Choose Forgiveness or Swallow the Bitter Poison

There are two choices; forgive or grow bitter. There is no such word as “unforgiveness,” there is only forgiveness given or bitterness fostered. Remember anybody along the way that someone else said, “they are just a bitter old man?” Likely, if true, it’s because they chose not to forgive somewhere along the way.

Catch that? “Chose” not to forgive. Nothing about their feelings. Forgiveness isn’t an emotion; it’s a choice. It doesn’t mean that it didn’t hurt; in fact, hurt is almost always present if/when forgiveness is called for. Forgiveness comes as a choice in the face of hurt. Or bitterness.

Bitterness is validated by justice. When considering what someone did which was hurtful or offensive, it is typically not difficult to formulate a solid strategy and monologue supporting their conviction. We all become trial attorneys. Based on our supporting evidence, we find you guilty and in fact, it’s often true. So the self-argued and self-decided guilty verdict results in a sentence of nothing for the other person and bitterness for us. Poison.

They offered Jesus the poison, the bitter gall, on the Cross. He could have taken it and it would have eased His pain but He didn’t swallow it. He wasn’t on the cross to get even; He was on the Cross to give grace. He wasn’t there to perpetuate justice; He was there to satisfy it. He chose instead, “Forgive them, Father . . . ”

Making the case and holding onto the offense is satisfying for a moment. It satisfies our soul’s desire for justice at the cost of our spirit’s need for grace. It fosters toxins that give us the illusion of vindication but actually starts the erosion of our character from the agitating effects of bitterness.

It’s not an emotion; you can’t wait until it feels better because it’s needed in triage at the diagnosis or hurt. In fact, that same choice to forgive may have to be made over and over through lingering hurt from a single offense. It may have to be multiplied 7 times 70 or so.

The best part is that you don’t really have to manufacture it; there is a Source that will give it to you. “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” gives us the “how to.” Remember and appropriate the grace that you have received and continue to need. Then, give it away to others.

Want to Change the World?

At our core, we want to live beyond ourselves; leaving a mark that lasts. The applications of that want can be expressed through various forums, including family, finances, beliefs and community. How to accomplish the greatest of possibilities requires the simplest of choices.

It starts with a heart that is able to be wrong. We must be comfortable with our flaws or the strength of our abilities will paralyze multiplication through agreement. In other words, if everyone else is so impressed or intimidated with our perfection, there will be no call for them to agree and multiply. The net result would be a very finite impact. True emotional security produces the humility that accepts it’s own limitations.

That humility is fueled by grace. It is acceptance of invitations into destiny despite us. That invitation is from a Source that has plenty of perfection to give to make up for all of our flaws. When we can accept acceptance, we can see others beyond their flaws in the same manner we get past ours. We aren’t perfect and neither are they, so we can agree and minimize the drag that imperfections might cause individually. Agreement produces multiplication and multiplication produces exponential impact.

From acceptance that originates in eternity, we don’t have to work from a heart that strives to be recognized or rewarded but from a satisfied soul that desires outcomes more than it needs affirmation. We get to; we don’t have to. We are invited, not compelled. From that freedom, the passion to run is inspiring and sustainable in a way that others can join in and go further and beyond what we are capable of.

Agreement is imperative to impact as multiplication is necessary for expansion. Lasting agreement requires invitation without relying on manipulation, subjective absolutes or division. Freedom fosters invitation as it is secure in its identity and conviction, allowing others to determine their place and extent of involvement. Even if it means rejection.

You can change the world but for you and for me, that starts and ends with the heart. From the heart, good intentions either get multiplied by agreement which is fostered by grace or they are limited in their own insecurities. The challenge is that the need for grace is ongoing as our insecurities take a lifetime to resolve. This requires a perpetual posture of submission for the greatest possibilities of impact. The good news is that the grace which fuels greatness is available in Jesus.

Wisdom for The New Year

For many of us, the new year marks a time that we seek wisdom and vision for the circumstances we face going into that new year. We consider the things around us and before us with something of a fresh look and make plans for how to move forward. That look and those plans, however, are limited to the same duplicity and faults that were applied last year unless and until we submit them to a greater Source.

Psalm 2 establishes that Jesus has been ruling and will rule from His throne for eternity. His place is absolute and His perspective is perfect. By His grace, we have access to His rule as we consider the things that we might rule if we will choose to submit our things to Him.

The wisdom we desire for application to the opportunities and challenges we face is available and the first step towards attaining it is towards Him. Proverbs 1:7 says that the beginning of knowledge is the fear of the Lord. but that “fools despise wisdom and instruction.”

To attain the King’s wisdom for our issues, we do so through recognizing His holiness (which will produce what is described as fear of the Lord). Recognition of His holy perfection will only highlight and contrast our imperfections. That’s the beginning of wisdom; true recognition that He is God and we are not.

Fools despise it because they don’t want to be reminded of their foolishness. I suspect that each of us is a fool with some frequency as we would prefer to operate from the limits of our imperfect skills and abilities rather than be reminded of our faults. I know that I am foolish in that way with embarrassing frequency.

The humility required to admit our faults positions us properly in relationship with an eternal and perfect King. We can properly submit our lives and the issues within them to Him as we seek His wisdom, favor and grace. Our humility affords His anointing; that is, when we bow down in recognition of our limits, His Spirit within us is afforded permission through us to present eternity to an earth in need of glimpses of heaven.

True security will facilitate successful relationships, stewardship and influence. That absolute security can’t come from the limits of our soul, but can only be accessed through the fullness of His Spirit. Our humility in recognition of our limitations will grant us the perspective, wisdom and anointing of an eternal King. Our hope for the coming year will be well founded and applicable well beyond the next 365 days.

Invited into Extreme

We are living in extreme times where the rhetoric and divide has escalated negotiable to absolute. At the same time, absolutes are too offensive so things that used to be held as true are compromised for comfort.

In the middle of those political and societal shifts, matters of faith get chipped away at as fringe and extreme. Most people don’t want to be either fringe or extreme so the instinct is to adapt in small ways to remain relevant. Compromise is seldom drastic and the slide is usually indiscernible.

This year, and in the coming years, there will increasingly be no room for compromised faith. There will be no power anywhere except for the extreme and extreme will be easier to attain by contrast to the culture. Weird is weird and it’s increasingly weird just to profess belief, much less to zealously follow and advance the cause of Christ.

Here’s the thing; it’s His cause, not a plank on the platform of the religious right. Extreme faith will be in Him, not ideas about how Him. Reliance on Jesus for supernatural protection, provision and promotion is neither boastful nor argumentative. The argument is in our actions and our choices must be dependent on His power. Our extreme place in these extreme times is less, not more. Less of us and our ideas and more of Him through our humility, brokenness and obedience.

We don’t need better candidates or laws; we need a Church that is as authentic in the sufferings of Christ as they are in the abundance of His Kingdom. We don’t need to win; we need to die. Death to ourselves allows the anointing of His Spirit to exude from us. The compelling extreme of the Holy Spirit circumvents all theological or philosophical debates as He draws others towards Himself despite what we do to repel them.

The coming years of extreme invite us to die to ourselves for the One whom we say we believe. When He invited us to follow Him, the glory He promises is through the crucifixion He modeled. Christianity is neither a spectacle nor a program, but agreement among us in the absolute of Him. He did and does everything that needs to be done; the stuff we attempt to heap on top of His absolute is compromise no matter the intention of our souls.

Two Kinds of Wisdom

We all want wisdom and many of us proclaim wisdom once we think we have something figured out. Those premature declarations are indicators that we’ve attained the wrong or incomplete version of wisdom, however. Wisdom, by definition, comes in two forms; man’s wisdom and God’s wisdom. When we declare our wisdom, we settle for the inferiority of man’s wisdom over the eternal potential of God’s wisdom.

In order to realize the life of Jesus available from within us, we are invited to die to the preferences of our soul (our mind, will and emotions). If/when we will give up our opinions and desires, we can be informed by Holy Spirit’s perspective and not limited to our own. If we will die to ourselves, we will live and enjoy His wisdom and not our cheap substitute.

Wisdom that is me and not Him is “not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.” (James 3:15)

The description of my wisdom is given in three terms but they don’t mean the same thing. They can’t mean the same thing, since “unspiritual” and “demonic” are contradictory on their face. Human wisdom, if given priority over the availability of God’s wisdom which is available by submitting our soul has the following progressive (or regressive?) attributes:

  • Earthly – basic wisdom from existing on earth; if you touch fire, it will burn, so don’t touch fire.
  • Unspiritual – “sensuous nature with its subjection to appetite and passion.” This means driven by your own will and emotions, or soul. Beyond just the wisdom of the flesh, this is trusting the wisdom of the soul. It is, in effect, choosing to be your own small “g” god in those areas where you rely on your perspective.
  • Demonic – this is influenced or tormented by the perspective of an enemy that comes against the purposes of God and is intent on destroying you. Nobody would willingly choose this form of wisdom out of the gate; it is a progressive slide where the consequences of soul-ish wisdom lead to a greater depravity and give permission to evil. Sin has a progressive nature (it waits to devour you).

James goes on to say “the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.” (3:17) “Good fruits” include “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” from Galatians.

That means that God’s wisdom isn’t just knowledge or ability; it is the feeling that comes with contentment as described in James and Galatians. It is without anxiety, fear, worry, shame and guilt. Wisdom from God comes at the expense of your preference but gives you life in abundance where otherwise we are limited to the boundaries of our soul.

We Don’t Catch Our Issues; They Come Out of Us

When representing people charged with a crime, one of the first things that was necessary was to hear their story. Asking them how they viewed the circumstances would help uncover not only facts, but attitudes. It was common for many criminal defendants to say that they “caught” the charge.

Depending on the situation, I would sometimes stop them there and help them realize the flaw in their choice of words. The choice of words, whether it started out as a mindset or not, can create a mindset which is based in a lie. That is, for them to continually say that when they are charged with a crime, it was something they “caught” can create the idea that somebody threw it at them or it was just bad luck.

Criminal charges don’t typically float around and just get on people. They are not like a cold or the flu. Charges almost always come from someone putting themselves in circumstances that lead to trouble. They typically come from bad choices. We don’t catch bad choices, we create them, and if we don’t own them then we’ll make them over and over again.

Whether it’s a criminal defendant or anyone else, breaking patterns of destructive decision-making can be difficult. It may be that we have irresponsible spending habits or sloppy time management. The first step for any of us in getting things going the right direction in a particular area of our lives is to own it. It’s our deal; we are the ones responsible.

The next thing is to strip it down to its lowest common denominator. We need to ask ourselves “why do I do the things that I do?” The answers are within us and we have to be willing to do the hard work of responsibility and honesty to dig to the core. God will show us if we are willing to ask and examine and He will redeem anything within us that is producing the consequences in our lives that are distinct from the glory He intends from us.

Every time a flaw, insecurity, stronghold or some other expression of our soul is revealed to us it is an act of grace. The revelation of our depravity affords us redemption for security in His identity. We don’t have to stay where we are if we are willing to admit that we didn’t catch it; we chose it.