We all do wrong. We all hurt other people. Sometimes the hurt we deliver is the result of oversight, ignorance or immaturity, or careless words and actions or sloppy and selfish thinking. We hurt someone, but we don’t really mean it. Sometimes the hurt we deliver is a result of anger or vengeance or jealousy and we absolutely mean to create havoc and turmoil. Either way we do hurt others and we therefore do need forgiveness. So how do we receive forgiveness from others and especially from God? What do we have to do or say or think for forgiveness to take hold? How can we truly know that we are forgiven? Is forgiveness really worth the effort?
Most of us really don’t like ourselves. We are too tall or short, too fat or thin, too reserved or too lazy. We don’t like ourselves because we don’t think before we act or we think too much and don’t act at all. We don’t like ourselves because we are not attractive enough or we don’t have enough charisma or we are too lonely or we run away from our problems. Maybe we think we are too forward and forceful or too confrontational or maybe we think we are too analytical, too self-conscious or just plain wimpy! Whatever the case, we seem to be unhappy with ourselves, which brings us to the question – as a Christian aren’t we supposed to not like ourselves so we can be more like Jesus? So, shouldn’t we be happy in our unhappiness? Let’s stop already! Too many questions – let's find some answers!
We live in a time of great contradiction. There are voices that shout, rant and insist for all in our society to embrace and accept everyone no matter what their choices in life are and no matter what their actions in life may be. Their message in many ways is framed as one of love – love for those who are opposite, love for those who are different. Then there are those like myself who say that while I am willing to accept and love people regardless of their choices, I will not embrace anything I believe is not moral or righteous. I will love the person but not the action. For this I have been called a "hater" by those who preach that you should embrace those who are different than you. Jesus told us to love our enemies, but what exactly does that mean? Am I not loving enough? Do I need to change?
Regret can be a killer! We often carry around and dwell on regrets from some of our past experiences. Not only do we dwell on them, but we sometimes build those regrets into shrines of discontent and sorrow that overrun our present and then take hold of and manipulate our future. Pretty nasty, huh? On the other hand, if we know the secrets of managing regret, it can become a tool of peaceful acceptance for our present and a deep personal motivation for our future. How do you change from one result to the other? A few weeks ago, we began unveiling the powerful biblical lessons on managing regret and on this program we get to finish that unveiling!
We all have regrets. We all have times or decisions or moments in our lives that, if we could get a child’s game “do-over” we would take it in a heartbeat and go back with clearer thinking or firmer courage or more patience or deeper conviction or a bridled tongue or solid self-control. But we can’t get a child’s game “do-over.” We can’t change what we have already allowed to happen or what we have already said done or thought. So, what do we do? How do we handle our regrets in a way that keeps them from playing again and again in our heads? This is a good question and we think we have a good answer!
We all know that Jesus taught us to forgive. If your brother trespasses against you seven times in a day, Jesus says to forgive. Okay, while this may be difficult, we can see its value and strive to live up to that standard. But, but what about when someone commits a horrible crime – what about when someone guns down in cold blood, innocent God fearing people in church – at a Bible study? Is the same lesson of forgiveness relevant? Do the teachings of Jesus include forgiving those who are simply and purely evil in their actions?
Enemies. For some of us, naming them is easy – we can put a name and a face to them and recite the reasons we have to consider them enemies. For others, the idea of an enemy may be more related to a general group who may have a different ideology, or a different political perspective. Whatever makes someone your enemy, the question remains, how do you treat them? Jesus says to love our enemies, but is that really a practical statement? Doesn’t loving an enemy overlook and minimize the very reasons that they may justifiably be our enemies? Stay with us!
Grace...even speaking the word seems to give a sense of calm. It is almost as though the word itself emits a fresh and breathable air that clears away the stuffiness of a confused life. Grace can have lots of different meanings, from something that comes with elegance to a powerful heavenly gift. So, what is grace and more specifically, what is God’s grace? How does it work? Who gets it bestowed upon them? Can grace change your life?
We all know what it is like to be wronged, and we all know what it is like to do wrong to someone else. We also have all probably experienced being accused of or assumed to have done wrong when in fact we are entirely innocent - in that circumstance anyway… Is it right or just to ask for forgiveness when we are not in the wrong? What are the guidelines of this whole forgiveness thing anyway?
Sometimes in the overwhelming flow of life we can forget the simplest things. We get so caught up in a “me first” – and sometimes a “me only” mentality - that it never even crosses our minds to stop and consider some of the most basic and healing attributes available to humankind – kindness and mercy. What is mercy? How does it work? If we were to apply mercy on a regular basis, would it change our world and more importantly, could it change the way we see our world?