Tag Archives: forgive

Time And Growth

Time And Growth

Recently I read about an incident that occurred back in 2004.  A fight broke out among the residents of a nursing home in their dining hall.  One man was playing with the lettuce in the serving line with his bare hands.  From that a fight ensued.  A 62-year-old and an 86-year-old started to trade “punches.”  Then a 79-year-old was bitten in the arm.  The mother of the 62-year-old man was cut in the arm and a 92-year-old man was shoved to the floor as other residents ran away from the dining hall.

The point of sharing this story is that time and age does not ensure a person grows “out of” anger issues.  We cannot hope that one day the wrath of a person is appeased because he or she becomes a certain age.  The only way to grow out of any sin – is to grow more like Jesus.  What we do in and with our time, is more important than how much time has expired.

Ephesians 4 clearly teaches how to replace the sin with righteousness and goodness.  God can help you grow in these areas!

Ephesians 4:31-32 says, “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”

Please observe the first sin listed: Bitterness.  Wrath, anger, clamour (outcry of grief), evil speaking (vile and blaspheme), and malice (badness) are all a result of the first sin: Bitterness.

Bitterness leads to faulty vision, angry thinking, and heated words.  Time does not heal bitterness.  Jesus alone can heal bitterness.

A life submitted to God will bring the hurts, pains, resentments, and seeds of bitterness to God and let God take care of them.  When we hold onto our “rights,” our pride, and our bitter spirit, the bitterness sprouts up into a garden of deceit, pain, and turmoil that chokes out all the positive things God is doing in our lives.  Nurturing bitterness ensures a garden of sin and grief is cultivated in a person’s life.

Replace the bitterness with forgiveness.  Replace the anger and wrath with kindness. Replace the harsh words with tenderheartedness.

While some people seem to “mellow out” over time, it is not just because of the passing of days. Time alone is not enough to grow out of sin and to find healing from the control of sin.  Growing in Jesus and learning to follow his example of love, compassion, and forgiveness is the only way to see victory over the sin of bitterness and anger.  What we do with the time God gives to grow closer to Him is what really counts.

 

 

 

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The Sour Life

The Sour Life

A little sour goes a long way with me.  A little lemon is good, not a lot.  Do you like rhubarb/strawberry pie?  Grandma Harness used to make that a lot.  I also enjoy rhubarb crisp.  Each year we harvest our own rhubarb and are sure to put a lot of real sugar in the crisp  because of how sour the rhubarb is! I even like some of the “Sweet and Sour” candies made today.  Sour foods taste bitter, acidic, and tart.  My palate can handle only so much.  I like sweet much better.

When it comes to relationships, sour, is not something that you want your life to be described as.  Christians do not want their outlook to be “sour.”  Our relationships should not taste sour and our emotional/spiritual perspective should not be bitter.

“Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled…” Hebrews 12:15

One funny story goes like this: “Two writers who were bitter rivals were both attending the same party. One had recently had a book published, and the other commented to him, “I read your new book and liked it. Who wrote it for you?”

The other replied, “I’m glad you liked the book, who read it to you?””   (6,000 Plus)

Two simple observations of the devastating effects of bitterness include:

  1. Bitterness troubles the one who is bitter. This includes a guilty conscience, irrational reasoning, with confused anger and responses to others.
  2. Bitterness affects the people around the one who is bitter. A husband affects his wife.  A wife affects her husband.  Parents will impact their kids. While some believe a self-propagated lie that “my bitterness only affects me” – the truth is “many be defiled” by one person’s bitterness.

Some people are bitter about their childhood and upbringing.  Some are still angry with their parents for schooling, sports, discipline, and other areas.  Some people are bitter towards childhood acquaintances from school, church, or teams they played on.  Others develop hatred in college, towards their “first romance” or even in the first real job.  Some are in relationships with people right now and are allowing unresolved issues, anger, selfishness, pride, or misunderstandings sour their outlook on life.

A basic practice of Bible Christianity is “self-examination.”  Considering the Word of God, are you harboring any level of bitterness towards someone?  Here are several identifiable characteristics of bitterness that can help you in your self-assessment:

  • Obsessive thoughts of revenge
  • Sarcasm
  • Critical or unkind comments
  • Self-righteousness
  • Conflicts with others
  • Aggressiveness in relationships
  • Controlling behavior

Bitterness will wreak havoc on a person and their family.  Being bitter will bloom into many other areas of sin; neglect, hostility, and wrong thinking.  The fruit produced by bitterness will be a life of regret, an outlook of despair, and a heart of hatred.

If any of the characteristics of bitterness are found in you, do everything you can, with God’s help, to get it pulled out of your life.  What should a bitter person do?

  • Confess the bitterness as sin.
  • Identify the source: jealousy, anger, rage, fear, pride.
  • Ask other people to pray for you. This demonstration of humility makes it clear that you mean business.
  • Ask for another Christian to hold you accountable when you exhibit any of the characteristics of bitterness.
  • Ask forgiveness of those you have impacted directly with bitterness.
  • Ask forgiveness of those who were indirectly impacted because of your bitterness.
  • Restore your relationship with God. The vertical relationship with Jesus is directly impacted by your horizontal relationship with other human beings. Getting relationships right with others is one way to get your relationship right with God.
  • Be happy in Jesus!  Don’t live “the sour life!”

 

 

(“Characteristics of Bitterness” – Guide to Biblical Counseling.  Clinton and Hawkins.)

 

 

 

 

How to Stay in the Same Church for 30 Years

How to Stay in the Same Church for 30 Years

“Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.”

Ephesians 3:21

Dorsey and Barbara.  Loren and Tammy. Doug and Debbie.  Glen and Norene.  Ray and Nancy.  I have been blessed to witness many individuals and couples remain in the same church for 30, 40 and even 50 years.  How can a regular church member remain in the same church for such a meaningful amount of time?  Great question!

If the members of the Ephesus church were church members one day and not the next, or skipped around from church to church, how would they have been included in the “glory in the church” by honoring the Lord?  They couldn’t.  Something about long-term commitment resonates with the Lord.

Charles Colsen described the church with these words: “Biblically the church is an organism not an organization—a movement, not a monument. It is not a part of the community; it is a whole new community. It is not an orderly gathering; it is a new order with new values, often in sharp conflict with the values of the surrounding society.”

Yes, the church is a local body of believers, the bride of Christ, and His building.  It is comprised of sinful human beings who have been “called out” from being like this world.  Unity, working together, and getting along for any amount of time can be challenging!

Attorney Bryan Likins tweeted: “Most people want extraordinary careers, ministries, marriages, & kids. But they’re only willing to put in ordinary effort!”  Very true.

Here are several Bible truths that help in long-term relationships.

Be a Good Forgiver.

Speaking to the church and relating church life to relationships, Colossians 3:13 instructs, “Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.” 

Since Christ forgave us of all our sin, we can forgive others.  The depth of sin, the pain it caused, or the trouble it started can and should be forgiven.  Forgiveness can be granted – even before another person confesses and asks forgiveness.  If the potential of personal harm persists, please get to safety.  Forgiveness does not mean to put yourself in a position to be hurt again, nor does it mean that trust is automatically restored.

Forgiveness is the ability to look at the person and hold no hatred or animosity in your heart over the head of that person.  I like how William Arthur Ward described forgiveness.  He said, “Forgiveness is a funny thing—it warms the heart and cools the sting.”  It certainly does your heart good to not have negative emotions every time you see a fellow church member, family member or neighbor.

Pointing at others and saying “He is why I no longer go to church” is lessened when we choose to be good forgivers.

Fine Tune your Forgetter. 

An old Chinese Proverb speaks truth in saying: “For the sake of one good action a hundred evil ones should be forgotten.”  Speaking of God’s choosing to not remember our sins, Hebrews 8:12 declares, “For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.”  And again, Hebrews 10:17 says, “And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.”

The omniscient, all-knowing God chooses to not remember.  When we allow our minds to dwell on hurts, pain, or possible wrongs, it changes our perception of the people around us.  While we may never forget, we can choose to no longer remember.  Life happens.  People will purposefully and accidentally hurt us.  When we say we “forgive” and then continue to think about it, we have not truly forgiven.  Forgetting is choosing not to constantly dwell on the unfulfilled expectations we place on others.

Sometimes the expectations violated are sins in the life of others and are true wrongs that have occurred.  Other times, we have an expectation that we place on another that has nothing to do with sin, but merely our preference for them.  Anytime our real or perceived expectations of others are violated, we have the potential to remember, dwell on it, and let that thought damage our relationship.

This does not have to happen.   While most of us are trying to memorize Scripture and remember applying the Bible to our situations we are also in need of “fine tuning” our forgetter.  Make a decision to forget.

Get with the Program.

Every church has a statement of faith in doctrine and a declarative purpose for its establishment.  Most churches say something to the effect of “exalting the Lord, edifying believers, and evangelizing the lost.  These are great mission purposes.  These are foundational statements upon which the ministry is built.  How these purposes are pursued in practical ways is where many differences are found between churches.

Some people say they want to see people saved.  If that is true, that means new converts will then be baptized, discipled, and become part of the church.  Any church fulfilling the above ministry purpose will grow in attendance.  Numerical growth is a secondary benefit of fulfilling the churches mission statement.

Have you ever heard someone say “The church is getting too big?”  How about this: “I want a smaller church.”?  When Christians say statements like this, they are not only reflecting a selfish motive to either be comfortable or controlling of others (individual influence is lost when a church grows), but they are also demonstrating that they have left the mission purpose of the church and are now following their own mission purpose.

Get with the program and stay with the program of the local church.  There are various methods of evangelism that work well and are acceptable to God.  There are various ways to get together and see new converts grow in discipleship.  Exalting Christ is evident in seeing people saved and those saved becoming more like Jesus, not merely on outside appearances, but also in attitude and affections of the heart.  Utilizing sports, or spoons (for meals), studies, or social media are all ways that the Word can be imparted to people.  It is a matter of preference and style – then of obedience to the purpose statement to get the job done.

Those who refuse to update with fresh ideas as the church updates should still be driving model T’s and reading paper pages in books by candlelight if that is really how they feel.

Pastors come and go.  Church members come and some move away.  “Church is always in transition” one pastor aptly stated.  Adjust expectations.  Embrace opportunity.  Find an old, new, or similar way to get the same thing accomplished: Exalting Jesus, edifying believers, and evangelism of the lost.

Make the Decision to Love.

Love is a choice.  Not to love is also a choice.  Paul said in Colossians 3:14, “And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.”  The mark of maturity in relationships with others is the ability to continue to love others.  No. Matter. What. Charity towards others is God’s will for your life. Whenever you find yourself keeping a knit-pick list for other people watch out- your love for others is waining.

As Peter summarizes this teaching in 1 Peter 4:8 he says, “And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.”  Overlooking the faults, sins, and expectations on others is the only way to see long-term spiritual and numerical growth.

Assimilation of new believers is such an important factor in the length of time a long-term member will have in the church.  If a person accepts the newer members, encourages, edifies, and helps the new members feel welcome, the long-term member is then fulfilling part of his purpose in being a church member.  If a long-term member reminisces constantly “about the good old days” when he knew everyone by name, his living in the past is preventing him from making a difference in the present.  Determine to know the new folks and accept them as much as a long term member.  Both parties have made the same commitment to God and each other.

Most churches that have had consistent leadership and faithful members who are good at these 4 principals have grown both in spirit and in numbers.  They have stuck together through good and difficult times.  They have been blessed by God.

Could you stay in the same church for 30 years?  I challenge you to give it a try!  You will not be able to do it without implementing these 4 truths into your life.  With God’s help – you can.  You can remain in the same church for a meaningful amount of time.