Don’t Hold Grudges!

But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. Matthew 6:15

I meet far too many people today who harbor bitter resentments and anger because of something someone said to them, did to them, or failed to do for them.  Some of these grudges go back as far as 20 years! The common thread that I observe that weaves through the lives of the people I am speaking about is incredible stress, pain and suffering…some exudes to the surface, some is buried deep within their soul.  There is a feeling by many that they have to get even, or that at the very least they must return the slight, bad act or abuse with equal or greater fervor to somehow regain their dignity and their wounded pride.  The result?  The aggressor has long forgotten the act, and the victim relives it over and over magnifying their own pain.

The Bible makes it very clear, and Jesus Christ himself admonished the disciples that  we are to love and forgive.  We are to pray for and love even our enemies!  This was incredibly difficult for the people of Jesus’ time who were searching for a messiah who would be a great warrior like King David and fight for them against the Roman slave masters.  Love the Romans?  What a bitter pill to swallow…and still tough to accept today.

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”  Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.’  Matthew 18: 21-22

Why should we give those who wrong us another chance, or better yet 77 chances?  Because our sins against God pale in comparison to the daily squabbles and insults we endure, and yet the Father forgives us!  How can we not forgive others when He has shown grace and mercy beyond what we deserve solely because he loves us!  And that is the key:  love overcomes hate, love overcomes jealousy, love overcomes anger and bitterness, and love heals.

I understand fully that reaching out in love when someone hates you,  turning the other cheek, is not logical in the world we live  in, however this is not our home.  We are to be other-worldly and focused on the life to come, where love will reign supreme.  We are to be examples of Christ’s love on this Earth and witnesses to his redemptive grace through his death on the cross.

In the end we remain creatures of flesh, and so we will feel pain, anger, and be tempted to exact  revenge on those who wrong us.  When that happens, reach  into your soul and find the peace and love of Christ.  It will bring calm to your storm, and praise God it will confound your enemies!

Still not convinced?  Here are some clear and convincing words by Jesus on the subject:

You have heard that it was said, “love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute youMatthew 5:43-44

Love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because He is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Luke 6:35

When you finish reading this, why not pick up the phone, or send an email, and end a feud, patch up a disagreement, send love to someone who has not shown love to you, offer forgiveness even when forgiveness is hard to offer.  I am willing to believe that the very act of being obedient to God in this painful area of your life will bring incredible peace and unexpected rewards!

God bless you!!!

The Danger of Living in a “Judgment Free Zone”

The other day I was listening to a radio ad for a new gym that promised members they could enjoy a “judgment free zone” while they worked out.  I assume by that they meant a member would not have to worry that others would judge their appearance, work out clothes, routine or whatever.  Besides the fact that no one could guarantee that because (as of now) our thoughts cannot be controlled, it struck me that the appeal of such a claim is indicative of the way many of us choose to live our lives:  in fear of judgment.

The concern over what others think has led to some pretty extreme behavior patterns among Americans whereby men and women attack, sue, criticize, fight, destroy, demonize, and try to drown out anyone or anything that even appears to evaluate their behavior from a moral and ethical standpoint.  Because so many are fearful of being called out for dangerous, unhealthy, risky, unkind, selfish, boorish, abusive, and just plain gross behavior, we are quickly becoming a society where “judgment” is a dirty word.  Now I am very much aware that the Bible instructs us not to judge others, that judgment is reserved for the Lord, however we are expected to use the Bible to educate, inform, instruct and correct sinfulness.  Doing so is not an act of aggression but one of love, because the point of the Bible and our lives as Christians is that we are to bring God’s word (and his commands) to the whole world and to save souls.  Shutting out judgment is really shutting out God.

The rush to shut out “judgment” has left a world where there is no right and wrong and morals are laughed at as old-fashioned.  When no one fears God, no one agrees on a common set of rules for living, then we just make it up as we go along.  This is not the type of “order” that God envisions for us and commands of us throughout the Bible.  We are to have self-control, compassion for others, humility and obedience.  We are to respect God’s basic rules for living (the Ten Commandments) and live our lives righteously.

Christians should not be silent for fear of speaking the truth (that is God’s Word, not our opinions);  the world needs to hear the truth.  As Paul wrote in Romans 10-14, 15:  How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

So what does a judgment free world look like?  Sin is rampant because no one wants to call anyone on sinful living.  Greed is prevalent.  Selfishness abounds.  The ends (pursuit of wealth and power) justify the means.  Humans remain cruel, indifferent and ambivalent towards one another.  Love and family are redefined.  Unborn children are inconveniences.  Marriage is a revolving door. Poverty remains rampant.  Violence remains unchecked.  So how as the establishment of a judgment free zone worked for us?  It has created more slavery and less freedom than anyone might have hoped for.

Without judgment we are slaves to sin.

Without judgment we are empty and bitter.

Without judgment  we are heading down a wide  road that leads to destruction.

One last thought.  If you are following a preacher, minister, or faith leader who only talks about the “warm fuzzy Jesus” you may be getting the wrong impression that Jesus loves sin.  He doesn’t.  He loves the sinner but hates the sin and He expects those who follow him to change and turn from sin or salvation will be lost.  The Gospel of Luke talks about how on Christ’s return he expects to see false doctrines, false preachers and a new religion masquerading as Biblical Christianity. When the Son of Man comes, will he find the faith on the earth? Luke 18:8  For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.  Matthew 24:24  Followers need to be discerning of the message and their messenger.  These are challenging times.

The next time someone talks about  a “judgment free zone” say “no thanks” and embrace a God (who like a loving parent) intends to shape you, mold you, refine you and correct you so that when you enter His presence you will be worthy to call him “Father.”

 

 

Why We Must Find Business Partners and Associates Who Are Equally Yoked

I have a few dear  friends who are very educated and successful.  They are smart and intuitive and desire success above all else.  In fact they are driven with a passion that can be admired at times.  However I could never be their business partner or work for them, because their values and mine are not the same.

Both of these men  admire wealth, and anyone who has achieved great wealth with high esteem regardless of the character and ethics involved.  As a result, they are blinded to the actions of these powerful people whom they admire,  which compel them to gain more money and power by any means necessary.  It is an observation of mine after nearly 30 years as a professional, having mingled and done business with rich and powerful people in several different industries, that there is a common thread among many (but not all) of them: the ends justify the means.

Compassion, fairness, ethics, consideration, kindness, equity and humility vanish with the all-out pursuit of wealth and position.  Oftentimes there is a wake of devastation in the path of these men and women as they rise up the ladder of success.

I refuse to play that game and will not allow myself to be yoked together with such people.  Some might say that I “don’t have what it takes to succeed,” however I would reply that, “success and wealth are terms that mean something different to me than to you.”  In addition I reject the notion that one cannot gain success and get ahead by refusing to lie, cheat, steal, bully, manipulate, coerce, and cut corners.  In fact I have witnessed great men and women of noble character, most of whom were faith-filled believers, who have chosen a slow and steady path to enormous success and material wealth built with humility, hard work, honesty, integrity and compassion for their fellow-men.  Inevitably these people are humble about their success and share their blessings with others freely.

The Bible speaks about equal yoking this way: Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? 2 Corinthians 6:14  and Do not plow with an ox and a donkey yoked together! Deuteronomy 22:10.

This does not mean we should shun unbelievers or those with different ethics, morals and values…in fact we must instead try to witness to them and demonstrate how success can be redefined and achieved with greater reward through a Christ-centered mind and body.

I may never live in a mansion or have a million dollars in the bank, however as a follower of Jesus Christ I know where true value lies, and my eyes are not fixed on what this world offers but what God has waiting for me in eternal paradise.  Until then, I am happy to walk slowly down the straight and narrow path of success, arm and arm with like-minded brethren, singing the praises of the Lord and confident in the glory and blessings that await me!

The Devastating Impact of Gossip

I once read that George Washington was so committed in his belief that men should not speak foul words or gossip that whenever he encountered the behavior he would simply turn and walk from the room.  I don’t know if this is true, however having read several biographies of Washington and his contemporaries I am willing to believe it.  Our first president was a firm believer in self-control and practiced it as part of his daily life.

One of the areas where many fail to practice self-control is in keeping secrets and maintaining confidences.  I seem to always be observing situations where someone is talking about someone else, usually repeating something heard second or third hand and gleefully having fun at the expense of someone not present to explain, correct or defend the remarks.  Trust and confidentiality appears to be lost in a world where everyone desires their 15 minutes of fame, and where knocking our brothers and sisters is a game designed to build up our own fragile egos.  Most importantly, gossip and loose talk are harmful and can damage relationships, hurt careers, inspire depression and anger and even cause violence and suicide.  Today we see far too many examples of young people devastated by social media gossip taking their own lives, and sometime killing others in the process.

The Bible of course covers this area quite emphatically. In 2 Corinthians 12:20 the Apostle Paul warns the churches about “whisperings and backbitings.”  In James 3:8 it is written “the tongue can no man tame, it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.”  Proverbs also advises that “a talebearer reveals secrets, but he that is of a faithful spirit conceals the matter.”

Each of us has a choice to make when we encounter gossip.  We can walk away.  We can speak up and rebuke the taleteller or we can  become an accessory after the fact and continue the damage.  A simple “excuse me but should we really be talking about this?” may very well stop the gossip before it spreads, however if you cannot speak out walk out…the effect may be just as powerful.

Who among us enjoys having our dirty laundry aired by others?  Especially when the facts usually bear little relationship to the truth?  As Christians we need to stand up for biblical truths such as those which condemn gossip and whispering and demonstrate that love of our fellow human beings requires that we be trustworthy, loyal and gracious in all matters…even when the details of a fallen sinner are just too tempting to keep to ourselves.

Ultimately we are all sinners and all subject to whispering…as Christians we must be the final link in the game of “telephone” and stop the news from spreading and causing harm.  We must also be listeners, reliable confidants who can be trusted with confidential and personal matters to soothe and lift up those around us who are fallen and need counsel, advice and comfort.

Have a blessed day and a wonderful week.  Remember that God loves you know matter where you are and what you have done….all of us are works in progress, and thanks be to God, are washed with the blood of the lamb and bestowed with his mercy and grace!