Hand it over

When you forgive, you aren’t saying that what happened was okay. You aren’t saying that who did it to you was justified. However you are saying that it isn’t your place to exact judgment or revenge.

To continue to hold a grudge over something doesn’t punish the criminal, but yourself. You hold yourself hostage. It is better to give the situation over to God – the true judge – and let justice happen when and how it is best.

When you hand things that are too heavy over to God, you are not only lightening your load, you are also handing them over to the One who is the most able to handle them. Leave it with the expert – God. You don’t need to carry it anymore.

 

The apostle Paul wrote in Romans 12:19

19 Friends, do not avenge yourselves; instead, leave room for His wrath. For it is written: Vengeance belongs to Me; I will repay, says the Lord.

He is referring to the verses in Deuteronomy 32:35, where God says:

“Vengeance belongs to Me; I will repay. In time their foot will slip, for their day of disaster is near, and their doom is coming quickly.”
Also, consider these words from Psalm 27:1-3

1 The Lord is my light and my salvation—

whom should I fear?

The Lord is the stronghold of my life—

of whom should I be afraid?

2 When evildoers came against me to devour my flesh,

my foes and my enemies stumbled and fell.

3 Though an army deploys against me,

my heart is not afraid;

though a war breaks out against me,

still I am confident.

However, consider also the words of Jesus in Luke 23:34, when he was on the cross, being tormented and attacked –

Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing.”

He didn’t call on God to avenge.  He called on God to forgive. Now we often aren’t that spiritually evolved, especially when we are in the middle of the situation.  However, we aren’t alone in our struggles.  We have Jesus to help us.

 

 

(All Bible translations are HCSB.)

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Peg

The “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” concept only works so far.  How do you deal with the situation when they don’t return the favor?  I feel like I’m constantly giving out 20 dollar bills, and not getting anything back – not even a thank you.

I have often felt like a square peg in a round hole. How people treat me is often at odds with how I feel they should treat me. I asked God about this and God said that perhaps it’s me. Perhaps I need to change my expectations of the world.

God says “My ways are not your ways.”

Jesus asked his disciples to stay in the world but not to be of the world.

Jesus said to forgive people without count.

Jesus said that we should treat our enemies with kindness, and in so doing we will prove that we are children of God.

God says to me that I am supposed to stay the way I am and stay in the world as it is,

and feel that hurt

feel that pain

feel that dissonance.

…in part, so that I understand and can empathize with people who are excluded and left out. But also so that in holding my ground I can teach others how to act in a Godly way.  Sometimes we are to be teachers through our actions.

Many years ago,

I had asked God to be able to spread the messages he gave without attention to me. I want to be anonymous, and live my life without fame. This way I can go to the gym or the grocery store and live like a normal person. In the meantime God uses me as a conduit. I want to be a good steward of the gifts that he gives me.

 

So why am I upset when a message I share is taken up and adopted (stolen, in my mind) by someone who acts as if it is theirs? I don’t want fame or money, so it doesn’t make sense for me to be upset.

I brought this to God this week and got a lot of peace.  That feeling I had is the human part of me, rearing its ugly head.  It is important that I felt it, and brought it to God.  That is what God wants – to heal all of our brokenness.  But we have to take it to the Healer to be healed.

Here is what it means to be a child of God: It isn’t natural, but spiritual.  We are all created by God at birth but the true children of God, once they are spiritually awake, then choose to be further formed and shaped by God. They choose to align themselves with God and then let God work through them.  It is a two-way adoption.  God wants all of us to choose to follow God’s ways, but not all of us do.  It is our choice.

I need to give my immature feelings of jealousy (because these messages are not mine, but God’s) to God, so God can transform them into selflessness.   I need to do this in order to become a pure vessel for God’s Spirit in this world.

Sometimes for healing to take place, there has to be a reconciliation – a balancing of the accounts.

It is important to let other people know how you feel.  They can’t read your mind. It is like being a bill collector who issues the bill (with interest) ten years after it is due.  It is better to issue the bill early, to get it over with and have the accounts settled as soon as possible.

Jesus says that if we have an issue against someone, to not take our offering to the Temple, but to leave it and go make peace with that person first.

So today I wrote sent this message to a lady in a head covering group I belong to:

“Hello!  I thought it would be important to write you.  At least a year ago I mentioned something on the “Cover me happy” Facebook page about how it would be a good idea to focus on the idea of covering, instead of covering with a lot of fancy wraps.  I said that too many fancy wraps would make it difficult for the beginner, or someone who is poor and can’t afford a lot of scarves.  I also pointed out that modesty is an important part of covering, so calling attention to it with fancy wraps didn’t make sense.  Not long after I said that, you posted on the Wrapunzel page this very idea, saying that you’d read it in another group but wasn’t sure who said it.  Then it became a thing, where people were posting their single scarf wraps and tagging you.  I felt very hurt by this, since I am the one who suggested it.  I said nothing at the time, but now that something like this has happened to me in a different context, I think it is important to speak up and set things right.  I don’t want fame for the idea – it was just an idea.  I don’t want to be tagged when people post when they wear one scarf.  But I also don’t want my ideas claimed by someone else.  I think it is important to make things right, so that is why I am writing, to let you know how I feel.”

I have no idea how she will respond to it.  She probably doesn’t even remember.  Because of the message system on Facebook, she might never see it.  But I needed to write it.  It is important to balance the accounts.

Yesterday I wrote to the administrator of a group I’d been submitting newsletter offerings to, saying that she could not claim that she was writing the posts.  My first several posts were given the anonymous “from a member” credit.  I wasn’t sure about this – there was nothing saying that what we submitted would be anonymous.  But now it didn’t even say that, and at the bottom I noted that she’d said the contents were copyright (to her group – not to me).

Perhaps it was good for it to be anonymous – that way one member wouldn’t stick out.  I was also still wrestling with the idea that at least my messages were getting out.  I still don’t want fame or attention.  But I also don’t want my work to be claimed by another.

It is why I say that anyone can use anything I wrote for “The Condensed Gospel” for free, but they cannot claim that they wrote it, or charge money for it.  I don’t want money for it – but I also don’t want someone else to make money on it.  I now feel that credit is a sort of money in a way.

So now I’m holding my ground and speaking up. I’m telling people that they have hurt me as soon as I realize that they have, without “charging interest”.

 

Jesus does not punish.

We must remember that the Good News is indeed good. Here are some verses from the Gospels that remind us of that.

Jesus came to save people’s lives – not destroy them.

Luke 9:51-56
51 When the days were coming to a close for Him to be taken up, He determined to journey to Jerusalem. 52 He sent messengers ahead of Him, and on the way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make preparations for Him. 53 But they did not welcome Him, because He determined to journey to Jerusalem. 54 When the disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?” 55But He turned and rebuked them and said, “You don’t know what kind of spirit you belong to. 56 For the Son of Man did not come to destroy people’s lives but to save them,” 56 and they went to another village.

Jesus came to save – not condemn.

JN 3:17
“For God did not send His Son into the world that He might condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.”

Jesus tells us what to do if we have interpersonal problems. Note these words are not about if you think someone is sinning, but if you and another person have problems.

MT 18:15-20
15 “If your brother sins against you, go and rebuke him in private. If he listens to you, you have won your brother. 16 But if he won’t listen, take one or two more with you, so that by the testimony of two or three witnesses every fact may be established. 17 If he pays no attention to them, tell the church. But if he doesn’t pay attention even to the church, let him be like an unbeliever and a tax collector to you. 18 I assure you: Whatever you bind on earth is already bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth is already loosed in heaven. 19 Again, I assure you: If two of you on earth agree about any matter that you pray for, it will be done for you by My Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there among them.”

Jesus came to be a servant, not a taskmaster.

MT 20:25-28
25 But Jesus called them over and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles dominate them, and the men of high position exercise power over them. 26 It must not be like that among you. On the contrary, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave; 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life—a ransom for many.”

Jesus came to find and rescue the lost.

LK 19:1-10
“Today salvation has come to this house,” Jesus told him, “because he too is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost.”

MT 18:11
“For the Son of Man has come to save the lost.”

Jesus came to save the world and not to judge it.

JN 12:44-47
44 Then Jesus cried out, “The one who believes in Me believes not in Me, but in Him who sent Me. 45 And the one who sees Me sees Him who sent Me. 46 I have come as a light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me would not remain in darkness. 47 If anyone hears My words and doesn’t keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world.

We, as Jesus’ followers, must follow his example of being full of mercy and kindness, seeking to help people and not to condemn them.

Much forgiveness, much love.

One of the Pharisees invited Jesus to dine with him at his home. He accepted the invitation, and as he was reclining at the dinner table, a woman from that town who was known as a sinner entered the home, carrying an alabaster flask filled with expensive perfume. Weeping, she knelt behind him at his feet with her tears falling upon them. She wiped her tears from his feet with her hair and then began to kiss his feet and anoint them with the perfume.

When the Pharisee who had invited Jesus noticed what was happening, he thought to himself “If this man really were a prophet he would know that the woman who is touching him is a sinner!”

Jesus, knowing his host’s thoughts, said “Simon, I have something to say to you.”

“Go ahead, Teacher,” Simon replied.

Jesus then told him a parable. “Say there is a man who loaned money to two people. To one he loaned $5000 and to the other he loaned $500. Neither one was able to pay him back, so he graciously canceled both their debts. Which one do you think loved him more?”

“I suppose the one who had the bigger debt,” Simon answered.

“You have answered correctly,” Jesus said. Then he gestured towards the woman and said to Simon “Do you notice this woman here? When I entered your home, you didn’t offer me any water to wash the dust off my feet as most people do, but she has washed them with her tears and dried them with her hair. You didn’t greet me with a kiss as most people do, but she has not quit kissing my feet since I came in. You didn’t anoint my head with olive oil as most people do, but she has anointed my feet with expensive perfume. Therefore, her many sins are forgiven because she loves me greatly, but the one who has a smaller debt of sin to forgive shows a small amount of love.”

Then, looking at the woman, he said “Your sins are forgiven.”

Those who were at the table with him said amongst themselves, “Who does he think he is, forgiving sins?”

Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you. You may go in peace.”

LK 7:36-50

The apple and the snake.

snake apple

What came first, the apple or the snake?

Let’s look at the story in Genesis.

On the third day, God created trees that have seed-bearing fruit (including apples).

Genesis 1:11-12
11 Then God said, “Let the earth produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and fruit trees on the earth bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds.” And it was so. 12 The earth produced vegetation: seed-bearing plants according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.

It was three days later – the sixth day, that God created land animals.

Genesis 1:24-25
24 Then God said, “Let the earth produce living creatures according to their kinds: livestock, creatures that crawl, and the wildlife of the earth according to their kinds.” And it was so. 25 So God made the wildlife of the earth according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and creatures that crawl on the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.

Interestingly, immediately after land animals are created – including creatures that crawl on the ground (including snakes) God creates humans.

Genesis 1:26
26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness. They will rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the livestock, all the earth, and the creatures that crawl on the earth.”

So there was the apple, then the snake, then humans.

The temptation and the tempter existed before us. We were babies in comparison. We didn’t have a chance.

We often forget that God made all things – the apple, the snake, and us. There is no “good” or “bad” when you think of it this way. God provided temptation and tempter because resisting them requires strength, intelligence, power, ability to learn. Not resisting is the mark of a lesser being – an animal. God wanted to see if we were better than animals.

We failed the test.
Adam and Eve didn’t fail for us.
They are us.
We are them.

We fail every time
we eat that extra piece of cake,
slack off from going to the gym
for a week
or a year
or a decade,
we share gossip at work,
we cut somebody off in our cars,
we cheat on our taxes
or our spouse.

We are Adam and Eve, and the world is our snake and our apple at the same time.

But note Adam and Eve weren’t destroyed. They were just given another chance to try again. They were sent out into that big world to learn, to get stronger. So are we. We get a lot of chances.

A life without temptation is not a virtuous life. You haven’t proven you are strong enough to resist the magnetic, hypnotic pull of temptation if you’ve never been exposed to it. Only if you are in it and yet above it are you truly righteous.

Unconditional God

Jacob, not yet Israel, said to God in Genesis 28:20-21:

20 Then Jacob made a vow: “If God will be with me and watch over me on this journey, if He provides me with food to eat and clothing to wear, 21 and if I return safely to my father’s house, then the LORD will be my God. 22 This stone that I have set up as a marker will be God’s house, and I will give to You a tenth of all that You give me.”

He’s just had his amazing dream in the desert, and set up a small rock as a reminder that this is where God spoke with him.

Note all the conditions he gives. If you do this, then I’ll do this. He’s making demands of God.

Moses said to the family of Israel in Deuteronomy 30:1-6:

“When all these things happen to you—the blessings and curses I have set before you—and you come to your senses while you are in all the nations where the LORD your God has driven you, 2 and you and your children return to the LORD your God and obey Him with all your heart and all your soul by doing everything I am giving you today, 3 then He will restore your fortunes, have compassion on you, and gather you again from all the peoples where the LORD your God has scattered you. 4 Even if your exiles are at the ends of the earth, He will gather you and bring you back from there. 5 The LORD your God will bring you into the land your fathers possessed, and you will take possession of it. He will cause you to prosper and multiply you more than He did your fathers. 6 The LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the hearts of your descendants, and you will love Him with all your heart and all your soul so that you will live.

This is the other way around. If you, as a people, do these things, then God will do these things for you.

In the first section, God has to do the work first. In the second, the people have to do the work.

It isn’t unconditional in these stories, but it is interesting to see that the focus has changed. Instead of us demanding more from God, they are demanding more from themselves. It is more mature, but it is still conditional. It is if-then. Not that God loves you anyway, but that love is dependent on another’s actions – even if that other is God.

What chutzpah to demand anything of God! And how sad to think that God won’t love you regardless.

But then Jesus says in Luke 15:11-2 (the story of the prodigal son)

11 He also said: “A man had two sons. 12 The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the estate I have coming to me.’ So he distributed the assets to them. 13 Not many days later, the younger son gathered together all he had and traveled to a distant country, where he squandered his estate in foolish living. 14 After he had spent everything, a severe famine struck that country, and he had nothing. 15 Then he went to work for one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to eat his fill from the carob pods the pigs were eating, but no one would give him any. 17 When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have more than enough food, and here I am dying of hunger! 18 I’ll get up, go to my father, and say to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight. 19 I’m no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired hands.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father. But while the son was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion. He ran, threw his arms around his neck, and kissed him. 21 The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight. I’m no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 “But the father told his slaves, ‘Quick! Bring out the best robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.23 Then bring the fattened calf and slaughter it, and let’s celebrate with feast, 24 because this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ So they began to celebrate.

The father had never given up on him. All he had to do was return, and the father ran to him. Note verse 20 – “…while the son was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion. He ran, threw his arms around his neck, and kissed him.”

This is how our Heavenly Father is. We have to return and all is forgiven.

Likewise, we are to forgive others in the same way. Peter asked Jesus in Matthew 18:21-22 – how often must we forgive someone? And Jesus said that as many times as they ask for forgiveness, you must forgive them.

God gives us unconditional love. We are to share this love with the world. In the same way that we are forgiven, we are to forgive.

This is Heaven on Earth.

(All Bible translations are HCSB)

The parable of the unforgiving person.

Jesus said “The kingdom of heaven is like the idea of the king who wants to balance his books. In the middle of that process, a person who owed him $10 million was brought before him. Since the man had no way of settling his debt, the king ordered that the man, his wife, their children and everything they owned be sold to pay off the account.

The man threw himself to the ground and said ‘Master, please give me a little more time and I will pay you everything!’ The king felt compassion for him so he forgave his debt and sent him on his way.

However, just after the man left the king he found a person who owed him $2000. He started choking him and demanded to be paid back immediately. That man threw himself to the ground and said ‘Please give me a little more time and I will pay you everything!’ But the man refused his request and instead had him thrown into prison until he could pay his debt in full. Other people saw what had happened and they went to the king and told him everything.

The king summoned the man who had owed him $10 million and said ‘You wicked man! I forgave everything that you owed me because you begged me for mercy. Shouldn’t you then have mercy on someone who owes you?’ Then the king had him thrown into jail until he could pay back every penny that he owed. My Heavenly Father will treat you the same way if you refuse to truly forgive everyone who has harmed you.”

MT 18:23-35