Why is it so hard to forgive others?
I wish I had a neat, simple answer for this question, but I don't. I guess because it is so hard, this makes it is such an important thing. If forgiveness was as easy as picking up a few groceries from the store, we wouldn't appreciate it as much. It wouldn't even make a dent on our emotional radar's.
Forgiveness is really life changing. The longer I refuse to forgive others the longer I live in bondage to that person - my unforgiveness gives that person/situation power to rule my life. It also prevents me from fully enjoying the forgiveness offered by God. My decision to hold onto the burden, grudge, and pain means that I haven't got an empty heart to receive God's blessing of forgiveness.
Eugene Peterson - "In prayer there is a
connection between what God does and what you do. You can't get forgiveness
from God, for instance, without also forgiving others. If you refuse to do your
part, you cut yourself off from God's part. (Matthew 6: 14-15)
I don't know Cameron van den Burgh. I have never met him or even seen him in the flesh, yet last night I cheered for him like I was his best friend. I threw my hands into the air and shouted for him every moment of his 58 second world record swim. I was so proud of him and of being a South African. I wanted him to win and was delighted for him when he stood on the podium.
It's weird, but how do we have so much emotion for someone we don't know? So, it got me thinking about whether we actually want the best for other people? It may be easier to cheer for Cameron, because I am not a threat to him (my 100m Breastwork time is just slightly slower than his - by about 10 minutes) - but can I seek the best for others who are closer to me. My colleagues, my family, my friends? Do I really want the things that are best for them or am I too proud to cheer them on?
Jesus wanted to bring out the best in others - he came to put others before himself. He suggested that we should go and do likewise.
So how about it - will you put someone before yourself today?
If I depend on others for everything, then I will only be disappointed in the long run. If I depend on myself, then I will be equally frustrated. If I put my trust in my company, career, organisation or even church, then I am likely to be let down. However, when I rest my life in the hands of God, then I will be eternally blessed and content.
"When we depend on organisations, we get what organisations can do; when we depend on education, we get what education can do; when we depend on man, we get what man can do; but when we depend on prayer, we get what God can do." - A.C. Dixon
As we approach the beginning of the London Olympics, athletes are wrapping up their final preparation. These athlete's will use all kinds of personal techniques to get prepared and focused on their targets. Getting their minds right will be as important as getting their bodies prepared.
Perhaps a verse that we may want to use today in our own spiritual journey's is this one:
"I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." - Philippians 3:13-14
May God help you in your thoughts, actions and words today.
It is stating the obvious to note that when we pray we hope that something happens. We pray, trusting that God will intervene in our lives, give us guidance, bring us healing, change things - we pray hoping that God will act. However, we need to remember that prayer also changes us. The time we spend in the presence of God refines our desires, motives and perspective. If we pray, without expecting something to change within us, then we pray with wrong motives.
"Prayer - secret, fervent, believing prayer - lies at the root of all personal godliness." - William Cary
Josh and Kim were travelling to school the other morning when he asked her, "Mommy, why are those trees upside down?" Kim was a little confused and asked him to show her which trees he was referring to. When she saw the trees she noticed that they were not upside down, but that they had just shed all their leaves. They looked upside down, but it was merely the bare branches showing.
Sometimes things may look upside down, but perhaps they are not. Perhaps they are the right way up, but just look a little different from our perception.
Nelson Mandela has been honoured in so many ways for his 94th birthday. I thought I would do something I love to order to honour his influence on the world - that is allowing a few of his quotes to speak for themselves.
“I am not a saint, unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying.”
“The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”
“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin,
or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if
they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more
naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”
How often have you noticed a kid at a birthday party asking for more sweets, but if you look closely you notice they already have a handful? Of course we are not going to give them more sweets at that moment, are we?
Sometimes we may not receive what we ask for (from God) because we come bringing our hands "stuffed" with other things - good and bad. It is not that God doesn't want to give us good things, but we aren't able to receive it yet or perhaps even appreciate it.
God gives where he finds empty hands - Augustine
Come to God today in prayer...
"Empty hands held high, such small sacrifice" (Casting Crowns)
Over the past few days the powerful words of St Paul have been coming to my mind again and again...
"Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable —if anything is excellent or praiseworthy —think about such things." - Philippians 4:8
If you needed a great verse to start the new term with, why not let these words sink into your Spirit.
For a lot of people Winter is a depressing season. However, I kind of like this time of the year. It reminds me to slow down and to take stock of things in my life. The later sunrises and earlier sunsets also nudge us inside, where things are warmer and more quiet. Richard Foster had this reflection on the blessing of Winter for him:
"Winter preserves and strengthens a tree. Rather than expending its strength on the exterior surface, its sap is forced deeper and deeper into its interior depth. In winter a tougher, more resilient life is firmly established. Winter is necessary for the tree to survive and flourish."
Winter has a purpose in our spiritual lives too. Perhaps we must celebrate that our "spiritual winter's" help us to become more resilient in the future.
In his outstanding book, The Jesus Creed, Scot McKnight remarks on what a spiritually formed person should look like:
"A Spiritually formed person loves God by following Jesus and loving others. A Spiritually formed person embraces the stories of others who love Jesus.
A Spiritually formed person lives out kingdom values, and
A Spiritually formed person loves Jesus."
How do you measure up? We can't just be Christians in name only, we need to be 'formed' in the image of our heavenly Father.