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Posts Tagged ‘Hebrews 12:15’

The Periphery

June 24th, 2013

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart.” Mark 12:30 NKJV.

God values the priority of righteous lives above religious practices.

My thoughts and comments today are about “the periphery.”

Mrs. Cook, my fourth grade teacher at Blair Elementary in North Venice, Illinois, encouraged my love for words. Discovering my interest, she gave me a fascinating book exploring the etymology of words, “the origin and history of words.” I find “periphery” an interesting word. Periphery describes, something or someone on, “the outer edge, fringe, eccentric, or with minor involvement,” as contrasted with what is central and conventional.Be patient; I have a point to make, not just a word study.

In an exchange tonight with a friend about these thoughts, he observed that, “Many, if not most, of the people Jesus reached out to were living on the periphery of their culture. They were on the [fringes] of the political, social, or religious institutions of their time. But once they came in contact with Jesus their lives were radically changed and they began to develop a new understanding of what it means to be centered in God’s Kingdom.” I love this about Jesus; The Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” Luke 19:10 NIV.

Jesus still reaches out to those who feel lost or left out. The Good Shepherd seeks, finds, and rejoices over one lost sheep. See Matthew 12:14-18 NIV. However, I find my title today and its meaning distressing when used to describe people once centered in Christ but now content to practice their faith on the outer margins, with minor involvement spiritually or relationally. Jesus reaches out to those of you as well.

Quoting Moses’ words to Israel, Jesus prioritized the core value of the Kingdom of God, “’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment [in importance and priority].” Mark 12:30 NKJV. See Deuteronomy 6:5-7 NKJV. There are no acceptable substitutes for wholehearted allegiance to God. Even the best things can become pushed to the periphery while serving God, whereas loving God with singular devotion is absolutely central and never optional.

Obsessed with trivial, religious things, the Pharisees overlooked important matters of righteousness. They majored on minors, as do some today. With humor and hyperbole, Jesus described religious behavior as ludicrous by those, “[who] strain out a gnat and swallow a camel.” Matthew 23:24 NKJV/NLT. Spiritual life suffers when occupied with incidental matters at the exclusion of more central issues of faith and obedience. Spiritual life cannot – must not – be reduced to externals, such as diet, dress, holy days, religious jargon or practices.

God values the priority of righteous lives above religious practices. Righteousness trumps religion every time. A bad habit privately held is no different than one publicly practiced. Jesus taught, “From within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts . . covetousness, wickedness, deceit . . pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man.” Read Mark 7:18-23 NKJV. Hurts and slights by others are pushed to the periphery when living in the light of God’s grace and faithfulness. Move from the periphery to loving and serving God with all you are and have.

My prayer for you today is that you love and serve God fervently.

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A Forgiving Heart

May 6th, 2013

“If you forgive those who sin against you, your Father will forgive you.”  Matthew 6:15 NLT.

A forgiving heart offers love undeserved and unmeasured.

My thoughts and comments today are about “a forgiving heart.”

There will not be a shortage of offenses, nor a lack of opportunities – really necessities – to have and express a forgiving heart. “It is impossible that no offenses should come . . “ Luke 17:1 NKJV. Your personal experience will confirm that reality, and the Bible’s counsel is, “Get rid of all bitterness . . Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:30-32 NIV.

Relationships create an emotional proximity that occasionally results in misunderstandings, minor and major. When someone hurts or fails you, remember your own need for grace. When disappointed in a relationship, the grace of God is readily available to you; don’t depreciate God’s provision and nor delay claiming it. Pay attention to the Bible’s warning: “See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” Hebrews 12:15 NIV. The bitter fruit of an unforgiving heart is a disposition that colors your life, interpreting the past and projecting the future.

The time immediately following an offense is precarious. Don’t let moments become minutes which soon extend to hours, days, and longer until the hurt grows bigger in your thoughts and settles deeper in your feelings. Forgiveness, or unforgiveness, is not as complicated as people make them to be; it’s simple really. Jesus said, “If you forgive those who sin against you, your Heavenly Father will forgive you. If you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Romans 12:21,Matthew 6:14-15 NLT.

The Kingdom of God sets a high standard but not an impossible one. An unforgiving heart imposes self-inflicted wounds to one’s spirit. “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:21 NIV. It has helped me to differentiate between forgiveness and pardon. Forgiveness is honest about hurts while releasing to God all rights of either retribution or pardon. People can forgive; only God can pardon. Only God has perfect knowledge and sufficient grace to pardon.

Forgiveness does not claim wrong to be right, nor does it deny guilt. A forgiving heart offers love undeserved and unmeasured, neither self-imposing consequences nor demanding God withholds mercy and grace. Such a benevolent act of grace releases God to pardon, if He wills. Paul understood the purpose and extent of grace; “God’s kindness leads you toward repentance.” Read Romans 2:1-11 NIV.

My prayer this day for you is that you will trust God to set wrongs right with others.

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Get Over It

November 12th, 2012

Get Over It!

God gives you the grace to forgive; forgiveness offers the grace to get over it.

“See to it . . that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble.” Hebrews 12:15 NIV.

There will be things that happen when the best thing you can do is just get over it. Things happen in families, between friends, in churches, at school, at work, or on the highway. Something is said about you, or to you, that hurts your feelings; get over it. Something is done that you feel was unfair; get over it. Some recognition or opportunity that should have been yours was given to another; get over it. That is easier said than done, but really is the best thing to do for yourself, as well as the kindest thing you can do for others.

Saying what you refuse to not say? You eventually regret it. Reacting as you feel like doing? You merely complicate the problem. However good those may feel momentarily, you can damage a relationship in ways that might never be mended, and you can plant a seed of resentment that will grow with less than pleasant results. “Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Your anger can never make things right in God’s eyes.” James 1:19-20 NLT. Ultimately, that is most important – “things right in God’s eyes” What else matters? The Bible’s wise counsel is, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone . . do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:18/21 NIV. Your wrong reaction makes the original cause of offense irrelevant to God. You cannot control what others do; you must choose what is right for you to do in response.

“Make every effort to live in peace with all men . . See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” Hebrews 12:15 NIV. This practical verse teaches four things. (1) Bitterness develops a power and life of its own, however small it begins. (2) Bitterness grows when indulged, no matter how justified those feelings seem. (3) Bitterness defiles relationships beyond any expectation. (4) Bitterness is a symptom of your failing to accept the grace of God for the wrong you feel, whether real or imagined. Bitterness is proof of insistence on your right to hold onto a grievance, even after God says, “Forgive!” That never works out well.

And what is this grace that is yours? God gives you the grace to forgive; forgiveness offers the grace to get over it. “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words . . instead be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you . . you have clothed yourself with a brand new nature that is continually being renewed as you learn more and more about Christ, who created this new nature within you.” Ephesians 4:31-32/ Colossians 3:10 NLT. God’s Word provides a proven formula for how marriages work best, families stay strongest, and friendships last longest.

My prayer for you today is this: when unfortunate things happen, forgive and get over it.

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Getting Even

August 20th, 2012

“Do not be overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:21 NIV

Life is better when you respond positively to negative realities.

My thoughts and comments today are about “getting even.”

Getting even might feel good for the moment but its satisfaction is short-lived and leaves a lingering, bitter taste. Getting even is never a good idea. You cannot afford the cost of buried bitterness, which flavors your life for a season and sometimes forever after. Here’s the Bible’s advice: “Looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause you trouble, and by this many become defiled.” Hebrews 12:15 NKJV. Bitterness results from your failure to embrace the grace of God.

When you fail to respond righteously as God directs, you internalize hurt and the self-imposed harm is worse than anyone else’s words or actions can cause. Harboring hurts and grudges is relationally destructive and personally unhealthy – negatively impacting your emotional, physical, and spiritual health. God’s answer is forgiveness; forgiveness is the antidote for bitterness. Read Matthew 6:12-14 NIV. “Be kind . . tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” Ephesians 4:29-32 NLT. When you forgive, healing begins. Joseph saw the intent and actions of his brothers but saw God at work. “God turned into good what you meant for evil.” Genesis 50:20 NLT. Forgiveness releases God to work in ways you cannot foresee.

The answer is simple in principle but difficult in practice, “Live in harmony with one another . . Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge . . Do not be overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:16-21 NIV. Overcome evil with good. Admittedly, that instruction is counter-intuitive. It is perfectly natural to want to hurt people who hurt you, but that is a natural instinct, not spiritual, that worsens rather than resolves situations. Getting even is a poor, problem-solving strategy.

Jesus’ teaching is clear, “go the second mile, give more than can be required of you, and turn the other cheek when mistreated” – go further, give generously, behave righteously. Read Matthew 5:38-45 NKJV. My conclusion from that is this: life is better when you respond positively to negative realities. Imagine how much peace and joy you discover by obeying God (and how much fun you will have confusing those who make life difficult).

It takes two people to have a fuss; likewise, it usually takes two people to settle differences. But it only takes one person to do what’s right and pleasing to God; be that person and do what is right. When wrong has been done to you, do what’s right anyway, “as far as depends on you.” Do what you can for reconciliation and trust God for what you cannot.

You can be either proactive or reactive; reacting to hurt forfeits God’s grace. Being proactive minimizes misunderstandings and seeks Godly reconciliation. Paul’s solution is love, “[Love] keeps no record of when it has been wronged . . but rejoices whenever truth wins out. Love . . is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” Read 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NLT. Love always wins.

My prayer for you today is that you release hurts quickly and embrace healing confidently.

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Poison of Bitterness

February 22nd, 2010

“Looking diligently . . lest any root of bitterness spring up.” Hebrews 12:15 NKJV

“Be quick to bring every hurt and disappointment to God’s healing hands.”

My thoughts today are about the “poison of bitterness.”

There are things that may not seem very big at the time, but later can have bigger and further reaching effects than you expected. Some emotions are like that, and bitterness is one of the worst of those that do. It begins innocently enough, with some minor offense that leaves you feeling slighted, overlooked or mistreated. What does it hurt to recount to yourself how that should not have happened, or to seek the comfort of sharing your feelings with an understanding friend? No big deal, you say? But it often is a big deal.

A hurt feeling can readily become the seed of far more serious emotions, which eventually take root and produce fruit you never intended. Contrary to it name, bitterness at first may taste sweet. There is an initial but short-lived satisfaction, but the aftertaste is everything the name implies. The fruit of a tree identifies the nature of that tree. The root of a tree determines the abundance of its fruit. Picking the fruit won’t change the expression of a tree’s nature; killing the root will!

I have observed that the more a person entertains or expresses a negative emotion the more that grows, the stronger it develops, and the larger the circle of people it touches. Hurt feelings easily become settled attitudes. Watch out when your wrong attitude sows the seeds of bitterness. Bitterness destroys happiness, poisons hearts, and separates friends.

It may begin as targeted at a particular person or situation, but will ultimately touch all of your relationships, coloring every interaction and subsequent action. The Bible advises, “See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many . . trouble you and defile many.” Hebrews 12:15 NIV/KJV. The insanity of a bitter attitude spreads its poison to any and all.

You can see that in a person’s clouded countenance and tense features, or uncharacteristic reactions and sharpness of words without apparent cause. The Bible says, “watching diligently,” which suggests you alone are finally responsible for your attitudes and reactions. You can’t control what others do or say, but you must guard your own heart and choose your own responses. Guard your heart diligently, choosing your responses wisely. Your own happiness and spiritual well-being is at stake. “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” Proverbs 4:23 NIV.

Beware of any root of bitterness, however subtle or harmless it may at first seem. Let me suggest a better way. “Give all your cares to God, for He cares about  you . . that Christ may be more and more at home in your heart as you trust in Him. May your roots go down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love . . remain in Me, and I will remain in you; you cannot be fruitful apart from Me . . that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault . .” 1 Peter 5:7 NLT/Ephesians 3:17 NLT/John 15:4 NLT/Philippians 2:15 NKV. Be careful about your roots; the fruit will then care for itself.

My prayer for you today is: bring every hurt and trust it into God’s healing hands.

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