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Focusing on differences brings conflict; focusing on commonality brings peace. Jesus Christ came living a message of acceptance of differences and living according to God’s standards not mankind’s. Jehovah God sees things completely different than we do. In Him there are no Lutherans or Baptists or any other denomination. These were often born from conflict. There is no traditional or contemporary music. There are no races or genders. Focusing on differences and being judgmental feeds darkness not light. The closer we draw to the light the less effect the darkness has on us. Jesus is the light that unifies.

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

You changed my sorrow into dancing. You took away my clothes of sadness, and clothed me in happiness. Psalm 30:11 NCV

“I can do it myself!”

The battle cry of the four-year-old! It may be trying to tie a pair of shoes, or putting a shirt, or any number of things. When met with that challenge you have basically two options, perhaps three. It depends on the task at hand and if any personal injury is possible.

You could try to talk the ‘expert in life’ through the options and, by so doing, work your way into the solution. Rarely works, but young parents usually try this approach…once.

You could strong arm the situation. Rip the task right out of the hands of the over-confident zealot. It will get the job done better and faster on your part. However the child will be frustrated, angry and, if you strong-arm enough times, will lose the self-confidence to try new things. The result? Fear of failure and the loss of joy that comes from accomplishing something.

A third option is often the best for the child and hardest for the parent. Option three involves standing idly by and watching and waiting to be needed. The key to this option is that you are always there to provide protection when needed, advice when asked and encouragement in the process. You are ready and willing to step in when needed to assist with the completion of the task.

The risk with this option is that the job may indeed be accomplished but not nearly as well as you could have done. It may be completed satisfactorily, but in a much longer time frame. The benefits are that the child will learn his limitations, and also learn that you can be trusted to come to their aid when needed.

Our heavenly Father is an option three kind of guy. Did you notice that the options for dealing with a four year old apply to every age? We all have the ‘four-year-old’ mentality that screams that we can manage life in our own ways, our own power, and our own time.

Frustration, anger and bitterness come in when we realize we can’t do ‘it’ alone. We can’t hold this marriage together one more day. We can’t carry the responsibilities of our co-workers and our own. They need to chip in some energy. We can’t do it by ourselves. We can’t risk our entire lives with this child that seems intent on destroying our family reputation. We simply can’t do it anymore.

When you come to the point in life when you realize you are out of options. When you realize your strength is gone and your resolve to succeed is dwindling, the first thing to leave is your joy.

Life doesn’t hold the same excitement. Your relationships seem to be more of a chore than a blessing. The pastor’s sermons are dry, the church becomes irrelevant, the Christian life seems impossible.

When our joy is taken from us it robs us of our will to go on. That’s when our Heavenly Father steps in. He’ll never intrude without our asking. He’ll never abandon us when we seek him out.

Jesus came to earth to show us the way of joy. He can take the clouds of sadness and replace them with joy if you will let him in.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, you know the burden I’m bearing right now. You know the frustration and fatigue that are destroying my will to move forward. Thank you that the things I struggle with today can be turned over to you and you will walk me through the challenges of life. I praise your holy name. Amen.

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, 

Of all the lies Satan tells us, the ones that are the most damaging are the ones that take away our freedom. If there is one thing that can rob us of the freedom we have in Christ it’s the prison of bitterness. The Lie associated with the Battle for our FREEDOM is that ‘You don’t deserve to be treated this way’. The lie comes in various forms. It can be health related and involve you or a loved one: “I eat right and exercise and do all the right things to take care of my body. I don’t deserve cancer.” or “He/she is too young to have to battle all this illness. It’s just not right!”

The lie can involve relationships as well. We listen to the voices as work that tell us that we don’t deserve to be paid the way we do; that we do more for the company than anyone else and for the least amount of respect, and the voices go on and on repeating the poison that saps our energy and riddles our body with bullets of anger, leaving wounds that ooze bitterness.

We hear the voices at home demanding justice, fairness and respect. No one deserves to be treated as a second rate citizen regardless of gender or body size or sexual orientation or age or… (The list goes on). We fight back physically or emotionally or cower in the corner in self defense until, one way or the other we are released from the pain only to relive it in another relationship. The fight for freedom can turn ugly. For some, the fight for freedom has led to death. When we give up the fight, the enemy wins. 

As with most of the lies we’ve talked about, this lie is another example of the cunning methods the enemy uses to subdue us. Remember, Lucifer is the master of deceit and he loves to tweak the truth just enough to make the lie look wise. Half truths are his specialty. Do you deserve the abuse you are taking? Most certainly not! It isn’t just the righteous people who are created in God’s image. He created the wino laying in the gutter in the same image as the squeaky clean pastor in the cathedral where the bum lays his head to sleep, protected from the wind. The child molester is created in God’s image just as the terrorist, the adulterer, or the judge who seeks his own power and refuses to acknowledge the ultimate Judge or right and wrong.

The truth is, in one sense you don’t deserve whatever it is you are going through physically, emotionally, financially or otherwise. Your Heavenly Father created the Garden of Eden and all the animals, and we human beings so we could live in a world free of sin and in perfect harmony with nature and himself. When sin entered the picture it destroyed his dream for us…for now. The enemy doesn’t want you to know that when God sees the pain in our lives he weeps. His passionate heart is heavy when he sees the young person commit suicide, when he sees the cancer report, or hears the verdict from the judge’s bench. You don’t deserve what you are going through.

The adversity we face in life shouldn’t be surprising though. The Apostle Peter tells us: “Christ suffered here on earth. Now you must be ready to suffer as he did, because suffering shows that you have stopped sinning.” 1 Peter 4:1 (CEV) The Psalmist constantly talks of his pain, but in the same breath mentions the love and faithfulness of his God. (Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. Relieve the troubles of my heart and free me from my anguish. Psalm 25:16-17). 

The harsh reality is that while we are here on earth we will suffer in ways no human should suffer. It’s not whether we will encounter injustice or suffering in life. We will. Just as Jesus did. Regardless of how much pain you are going through or for what reason, none of us has suffered more than Jesus suffered for us.

The real question is how we will respond to the attacks. Will you dwell on the injustice or claim the freedom in Christ to rise above the adversity. Will you refuse to forgive and be prisoner of your own anger and bitterness or will you live in the awareness that just as Jesus suffered here on earth, we are destined to suffer pain. 

Freedom in Christ doesn’t free us from adversity, it give us strength to overcome it. That’s the Truth Statement the enemy doesn’t want us to hear in the battle for our freedom. Look at just a few verses the Bible tells us about our freedom in Christ. Truths that show us that we will suffer, yet our suffering won’t keep us from living free emotionally and can actually be used for the benefit of the Kingdom of God.

  • It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1
  • Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32 (the truth! the truth about me. The truth about God’s love, grace, mercy and forgiveness!)
  • Brothers, understand what we are telling you: You can have forgiveness of your sins through Jesus. The Law of Moses could not free you from your sins. But through Jesus everyone who believes is free from all sins. Acts 13:38-39 (NCV) (the law (religion) was never intended to bring us freedom. The law was given to show us the need for freedom!)
  • Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 2 Corinthians 3:17
  • But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation. Colossians 1:22
  • The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life. Revelation 22:17

Freedom in Christ allows us to live in His strength regardless of what comes our way. Live free dear child of God. Live free of bitterness and anger so that others can see the truth of Christ in you.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus. I’m struggling under anger and bitterness. I’m living in defeat physically, emotionally and spiritually. I’m having a hard time keeping my eyes on you because this burden blocks my view. Empower me with your Spirit to live in the freedom you intended me to have. Amen.

Do not be bitter or angry or mad. Never shout angrily or say things to hurt others. Never do anything evil. Ephesians 4:31 (CEV)

A few years back now a building was constructed on a vacant lot near where I worked. Shortly after its completion, people in the building complained about headaches, bad smells and frequent illnesses. Further investigation showed that somehow in the construction process black mold had begun to grow.

Efforts to solve the problem were fruitless and within just a couple years of its completion the health department was forced to condemn the building. It was demolished and turned into a parking lot!

Bitterness is like the black mold in that building. It can go unnoticed for a period of time. It grows in places we don’t think to look. It can start growing at the slightest infraction.

Bitterness can happen when a friend says one small thing that we take the wrong way. It can happen when some guy we don’t even know cuts us off on the interstate or a co-worker is using the copier and we are in a hurry to get something copied. It happens in churches when the pastor makes a comment or preaches a sermon that steps on a few toes.

It doesn’t matter where bitterness starts, if bitterness goes unchecked it can be a relationship breaker. Bitterness launches a two-pronged attack on our relationships. First of all, like black mold it eats away at us on the inside. It robs us of our joy, our self-esteem and our ability to be intimate with people. We sink further inward and become angry. Our lives are motivated by a judgmental and critical spirit. Bitterness not only destroys families and friendships, it can destroy your health.

If caught in time, there are ways to stop or at least lessen the results of black mold in a building before it becomes uninhabitable. If caught in time the effects of bitterness can be removed and relationships prevented or restored.

The first step to making sure bitterness isn’t a part of your life is to identify the real reason for your bitterness. Many times the things that cause bitterness in our soul can be traced to things that attack our view of ourselves. Take whatever it is to Jesus.

Remember you are God’s special creation. Nothing that comes into your life happens for without a reason. God allows things that can cause bitterness to come into our lives to help us grow stronger, not to destroy us.

Lastly, ask forgiveness for your angry and bitter spirit. Begin today to rid your life of those dark corners of anger and bitterness that can destroy relationships around you.

PRAYER: Father God, lately I find myself getting angry over the smallest things. I blame others, say things I don’t mean to say and push people I love away. Please help me see what it really is that is making me so bitter. Forgive me for my anger. Empower me with your spirit to avoid bitterness and repair damaged or broken relationships. In your name I pray, Amen.

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June 2023
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