How to Forgive Your Father

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As I mentioned in a recent sermon, one of the hardest things for us as we see God as father is how we feel about our earthly father. That relationship impacts so much of how we see ourselves, the world around us and God. It impacts how we feel about ourselves and how we let others treat us.

As you take steps this week to let go of any hurt done by your earthly father and forgive him, here are a couple of things to keep in mind:

One, remember your sin. It is easy to simply look at the brokenness of someone else and overlook our brokenness. As you forgive someone, you begin to come face to face with some of the things in your own heart. If you skip over these things or not deal with them, you will find yourself having a hard time understanding God’s forgiveness. Remember, God’s grace was extended to you and your sin, my sin, the sin of your father put Jesus on the cross.

Two, forgiveness does not mean you pretend something didn’t happen. Forgive and forget is a nice phrase, but I’m not sure it is realistic or biblical. We always remember something. It is part of our story, our life. We don’t simply pretend that hurt, broken promises, or even abuse happened. As you forgive and move forward, don’t pretend something didn’t happen as that will keep you from health and wholeness.

Third, forgiveness does not mean you have a relationship with someone. You can forgive someone and keep them at a distance, which you may need to do depending on the situation for your safety.

Last, God forgave you and this is the basis for letting go of anything. Why did God forgive you? He loved you and this forgiveness is what we are to extend to those who hurt us, including our father.

It may be hard to believe, but forgiving those who hurt you the most is not only something a follower of Jesus is called to, it is also the only way to living the life that God calls you to live. Many people walk around with hurt, that turns into bitterness because of something they won’t let go of. And that is not the life that God has called us to live.

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God Does not Withhold His Forgiveness

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I’m reminded as my kids get older that parenting is about the moments we miss or don’t miss. Changes in our kids hearts, seeing the Holy Spirit work in them, helping them make right choices, helping them become who God has called them to be, it happens in moments, in conversations. While some of those might be planned and exactly as we see them working in our heads, by and large, they just happen.

I was reminded of this recently when our kids made some poor choices for some babysitters while Katie and I were out. As we talked with them and led them through a prayer of repentance, I was reminded that God already forgives us.

It was a great truth to remind my kids, God does not withhold his forgiveness from those who ask it. 

In the church, many say they believe this, but few actually do. We talk about grace and forgiveness with the culture around us, but don’t believe that God will really forgive them if they seek it. We also sometimes harbor bitterness at the idea that God would give forgiveness so freely to someone who would sin so willfully. Yet, we sin willfully. And God grants us forgiveness without reserve.

As we talked with our kids, Katie reminded them of 1 John 1:9 which says: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

This verse often gets talked about in terms of becoming a follower of Jesus, yet 1 John was written to Christians. Meaning, as a follower of Jesus, you will continue to sin and mess up. You will continue to get it wrong. Which means, you need to continually ask for forgiveness and confess your sins to God. But, that God is faithful and just and forgive us of our sins. I’m blown away that God’s justice in this verse is equated to he forgives us. Imagine that justice. It is forgiveness. Not wrath. Not anger. Not hatred. Not withholding love and his presence, but forgiveness is his justice for a follower of Jesus who confesses his sin.

And…

He will cleanse us of all unrighteousness. He will make us right. He will make us into the person He has called us to be. 

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Giving Forgiveness

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Forgiveness is tough. In a sermon, giving forgiveness sounds so easy and clean. Yet, in real life, it is difficult and messy.

I mentioned in a sermon recently that whenever we withhold forgiveness, we deny the power of the cross. Whenever we say, “I can’t forgive that person.” Or, “I can’t let go of that situation.” We deny the power of the cross.

As you walk through this door and grant forgiveness, here are a couple of things to keep in mind:
  1. Forgiving someone does not mean pretending it didn’t happen. Forgiving does not mean forgetting as the old saying goes. Those scars still exist. They are still there. Forgiving means acknowledging it happened and the pain associated with it.
  2. Giving forgiveness means bearing the other persons sin. There is a cost to forgiveness (see #1). You must bear their sin. The cost of forgiveness is always on the person granting forgiveness. This is why forgiveness is so hard.
  3. Forgiveness is possible because Jesus bore your sin and the cost of your forgiveness. When we look at the cross, we see how Jesus bore our sin, knowing we would fail again and again. Yet, he forgave us. The power of this moment is what enables us to forgive the way Jesus did.

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What Leaders can Learn from Lance Armstrong about Legacy

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I’m a sports fan. I love football, but I enjoy just about any sport. Especially sports stories. Instead of reading politics in the morning, I turn to NBC Sports Talk and Bleacher report as my apps of choice.

Because of that, I read the accusations over the years about Lance Armstrong. Did he dope? Was he really that incredible to be the only cyclist who didn’t dope?

Last week, as the saga of his life and doping were on display in a 2 part interview with Oprah, it was sad to watch. I had known for months that he had in fact cheated, but watching and reading the interview were sad to watch.

Here are some things for leaders to learn from Lance:

  1. Who you really are eventually comes out. Numbers 32:23 says, “But if you will not do so, behold, you have sinned against the Lord, and be sure your sin will find you out.” While this can very easily be used to guilt people into things and carry the idea that God will smite you in the future for something you did 20 years ago, which I don’t think is the point. The reality of this verse and our lives is that eventually, everything comes out. You can only hide something for so long. Every moment carries the risk of someone new finding out, the circling of knowledge enlarging. If who you are in front of people, on stage is not who you are at home, eventually, it will be found out. For Lance, he was so defiant in his defense that he didn’t cheat, it made people want to see him fail. 
  2. Your enemies will have the determination you do. Which leads to the second thing.Your critics will take on the personality of their adversary. For Lance, he was defiant in his defense, so his critics, those who charged him with cheating were just as defiant. I’m not sure if they would’ve gone away if he wasn’t so defensive, but he kept it going by how adamant he was. The same is true with Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens.
  3. Every action matters. What came out of the interview was who Lance is. He didn’t hide that, and you can’t hide that. Lance is strong willed, determined and according to many people he has sued or interacted with, “a jerk.” How you treat the smallest people in your organization, the person who is of little significance to you or the mission matters. How available you are to people, how you treat them, it all matters. It all adds up. It all goes into how you are remembered and known. That’s why 1 Timothy 3:7 says an elder in a church must be thought well of by outsiders. Too many pastors seem to find enjoyment in being defiant and a mark of how gospel centered they are by how much criticism they take from outsiders. Yes, you may disagree theologically with outsiders, but you can still show them love and grace.
  4. It takes one choice to change it all. Everything ends. The momentum you have right now will wane at some point. Your popularity will cease. At some point, the wise and foolish, the famous and the unknown all die. How great you think of yourself right now, will not last. It can be taken in a moment, in the wake of one decision. Every time I hear about another pastor who has fallen out of ministry for sleeping with someone he isn’t married to, running off with money that isn’t his or something else, my heart breaks. It also scares me because I know that in my sinfulness, I am one choice away from wrecking my life. Everyone is. One small choice, one moment of letting our guard down in a situation quickly can become two and then three to the point we no longer have our boundaries.
  5. When you are caught, brokenness is the answer. When you are caught in something, be honest. Watching Lance and now the ongoing saga with Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o, I’m reminded that brokenness is the answer. Be honest, be real. Admit what you did. Every time you lie, every time you excuse a behavior because everyone did it simply shows you don’t get it and that you aren’t sorry.

Question for the readers: What did you learn about leadership and legacy from Lance Armstrong?

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This Weekend @ Revolution || The Image of Christmas

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Our Christmas Service is Here!

So excited for this Sunday at Revolution Church as we celebrate Christmas and prepare ourselves for celebrating the birth of Jesus.

Over the fall, we’ve been going through the book of Ephesians at Revolution and it has been an incredible series. For our Christmas service, we will be staying in Ephesians and looking at Ephesians 2:1 – 10 to see why Jesus came to earth and what his coming means for us. Here’s what our Christmas service will be about:

  • If Jesus came to earth, why did he come? What does that tell us about who we are and what we need?
  • As we think about gifts and grace, is there anything in our lives that is past God’s ability to forgive?
  • As you look towards 2013, what would change in your life if God really forgave you, really set you free from the things holding you back and weighing you down?
  • We kicked off our Christmas Offering recently and I’m really excited about the response so far. For more information on what it is going to and how you can be involved, go here.
  • If you haven’t “Liked” the Revolution Fan Page on Facebook, do so now. It is one of the ways we communicate and pass on resources for sermons and other ways to help serve you in your spiritual growth.

This is definitely a week you don’t want to miss at Revolution Church. So, bring someone with you (you never know when a simple invite will make an eternal difference).

Remember, we meet at 8300 E. Speedway Blvd. at 10am.

Sermon Recap || Ending Bitterness

Sunday was a powerful, but hard day at Revolution. It was powerful because of the content: ending the bitterness in your heart and forgiving those who have hurt you the most. It was hard because that idea is incredibly difficult. Very few people actually experience freedom from those who have hurt them the most.

The reality for everyone, at some level they have been hurt by someone, they are withholding forgiveness from someone. Because of that, this topic relevant to everyone.

In Ephesians 4:25 – 32, Paul walks through the process many people walk through when they are hurt and then he lays out how to move forward from that. If you missed it, you can listen here.

They begin by lying about what happened (25). Either to themselves, to the person who hurt them or the people around them. Either not being honest about it, not telling anyone about it, minimizing the damage that’s been done or pretending it wasn’t a big deal.

Then, they are angry (26 – 27). Now, Paul tells us that anger is not a sin, in and of itself. Anger can lead us to sin if we aren’t careful. It is appropriate and biblical to be angry at sin and injustice, but we can’t allow that anger to lead us to sin. When it does, we give Satan a foothold in our lives. Paul tells us to not let the sun go down on our anger. This is a picture to help us see that we need to deal with our hurt and anger quickly. When it festers, it grows into sin.

If we let our anger grow into sin, it impacts our daily lives. It paralyzes us (28). This keeps people from working, living a normal life. It prevents them from moving forward.

All of this leads to us lashing out at the person who has hurt us, speaking ill of them (29 – 30). This should not be what defines a follower of Jesus. This doesn’t mean we shower the person with compliments who hurt us, but it does mean that we don’t speak ill of them. It might mean you say nothing about them.

Paul ends with a beautiful, but difficult line: Forgive those who hurt you as God in Christ forgave you (32). It’s beautiful because it reminds me of God’s grace to me, but it is difficult because it means I am responsible and held accountable to extending that same grace to those who have sinned against me.

It is important to understand though, what forgiveness is and isn’t.

What forgiveness is…

  1. Forgiveness is cancelling the debt owed to you. When you forgive someone, you relinquish your right to make them repay that debt. God’s forgiveness of us cancels the debt of our sin, in the same way; our forgiveness to someone cancels their debt. We can stop making them pay for what they did.
  2. Forgiveness is removing the control your offender has over you. You not only free them from their debt to you but also emotionally free yourself from them. When we don’t forgive someone, we allow that person to take up residence in our heart, moving God out.
  3. Forgiveness is giving a gift to your offender and yourself. Holding grudges, bitterness hurts your current relationships, work, marriage, gives you higher blood pressure, stress and anxiety. Forgiveness releases that power.
  4. Forgiveness forsakes seeking revenge. God’s forgiveness also gives up revenge. He gives it freely, allowing those who have sinned against him, us, to come to him.
  5. Forgiveness gives God ultimate justice. We withhold forgiveness out of our sense of fairness, but the Bible promises that God will deal with everyone’s sin justly. Forgiving someone who has hurt you, allows God to be God. We can stop trying to bring vengeance against a person and allow God to be God in that relationship or situation. Not in a vengeful, “Wait til Jesus gets you.”
  6. Forgiveness is an ongoing process. Once you forgive someone, you will continually remind yourself of this.
  7. Forgiveness wants good for our offender. We change from wanting them to suffer and pay to wanting them to repent and change by God’s grace.

What forgiveness is not…

  1. Denying that sin occurred or diminishing its evil and impact. When Jesus died, he called it sin, he named it. God said you were a sinner against him. He didn’t deny that, he died for that. It was sin done to you, against you. You were abused, molested, you were abandoned, you were unloved. It happened, don’t deny that.
  2. Forgiveness is not enabling sin. God’s forgiveness for us gives us power over sin, it does not enable it. Forgiveness does not make you a doormat to that person and their sin, because you choose whether or not you forgive them.
  3. Forgiveness is not covering up sin committed against us. If a crime is committed, you need to tell someone.
  4. Forgiveness is not forgetting. Scars, memories will still remain. People will say “we should forgive and forget.” That’s not biblical or helpful. God does not forget your sin. Scripture says that God remembers our sin no more. He doesn’t forget them, he’s all knowing.
  5. Forgiveness is not trust. Trust can take years to rebuild and may never be rebuilt, but that doesn’t mean forgiveness has not happened.
  6. Forgiveness is not reconciliation. Reconciliation takes 2 people, 2 people repenting. You can forgive someone who has hurt you, giving them God’s grace, allowing God to change your heart and yet, have no relationship with them.

If this message resonated with you and you are looking for some more resources on forgiveness or identity. Here are some good ones to check out:

Related Sermons @ Revolution Church

This Weekend @ Revolution || Ending Bitterness

All of us know someone who is bitter, who has trouble letting go of something or someone in their life. Maybe it is you. Maybe you struggle with forgiving someone who hasn’t asked for your forgiveness. Maybe you struggle with having kindness towards someone who hurt you and doesn’t seem to care.

If so, here’s why you and/or someone you know needs to be at Revolution Church this weekend:

  • I’ll be preaching out of Ephesians 4:25 – 32 and looking at how we forgive those who have hurt us the most, how we let go of bitterness in our hearts and live in the freedom that is found in the forgiveness and grace of God; and extend that forgiveness and grace to others.
  • Let me say this about this Sunday: If you’ve been waiting to invite someone to Revolution, this is the week. It’s going to be a powerful weekend at Revolution. 
  • If you are new to Revolution, you don’t want to miss this. We will be having a newcomer’s lunch on November 11 where you can meet some of pastors, eat some good food and ask any questions you have to help you get more connected with what we are doing at Revolution.
  • If you haven’t “Liked” the Revolution Fan Page on Facebook, do so now. It is one of the ways we communicate and pass on resources for sermons and other ways to help serve you in your spiritual growth.

This is definitely a week you don’t want to miss at Revolution Church. So, bring someone with you (you never know when a simple invite will make an eternal difference)

Remember, we meet at 8300 E. Speedway Blvd. at 10am

See you on Sunday!

What God Did With Your Sins at Redemption

Came across this quote in a commentary on Ephesians as I’m prepping for my sermon this week:

It is tragic that many Christians are depressed about their shortcomings and wrongdoing, thinking and acting as if God still holds their sins against them—forgetting that, because God has taken their sins upon Himself, they are separated from those sins “as far as the east is from the west” (Ps. 103:12). They forget God’s promise through Isaiah that one day He would wipe out the transgressions of believers “like a thick cloud” and their “sins like a heavy mist. Return to Me,” He said, “for I have redeemed you” (Isa. 44:22). Even before the Messiah came and paid the price for redemption, God spoke of it as already having taken place. Depressed Christians forget that God looked down the corridors of time even before He fashioned the earth and placed the sins of His elect on the head of His Son, who took them an eternal distance away. He dismissed our sins before we were born, and they can never return. -John MacArthur

Six Myths about Forgiveness

There are 6 myths when it comes to forgiveness (from Rumors of God by Darren Whitehead & Jon Tyson):

  1. Forgiving is the same as forgetting.
  2. Forgiving is the same as reconciling.
  3. Forgiving is the same as excusing.
  4. Forgiving will make you weak.
  5. Forgiving is a simple act or decision.
  6. Forgiving depends on the perpetrator admitting wrong.

What the Gospel Saves us For

“When God had mercy on us, when God revealed Jesus Christ to us as our brother, when God won our hearts by God’s own love, our instruction in Christian love began at the same time. When God was merciful to us, we learned to be merciful with one another. When we received forgiveness instead of judgment, we too were made ready to forgive each other. What God did to us, we then owed to others. The more we received, the more we were able to give; and the more our love for one another, the less we were living by God’s mercy and love. Thus God taught us to encounter one another as God has encountered us in Christ. ‘Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God’ (Romans 15:7).” -Dietrich Bonhoeffer