Forgiveness

Hi, My Name is Amber, and I’m a Recovering Sinner.

I know this may seem strange for some people, but there are times were I find myself addicted to my past. Unable to let go of the sins that God has already forgiven me for; running back to my vomit, and I don’t know why I expect anything to feel different than the last time. Has anyone else felt this way? Like no matter how deeply I know I’m forgiven, I keep looking back to that time and reliving the hurt? God gave me a word about that and I thought I’d share it here with you this morning.

For me, I’m going to have to look at myself like I’m in a recovery program. Almost like a rehab for Christians who have a hard time letting go of the past. So I’m going to slightly adapt the Twelve Step Program to work for the Recovering Sinner: Sinner’s Anonymous.

1. We admit we were powerless over sin—that our lives had become unmanageable.

I will admit that only God has the power over sin, and that my life is a mess when I try to do His job…

2. Come to believe that God can restore us to sanity.

I will to stop doubting that God can and will do a miracle in my life.

3. Make a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God.

I chose to turn over all of my past, good and bad, to God. Trusting Him with my life and my well being.

4. Make a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

I will take stock of all the junk I keep picking back up and hold it up to His revealing light.

5. Admit to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

I will finally confess that I have a hard time forgiving myself of my past and I will find someone I can call on to help me to remember that I’m a forgiven child of God.

6. Be entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

I will be open and cooperate with God as He heals my heart.

7. Humbly ask Him to remove our shortcomings.

I will acknowledge that I am flesh and ask God to remove the thing that is in me that causes me to doubt His forgiveness.

8. Make a list of all persons we have harmed, and become willing to make amends to them all.

I will make a list of all the people my repeated doubt has hurt and apologize, as well as try to make things right.

9. Make direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

I will be aware of anytime my doubt hurts someone and immediately apologize and try to make things right.

10. Continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.

I will continue to be aware of my feelings and doubts, asking God to forgive me as soon as I do.

11. Seek through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understand Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

I will continually seek God’s will for my life and the power to carry out His will through prayer and meditation on His Word.

12. Have had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we try to carry this message to sinners, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

I will grow closer to God and Jesus through this process and reach others with His message of hope for the lost, and I will continue to practice these steps throughout my walk.

I have to believe that I’m not the only one who feels this way, so if you’re struggling with this too, know that you’re not alone. Reach out and quit trying to do this by yourself. That’s what the kingdom is all about, a support system. Lean on other strong Christians so you can grow strong enough to be leaned on one day…
x,
Amber

“Dealing With Difficult People God’s Way” by Jack Zavada

Dealing with difficult people not only tests our faith in God, but it also puts our witness on display. One biblical figure who responded well to difficult people was David, who triumphed over many offensive characters to become king of Israel.

When he was only a teenager, David encountered one of the most intimidating types of difficult people—the bully. Bullies can be found in the workplace, at home, and in schools, and they usually frighten us with their physical strength, authority, or some other advantage.

Goliath was a giant Philistine warrior who had terrorized the entire Israelite army with his size and his skill as a fighter. No one dared to meet this bully in combat, until David showed up.

Before facing Goliath, David had to deal with a critic, his own brother Eliab, who said:

“I know how conceited you are and how wicked your heart is; you came down only to watch the battle.” (1 Samuel 17:28, NIV)

David ignored this critic because what Eliab said was a lie. That’s a good lesson for us. Turning his attention back to Goliath, David saw through the giant’s taunts. Even as a young shepherd, David understood what it meant to be a servant of God:

“All those here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.” (1 Samuel 17:47,NIV).

While we should not respond to bullies by hitting them in the head with a rock, we should remember that our strength is not in ourselves, but in the God who loves us. This can give us confidence to endure when our own resources are low.

Dealing with Difficult People: Time to Flee

Fighting a bully is not always the right course of action. Later, King Saul turned into a bully and chased David throughout the country, because Saul was jealous of him.

David chose to flee. Saul was the rightfully appointed king, and David would not battle him. He told Saul:

“And may the Lord avenge the wrongs you have done to me, but my hand will not touch you. As the old saying goes, ‘From evildoers come evil deeds, so my hand will not touch you.’ “(1 Samuel 24:12-13, NIV)

At times we must flee from a bully in the workplace, on the street, or in an abusive relationship. This is not cowardice. It’s wise to retreat when we are unable to protect ourselves. Trusting God to exact justice takes great faith, which David had. He knew when to act himself, and when to flee and turn the matter over to the Lord.

Dealing with Difficult People: Coping with the Angry

Later in David’s life, the Amalekites had attacked the village of Ziklag, carrying off the wives and children of David’s army. Scripture says David and his men wept until they had no strength left.

Understandably the men were angry, but instead of being mad at the Amalekites, they blamed David:

“David was greatly distressed because the men were talking of stoning him; each was bitter in spirit because of his sons and daughters.” (1 Samuel 30:6, NIV)

Often people take their anger out on us. Sometimes we deserve it, in which case an apology is needed, but usually the difficult person is frustrated in general and we are the handiest target. Striking back is not the solution:

“But David strengthened himself in the LORD his God.” (1 Samuel 30:6, NASB)

Turning to God when we’re attacked by an angry person gives us understanding, patience, and most of all, courage. Some suggest taking a deep breath or counting to ten, but the real answer is saying a quick prayer. David asked God what to do, was told to pursue the kidnappers, and he and his men rescued their families.

Dealing with angry people tests our witness. People are watching. We can lose our temper as well, or we can respond calmly and with love. David succeeded because he turned to the One stronger and wiser than himself. We can learn from his example.

Dealing with Difficult People: Looking in the Mirror

The most difficult person each of us has to deal with is our self. If we are honest enough to admit it, we cause ourselves more trouble than others do.

David was no different. He committed adultery with Bathsheba, then had her husband Uriah killed. When confronted with his crimes by Nathan the prophet, David admitted:

“I have sinned against the Lord.” (2 Samuel 12:13, NIV)

At times we need the help of a pastor or godly friend to help us see our situation clearly. In other cases, when we humbly ask God to show us the reason for our misery, he gently directs us to look in the mirror.

Then we need to do what David did: confess our sin to God and repent, knowing he always forgives and takes us back.

David had many faults, but he was the only person in the Bible God called “a man after my own heart.” (Acts 13:22, NIV) Why? Because David depended completely on God to direct his life, including dealing with difficult people.

We can’t control difficult people and we can’t change them, but with God’s guidance we can understand them better and find a way to cope with them.

Accountability Partners: Are You Ready to Grow?

Accountability partners are two or more people committed to holding each other accountable for one or more items related to Christian growth.

For example, you and a fellow church member may commit to checking in with each other on a weekly basis for the next three months about serving in a ministry group or even staying with an exercise routine. The following are my suggestions regarding accountability partners:

1. The power of two or three. Ecclesiastes 4:12 teaches that where two or three are working together there is great strength. It is not strange for people to be inspired by powerful preaching and helpful teaching.

However, when a person does not have to talk about or be accountable to anyone about his/her commitment then it easy to fall by the way side (say “amen” – smile). On the other hand, commitments are more likely to be kept when you have to check in with one or two others on a regular basis about carrying them out.

2. Being equally yoked. Accountability partners work best when you all are compatible with one another. You all don’t have to have identical commitments. However, you all need to at least be inspired by a desire to live in obedience to God’s will.

You and your partner(s) should have personalities that don’t clash. Some people simply don’t have good chemistry with one another. It doesn’t mean one is bad and the other is better. It simply means, sometimes you are better off with someone else.

Make sure you and your partner(s) are serious about carrying out your commitments. You don’t want to waste someone else’s time. And you don’t want anyone wasting your time.

3. Covenant. The covenant or agreement should include at least what each person is committing to doing, the frequency of the check-ins, and the length of time for this partnership. I highly recommend that you write this stuff down and both of you all sign it, after praying about it.

For example, you may commit to being more demonstrative in worship. Your partner may commit to being friendlier towards others. You all may decide to check-in weekly for three months.

The covenant can be much more detailed. However, it should at least include these bare bones. And again, I believe putting things in writing insures a certain level of seriousness about what is going on.

4. Prayer. You are duty bound to pray for your partner on a regular basis, ideally, everyday. Pray that God would give your partner the wisdom and strength to carryout his/her commitment. Your partner is duty bound to pray for you in like manner. I strongly suggest that you all pray for one another, as a part of your check-ins.

5. Check-ins. This is simply a time of talking with one another. It can be over the phone or in person. It can be for as little as fifteen minutes. I don’t recommend a regular e-mailing to one another. You all should agree on how much time you will spend doing a check-in, especially, if it takes more than thirty minutes.

Check-ins should focus on how you all are doing with carrying out your commitments. It is often helpful to talk about joys and concerns that are being encountered, in trying to carry out the commitments. It is important to listen when it is time to listen and to talk when it is time to talk.

Encourage one another to keep going, instead of excusing one another for poor reasons. There are times to adjust commitments. However, many times we are better off by simply continuing to press on.

6. Adjustments. There are times when adjustments in both commitments and partners have to be made. Sickness, injury, financial hardships, and family crisis are just a few reasons that adjustments might have to be made.

And then the commitments may have been underestimated. You may have to lower your expectations or give yourself more time to do what you committed to doing.

And then there are times when your partner is simply not serious enough. He/she may not be helpful enough. God forbid, he/she may not be confidential enough. Whatever the case, there are times to make adjustments.

Try to work it out. If it is simply not going to work, be as nice and as wise as possible, but don’t waste time continuing to do what is not working.

7. Key areas. In most churches, there are three key areas for accountability partners. There are new church family members. It is not strange for people to join but have very few supportive relationships.

Thus, accountability partners can help newer members stay in church, instead of walk out the back door. Not only stay in church, but accountability partnerships can help them to grow.

New leaders like ministry managers and teachers would do well to have accountability partners. When the focus is on skills and confidence and one partner is viewed as more authoritative than the other, this is actually more of a mentoring situation. However, peer to peer accountability partnerships are helpful also.

And then there are those who have made a recent commitment to something. It may be a commitment to grow in giving, to do more personal evangelism, to have regular personal devotionals, to exercise more, to paying off credit card debt, or any number of things.

In summary, accountability partners are helpful for those who are serious about growing in the Lord. Being equally yoked and in a prayerful covenant with one or two others is very powerful. If the check-ins are not helping then sometimes adjustments have to be made. Be sensitive to newer members, new leaders, and those who have made recent commitments.

Dealing With the Anger and the Hurt God’s Way

“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:31-32).

An acquaintance of mine always seemed to bristle with anger at someone. “Would you believe that Ellie deliberately took my seat in the choir?” she asked me. When I looked at the choir and saw Alicia’s face set sternly in concrete I knew something must have happened.

We all have times when we feel someone has offended us. Since we’re only human, it usually hurts, and sometimes it makes us angry. But after the initial affront, how we deal with it can make all the difference in the world.

Unfortunately Alicia dealt with affronts in a way that was guaranteed to make and keep her miserable. Several weeks after Ellie had inadvertently committed her offense, she said, “You know, something has been troubling me lately. For the past several weeks Alicia seems to be deliberately snubbing me. In fact, I’ll start to smile and say ‘hello’ to her, and she’ll actually turn her head and look the other way.” Ellie paused and then her eyes brightened. “I guess I’d better go to Alicia and talk it out!”

This dear lady is a wise and understanding Christian. And she at least helped Alicia get over one grudge that was making her miserable! Robert Louis Stevenson said, “If the injured one could read your heart, you may be sure he would understand and pardon.”

True love, peace and joy come from the Spirit of God. Bitterness, hostility, and wrath grieve the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30). Because forgiving people who hurt us often seems difficult, we don’t see many radiant Christian in our churches. This in turn hinders the effectiveness of our church’s ministry to the people and community. It hinders church boards, groups, and youth programs. It even results in church splits. And it definitely hurts our families.

What would happen if we Christian obeyed our Lord in the matter of forgiving people? Wouldn’t it be wonderful? Just think of the joy we would have, to experience the burden of anger, bitterness, and hostility lifted! Then people would really see Jesus in us.

Let’s look at some things the Lord and His Word say about forgiveness and love. Jesus said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:44-45a).

In our natural selves, loving our enemies is impossible. The Bible says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). As sinners, we were God’s enemies, yet He loved us. So when His Spirit lives in us, He can give us the power to forgive our enemies, pray for them, and even love them. That’s part of His amazing grace.

Blessing those who curse us, doing good to those who hate us, and praying for them also help us to forgive and love them. If you can think of someone who has hurt you, try this.

I once worked with a young woman who made cutting remarks to me, and I tried the above process on her. Do you know what happened? We became friends; and when I left, she threw a wonderful going-away party for me!

Questions: Is there someone in your life who is making your life miserable? What step could you take that would be God honoring in this situation?

“How does a person become a Christian?” by Chris Poblete

The Bible says a person becomes a Christian when he places his faith in Jesus Christ. This is known as being saved or born again.

Must Be Born Again

The Bible teaches that no one can enter the kingdom of heaven unless they are born again.

Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, they cannot see the kingdom of God’
(John 3:3)

Hence, being born again is absolutely essential to becoming a Christian.

Faith In Jesus

To become born again, a person must put their faith in Jesus as Savior. The Bible says:

That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes to righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made to salvation
(Romans 10:9,10)

This requires an act of the will.

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe on his name
(John 1:12)

In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise
(Ephesians 1:13).

Relationship

Becoming a Christian involves entering into a relationship with the Living God.

And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom You have sent
(John 17:3)

Eternal Transaction

When a person trusts Christ it is forever:

He who believes in the Son has everlasting life
(John 3:36)

One does not become a Christian by natural birth self-determination, or self-improvement. It is by a supernatural work of God and by admitting we cannot reach God through our own strength. We must come to the place where we ask the Lord to forgive us our sins based upon the sacrifice of Christ. The Bible is clear on this matter—without being saved or born again a person cannot enter God’s kingdom.

(adapted from the FAQs of Don Stewart the Bible Exlorer, available at the Blue Letter Bible)

“The Strength of the Lord” by F.E. Marsh

The Lord gives at least a sevenfold strengthening to His people as they trust Him.

The strength of His grace to empower.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
(2  Corinthians 12:9)

The strength of His arm to sustain.

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
(Isaiah 41:10).

The strength of His love to inspire.

“The love of Christ constraineth us”  (2 Corinthians 5:14 KJV).

The strength of His armor to protect.

…”be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God…”
(Ephesians 6:10-11)

The strength of His joy to gladden.

“…do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”
(Nehemiah 8:10)

The strength of His Word to comfort.

“This is my comfort in my affliction, for Thy Word hath quickened me”
(Psalm 119:50 KJV).

The strength of His power to qualify.

“…you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses…”
(Acts 1:8).

 

Hope Note: Come Boldly

“So correct me, Lord, but please be gentle.  Do not correct me in anger, for I would die…”  Jeremiah 10:24

When we approach God, our failure, inadequacies, and shortcomings feel magnified, but we shouldn’t let those feelings keep us from coming to him.  I like how the writer of Hebrews encourages us to pray.  “So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe… let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God.  There we will receive His mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.”  (Hebrews 4:14-16)

Jeremiah’s prayer had a childlike approach, and we should have childlike faith.  But no matter what you’ve done or how you’ve messed up, don’t allow anything to stand in the way of your relationship with God.  If you’ve messed up, be like Jeremiah.  Say, “God, I’m sorry.  Forgive me, correct me, change me.”   Don’t shrink back; no, step out in faith.  Remember, God’s not mad at you.  He’s madly in love with you.  He is a God of mercy and grace  You can shake off guilt and condemnation and approach His throne with great confidence because of what Jesus did for you.