Forgive Again? Yes, it is Good Friday

Bay bridge day

 

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?”

Jesus answered, “I tell you not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”(Matthew 18:21, 22 NIV)

Peter had been traveling with Jesus and eleven disciples—so many personalities, habits and moods to contend with daily. Some are flexible and spontaneous, above board and honest, like him…or so he thinks.

Others are quiet, thoughtful, and slow to move and speak. They question everything and seem resistant, even critical of anything Peter says.  Peter is learning from the Master, but he’s struggling with the brothers, especially one. And this time Peter runs to Jesus, tired of forgiving over and over. The guy just doesn’t care about Peter’s feelings.

Downton Abby, a famous PBS series, just played episode seven, where Mary, the older sister brings pain to her younger sister, Edith, once again. She humiliates her in front of her family and betrothed catalyzing a break-up.

Edith lashes out and calls Mary on her horrible behavior. Hurt, she flees to another city. The rift between the sisters is strong. Yes, Mary is remorseful but sees no way to fix the trouble she has caused her younger sibling. She is not a people pleaser. Nor does she like to admit fault. It is easier to wait, and in time….

In a surprising turn of events to Mary’s benefit, Edith forgives Mary—unasked. She is not ruled by pride. Always the humble one, she closes the breech by coming to Mary.  Longing to bridge the gap, Edith declares the importance of keeping their bond, despite their innate differences.  Their upbringing and family history, their parents and Granny, their deceased sister and children—no one else could know the nuances of their family, the way they both understood.

Isn’t it interesting? It seems in life, the people hardest to forgive are the people closest to us. A woman married fifty years once stood in a church foyer and stated how she made it—“breathe forgiveness.”

Sounds a lot like seventy times seven.

Jesus knew the value of forgiveness and our human feelings.

            “But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” (Luke 6:27 NIV)

A blessing for a curse?  It sounds paradoxical. Jesus knows forgiveness is a decision and love is active. He knows, as we do, we all need His forgiveness for our wrongs and we rely on His love and mercy to cover our mistakes. He paid a price for us to be forgiven, and expects us to be merciful to others in turn—to sacrifice pride and judgment, even pain—and choose to forgive. It is never easy. There are depths to pain and forgiveness like the depth of the ocean, the deeper the pain, the darker the water. But forgiveness releases the victim as well, from misery and hate.

Matthew 5:45 reveals when we forgive we are behaving like children of our Father in Heaven. We bring God honor through forgiveness. We release others from guilt.

Yes, sometimes the people closest to us, spouses, siblings, children, parents—can seem like the enemies Jesus said to love. Their words pierce deeper because they are the closest to our heart. They are the ones we have decided to trust with our thoughts and emotions. We want to believe they are always safe people to live with and love us as we love them.

“My daughter is breaking my heart,” a tearful nurse erupted as she arrived at work. Her fourteen-year-old had said goodbye with the words, “I hate you.”

It’s hard to love and feel loved when actions and words flip day to day, or week to week. Love and hate, blessings and curses. The wheel spins inside the brain and words fly off at alarming rates sometimes. There is an enemy of our soul who loves to surprise us with a hit, when we least expect it. Ambushed, we can feel like we are battling something unseen. We are.

Mary, was in pain and inner conflict when she callously opened Edith to humiliation. Those closest to us, in their pain, can cause ours. “Wounded people, wound people.” And those with deeper wounds are often not aware what they are doing. They are minions of emotion and confusion, creating crazy circles of crisis for themselves and others.

Enemies may come from horrible bosses or backstabbing, burden laying peers. I have prayed Jesus’ words to cope with an unsavory work environment. “But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great and you will be sons of the Most High, because He is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” (Luke 6:35, 36 NIV)

Attempting to do my job clear-headed without having to constantly address the virus of emotions running in the background, spurred by comments and actions unrelated to our job positions, I prayed to love them.

Daily I had to shake the bird nest of bitterness trying to camp in my mind. “You can’t keep a bird from landing on your head, but you can keep him from building a nest.”

Just this morning a friend told me her work has improved. “I decided to forgive my boss, carte blanche. I just don’t let it get to me anymore.”

There is power in forgiveness, not just for us, but for those around us. We are not expecting them to be something they cannot be. Because we are praying, we are not as easily disappointed or frustrated by their behavior.

Our unseen enemy, Satan, is out to divide—to bring pain and build walls with pride and animosity. Hatred is the opposite of love. If we give into hatred we cannot do the good Jesus asks of us. We cannot walk worthy of our calling as believers or help those we love, because we are not able to use the greatest power given to us by God—the power of love.

Love is stronger than hate. God’s way is stronger than the way of the world. He can empower us through the Holy Spirit to forgive, because we are attached to the Vine. The Vine is Jesus who hung on a tree and died for our sins, while forgiving those who drove the nails into his hands on the cross.

Today He is alive, and the power to love pours through His veins. Apart from Him we can do nothing. But with Him, we can choose to forgive—simply by asking Jesus, the One who knows how best to help us.

Failing an Interview and Gaining Perspective

Today my friend asked us to pray for her daughter, a new college grad who has a panel interview upcoming for her first job.

A memory triggered of me as a twenty year old student who stood at the top floor of the university library. The best vantage point to overlook the treetops and see beyond the grounds of the campus surroundings where I wanted to obtain a degree.

A paper dangled from my hands, my second rejection letter in two years. I had applied the second time to our California State school, hoping for acceptance to the nursing program. This time, I had all points for completed classes but my interview points were lower. One point from the cutoff, to be exact. The struggle was knowing the previous year I had received those extra interview points. And I felt better about it this year!

Thoughts barraged me.

Should I keep waiting and apply again next year? Why couldn’t I score better at my interview this year as last? I would have gotten in… one point away?

I questioned God.

Couldn’t you cause one of the interviewers to subjectively give me 7 instead of a 6?

What is the wisdom now to my last resort, of accepting the invitation to the JC nursing program for an AA?  For the same time commitment to either program, yet two years of study at junior college and I will graduate with an AA, instead of a BA?

Disappointment. Dismay. Discouragement. Eventually, I pulled out the Bible I had begun to use three years before, when I accepted Jesus at seventeen. My life manual. Where God guided me and counseled me. Where I found courage hope and strength.

“Help me Lord to feel better about this.” I felt so heavy.

Opening to Psalms 75:2 , I read;  You say, I choose the appointed time; it is I who judge uprightly. When the earth and all its people quake, it is I who hold its pillars firm. Selah.

On verse 5, the words jumped from the page. I felt deeply God was speaking directly to me through His Word.

No one from the east or the west or from the desert can exalt a man. But it is God who judges. He brings one down, he exalts another.

I reread and pondered the Scripture. I had given God my life and asked Him to guide my path. He had heard – and He answered. No, to this place for me. If He wanted me in this program, it would have happened.

He did not… It was someone else’s spot to fill. The JC was the best place for me to learn and obtain my degree. My place in the program was already there waiting, and the people I would be involved with for the next two years. His reason and comfort lifted the weight of doubt.

I left the library that day and wondered if I might someday understand why I didn’t get in, but accepted the decision as sovereign. I now felt ready to pursue the path and course God had laid out for me at the JC.

Two years later I graduated with my AA, passed boards and moved to other cities and traveled, eventually returning to my hometown years later.

Then, I pursued another course of study at that same university for a different BA program that was terribly impacted. Many students complained waiting semesters for the class they needed. The people who did not already have a BA had first choice. I breezed through.

Now when I returned to that library floor I smiled. God helped a young college student grasp the message of His Word and the way He can speak through Scripture very personal and very real.

The perspective I gained years before, how He alone is The Judge behind any human judge or court, brought an understanding to my heart and spirit,  beyond what my human eyes could see.

I would return to this passage in the years to come, in seeking acceptance quicker of His will…not only for myself but for those I love and rub shoulders with. After all, there is no end to opportunities afforded to all of us to step into new territory at any time of our life, and be at peace with whatever the outcome…knowing, God is in control.

He is the blessed controller of all things

 

Let Your Light so Shine Before Men- A Juvenile lives His Faith at the Hall

““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““`December Two years ago Christmas, a Christian mom shared her son's story after he was brought to Juvenile Hall. Newly repentant, he shared Christ in the unit with other incarcerated youth by example, since his return to God. Corrie ten Boom, a Holocaust survivor, said every time she stepped into a prison she prayed, 'Lord make me a light in a dark place.' This young man shed just a little bit of light his brief stay in a very dark place.

"Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father who is in heaven." Matthew 5:16

 

Today a Christian Mom stood talking with us about her sixteen-year-old son, Jake, who is still in Juvenile Hall.  He’s been in now almost  two months.

“He is walking with the Lord again,” she answered my brother, who had visited her son when he was in the lockdown units. Jake was raised a Christian. Now my brother spoke to his mom and questioned her son’s sincerity, parent to parent.

 “When he’s in deception he’s quoting scripture without his heart–but I always know it,” she explained pointing to her eyes. “I can see it in his eyes… because they look dark.”

Then she pointed to her chest.  “And I can feel it inside—something’s not right.” She continued talking about her wayward, now homeward-bound prodigal.

“When he first got in the Hall he used to ask me, 'Why am I going through such persecution when I'm following the Lord now?'. Since his arrest he was reading scripture and the kids knew he was a Christian. He’s pretty verbal about his faith when he’s on,” she spoke proudly.

“But the kids were filling empty orange juice containers with urine and dumping them on his bed when the crew wasn’t watching. Or they’d hit him when the guards weren’t around.   This last week he transferred to another unit. Jake said he was standing in the community room after he arrived and the smallest kid in that unit came up and gave him a punch.”

She smiled as if holding a secret pearl.

“My son is a big boy. He told me he looked at the kid and he said, ‘I admire you for your bravery, you could have picked on someone your size , but you chose someone much bigger. I could pummel you but I won’t , because it is not a nice thing to do. What you did was not nice either. In the future weigh your actions. God bless you’.”

    “I’ve told my son if you follow the Lord he will follow you with signs and wonder working miracles. That young man began to cry, and he even went to the guard and told them what he did… he felt so convicted.”

     Now she grinned widely.  “There was a young Jewish boy sitting on the couch with him who hated God and hated life.”

  “Why didn’t you hit him back?" He asked Jake perplexed.

    Jake  answered, “Because Jesus says to turn the other cheek and I have to follow Jesus.”

  The young man was so impressed, he talked to my son and then… he got saved.

 

Therefore brothers we have an obligation—but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.   Romans 8:12-14

 

Share hope at Christmas. "Cheesesticks," an amazing story from Juvenile Hall is included under the Pursuit of God section of the book /Bible Study Lord of the Ringless, available to order now online by clicking the blue purchase button top left this home page.