I’m taking this week off to spend time with family. I hope you enjoy this previously written devotional.
If you’ve interacted with people in your life, you’ve been hurt by someone at some point. The people closest to us seem to hurt us the most. When we get hurt, the easiest thing to do is let that pain turn into hate and bitterness. We want to hurt them back worse than they hurt us. If we’re not careful, the pain inside of us can consume us. I read a story this week of a 73 year old who found a high school classmate and killed him because of how he hurt him over 50 years ago. He lived his whole life wanting revenge for the pain this person caused him.
In Genesis, Abraham’s son Isaac had twins, Jacob and Esau. Esau was very hungry one day and Jacob had prepared a meal. He asked for some of it, but Jacob made him pay for it with the birthright which meant he would inherit his father’s wealth. Later, when Isaac was about to die, he summoned his firstborn Esau to bless him. He sent him out to kill something wild and cook it first. Jacob found out, and beat him to it. Esau hated Jacob for it and wanted to kill him. He let the anger consume him and the only way to console himself was to plot revenge.
In Genesis 27:40, Isaac told Esau, “You shall live by your sword, And serve your brother; However it shall come to pass when you break loose [from your anger and hatred], That you will tear his yoke off your neck [and you will be free of him]” (AMP). If you’re still carrying the pain from someone hurting you, it’s time to break loose from it. Get their yoke off your neck. Forgiving them is the way to do that. Ask the Lord to help you. I know personally this is easier said than done. It’s a process that starts with you forgiving in your heart first. The pain will go away and a scar will remain, but you will be free.
After spending a weekend in New York City, it felt like everyone was on edge and angry at each other. A light would turn green, and if the car in front didn’t move within a second, the other drivers would honk and yell. On one occasion, we were riding bikes and stopped at the light so we could turn. We were at the back of the crowd waiting when another bike rider flew past us yelling obscenities at us. My first thought was to roll my bike back into his to shut his foul mouth up. I’m human! I don’t know why he was angry or upset. Maybe he was late. Maybe something happened in his life. I don’t know. After the initial anger at him flared up, I got control of my feelings and crossed the street with neither of us physically or mentally hurt.
In 2 Samuel 16, King David’s son Absalom was coming to Jerusalem to take over the throne. Instead of fighting his son, David and a small army left town. As he crossed over the Mount of Olives, a descendant of King Saul followed along side them. He began to yell at King David and throwing stones at him. After a few minutes of name calling, one of David’s bodyguards requested permission to decapitate the man. David, had control of his feelings wouldn’t let him. He reminded him that the man had cause for being upset with him and said, “Perhaps the Lord will see that I am being wronged and will bless me because of these curses today” (NLT). Instead of lashing out, he chose to not let it bother him.
Colossians 3:13 says, “Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.” We need to give grace to people as we have received it. Offenses occur when we allow our feelings to get hurt or become angry at something an imperfect person has done. If you’re going to be around people, you’re going to get multiple opportunities to be offended by someone else’s faults. When we make allowances for people to be imperfect, we open ourselves up to show them undeserved grace. God is able to use that act to win them over. Remember that it’s His kindness that leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4). God can use our kindness and grace as well. Instead of allowing ourselves to get riled up over our feelings, we should look for ways to offer grace. Remember we are to do unto others first as we would like them to do unto us.
One of the hardest habits for us to adopt is the habit of forgiveness. When we’ve been wronged, we feel justified in holding anger and resentment against the one who wronged us. I’ve learned in my own life that anger, resentment and being hurt are all that’s needed to become bitter. That bitterness then becomes a prison that holds your thoughts captive and stops any progress in your life. It has the power to consume you and that kind of bitterness causes you to spread that poison to others.
God wants us to let go of the wrongs that have been done to us because He knows that’s where our freedom lies. You cannot be a productive Christian if you’re holding anger, resentment, or bitterness towards someone else. God’s desire is that we turn the other cheek, not so we can get hurt again, but so we can lead with our un-bruised side. He knows that we will be better witnesses for Him when we don’t lead with our hurts and bruises out front. He knows that we can be healed in time when we first learn the habit of forgiveness.
In Matthew 6, we find the Lord’s Prayer. I’m sure you’ve memorized it at one point in your life. What you may not have memorized are verses 14-15 which come immediately after it. Jesus followed up His prayer with, “If you forgive others the wrongs they have done to you, your Father in Heaven will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father in Heaven will not forgive the wrongs you have done” (GNT). Your forgiveness from God is dependent on your ability to forgive others.
I like how the Amplified Bible describes what forgiving “wrongs” is and looks like. It says, “Their reckless and willful sins, leaving them, letting them go, and giving up your resentment.” All of this is put on you, not the other person or God. Your own forgiveness starts with your ability to let go of what someone else has willfully done to wrong you. The life God has for you will be bright and fresh again once you choose to adopt the habit of forgiveness.
Throwback Thursday is a feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.
The importance of mentorship ne of the things I try to teach people. All of us could benefit from someone more experienced at any area of life to help us achieve growth in that area. The problem is that most of us are too proud or scared to ask someone to do it. I’ve had the privilege of working with some amazing leaders in large companies. One lady was the most approachable leader I’ve met, and she is the head of the retail side of a Fortune 15 company. She told me that people ask her all the time to mentor them. She tells them to set it up with her assistant.. She would love to be a mentor, but no one takes that next step to set up the meeting.
I love the story of the Prodigal Son. After taking his share of the inheritance, he took off to see the world and make a name for himself. If he had asked his father for wisdom, the father would have explained the importance of saving up for tough times. However, the son was living for the minute and ran out money when the famine came. After working for pig slop, he decided to humble himself and return home. He knew that at the least his father would accept him back as a servant and he would have food, shelter and money. What he wasn’t expecting was the willingness of the father to do exceedingly more than he could have imagined. His father ran to him as he got close to home. When he humbled himself and repented, he was forgiven and restored.
James 4:7-8 says, “So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you” (NLT). Humility is our first step in approaching God. We must know we need Him and His help. We must be bold enough to resist the devil and his lies that would try to keep us from the Father. He’ll try to appeal to our pride and fear to keep us away. However, when we, like the Prodigal Son, head towards God, He will rush to meet us with open arms. He will forgive us, restore us and mentor us as His children. All that He has is available to us if only we would humble ourselves and seek Him.
Have you ever got a stain in your clothes? Did you try to get it out immediately or let it sit until you washed it? I’ve done both. I’ve also sat at the washing machine with it trying every combination known to man to trust it so it would come out. There have been stains that no matter what I tried, I couldn’t get them out. I finally have to give up, throw it in the washer and hope it comes out. Doing that is often how we approach sin in our lives. We see the stain and try everything to remove the consequences it leaves on our lives. They’re like stains that everyone can see. No matter what you or I do though, we can’t remove the guilt from it. Only God has that ability.
In 2 Samuel 11, it says that the annual time for kings to go to war had come around. Instead of going with the army, King David stayed home. He sent someone else to fight his battles. While he was home, he saw a beautiful woman and sent for her knowing she was married. She became pregnant after their encounter. David tried every combination known to man to remove the stain, but nothing worked. He then had her husband murdered to try to cover it up. God wasn’t pleased and sent the prophet Nathan to call him out and to bring judgement. Immediately 2 Samuel 12:13-14 says, “Then David confessed to Nathan, ‘I’ve sinned against God.’ Nathan pronounced, ‘Yes, but that’s not the last word. God forgives your sin’” (MSG). Nathan continued to tell him he would still face consequences.
In his repentance, David wrote Psalm 51. In verses 1-3 he prayed, “Generous in love—God, give grace! Huge in mercy—wipe out my bad record. Scrub away my guilt, soak out my sins in your laundry. I know how bad I’ve been; my sins are staring me down.” Confession and repentance are the keys to removing the stains sin leaves behind. Forgiveness is admitting you’ve done wrong and repentance is changing your way in order to not do it again. While God doesn’t always remove the consequences of our actions, He does forgive them. No matter how stained your life is, it’ll wash clean with God’s forgiveness. Quit trying to remove the guilt and stains yourself. Give your dirty laundry to God.
A couple of decades ago, I went through what I somewhat jokingly call halftime in my life. I was born and raised in church and accepted Jesus at an early age. Then in my mid twenties I decided to live in opposition to how I was raised. It didn’t take long for God to work on my heart to bring me back into living His way. During halftime I suffered many consequences for my actions including people telling me I was disqualified from being a minister. As I was lamenting over it to a friend, he reminded me that God doesn’t rescind His calling in our life. He takes our past and uses it to help others.
Paul, who wrote a lot of the New Testament, was raised in the strictest sect of Judaism. His zeal for God’s Law was so strong that he hunted down and killed people he thought were in opposition to his understanding of the Law. Then, in Acts 9, as he was traveling to persecute Christians, Jesus appeared to him and changed his life. As he ministered to people, he referee to himself as the chief of sinners knowing what he had done in the past. However, God was able to use his past to prove to anyone that no matter how much they’ve lived in opposition to God, they are still able to receive God’s grace, find salvation and be used by Him in ministry.
Psalm 139:5 says, “You’ve gone into my future to prepare the way, and in kindness you follow behind me to spare me from the harm of my past. You have laid your hand on me!” (TPT) God is not afraid of your past (or present). He has a plan for your life and is able to use whatever you’ve been through and whatever you’ve don’t to help others find healing and forgiveness in Him. Those things do not disqualify you. Instead, they have prepared you for the future He has got you. You, nor others, have the ability to remove God’s calling or plan for your life. He has prepared your future despite your past. He has laid His hand on you to accomplish His purposes in your life. Leave the guilt and condemnation behind, and follow where He leads.
There was a guy that I knew in my teens that I didn’t like much. He did things at other people’s expense, was cocky and rude. Then, about ten years ago, I got a friend request from him. I accepted it skeptically. He started posting ministry photos and such. In my heart I thought, “What’s his angle? Who is he trying to fool?” I questioned his motives every time I saw him talk about Jesus or a photo of the work He was doing for the Kingdom. I even showed my wife the photos and told her about him. As I was scoffing one night, the Holy Spirit spoke to me and asked, “Do I hold your past against you? How can you hold someone else’s past against them when I’ve forgiven them?” I had to let it go and forgive him. I even called him to discuss it with him and ask his forgiveness.
When I think of stories of someone forgiving a serious wrong, I think of Jacob and Esau in Genesis 32. Jacob stole his brothers blessing and took advantage of him in a desperate situation to get his birthright. Esau was so angry that he wanted to kill his brother. Jacob left town and disappeared for years. When it was time to come home, there was fear in the back of his mind about what Esau would do to him. Instead of being angry, Esau ran to embrace him. He had forgiven him long before, but never had the opportunity to express it. Jacob was still unsure and didn’t trust his brother, but ultimately accepted his forgiveness. I’m not sure when Esau decided to forgive Jacob, but when he did, a huge burden had to have been lifted.
Ephesians 4:32 instructs us, “But instead be kind and affectionate toward one another. Has God graciously forgiven you? Then graciously forgive one another in the depths of Christ’s love” (TPT). One of the hardest things we have to do as Christians is to forgive someone who wronged us. We’re not God so we can’t see their heart to see if they’ve changed, but even still we’re told to forgive as Christ has forgiven us. Forgiveness is truly a key that opens the door and releases us more than them. It may not restore the relationship (some don’t need to be reconciled), but it will open us up to allow God to repair the emotional scars that were left behind. It doesn’t happen right away, but the healing can’t begin in our own life until we forgive. If you’re struggling to forgive someone, ask God to help you with that. Forgiveness is His specialty.
One of the mantras that I’ve heard for a while is, “Change before you have to.” I wasn’t always sure what that meant, but I’ve found out a few times in my life and wished I had. Many times the Holy Spirit has sounded the warning alarms in my life, and many of those times I’ve hit the snooze button. His warnings are letting us know that if we continue on the path we’re on, we’re headed for trouble. When I’ve disregarded them, I’ve fallen flat on my face and gone through some painful times as a result of my sin. Sometimes I’m so hard headed and want to do things my own way that the only way I’ll listen or make the necessary changes in my life are to go through a painful time so that next time I’ll listen. God is more concerned with our holiness than our comfort.
It’s hard to put some things in perspective as you read the Bible. In some books, you may cover hundreds of years of history. I keep thinking, “How did they mess up again so quickly? Why won’t they learn?” Yet, their track record is better than mine a lot of the times. In Deuteronomy 30:19 God said He sets before us life and death, blessings and cursing, and that the choice is ours. He wants us to choose life, but when we don’t, their are painful consequences to help us to turn back to Him and to remind us not to go down that path again. It works for a while, but our brains are bent toward trying to do things our way instead of His. Pain is often one of the best motivators for our brain, and it can condition it to not repeat mistakes.
God knows you and I aren’t perfect. He knows we’re going to mess up. Thankfully He doesn’t wipe His hands clean of us and give up. His grace is greater than our biggest mistakes and His offer of forgiveness is open to us. God will do whatever it takes to bring us back, even if it means pain, discomfort or embarrassment. Proverbs 20:30 says, “Sometimes it takes a painful experience to make us change our ways” (GNT). He knows there are a lot of stubborn people like myself who need those painful reminders to come back home. The Prodigal Son lasted in his painful experience as long as he could before he finally decided to go back home. You and I have the same opportunity to return to a waiting Father who will run to us, love us and put the family robe and ring back on our finger if only we will return.
Have you ever done something wrong and then tried to cover it up? Of course you have. You’re human. There’s something inside of us that think if we cover it up, no one will know and it will go away. I’ve been trying it since I was a kid. In fact, my friends and I once started a fire when we were young. When it started smoking a lot, we tried to cover it up…with dried up pine needles. The fire roared even bigger. Instead of asking an adult for help, we went to my friend’s brother who was only two years older. By the time he realized he couldn’t put it out either, a neighbor saw the blaze and called the fire department who came and prevented a huge forest fire. By then, there was still significant damage we could have avoided had we confessed sooner.
I’ve found that people are more willing to forgive your shortcomings when you’re open and honest about them. But there’s this voice in our heads that creates doubts and insecurities in us. It tells us, “If they knew this about you, they would never talk to you.” When we listen to that voice, we choose to cover up our sins, failures and shortcomings which compounds the problem. We know it doesn’t work, but we try anyway thinking we might get away with it this time. The temptation to cover things up is such a challenge that it’s often more tempting than the temptation to sin. The problem is that sin covered up is unconfessed sin.
Proverbs 28:13 says, “If you cover up your sin you’ll never do well. But if you confess your sins and forsake them, you will be kissed by mercy” (TPT). We confess our sins to God for forgiveness. We confess them to others for healing. We need to get better at showing people mercy for their confessed sins. That’s the only way to break this cycle of covering up sins. We all sin, and we all need mercy and grace from each other. Jesus said it was the merciful who will obtain mercy. Let mercy start with you today.
Have you ever made a mistake or messed up? Ever have anyone not let you forget it? It’s bad enough that we all make mistakes, but it’s worse when it’s public and we can’t live it down. Sometimes it makes you the butt of other people’s jokes, and sometimes it’s what keeps you from getting ahead. Each time you try to advance, there’s someone holding that over your head reminding you of that one time you messed up and that’s why they can’t trust you. It can be frustrating to be in that position, but I think it’s worse to be the person who is holding another person’s mistake against them. Grace is something we all expect from others, but rarely give someone else. We judge others by their mistakes, but want them to judge our mistakes by our intentions. It’s time we implemented the Golden Rule when it comes to mistakes people make.
Can you imagine how Peter felt when he publicly denied Jesus a couple of hours after saying he would never do that? Luke 22:61 says that when Peter denied Jesus a third time, Jesus turned and looked at him. How do you come back from that? It’s no wonder Peter wanted to go back to his old life after Jesus was crucified. He was so used to people holding his mistakes against him that he thought being the Rock of the Church was out the window. I love that Jesus introduced him to grace and asked him three times if he loved Him. It took a while for Jesus to get through to him that his mistake had been overlooked and that Jesus wouldn’t dwell on it. He restored the friendship in that conversation and reinstated Peter’s future. Jesus didn’t just do that for Peter’s benefit. He was giving us a model to emulate.
Proverbs 17:9 says, “Love overlooks the mistakes of others, but dwelling on the failures of others devastates friendships” (TPT). Who do you need to release today? Who’s failure have you been dwelling on and holding it against them? If Jesus hasn’t held your past mistakes against you, how can you hold someone’s against them? We are people of restoration. We are people of forgiveness. It’s time we began to live like that instead of the way our flesh wants us to live. Holding someone’s past against them makes you the warden and them your prisoner, but love overlooks the mistakes of others. If we’re to be known for our love, we’re to be known for letting go of people’s past mistakes.
Side note:We’re also to be people who are wise as serpents and harmless as doves. It doesn’t mean we give them full access and carte blanche. Use wisdom in providing a way forward to rebuild trust and to help them advance rather than to hold them in one place forever. We are Biblically called to forgive everyone, but not necessarily to reconcile with everyone. There’s a difference. Forgiveness frees them and you from the mistake. Reconciliation restores the relationship. Sometimes forgiveness is all you can do, and that’s ok.
Thanks to Jachan DeVol @jachan_devol for making this photo available freely on Unsplash