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Now take seven bulls and seven male sheep, and go to my servant Job, and offer a burnt offering for yourselves. My servant Job will pray for you, and I will listen to his prayer. Then I will not punish you for being foolish. You have not said what is right about me, as my servant Job did.” Job 42:8 (NCV)

One of the most powerful things we can do for ourselves is to forgive others.

Forgiveness doesn’t say the other person is deserving of forgiveness. Forgiveness doesn’t condone their actions. Forgiveness doesn’t mean in any way that the relationship can or will ever be the same.

Forgiveness brings freedom.

Forgiveness allows us to become instruments of grace.

Imagine the pain and agony Job had endured. He had lost his children. Nothing is more devastating to a parent than to lose a child. Job lost ten of them all in one tragic moment. He lost his fortune. While still grieving the loss of his children he was met with financial calamity. While his head was still spinning, his health was taken from him. Then, to add insult to injury he was visited by three friends who continually reminded Job that things like this only happen to sinful people. Job should repent. Job should admit he was nothing but a filthy rag. Job should have faith.

Ironically, that’s all Job did have by this point was his faith. Job didn’t understand why God was allowing all this to happen to him, but he never lost sight of the fact that His God would deliver him. He never lost his trust in this God who’d gone silent.

God humbled Job with a series of questions and Job bowed in worship and admiration of this God who’d been so absent during his struggles. God never explained why he allowed such tragedy, and Job never again asked the question we all ask: “Why?”

Perhaps one of the most stunning parts of the story happens after the dialog between Job and God. God turns to Job’s friends and demands they bring sacrifices for their actions. They had spoken ignorantly of God and sacrifice was required for forgiveness. But not just any sacrifice. The sacrifice had to be administered by Job.

Amazing. The very people who had accused Job wrongfully would now humble themselves before him (and God). Their forgiveness was dependent on Job’s offering up of the sacrifice. Can you imagine how hard it was for the victim and the aggressor to approach the altar together?

That’s the power of forgiveness. We may not be able to physically approach the altar of forgiveness with those who have wronged us, but we can do so in the spiritual sense. To experience the freedom Christ gave us through his death and resurrection we must forgive those who have willfully or ignorantly wronged us. This is impossible to do through human will. This kind of forgiveness can only happen through the power of the Holy Spirit of the Living God. This kind of forgiveness allows us to become instruments of grace.

PRAYER: Father God. I confess to you that there is a need for forgiveness in my life. I harbor hurts, grudges and bitterness. I nurse feelings of judgmentalism. I gossip. Like Job, I need your power to bring my enemy to the altar of your forgiveness so that I can be free. Amen

I heard about you from others; now I have seen you with my own eyes. Job 42:5 (CEV)

I remember the conversation like yesterday. KoMy son, a recent college graduate was looking for car insurance. Part of our agreement was that we would pay his car insurance until he graduated from college and landed his first ‘real job’. The time had come and we rejoiced. Not only for his new job, but for our decrease in auto insurance!

“Dad,” my first born said, “You would not BELIEVE how much they want for car insurance! It’s outrageous!”

“How much?” A smirk was already crossing my face and I was glad we were on the phone. He told me the amount, an amount comparable to what we’d been paying for the previous 8 years.

“Really?” I said matter-of-factly, “that’s about what we’ve been paying for you.”

There was silence on the other end of the line. Reality had sunk in. I could have shown my son every insurance bill from the first time he drove the car. I could have copied the checks and sent them to him every time I paid the bill, but until the money coming from his pocket was his own, the reality would not set it.

We don’t know how long Job and his friends had been discussing God’s actions, but we know there came a time when God finally ‘appeared’ to Job. There’s no indication that Job actually saw God, but his revelation of God was awakened as God asked him a series of questions which humbled Job, stopped him dead in his tracks. Suddenly Job realized how great and awesome God was and how small and ignorant he was.

Job was a righteous man. Even God attested to his righteousness before Satan. Job knew ABOUT God, but until that day of revelation he didn’t really KNOW GOD. Once he ‘saw’ God two things happened. First of all, he saw God in a whole new light of awe and understanding. Secondly, he saw himself in a whole new light. That’s important. We can’t clearly see who we are until we have a clear view of who God is.

Isaiah spoke against the sins of Israel and the surrounding kingdoms. But when he saw God his response was quite different. “Woe is me” he lamented, “I am a man of unclean lips.”

How we act towards others and react to events of our lives have a great deal to do with how we see ourselves. How we see ourselves depends on how we view God’s view of us. Speaking evil of me has no affect on me if I’m secure in my vision of God’s love for me. In the same way I can be more accepting of you, regardless of our differences, if I live with the realization that both of us are creations of the living God.

Gain a fresh view of yourself and others by focusing on the reality of who God is.

PRAYER: Almighty God, I thank you and praise you for your love for me. Reveal yourself to me in a new way today so that I can see myself and others as you see us. In Jesus name, Amen.

Although the people who were with me did not see the vision, they became so frightened that they scattered and hid. Daniel 10:7 (CEV)

There’s an old adage that goes something like this, “There’s strength in numbers.” It’s used in a variety of settings and circumstances and, for the most part, it’s true. We need each other. The need to lean on each other gives us strength, encourages us in the weak times and protects us from danger.

There are times in our lives when we need to have the company of others, but other times when we need to realize we come before God alone. Such was the case of the mighty prophet Daniel. Daniel had been fasting and praying for weeks, seeking God for an answer. When the answer finally came, it came through a visit from an angel!

The angel appeared to Daniel as he walked with a group of other people. Although the others didn’t see the angel, its very presence caused such fear in them that they fled, leaving Daniel alone.

Some of us know how that feels. At the time we need others the most, they flee from us. They promise to stand by us; assure us that we have a place in their lives; tell us they would give us the shirts off their backs. But when you need them the most, they aren’t there.

The angel (some believe it could have been an appearance by Jesus himself) must have been an awesome sight for Daniel to behold. His face grew pale. His strength left him. He fell to the ground on his face and fainted (fell into a deep sleep).

Daniel was revived and strengthened when the angel knelt and touched him. He encouraged Daniel to be strong. He reassured Daniel that no harm would come to him. Three times he refers to Daniel as one who is ‘highly esteemed.’ Imagine that! This mere mortal referred to has highly esteemed by an angel who may have been the very son of God!

In each of our lives we come upon situations which are frightening, discouraging, frustrating or that drive us to anger and rage. We can look at the answers to prayers others have received and wondered why our prayers aren’t answered.

The lesson of Daniel reminds us that even during those times of God’s silence we can know he loves us and holds us in high esteem. It’s great to have good friends to stand by us, to pray for us and with us, to surround us with physical or spiritual protection. Our greatest strength comes from those one-on-one interactions with the Father. You need not be afraid to enter into God’s presence alone. You are highly esteemed. Those closest to the Father are those to whom he reveals himself more fully.

PRAYER: Father, during those times when you seem distant or silent, remind me of your presence. Like Daniel, let me be strengthened by your touch to go on when life gets difficult. Thank you that in your eyes I am highly esteemed. Amen.

But now, O Jacob, listen to the Lord who created you. O Israel, the one who formed you says, “Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine. Isaiah 43:1 (NLT)

It’s time to move on. Yes, it was devastating when the career you loved and gave your life to was snatched from your hands. But that career, much as you loved it; good as you were at it; financially secure as it made you, wasn’t you. You were created by a loving God, a merciful God. A God that has plans for you to prosper you in ways money, status and security can never give you.

It’s time to move on. You were hurt by the words that were spoken, and rightfully so. They were calloused, unloving, angry words. And it hurt even more since the words were spoken by a ‘Christian’, maybe even a thoughtless pastor. It wasn’t fair. It wasn’t right. But hurting people, hurt people. Words don’t determine who you are regardless of who speaks them. That is, of course unless that person is your heavenly Father. He calls you by name. In Biblical terms that’s far more than a greeting. It’s the most intimate of terms reflecting a deep passion, a deep love. What does he say about you? He ransomed you. He paid the price for you. You are his.

It’s time to move on. Yes you failed. You failed miserably. Again. You couldn’t have seen it coming. From all appearances it was a good marriage. Now that person you pledged to love for the rest of your life has betrayed you and even if you could forgive and forget, reconciliation is impossible. They are gone.

Or, perhaps worse yet, you are the one who crossed the line. It was a line you never thought you’d cross. Now, you wear the scarlet letter on your chest. Others may not see it, you do. Life may be better now in many ways, but the ‘A’ on your chest still speaks of guilt and failure. Everyone sees the pain of the person jilted by love; few see the pain of the person who walked. But God does. God’s forgiveness isn’t defined by your sin, but by his great undeserved grace.

It’s time to move on. The Father says, “But now…”

The past is the past. Whatever it is that’s causing your pain, let him remove the guilt. Let him anoint you with the healing salve of his love and forgiveness. Allow him into those deepest recesses of your soul to bind the wounds that have held you captive. You are ransomed. The past no longer has any right to ownership. You are free to move on in his grace and power. It’s time to move on, not through your own power but the power of His Holy Spirit who comes to you to guide, strengthen and empower you.

PRAYER: Father God. There are so many that are hurting today. So many who are entrapped by their past. Draw them to yourself. Empower me to be a tool of their healing through prayer, forgiveness and Christ’s love. Amen.

Though you are a lowly worm, O Jacob, don’t be afraid, people of Israel, for I will help you. I am the Lord, your Redeemer. I am the Holy One of Israel.’ Isaiah 41:14 (NLT)

Ever taken a walk after a spring rain? One morning I was out walking my favorite path through the woods. Although the path I walked was paved, it was covered with worms. Small, skinny ones, large, fat ones. Some just lay there, others were making a hasty retreat.

As I walked I came upon a friend with a bucket in hand. He was walking along the path picking out the fattest worms and putting them in his bucket. When he saw me approach he greeted me with a smile and said, “These will be nice ones for fishing. Easiest way I’ve ever had to gather worms!”

Consider the lowly worm. Small, defenseless and slow, it spends most of its life underground. When it enters our world it is in danger constantly. Cars, bikes, walkers and hungry birds are no match for the worm.

As a worm looks across a busy road and gets ready to cross, what do you imagine is going through its mind? Fear? Anguish? Terror? He’s helpless. He’s at the mercy of whatever is coming along the path.

The Father likens us to worms! From his perspective we are slow, helpless and doomed to destruction. A worm left on its own is in grave danger, but a worm in the Father’s hand lives without fear.

Fear is a matter of perspective. If we look at life from our perspective it can seem overwhelming. We can easily become filled with frustration, fear, anger and anxiety.

If we look at life from God’s perspective the mountains and canyons become flattened plains. The dusty wilderness roads become thoroughfares. We rest in his hands. In our own power we are defenseless, but in his arms we are strong.

The worms my friend collected for fishing were doomed for destruction. We aren’t like those worms. Our Father promises to pick us up from the path of danger and hold us in his hands. We may endure trials and tribulations, but we are never out of the palm of our redeemer. We have nothing to offer in return. There is nothing attractive about us. There is no reason for our protection other than the great love of an all-powerful heavenly Father.

PRAYER: Almighty God, there are so many times when I feel trapped by the demons of fear and worry; when I feel small and insignificant; when I feel overwhelmed by the tasks ahead of me. I praise you for your protection. When I am in your hand I need fear nothing this world throws at me. Thank you Lord, Amen.

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January 2013
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