Forgiveness Brings Freedom…

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Matthew 6:9-15 (KJV)

9 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
10 Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
14 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:
15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Forgiving those who have seriously hurt us is one of our most challenging assignments as believers.

And merely having a desire to obey God or say the right words does not necessarily accomplish the task.

Old memories and pain can slip back into the mind, stirring up emotions of anger and injustice.

Though we have a responsibility to take the initiative soon after suffering harm, forgiveness for deep hurts is a process.

Begin immediately to prevent a root of bitterness from developing.

But remember: The deeper the hurt, the more time it will take to work through forgiveness.

Never become discouraged—the Lord will walk with you each step of the way.

Confession to God is the beginning of the process.

Come before Him, admitting any resentment and acknowledging it as sin. As you lay your anger and hurt before the Lord, let Him begin to heal your broken heart.

Sometimes the process can also involve going to the offender and confessing your sinful attitude toward him or her.

This is a time not to build your case or itemize the culprit’s wrongs but simply to admit your own.

Although the offense against you may seem greater than your unforgiving attitude, avoid the temptation to rank sins.

And leave judgment to God.

Forgiveness brings freedom from the agitation that accompanies resentment.

In working through the process, you’ll begin to see through God’s eyes—and with His compassion—when you look at the person who hurt you.

Eventually, you will be able to thank the Lord for the opportunity to learn forgiveness and live in His lavish grace

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Unlock the Door, and Walk Out…

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Matthew 18:21-35 (KJV)

21Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?
22Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.
23 Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants.
24 And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents.
25 But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made.
26 The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.
27 Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt.
28 But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellowservants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest.
29 And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.
30 And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt.
31 So when his fellowservants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done.
32 Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me:
33 Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee?
34 And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him.
35 So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.

Forgiveness can be defined as letting go of both resentment and the right to return hurt.

On the other hand, unforgiveness demands that the guilty one pay for the wrong he or she did.

According to these definitions, unforgiveness looks very much like justice, and forgiveness seems inequitable.

That’s why we have such a hard time with it. Forgiveness goes against our natural sense of fair play. Yet God calls us to forgive those who don’t deserve it!

To avoid offering a pardon, we dwell on the wrongdoing until our desire to retaliate seems totally justified.

Convinced of our right to be angry, we demand repayment, thinking,

Releasing a person from deserved punishment is unfair!

The Father faced the same dilemma.

All humanity had sinned and deserved eternal separation from Him. He couldn’t simply forgive sin arbitrarily, because He’d then cease being just.

Our forgiveness is possible only because divine justice was satisfied by the Son’s payment for our sins.

As a result of Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf, God is free to righteously forgive us.

When we accepted the Lord’s forgiveness, we gave up all rights to hold anything against anyone else.

An unforgiving heart is miserable because it is far from God, who is the source of all peace and joy.

Does the thought or sight of someone arouse harsh feelings within you?

Holding onto a grievance will keep you imprisoned in emotional turmoil, but letting go will set you free.

Christ has provided the key of forgiveness.

Take hold of it, unlock the door, and walk out into the light.

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Complain, Weep, or Try to Argue…

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Matthew 26:36-42 (KJV)

36 Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder.
37 And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy.
38 Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me.
39 And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.
40 And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour?
41 Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.
42 He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done.

Every believer must choose whether he will live by the principle of obedience or follow his preferences.

When a person commits to doing the Lord’s will, then every situation and decision is sifted through the standard of “God said it, so I’m going to do it–and that’s the end of it.”

He may complain, weep, or try to argue.

But in the end he will be obedient, no matter what.

The Lord certainly understands our need to question, cry out, and petition Him for the strength to do what He asks. 

Hebrews 4:15 tells us that we have a high priest who can sympathize with us.

Jesus wasn’t excited or happy about the cross.

He grieved over the coming separation from His Father.

Nevertheless, He was committed to following God’s will (Matt. 26:39).

No one took Christ’s life from Him; He laid it down (John 10:18).

Our lives are about fulfilling God’s purpose.

Many people miss His awesome plan for them because they choose to follow their preferences.

Obedience is sometimes hard, but the struggle and sacrifice are worth it.

There is joy and peace for the believer who pleases the Lord and lives by His principles.

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A Rather Ordinary Group…

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Acts 4:13 (KJV)

13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.

Anyone who studies God’s ways soon realizes they are quite different from man’s ways.

Worldly wisdom tells us that extraordinary people and abundant resources are needed for great tasks, yet the Lord often chooses the small and insignificant to achieve His purposes on earth.

For example, Christ selected a rather ordinary group of men as disciples, yet after being filled with the Spirit, they turned the world upside down.

During His ministry on earth, Jesus fed thousands with a child’s meager lunch, and He viewed the widow’s two small coins as a greater offering than all the larger amounts given (John 6:5-12; Luke 21:2-3).

To accomplish His tasks, God specializes in using people who aren’t naturally qualified.

Moses was a verbally impaired 80-year-old shepherd who liberated a nation. After Gideon hid from the enemy, God made him a valiant warrior.

David was the overlooked youngest son, yet he killed a giant with a small stone and became Israel’s king and a man after God’s own heart.

The Lord isn’t looking for impressive people; He wants willing ones who will bow the knee in humble submission.

Being weak and ordinary doesn’t make you useless.

Rather, it positions you for a demonstration of divine power in your life. God delights in using our dependence to display His glory.

Have you ever considered that your lack of ability, talent, or skill is the ideal setting for a great display of Christ’s power and glory?

If you are willing to submit to His leading and venture into the scary yet rewarding territory of faith and obedience, He will do great things in and through you.

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Relationships That Motivate You…

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Hebrews 10:23-24 (KJV)

23 Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;)
24 And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:

The subject of positive relationships is near to my heart because God has provided me with such good friends.

These are the people who challenge me to do more for the Lord.

My friends love me, but they certainly aren’t content to let me stay as I am!

If they spot a sin in my life or see something I could do better, they say so.

Paul gave relationships a high priority too.

The apostle surrounded himself with people who could help him achieve two things: fulfillment of his God-given mission and conformity to Christlikeness.

While Paul was pouring himself into the lives of others, he was being built up and strengthened by his fellow believers.

That, in brief, is the Lord’s plan for every one of His children.

What about you?

Do you have certain relationships that motivate you to pursue God more fervently?

It does matter whom we allow to influence our lives.

The Father equips your brothers and sisters to invest in you–to encourage you, to pray for you, and to prod you toward a more complete faith–so that you are prepared to devote yourself to serving others.

Good relationships with people who build each other up can help believers fulfill God’s plan for their lives.

The finest relationships are between people who want to see each other succeed in faith and therefore “spur one another on toward love and good deeds” (Heb. 10:24, niv).

In other words, our best friends are those who love us as we are but never cease to challenge us to be better for the Lord.

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Taking Matters Into Our Own Hands…

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Philemon 1 (KJV)

Sometimes a difficult situation can make us wish we could run away.

Unless we keep our eyes fixed firmly on Christ and our trust anchored to God’s Word, desperation to find relief may tempt us to take matters into our own hands.

That’s what Onesimus did.

He was one of the millions of slaves in the Roman Empire, and the day came when he decided he’d had enough.

Not only did he run away, but he also stole from his master.

Although Onesimus thought he was charting his own course by fleeing to Rome, God directed his path to the apostle Paul, who led him to Christ.

In his attempt to become free, Onesimus discovered the joy of becoming a devoted slave of Christ.

Now Jesus was his Master and Lord, and that meant he had to correct his wrongdoing and return to his earthly master. Since runaway slaves faced the death penalty, Paul interceded on his behalf with a letter to his master Philemon, a fellow believer whom Paul had apparently led to faith.

Until a certain point in his life, Onesimus had not lived up to his name, which means “useful” or “profitable.” (See Philem. 1:11.)

But Christ changed his life, and he became a “beloved brother” who ministered to Paul during the apostle’s imprisonment (Philem. 1:16).

Onesimus’s story demonstrates how God’s sovereign hand works in our life even when we’re determined to be our own master.

Once we repent and surrender to the Lord, He redeems our failures and uses them for His glory.

The things we remember with shame now become examples of God’s grace and power to transform lives.

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Governed By Time…

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Ephesians 5:14-17 (KJV)

14 Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.
15 See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise,
16 Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.
17 Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.

Our lives are governed by time.

That’s why we’re surrounded by clocks and calendars that dictate our activities.

As the minutes tick by, we wonder where the day went.

When responsibilities and pressures mount, we complain, “I just don’t have time to get it all done!”

But the reality is that God has given us enough time to do exactly what He’s planned for our lives.

Perhaps the bigger issue is whether we are using our time to do our will or the Lord’s.

Time is a gift from God, and He has allotted each of us a measure in which to live and accomplish His purposes.

We have only two options–to spend it temporally on our own interests or invest it eternally.

Since time can never be retrieved or reversed, it’s critical that we make the most of every opportunity the Lord provides.

The key to investing in eternity is following God’s plan for your life, not just filling your days with activities.

Jesus was allocated just thirty-three years of life on earth, but only the last three were spent in fulfilling His Messianic ministry.

To us that seems like a waste of time.

Yet Christ accomplished everything His Father gave Him to do.

That’s why on the cross He could say, “It is finished” (John 19:30).

Scripture compares earthly life to “a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes” (James 4:14), but eternal life never ends.

It’s foolish to spend your life on a vapor when you can reap everlasting benefits by following God’s will for your time here.

Each day is an opportunity to choose.

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We Are Responsible…

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1 Corinthians 3:6-15 (KJV)

6   I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.
7   So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.
8   Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour.
9   For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building.
10According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.
11For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
12Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble;
13Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.
14If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.
15If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.

Our God-given purpose is to glorify our heavenly Father. 

Ephesians 2:10 sheds light on the means by which we accomplish this:

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works.”

As believers, we are responsible to do God’s work.

One day, we will stand before the judgment seat of Christ and be held accountable for our service.

“Judgment” can be a daunting term.

Remember, though, that Jesus redeemed us by His death and resurrection and paid the penalty for our sins.

He took our punishment, and we no longer face condemnation (Rom. 8:1).

Christ’s judgment for Christians determines His rewards for each believer.

During this evaluation, God will test our actions.

Today’s Scripture passage likens this to proving the quality of a substance through fire (1 Corinthians 3:12-15).

Once the fire burns away impure motives and worthless tasks, the Lord will give recompense for that which remains.

From the outside, we may look as if we’re living obediently, striving to honor Jesus.

So many tasks appear selfless and honorable, yet underneath the noble appearance, there can be ugly motives. ‘

We often deceive even ourselves about the reason for our actions.

Since our desire should be to please Christ, we can ask Him to purify and change our hearts.

Consider your actions over the past few days. How much time and energy did you spend serving Christ for His glory?

This can include any area of involvement—not just efforts related to church.

Ask God to reveal whatever is driven by a selfish motive and needs to be brought under His authority.

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