Posts Tagged ‘offences’

Distractions and Diversions

May 28th, 2014

“Anyone who starts to plow, then keeps looking back is of no use . .” Luke 9:62 TEV.

The devil is the master of distraction and deception.

My thoughts and comments today are about “distractions and diversions.”

Distractions happen. Distractions waste more of a person’s time than we realize when they occur. Ironically, while writing this, I became distracted. That happens easily to any of us. Interruptions occur; misdirection results. Here’s the problem. Typically, you are not interrupted by more important matters. Usually, lesser things crowd into your life and crowd out of your life things you cannot afford to procrastinate. Your success results from setting priorities, maintaining focus, and avoiding distraction.

A distraction can be a brief, pleasant diversion. However, any diversion has potential for a misdirection you may not intend. That can be costly if not noticed and corrected. Unfortunately, distractions come in all shapes and descriptions, some in the pretense of responsibilities or others disguised as opportunities. The devil is the master of distraction and deception, using love of the world, desires, worry, regret, greed, anger, offences, or temptations to dissuade you from being the person Christ means you to be.

Jesus spoke of the danger of spiritual distraction, “Anyone who starts to plow and then keeps looking back is of no use for the Kingdom of God.” Read Luke 9:57-62 TEV. See John 6:66-69 NIV. Jesus’ clearest teaching on distraction is found in a parable He told. Read Matthew 13:3-8 NIV. The same seed – with incalculable potential for good – had differing results, according to the reception of its truth. Jesus was not talking about farmers and fields, nor seed and soils. In His story, Jesus was describing people into whose hearts and lives the Word of God was sown, inefficiently in some but effectively in others. Read Matthew 13:18-23 NIV. Whatever diminishes your obedience to God’s Word, His will, and His ways is a distraction you cannot afford.

Beware; distractions preempt attention from what God is saying and doing in your life. “The evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart.” Vs 19. Your spiritual life requires priority and focus. Distractions dull God’s calling in your heart and diminish His dreams for you before their time of harvest.

Be careful; distractions prevent the Word of God from becoming rooted in your heart. “Since he has no root, he lasts only for a short time. When trouble comes . . he quickly falls away.” Vs 20-21. Avoid shallow convictions and superficial faith. See Colossians 2:6-7 NKJV.

Be watchful; distractions preoccupy your mind with worries and fears instead of God’s Word. “The worries of this life choke [the Word], making it unfruitful.” Vs 22. Worry ignores God’s Word while consuming thoughts and emotions with fear, suffocating hope, and destroying expectation. See Philippians 4:6-8 NLT/2 Corinthians 10:3-5 NKJV.

Jesus’ conclusion is, “. . the man who hears the Word of God and understands it. He produces a crop yielding a hundred, sixty, or thirty times what was sown.” Vs 23. Paul was neither distracted nor dissuaded, “None of these things move me, nor do I count my life dear to myself . . one thing I do, forgetting . . reaching . . I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Acts 20:22-24/Philippians 3:13-14 NKJV.

My prayer for you today is that you be steadfast, immovable, and always abounding.

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Betrayal and Amazing Grace

April 18th, 2014

“On the same night that [Jesus] was betrayed.” 1 Corinthians 11:23 NKJV.

It is as wrong to underestimate His grace as to overestimate our faith.

My thoughts and comments today are about “betrayal and amazing grace.”

Betrayal is a terrible thing. It isn’t accidental; it’s deliberate, intentionally hurting another. When it occurs, the pain is immediate and can be enduring. The reactions vary – stunned disbelief, destruction of trust, emotional pain, grief, anger, self-pity, and eventually estrangement. Be careful; betrayal is often sown in the seed of offences, harbored and unforgiven. Forgiveness is the only true remedy.

The history of man is cluttered with betrayal, beginning with Adam and Eve. Abel experienced betrayal by Cain; Jacob betrayed Esau; Joseph was betrayed by his brothers; Job felt betrayed by his friends; Absalom and Ahithophel betrayed David; David betrayed Uriah; Haman betrayed Mordecai; Demas betrayed Paul. The best and worse among us are capable of unthinkable betrayal.

The wondrous story of the Resurrection cannot be told apart from the undercurrent of betrayal. I have been intrigued by this cryptic verse, “The Lord Jesus on the same night He was betrayed took bread and said, ‘This is My body broken for you . .’” 1 Corinthians 11:23-33 NKJV. The juxtaposition of dark betrayal alongside this intimately sacred moment seems unthinkable. But Jesus was neither surprised nor stunned. “[Jesus] had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man.”­ Read John 2:23-25 NKJV.

Jesus knew Judas would betray Him. For thirty pieces of silver, he identified Jesus with a kiss in Gethsemane. Jesus knew Peter would deny Him. In spite of his protests, he would do just that. Jesus knew all the disciples would forsake him. After His arrest, they all would flee in fear and self-preservation. Yet for this Passover, Jesus gathered these very disciples with a sense of strong urgency saying, “With fervent desire have I desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.” Luke 22:15-16 NKJV.

This was the Passover the Exodus from Egypt foretold generations earlier. This was no casual evening. His earthly ministry and the future success of the Kingdom of God would now rest on their devotion and efforts. And He knew the shattering effect His suffering and death would have on their confidence. John later described Jesus’ intent on this fateful night, “. . Having loved His own . . He now showed them the full extent of His love.” John 13:1 NIV. They had to be persuaded of an unfailing love.

It is as wrong to underestimate His grace as to overestimate your faith. Jesus knew their frailties, as He does ours. Amazing grace. Jesus still loved them – and you, and me. He desired for them, as for us, “to know this love that surpasses knowledge.” Read Ephesians 3:17-19 NIV. As in Jesus’ parables of the lost sheep, lost coin, and lost son (Luke 15), “[Jesus] came to seek and to save what was lost.” Luke 19:10 NIV. Not only to save, but even to seek. He would seek for Judas at that Passover Meal, for Peter at a fireside on the shore of Galilee, and for the disciples, and Thomas, in an upper room where the risen Savior showed them His pierced hands and wounded side.

This Good Friday and Easter is not about Judas, Peter, or the disciples; it is about you and me. Today, and every day, Jesus offers amazing grace – second chances, renewed vows, and new beginnings.

My prayer for you today is for a joyous and glorious celebration of His Resurrection.

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Faults and Forgiveness

January 15th, 2014

“Make allowance for each other’s faults and forgive the person who offends you.” Colossians 3:13 NLT.

The power to forgive comes from your being forgiven.

My thoughts and comments today are about “faults and forgiveness.”

Forgiveness is difficult. Let no one tell you otherwise. Forgiveness is difficult because it cuts across the pettiness and selfishness in your nature. Forgiveness is grace extended with the realization that, “Words or actions have hurt me, but that person is more important in my life than the hurt I feel right now. I forgive.” A relationship survives when the offended is merciful, not when the offender is punished.

You are neither at the mercy of the offender nor the offence. A wonderful truth about forgiveness is this: you can forgive unilaterally without any corresponding initiative or recognition by another, other than the extended supply of God’s grace and the satisfaction of His approval. Forgiveness is a gift to the offender without being earned; but more importantly, forgiveness is an act of worship to God and a healing gift to yourself. Years ago, I read a simple poem, “He drew a circle that left me out . .  But love and I had the wit to win, We drew a circle that took him in.” Edward Markham. That’s forgiveness.

The Bible teaches, “Since God chose you to be the holy people whom He loves, you must clothe yourself with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. You must make allowance for each other’s faults and forgive the person who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you so you must forgive the person who offends you” Colossians 3:12-13 NLT. The power to forgive comes from your being forgiven. “Be kind and loving to each other just as God forgave you in Christ.” Ephesians 4:32 NCV. Because Jesus has forgiven you, you can forgive others.

Forgiveness is difficult. But do you know what is even more difficult? Unforgiveness! And the longer unforgiveness lingers on your calendar, the harder for it to leave your heart. This is Godly advice, “Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no man will see the Lord. 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 12:14-15 NIV.Continuing to harbor your hurt and disappointment allows opportunity for greater harm than the original offence. Bitterness is better avoided than resisted.

Unforgiveness allows your remonstrative self-justification, “I was hurt by words or actions and I don’t have room in my heart to forgive that person right now.” Unforgiveness gradually develops a self-righteous judgment. Paul warned, ”Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God . .” Read Ephesians 4:30-32 NIV. Who initiates forgiveness and reconciliation? The offender or the offended?

Jesus advised the offender, “If you are offering your gift at the altar and remember that your brother has something against you . . first, go and be reconciled, then come and offer your gift.” Matthew 5:23-24 NIV. Your relationship with others impacts your relationship with God, and vice versa. Jesus also instructed the offended, “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother.” Matthew 18:15 NIV. The burden of bridge building falls on the strong rather than the weak; be strong. Read Romans 15:1-7 NIV.

My prayer for you today is that you are willing to forgive and ready to restore.

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Simple Instructions

June 22nd, 2012

“Do your part to live in peace with everyone, as much as possible.” Romans 12:18 NLT

The Bible gives simple instructions for living peaceably by resolving differences.

My thoughts and comments today are about “simple instructions.”

Hours ago, I was trying to fix a problem, unsuccessfully at first. My computer and the wireless printer had trouble “communicating.” They seemed perfectly happy working together until a month or so ago. With no explanation, the printer stopped cooperating. I read the instructions, but instructions make sense only to the people who already understand them. Life is a lot like that; it’s simple when life works as it should. The Bible gives fairly simple instructions for one of life’s more common but complex problems – living peaceably by resolving differences that strain relationships. Though such relational challenges are inevitable according to Scripture, most do not have to remain unsolvable. Unity is paramount with God. Read Psalm 133 NKJV.

Who enjoys the strain and stress of unresolved differences with others? Few people, if any, I would surmise. Jesus warned, “How terrible for the world that there are things that make people lose their faith! Such [offences] will always happen – but how terrible for the one who causes them.” Matthew 18:7 TEV. Marriages are strained; families suffer; friendships grow tense. Situations will occur that impose a breach of trust between people. That should not happen. In a perfect world that would not happen, but our fallen world is far from perfect and we are fallen, imperfect people with strong, independent wills that breed disagreements and conflict.

Paul seemed to grasp the bigger picture of disagreements when writing his letter to the Christians at Rome. Read Romans 12:16-21 NLT. Paul’s advice is simple: “Practice humility.” “Don’t think you know it all.” Isn’t that where most differences begin? Somebody assumes they know everything they need to know about the situation and its apparently single solution. When that happens, ears deafen; hearts harden. Listen to each other with a loving heart and open mind. They may still be wrong but you will better understand why they think they are right. And maybe, just maybe, you might see where you also are wrong and find common ground that honors God and saves a friendship.

Paul addresses the natural escalation of reaction; what begins small can quickly become a big deal that increasingly separates people, unless someone does something selfless to reverse the process. Paul shares a simple instruction, “Don’t get even.” “Never pay back evil for evil to anyone . . never avenge yourself. Leave that to God . . don’t let evil get the best of you, but conquer evil by doing good.” In fourth grade, my teacher taught us a valuable life-lesson, “When two dogs fight in a flower bed, the only things that get settled are the flowers.” As a nine year old, her word-picture of the futility of conflicts became indelible; as an adult, I have seen its simple truth where lives, not flower beds, suffered.

Rarely is a single individual the only one at fault. All likely share some fault, and each has a Biblical responsibility to initiate efforts at reconciliation. Paul instructs, “Do your part first.” Then God can do what you could not. “Live in harmony with each other . . do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do your part to live in peace with everyone, as much as possible.” You won’t resolve every dispute but you can make every effort to “live in peace, as much as possible.” You do not control how others behave, but you can choose how you will. Read Matthew 6:23-24 /18:15-22 NKJV. Whether offender or offended, make a Godly initiative for reconciliation. See Matthew 5:9-16.

My prayer for you today is that you learn to accept God’s ways as always the best way.

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Bitter or Better?

November 16th, 2009

“Forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.” Colossians 3:12-17 NIV

“Things seem ‘too big to forgive’ when  you fail to forgive the small grievances along the way.”

My thoughts today ask the question “bitter or better?”

Occasionally, life hurts. As you walk through life, be careful what you accumulate, often things that you never intended or need. Things don’t always work out the way that you hoped. Usually, it is circumstances that disappoint and confuse you. Yes, bad things happen to good people. That is a painful paradox every generation has stumbled over – “Why do the righteous suffer?” Job, a good and righteous man in the Bible, wrestled with that question in his grief and loss, and worse yet, his wife said that God was at fault and his friends thought him to blame.

It will seem easy to blame others; you assume there must be some reason, at least someone to hold responsible for your pain. Or you might be tempted to blame God, after all shouldn’t He have prevented this if He could? Or even blame yourself, though that is usually the last person anyone chooses to blame for their own misery.

People will sometimes do things you didn’t deserve, and you struggle with trying to understand why. Friendships can go crossways, and a painful distance mocks the good times you now miss. And there may be hurtful times when someone treats you in ways you think you could never forgive. But you can forgive, and you must!

You are the one who pays the price for unforgiveness. Read Matthew 18:21-35 NIV. We all need a little more Godly fear about harboring unforgiveness. The high price of withholding forgiveness comes in the coins of bitterness and broken relationships – as well as the emotional, physical, and spiritual distress you impose upon yourself. Get over it; you will be healthier and happier.

“Get rid of all bitterness . . and anger, along with any form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:29-32 NIV. The real question is how do you do that? Doesn’t forgiveness suggest that what was done does not matter, when it’s wrong and does matter? “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Read Romans 12:14-21 NIV.

I think you and I struggle with things supposedly “too big to forgive” if we fail to forgive the small, more manageable grievances that occur along the way. Grievances you do not learn to resolve in yourself open the door for larger offences to find their home in your thoughts, and ultimately in your heart and attitudes. Read Hebrews 12:14-15 NIV. Do you want to be bitter or better? I think better is better than bitter.

Learn to overlook petty things; they are not worthy of a fretful moment. Matters of disagreement or disappointment are best to be quickly addressed in everyday life, not just ignored. Like stuff under a bed, they gather dust and disuse.

But there will be wrongs that challenge every ounce of grace you have ever been given. That’s when you will need the consistent practice of forgiving others and knowing that forgiveness is the only thing that works.

My prayer for you today is to realize that forgiving is the only remedy for grievances.

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