Archive for the 'Forgiveness' Category

Am I Bitter?

This past week I’ve heard some teachings on bitterness and the peril in which we place ourselves when we harbor it, feed it, and participate in sharing it with others. As you may know, I always ask the Lord for confirmation on what to share with others, and this one has come up many, many times over the past few weeks.

I have to admit that the first teaching I heard really convicted me because I realized I was doing all three things that I mentioned above – harboring, feeding and participating or sharing bitterness. If I can compare it to something, I would compare bitterness to a spiritual yeast dough. If you give it enough time and the right circumstances it will completely take over the bowl of your soul. I’ve also lately been increasingly distressed by the hateful attitudes, selfishness, and overt lack of concern for others, especially during this time of pandemic. I’ve mentioned more than once for us to put aside our political leanings and to love each other as the beautiful beings our God created and yet, I found myself getting worked up and feeling bitter over what people are saying (political and otherwise), especially when those people claim to be “Christian” brethren when what they’re sharing seems anything but something Jesus would have us share.

For those of you who might not know, I’m considered a charismatic Christian and I have a fabulous Pastor who only moves on the word/command/prompting of God. Lately he’s talked in several sermons and coffee talks about how and what are we doing to keep our Spiritual wellbeing guarded, nurtured, and healthy. He has mentioned several times for us to step out of the fray of world of negative politics, he said-she said bickering, conspiracy theories, social media, etc., as an easy method for managing our mental wellbeing. He’s encouraged us to focus on using this quarantine time wisely – to learn more about God and to press into getting to really know Him better.

It wasn’t until I found myself cursing out loud when talking about the news of the day (if you knew me, you’d think that pretty crazy) that I knew something wasn’t right with my soul. You know what the Bible says: the things that come out of the of mouth come from the heart, and out of the overflow of our hearts, our mouths speak. (Matt 15:18 and Luke 6:45). So, you can imagine that if I heard myself cursing out loud, I must have some pretty toxic overflow going on. About the same time, I heard a teaching on bitterness and, as I listened, I thought, “Hmmmmm… I might have a real issue here.”

That’s when it hit me. The instructor said that when we hear about someone/something and the first thing that comes to our minds is something negative or unlovely, it’s a sign that we need to deal with bitterness. I was convicted. Ephesians 4:29-32 tells us, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 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.” So, it’s pretty clear that outright bitterness must be suppressed. And yet, as followers of Christ, there are times when what we hear sparks righteous outrage that causes us to seek or administer correction. That’s the dilemma we face. I think the whole thing is settled by what you allow into your brain to begin with.

First, recognize how delicate and yet important the line can be between lashing out in bitterness and responding or even correcting with love. On the one hand, correcting is to be done out of love and encouragement. Bitterness, on the other hand, is a root that can destroy people, families, and even whole nations. Did you know that we actually defile ourselves and others by carrying it around? That’s because it is tied not to love, but to hatred. Because of this, we are advised in Hebrews 12:14-15 to pursue peace with all people and to be holy because without holiness no one will see the Lord. It says to see to it that we do not fall short of the grace of God to be sure that “no bitter root grows up” to cause trouble and defile many. These verses go on to remind us of the bitterness of Esau who sold his inheritance rights for a meal and then regretted it and wanted it back. Bitterness. Regret. They’re connected, and they can divide your family, too. So, we should constantly ask ourselves, “Is this thing I want to say out of love or something else.” Just asking that question will help rid us of bitterness.

Moreover, did you know that bitterness is treated like an open door for the enemy to lay siege to us or worse yet, for witchcraft? Why? Because bitterness, which turns people away from God, is sinful. Bitterness rarely acts alone, and often couples itself with judgment, jealousy/envy, unrighteous anger and finally, perhaps the worst yet, pride or self-seeking. If you’ve read the Bible, you’ve definitely heard about pride, as it’s mentioned some dozen times (and they’re always biggies) and implied about four dozen more, and never in a good way. We’ve at least heard that it triggers destruction (see Prov 16:18), and is usually mentioned in connection with judgement of ether Israel or Israel’s enemies. At its core, though, pride means relying on yourself and not relying on God. It’s a way of saying, “I know better,” at least when it comes to the folks that might find their way into your bitterness root camp. So, being prideful has to go if we want to be truly open to the fullness of the blessings and relationship with God. In short, consciously getting rid of pride will help rid us of bitterness.

I mentioned judgment, and that’s another thing that bitterness causes us to do. When we get so angry (like I was) at people that we start to judge them on their spirituality, their integrity, mental capacities/capabilities, that’s never a good thing. Empathy is a good helper when it comes to being non-judgmental. Think about something you’ve done, and then think about all the reasons for why you did it. I’ll bet there are plenty, and nobody else really knows what they are. Well, that’s the way we need to act around others. My husband said he used to get pretty peeved about things that an old friend of his would say, and then he learned that his old friend lost his only son that year to cancer. I think that’s why God makes it pretty simple to actually do the work of Jesus. It really only boils down to a few things, which include loving others and not judging them (for example, see Matthew 7:1-2). Once again, in short, consciously getting rid of any judgmental attitude will help rid us of bitterness.

And let’s not forget unforgiveness. Bitterness and unforgiveness go hand in hand, and yet forgiving others is a hallmark of the Christian faith. Indeed, the Lord’s prayer itself mentions it, and Jesus, when further explaining it, even says, “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matt. 6: 14-15). This may seem harsh to outsiders, but we followers of Christ understand what we call “the holiness of God,” which is a righteousness that is so extreme that it simply doesn’t allow sin in its presence. When we say God is just, we mean that he is the maximally great expression of justice – perfect justice – and you simply don’t allow anything sinful around that. Does it mean you’re not saved? Absolutely not, but unresolved sin like unforgiveness might be closing your communication to the Holy Spirit and thus to certain blessings; you know, like losing a signal from the supernatural radio. In short, forgiveness of the sort urged by Jesus will help rid us of bitterness.

Finally, Proverbs 10:18 says that whoever conceals hatred with lying lips and spreads slander is a fool. So, I know I need to stop posting things (spreading slander) on Facebook or other places that further my fleshly/worldly cause or justify my political position. I know that I need to remove myself from the fray of the deceit, lies, and overall time-wasting that goes on with that sort of stuff. I know that because it all leads to bitterness.
Now here’s the tough part. Sometimes you absolutely must – with a sense of righteous desire correct the church on something that really matters – say something that someone else might tell you reeks of bitterness. For example, I think some people looked at my last blog and thought “bitterness” simply because likely saw the word “Trump” at the very beginning and thus skipped through it. But my last blog wasn’t done from hatred or bitterness. It was done from love, and a sense that people in the church were propping up idols at the expense of God. It was warning about idol worship in all its forms, with an example that just happens to be in the news every day.

Like I said, it’s tough, but there are a few things you can do to make sure you don’t cross that line between righteous correction and bitter rebuke.

First, stick to the Word. If you’re addressing action that is clearly unbiblical, then you’re on the right track. Along those lines, research it to determine Truth. Again, the Bible will help you immensely in this effort; for example, I didn’t have to go far to see the negative aspects of idol worship. Then try to make sure that whatever correction you give is rooted in love, encouragement, and exhortation. That’s a tall order (which I don’t always do so well), and writing stuff down automatically means that some people will likely take it the wrong way. But we must do our best. Finally, ask God what should be said. If you keep getting the same answer, then you better say it (or pray it; a lot of the time, you can just intercede through prayer rather than actually confront anyone). Sometimes God has you say stuff that just has to be said, and there’s nothing you can do about it. But whatever you say or do, try to visualize Jesus saying or doing it. Jesus – the one person who, if it were in him, could rightfully express the most bitterness – never did, going so far as to ask forgiveness for those who put him to death. If we all develop our empathy, we’re going to start seeing people the way God sees them, and that will automatically make us less bitter.

Ok, now what? I admit that I’ve lapsed into bitterness lately. I’m ashamed that I’ve allowed unwholesome things to take up time and space in my brain. I’m not happy that I was reading everything going on regarding the political situation and the virus, all of which was triggering deep, negative thoughts, including anger toward people I barely knew.

So, I repent of all that. I repent of the bitterness that I allowed to defile my soul. I repent for feeding the agendas of the world and basically repeating the ugly talk that is so prevalent in our world. I repent for showing pride by thinking that I knew what was really happening to someone and what was truly in a persons’ heart. I repent for being unforgiving. Finally, I repent for judging people and I now ask for every negative, unwholesome word that I have spoken against/about people to be taken back and removed from them. I ask for God’s abundant wisdom, mercy, and blessings to be bestowed to those people in place of anything sent their way by me with bitterness as its root. I also pray for all people to know our Lord and accept the free gift of salvation so they can experience the peace that I am re-claiming as well as the love of the one True Living God.

So, Saints, let’s check our hearts, and start paying close attention to our thoughts, words, and deeds. Let’s ask the Lord to reveal any root of bitterness, any related hangers-on (judgment, selfishness, unforgiveness, pride), and any strongholds put in place for bitterness we may have shown in the past. Let’s ask Him to remove that root and instead replace it with mercy, love, humility, and forgiveness. Finally, let’s thank God in faith for doing all these things that we know he will do whenever we humbly seek His guidance.

Things I learned in my encounter with losing family and friends

I recently experienced the loss of four loved ones during a seven month period.  It was a surreal time, and I hated going in to tell my boss what was going on in my life.  I bet he thought that no one could make up something this crazy just to get out of work.  I wondered if people would be afraid to be around me since death and dying was so frequently affecting my loved ones.  During this rocky time, my husband was out of town taking care of his ailing father, who also recently left us to accept his promotion in eternity – death number five.  It was a bit much, and, like McCauley Culkin in the movie, I was home completely alone.

I couldn’t help but wonder, “why, God, why?”  “Why are you taking so many of my loved ones at this time?” I began to understand how fragile and fleeting this life is here on earth. I heard someone say that we often treat this life as if we’re humans having a spiritual encounter, when in fact we’re really spirits having a brief human encounter.  This statement alone gave me peace to understand that the bodies we occupy now are but temporary, and that at least our eternal bodies must be glorious and feel more like home.

Overall, my recent experience surrounded by so much death and dying solidified several truths that I’d heard, but hadn’t grasped or practiced at a higher level.  Here they are:

1.  Be nice to everyone and practice empathy; there really isn’t ever any good reason to be mean or vengeful.  It may not always seem natural to operate out of mercy and love rather than out of judgment and contempt, but the spiritual benefits are enormous.  There are enough negative people in the world who are looking to criticize others that you don’t need to criticize, too.  Remember that even though we have our golden ticket to eternity based on our belief that Christ is the Son of God, we are still accountable for our actions.

2.  Make peace and forgive those that have hurt you, even if you feel that you didn’t do anything wrong.  Step up, grow up, and offer the olive branch of peace.  Think about how bad you’ll feel when your friend or family member dies and you didn’t have a chance to make amends.  You have a choice to live a life free from the pain of unforgiveness.   Think about the ultimate model for forgiveness – Jesus.  He didn’t come back and seek out those that persecuted and put Him to death to get even. In fact, even while on the cross, He asked His father to “forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”  Luke 23:34.

3.  Remember that you aren’t alone – God is with you so press into Him!  During this painful time I had so many people tell me how strong they thought I was.  I told them that if I looked strong it was because I was being held up by our heavenly Father.  I’ve never been more aware of the protection, peace, and compassion of God than during this time.  I surrounded myself with excellent spiritual manna such as truth-teaching TV programs, the word of God, my Christ loving brethren, and daily telephone prayer with my husband.

4.  Protect your spirit by only spending time with people who lift you up or who encourage you to be your best.  Limit time with the people who drain your energy, push your buttons, or criticize you, even if they are family.  These are the people that the enemy will use to push you into sinful and unlovely behavior.  People may not remember when you walked away exuding mercy and grace, but they will always remember the one time that you snapped. Don’t give the enemy a foothold just because you didn’t bridle your tongue.

5.  Shine up your spiritual armor.  Study Ephesians 6:10-20, and remember that Ephesians 6:12 tells us “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”  It’s important for us to remember that although we’re in a war, we don’t have to become a victim or hostage in that war. Every day I asked the Lord to protect me from the evil one and to help me walk in love.

6.  Resist the urge to complain and whine about what you’re going through.  Remember that your heavenly Father will use everything for his Glory, and that when you come through the fire you will be blessed and will have grown spiritually!  I can’t easily explain why bad things happen to anyone – let alone good people – but I can say that those who keep a good attitude and keep their focus on God will come through like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in Daniel 3:12-27, who emerged from the fire without even the smell of smoke upon them.

7.  Treat yourself kindly.  Exercise and eat good quality, healthy food. My doctor has been working very closely with me during this time to make sure that I’m rested and feeding my immune and adrenal systems.  The one big thing she keeps stressing is for me to eat high quality, nutritious food.  So resist the urge to eat “comfort food” and stay away from sugar, fast food, and processed foods.  Eat more fruits, vegetables and good organic meats.  Also, treat yourself occasionally to your favorite relaxing activity.  Personally speaking, I love a good spa visit for a pedicure, facial or massage.

Tough times don’t have to beat you down. Do the natural by taking care of yourself, and the supernatural by relying on God for the rest, and even the hardest times will help you grow spiritually and help to continue in your ministry to others! People notice how others handle difficult situations, so let them start taking notes about you!

Be Blessed

Denise and Tim

Arming the Saints Ministries

How to Treat Others

Heard a great quote – author unknown

The most cruel thing that a person can do is to treat another person in such a manner that they forget that they are a son or daughter of the King!

How are you treating others???

Forgiveness and Bitterness

This is an excellent mini-video on Forgiveness and Bitterness.

Enjoy!

Comfort for All

Did you know that we have access to the ultimate in comfort during those times when life has hurt us or broken our hearts?

The Greek work for comfort is paraclese or parakaleo, and you may recall hearing the Holy Spirit referred to the Comforter or Paraclete.

John 15:26 (KJ) – “But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me”

John 14:16 (KF) – “And I will pray to the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever.”

A decision to follow Jesus – to believe what he said about both himself and you – means that you are given the Holy Spirit to reside within you. If you read enough stuff about the Holy Spirit, you’ll see conflict and confusion unlike any other topic (some churches don’t even teach on it!) But despite any disagreement on the form and function of the Holy Spirit among various religions, I believe that God’s Spirit indwells believers quite literally. That’s really an awesome thought, and it means that it is proof that God is ALWAYS with us and ALWAYS there to provide comfort and guidance to us.

When we are going through a difficult time, we often use our friends and families as sounding boards for advice, but we should really be relying on our Father FIRST by getting into the Word and prayer constantly throughout the day. Our Father is the source of our comfort, and so relying on Him is something that we need to make a focused effort to do at the outset. His advice is always the true and right path – even if it seems hard or makes us initially nervous! The comfort comes from following God obediently.

Second Corinthians 1:3-4 says, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” (NIV)

This single verse shows us that our comfort from God creates a duty to give comfort to others. And it goes the other way, too. Much like the idea of reaping and sowing, if we share our comfort, we will receive comfort from God and others.

We know that we live in a very painful and difficult world that is dominated by the enemy. Accordingly, it’s our duty to keep our wits about us and to properly process the things that happen to us and to others so that we can provide comfort and support. We live in a time much like in the time of Isaiah where “good” is called “evil” and “evil” is called “good” so relying on the Word of God is crucial for telling what is coming from whom.  We must not fall prey to the lies and deceptions of the enemy, and we must not allow ourselves to feel like victims. After all, we’ve already won this fight!

We have a compassionate loving Father that wants the best for us.  He will allow us to grow through our difficulties and assist us to weather any storm.  His compassion and comfort for us is shown not only through comfort of knowing He loves us, but also through comfort and encouragement from others and the Word, and through the experiences of personal and spiritual growth from other difficulties we have overcome.

Some form of the word “comfort” is found 69 times in the NIV Bible – 19 of these are in the New Testament.  “Encouragement” is often used as comfort, and this word is found 55 times in the NIV. The fact that the word is used so often is a great reminder that God does love us and care for our wellbeing. As God’s children, we need God’s comfort.  We need to know God cares about us and we need the comfort that can only be given through the promises in his Word.

I have always loved Isaiah 40:29-31, but now it has an added dimension: “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.  Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. 
They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

Those of us who hope in the Lord will renew our strength, and that gives us comfort. We will soar like eagles and not grow weary or faint, and that gives us comfort.  So much of the frailty that we feel when we need comfort – weariness, tiredness, weakness, and faintness – can be overcome by finding hope and faith in God. Rest in His comfort, strength and love.

So keep your head up and focused on God when you feel down, walk in His strength when you are weary and tired, and breathe in the Holy Spirit when you feel faint. As you go through the day, keep saying the simple phrase “Jesus in me” to remind you of the promises of God. Keep His Word close to you and hide it in your heart and be encouraged that He will guide you through the tough times!


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