us when we pray; rather, I propose that many of us are ourselves with people in the way we speak, but when it comes time to talk to God, we have difficulty finding our voice. Many experience anxiety because they feel they should pray formulaic words and phrases that “are sure to reach the ears of God,” others believe their inflection should suddenly take on some serious and “holy” tone, and there are those who communicate with ease to the people around them but absolutely become tongue-tied when approaching the Throne of Grace in prayer.
Allow me to exhort you to put aside every anxiety and every preconceived idea that prayer should sound the same universally or generically. We are each far from generic. Release thoughts and belief systems and self-doubt that hinder your prayer life, and permit yourself to be you when you talk to God. Present your very self to Him: your words, your voice, your personality. It took me many years to discover my personal sanctuary and comfort in talking to God and listening for His voice…especially since I was raised in a religion that only prayed memorized, recited prayers and doxologies. I tried different styles and voices of prayer I had witnessed in the women around me as a new Believer, but none ever came with ease. It kind of felt like putting on someone else’s tennis shoes…nothing ever really fit or felt comfortable.
Dear friend…just as we desire for our children, our spouse, our friends, and our peers to talk to us openly and honestly, so God desires for His children to speak with Him. He desires our words of prayer coming out of an honest, open, and surrendered soul. When we pray like that, we will pray with ease and confidence, and it will not sound carbon-copied or strained or rehearsed to the ears of God. Your candid and sincere prayers are an offering and a fragrance to Him.