My Identity in Christ

My identity is in Christ

On June 15, 2014 my “bruncle” brother/uncle passed away.  He had suffered with illness for many years until this week his liver finally gave out and he left this earth.  This has caused great sorrow for our family, especially my precious mom and dad.  Please continue to lift them up in your prayers.

By now, I know you are thinking bruncle; why brother uncle.  This is a story I do not tell.  As a matter of fact, I have always hidden my true identity . . . until now.  I was born in September 1970 to 15 year old Juliette Alice and 17 year old Bobby Joe Roberts.  By the age of 9 months both of my biological parents gave me to my paternal grandparents, Ron and Geneva Stewart and I was raised as their daughter.

I cannot even begin to describe how incredibly blessed I was to have been gifted two of the most amazing people that God ever created to be my mom and dad.  I am so blessed!  I didn’t always see it that way.  As I grew up I felt abandoned by both my biological parents – given away.  My biological mother was totally out of the picture and my biological dad had another family and had 2 other children.  I always felt lost; without belonging.  I didn’t fit in with my biological mom’s life because she just took off.  I didn’t fit in with my biological dads life because he had another wife and two other children and I didn’t feel I fit with my grandparents family because they had 4 other children all grown and out of the house but one, Tommy who lived with us until about 1979 ish.

So here I was growing up feeling I did not have any belonging, any identity.  My biological father may not have meant harm but he once heard me call my grandparents mom and dad and proceeded to tell me that he never wanted to hear me say that again.  They are my grandparents.  Meaning harm and causing harm is two very different things.  My life was negatively shaped by my circumstances that were totally beyond my choosing or control.   I felt alone.  I lived most of my life with a negative self view.  I was wounded.  Right or wrong – I was wounded.

I ran away from home when I was 16 years old with my high school sweetheart.  I was in love – or at least what I thought was love.  When this boy came along I felt like I belonged to someone.  I felt a since of place and identity.  Eventually we divorced and I was off and running again.  Looking for love in all the wrong places.  I was looking for someone to fill that void in my life.  Someone to love me and fulfill my longing to belong.  Friends, I now know people, jobs, money cannot do that – only God can.

Ok, so four years ago standing in a little café that God had given us stewardship over we had had a music service and my wonderful husband Felix was sharing about the ministry and he asked me if I had anything to say.  At that moment, with a full house I heard God tell me … it’s time, your freedom is now.  I took the microphone and shared my testimony and my hurt and proclaimed my identity in Christ.  As I was speaking I could feel the chains that had been wrapped around me so tight begin to break and fall to the floor.  With each statement a link would break and I could breathe a little easier.

Since that night I have never looked back . . . until this morning.  This morning, I was sitting on the patio at Innkeeper drinking my coffee, talking with the Lord and I decided to look at facebook.  I seen my brother, Tommy’s obituary.  I love the picture he looks so handsome as all my parents kids do. (smile)  I began to read and when it came to the family left behind I seen my mom and dad, his wife and kids, and his two brothers then I seen two sisters.  I can’t begin to tell you how I felt I got a big smile on my face I felt a sense of pride when I read “sister Carol Mckee” and I just knew I would see “and Kim Russo of Cincinnati, Ohio”.  That is not what I read, I read another name.  Tommy’s wife’s sisters name.  I immediately felt crushed.  I immediately felt that negative self image that wounding from childhood.  I began to cry – not over his death but selfishly for myself.  I sat there a few minutes kind of shocked by my feelings when I heard my God say to me.  You are my precious child, your worth is in my son’s shed blood for you.  Your have been adopted into my family.  Galatians 3:26, “ For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.”  I am not defined by this my true identity is in God and in that I have total freedom.  I am exactly who God created me to be.  I lived the life that I was meant to live and on September 24, 1970 God placed me into the loving arms of two amazing people that I call mom and dad, Geneva and Ron Stewart.

As I sit and share this with you, my hope is that by me sharing a bit of my story it will touch someone in such a way that perhaps if you are dealing with some kind of bondage or “identity” crisis that you will stop and read Galatians chapter 2.  My prayer is that you remove all negative thoughts from early on in your life or even perhaps circumstances that may have happened just last week and focus on your true identity which is in Christ alone.  Allow your identity to be in Him and His in you and your faith will grow, and your wounds will start to heal.  For me, I now realize that I have an ugly scar from that wound.  I allowed it to remain open for far to long.  But now, today as I look upon that scar I see that God is pleased with me, His creation.  I am not defined by my childhood, my feelings or my emotions.  The opinions of others and how they label or not label me does not define me.  I am exactly who God created me to be and who God says that I am.

2 Corinitians 1:22, “who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.  Ephesians 1:5, “having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself according to the good pleasure of His will.  Romans 15:7, “Therefore receive one another just as Christ also received us, to the glory of God.  Colossians 2:9-10, “For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.”  Amen!!!

Today, I am allowing that last chain to break and fall to the floor.  I am claiming that I am a child of the most High King!!  Jesus Christ willingly laid His life down so that I can be with God and live with them in eternity as God’s child and a joint heir with Jesus Christ.  I am worthy because Jesus’ blood has made me worthy.

I will wipe the last tears from my eyes that the false beliefs caused me to live in bondage.   My name is Kim Roberts (Stewart) Russo.  My biological parents are Bobby and Juliette.  My mom and dad are Ron and Geneva Stewart.  I have 3 half siblings, Lisa, and B.J. – children of Bobby, and Karen a child of Juliette’s.  I also have 2 bruncles – my brothers Jonas and Tommy Lee.  I have 1 sister / aunt Carol.  And today I am walking in my identity of who I am in Jesus Christ!  A child of the most High King!  Praise God!!

 

Rest in Peace my sweet brother:

Tommy RTommy Leeoberts, of Liberty, KY passed away Sunday, June 15, 2014 at the Lake Cumberland Regional Hospital in Somerset, KY. He was 57.

Born March 3, 1957 in Cincinnati, Ohio, he is the son of Geneva Smith Stewart and Ron Stewart of West Chester, Ohio.

In addition to his parents, survivors include his wife, Della Wilson Roberts, whom he married September 1, 1979; a son, Dakota Roberts of Liberty; two daughters, Angela Seig of Warsaw, KY and Beth Allen of Cincinnati, Ohio; eight grandchildren; two brothers, Jonas Roberts of Mason, Ohio and Bobby Roberts of Cincinnati, Ohio; and two sisters, Carol McKee of Cincinnati, Ohio and Debbie Wilson of Jacksonville, Florida.

 

Finally Friday – It’s Time To Come Undone!!!

needle

Compassion – suffering with someone with the desire to help them, this is what my husband told a youth group we pastored 16 years ago.  I thought I understood the meaning of compassion back then but I had not even begun to comprehend it’s depth of meaning.

Life for us has been crazy this last month with the closing of the café, my diagnosis of fibromyalgia and the experimental medications the insurance company has made me go through before I can take the one my doctor actually thinks will help me.   So for me, this week wraps up a four year long journey as we will lock the door to Offerings Holy Grounds Café for the last time this Saturday.  What a journey it has been.  Just penning these words springs up a well of tears filling my eyes.

We have met so many people.  We have seen the good, the bad and the truly ugly.  I have so many stories that it would take me all month to share.  One that comes to my mind to share is of a blonde haired woman that lives a life of prostitution and crack addiction.  I had only known “Misty” for about a week when I found her crouched out in the back parking lot trying to smoke crack out of some kind of make-shift pipe.  She was frayed from end to end, disheveled and rocking back and forth.  I remember walking up to her and standing there for minutes with her never even looking up to see what I was doing.  My heart was feeling physically heavy as I lowered myself to my knees in front of her.  All the while she never once looked at me; she continued to try to put crack in this so called pipe while she continued to rock back in forth.  I can still feel the pain deep inside of me this day as I recount this story. I sat there for a minute or two and just watched her not knowing what I should do.  With a deep breath I stretched my arms toward her and I cupped her weary face into my shaking hands.  As I cradled her face her eyes met mine and at that moment I had become totally undone, never to be the same again.

Have you ever had an encounter with such suffering that it totally rocked your world?  I did that day.  That day I felt so much suffering and pain that I began to understand the meaning of compassion.  Right there that day it hit me; compassion feels bad.  It hurts, it’s dirty, it’s messy, it’s . . . awful.  Compassion is walking away from an encounter that you know has changed your life forever and you realize that life as you knew it would never be the same.

Friends, we live in a world full of pain; do you feel it?  Or have we become so desensitized by all the news stories and so self-centered that we will walk right past a person begging on the streets.  Or as we pass the poor we drop our eyes so that we don’t have to look at them.

By now, most have put in at least a 40 hour week already work.  So now we can have this weekend to enjoy and kick it up as we please.  I understand this; I lived it for most of my life.  I worked long hard hours at a job that was okay just so I could pay a mortgage on a house that I no longer live in and travel to a tropical state for a two week vacation once every year.  I was living the dream; right?  No, I had bought into a lie.

After four years of street ministry I have got to admit it’s dirty, it’s hard and it’s painful.  But my friends, I could not go back to the comfortable life that I once knew.  I have been called to follow Jesus, the one who gave up the comfort of heaven and had compassion on me.  As I was holding Misty in my arms Jesus was holding me in His.  Jesus was whispering into my ear, He was saying, “Kimberleigh lay down your net and follow me.”  Suffer with her, have compassion “with” her, feel it.  He showed me in that very moment that I would shed many tears for the little children that I would see running around in the alleys barefoot, dirty and hungry.  He showed me that I would feel the deep heart wrenching pain of holding a drug addicted prostitute in my arms.  He showed me that the road that I had stepped onto was narrow and the path that I was about to take is dirty, full of busted beer bottles, heroine needles, crack pipes and cigarette butts.  Sitting in a little church, pastoring teens I would never have imagined that I would be here today serving the poor and broken in my community I would have avoided it at all costs.

Before you approach your weekend and all the activities you have planned I ask you to spend some time alone with God.  Listen for His whisper.  It’s there.  Your path and purpose have all been laid out before you were even created.  Turn the world down for just a little while and turn off its lies of if we work hard enough, make enough money, and buy all the latest and greatest gadgets that we will be happy.  What is He calling you to do, where is He calling you to go?  We live in a world full of pain and suffering but few have actually engaged it.  Most of us, walk past the beggar and the drunkard and lower our eyes.

Four years ago, I had an encounter with my Savior that caused me to become radically undone and since that time I have held many women while they cry.  I have seen pain and hopelessness in their eyes.  For me, I know that my life will never be the same.  There is no way to put those pieces all back together, the dirt has been under my nails for so many years that OPI can’t cover it.

Just for this weekend, before you go out to eat buy someone else a meal first.  Before you buy that new outfit you’ve been waiting for buy one for someone else.  And when you walk down the street smile at the person you are passing.  I encourage you to become UNDONE!!

Praise Him!!

A Woman Transformed – Rahab

Scripture:  Joshua 2:1-24, 6:17-25; Matthew 1:5; Hebrews 11:31; James 2:25

Rahab

Rahab lived about 1406 B.C. in Jericho.  Rahab was strong, brave, decisive and a prostitute.  This was a common profession back in this time but still not looked good upon.  She lived in a house that was at the city wall which made her highly accessible to travelers. Rahab is known in scripture as being Rahab the Harlot.  Harlot meaning a woman that yields herself to any man who approaches her.  During this time she had learned about the Exodus of Israel and the miracles of the Red Sea.

So here we are after 40 years of struggle the Israelites were ready to enter the promised land.  The Israelites were now under the leadership of

Joshua who trained under Moses.  Joshua needed to get the Israelites to the Promised Land so he sent two spies to secretly scout out the area.  Upon their arrival these men were spotted.  So the king of Jericho sent a message to Rahab to bring the men out.  Instead under the threat of treason and the penalty of death she hid the men and told the king’s soldiers that they had left town.

So Rahab asked a favor of the two spies.  She asked them to spare her family from death.  They agreed.  Rahab told them to run to the hills so she lowered them by rope through a window to safety outside the city wall.  For seven days she waited and while she heard the Israelities marching around Jericho; but she had faith.  This act and her faith in God earned her the title as a woman of Faith.

As  women, wives and mothers we all have day to day struggles and we make mistakes along the way.  We can learn faith, courage, commitment and o

bedience from Rahab.  As Rahab’s example, no matter what your path in life has been a simple step of faith in Jesus Christ can turn your life around. Hebrews 11:31

Listen she went from prostitute to being in the lineage of motherhood of Jesus Christ.  Wow!  A prosititute in the lineage of Jesus Christ.  What Rahab found was deliverance through the mercy of God.  Friends Rahab experienced a transformed life.  If a prostitute can become a saint of faith and become a mother in the line of Jesus then nothing is impossible.

Rahab had no religious background but she had a courageous choice to make.  First, she chose to have faith. Second, she chose to help. Rahab risked her own life by an act of treason.  Just as God transformed Rahab he is able to transform any life that is brought to Him no matter how wicked, broken or wretched it may be.  God showed her mercy.   Remember that you have not fallen so far that God can’t reach you.  No matter what you’ve done, where you are right now take a risk, put your faith in God and allow Him to transform you.  You are His creation.  You are His precious daughter, allow Him the opportunity to transform you into the woman He created you to be.

 

Praise Him!

Broken and Naked Before God

 

 
He Without Sin 017    John 8:1-11

My text is from the story of the woman taken in adultery.  It was the time of year during the Feast of Tabernacles, where every Jewish man and woman went to Jerusalem to celebrate the feast that commemorates their ancestors living in tents as they wandered thru the wilderness.  Now this story takes place early in the morning.  Jesus is outside the temple teaching a group of people when all of a sudden the scribes and the Pharisees show up dragging behind them a naked woman.  This woman has been caught in the act of adultery.  According to the Law of Moses she is to be stoned to death.  (Lev. 20:10 The man who commits adultery with another’s wife even his neighbor’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.)

Let’s take a look at the brokenness – as we journey throughout our life we encounter many situations that cause us to become broken people.  Perhaps, we were introduced to drugs and/or alcohol and became addicts.  Or we were physically or sexually abused as children.  We become extremely far in debt, we cheat on college exams or taxes.  How about we catch our spouse, the love of our life, having an affair or a porn addiction.  Just take a look back over your life or your current situation and I’m sure you can name a few things along the way that has caused you to become broken.  I know I have.  At some point in our life we have failed somewhere or someone; we have blown it, we’ve made a wrong choice or two.

So  here we go back to John 8: 2-5 But early the next morning he was back again at the Temple. A crowd soon gathered, and he sat down and taught them.  As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery.  They put her in front of the crowd.  “Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone here. What do you say?”

These Jewish leaders were trying to trap Jesus.  These men were happy because they figure they’ve got Jesus where they want him.  They know she’s guilty.  She knows she’s guilty.  And Jesus knows she’s guilty.  Everybody knows she’s guilty.  Never mind, that these scribes and Pharisees have already just broken the law themselves because they did not bring the man to Jesus . . . nope, just the woman.

So check it in verses 6-11.  They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger.  They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” The he stooped down again and wrote in the dust.

This is so good.  Picture this it’s early, Jesus is teaching a group outside the Temple and here the leaders come rocks in their hands dragging this naked broken woman caught in adultery.  Friends, these men are armed and ready.  (Vs. 9 When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with this woman.)  I LOVE this! Jesus turns it all around on them.  As the Jewish leaders were ready to prosecute this woman with rocks in hand Jesus turns it around on them by asking them to let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone and when they are confronted with facing their sin they leave one by one dropping their rocks to the ground.  Halleluiah! Praise God!

Then here is where grace comes in.  When they have all dropped their rocks and left and Jesus stands up and looks this woman in the eye he says (vs. 10-11) Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”  “No, Lord,” she replied.  And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”  WOW!!  Now that’s what I’m talking about Jesus and His love for sinners; grace, grace marvelous grace.

That is grace my friend.  Was this woman guilty?  Absolutely.  Was Jesus the only sinless person there qualified to throw the rock at her?  Oh yes.  But He doesn’t He says to her Go and sin no more.  So why is this important; there are several reasons.

  1.  Why doesn’t Jesus condemn her?  She’s guilty right.  So as this woman stands before Jesus broken and naked it’s not going to be very long before Jesus goes to the cross, the only sinless perfect man was about to die for this woman who was not.  This is too good friends.  This is my Jesus!!!
  2. I want you to notice He also wants our commitment.  He says Go and sin NO MORE.  He gives grace my friends but He does NOT excuse our sin.  He doesn’t say go and do whatever you want you are covered by my grace.  He says, SIN NO MORE.  Listen, Jesus gives us grace and forgiveness but He hates sin.  Have you ever heard the saying, Hate the sin but love the sinner?  It’s like this Jesus says, Woman, I don’t condemn you but I do not like what you did so go and don’t do it anymore.  Get it?

If you are sitting here saying well, I know this is wrong and I shouldn’t steal this candy bar but I will just do it and then ask for forgiveness; then you don’t get it.  Forgiveness is not a get out of jail free card.  I will do this today and then confess it later.  Nope.  Check it once you come to God with your brokenness He will put you back together and you will not want to go against anything other than to strive to be Christ like.

Today where do you stand . . . are you like one of the Pharisees that are holding the rocks ready to throw them at other people while you stand there in your own sin.  Or perhaps you are like this woman; broken, guilty and have never quite gotten over it.  As you stand there naked and in front of Jesus with your life broken and shattered lying all over the ground are you ready to come to Jesus and give Him ALL of these broken pieces.  Listen friends, with confession and repentance Jesus still stands today ready to forgive us and not condemn us.   The next step is up to you.

Where are the Laborers?

broken-windowIt’s an early gloomy morning as overcast clouds hide the sun.  I’m walking across our back parking lot to deliver breakfast to some of our neighbors.  As I approach I notice all of the beer tabs, cigarette butts and empty cans around a broken table.  The stench of alcohol still lingers through the air.  I see broken shattered people, living self destructive lives, with no hope and no way out.  The lady cries out; she’s tired, one asks for prayer and another desires the peace that we talk about.

For three years, every day we are here building relationships, connecting with the unlovable and bringing Jesus to this sin sick, poor, and dirty place.  As I was walking back across the lot my heart was breaking.  It is hard to hold back the tears and the pain that fills me for these precious people.  In Matthew 9:36-38 Jesus says that the workers are few, but the harvest is plentiful. What he meant was that there were few that were willing to follow him and work for him, yet there were many who were just waiting to hear the truth.   “Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers”… that’s where I am today.  I am praying for people to join us out here on this field.  We need help out here my dear friends.

Listen, I’ve felt their pain, I have seen their despair and I can’t understand why we can’t get many to support what we do.  These people are not invisible; they are not just your drunk, your homeless guy or that nasty prostitute.  They are someone’s mother, father, brother and sister.  They are my friends and I love them because of Jesus and His command for us to love others.  When we stepped out of our church onto the mission field I had no idea how lonely it would be.  I had no idea how many supporters and pats on the back we would receive with empty broken promises or the all encompassing, “I’ll pray about it and get back to you.” Which, by the way, we all know is the code statement for “no”.

Friends, since we’ve been here I have literally seen 2 people die in the streets – what was their spiritual condition?  I truly don’t know but can only guess.  As you are reading this today please take a moment and pray for us, pray for our friends and ask God how you can help us here.

We have knocked and knocked on church house doors asking for help in feeding the hungry.  We have called and called and asked for help with clothing the children.  Three years later Pastor Felix and I sit day after day holding these people as they cry, looking into empty eyes that can’t see a way out of here.  So today I am here praying for people to join us out here on this field – God’s field to reach the broken people that Jesus Christ shed his blood for.

Can I get an “Amen” or an “I will”?

Praise Him!

The Temple of God

 

In my personal devotion time this morning I was reading on brotherly love and unity within the body of believers.  I could not help but to think on the condition of believers today.  The condition of the body of Christ is steadily declining into a self serving, self preserving state of being.  We no longer strive to put others before ourselves or to serves others, instead we mostly tend to go with whatever is pleasing to us individually; whether that is in the form of our material possessions, our jobs, our friendships, or our time.

 

In Psalms 133: 1 How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony!

 

When we live in harmony we resemble the heart and life that is produced by the Word of God.  Brotherly love is profitable and pleasing.  Brotherly love brings abundance and blessings to our lives.

 

As brothers and sisters we must come together as one realizing that God is more important than we are as individuals and yield our life totally without reservations.  We need to take on the mind of Christ.  Christ became man and in doing so He taught us how to live the way God wants us to.  His life on earth is our example of how we are to live our life on earth as children of God.

 

In Philippians 2:5 we are told “Let this mind be in you”; this is a command, it is not optional.  Unity and brotherly love is a matter of attitude, motive, thoughts, conduct, conversation and community in our body.  We can say we are living in unity as commanded but allow a test or trial to come, something to challenge our unity and see where our reactions are.  Unity and brotherly love is the result of Christ manifested in the life of the believer.  We recognize it by the appearance of the character and the attitude of Christ within each believer.

 

Let’s take a look at Philippians 2:1-4  Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.

 

When we go through a disagreement or quarrel with a brother or sister if anything comes about in our thoughts, actions or feelings that are not love we need to immediately “put them off”; dismiss them, put them down, set them aside.  We must set aside everything personal and think of the body of Christ.  Listen, the real test is when the devil gets involved and tries to stir things up among the body; how will we respond.  Will we come together as one in Christ realizing that God and His plan and purpose is more important than ourselves.

 

There cannot be life in a divided body; it is unhealthy and it gives the devil a toe hold to jump in and start wreaking havoc within the body.  Jesus Christ is our head and as the body we must do as the head does.  Follow His example, his leading.

 

As believers we must understand that we are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in each of us. 1 Corinthians 3:16 (NLT) Don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you?

 

We MUST get this – if we truly grasp that every believer is the temple of God and the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit wouldn’t our attitude toward one another change.  Listen, do we really understand this, our brothers and sisters are the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit.  Therefore, when we have bitterness, unforgiveness or strife against our brother or sister we are helping the devil out by hurting the temple of God.

 

Before we act or speak to a fellow believer realize that we are acting or speaking where the Holy Spirit resides.  A temple means a holy place, the holy of holies.  Friends we are God’s Holy of Holies and so is each believer.  Does our life, love and unity with one another display this?  The devils seeks to destroy believers, the body.  God tells us not to give place to the devil.  Friends, he doesn’t just come in and take over, we give him that place.  We allow our pride or our hurt feelings to become more important than Christ’s command to love and live as He did.  We are allowing the devil to come and take over.  As believer’s we need to stop devouring one another and allowing Satan this place in our lives.

 

I want to go back in Philippians 2:1 and we see the word “therefore”.  I was always taught when we see the word therefore we must find out what it is there for.  So back up into Philippians 1:27 – 30. Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel, 28 and not in any way terrified by your adversaries, which is to them a proof of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that from God. 29 For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, 30 having the same conflict which you saw in me and now hear is in me.

 

Perhaps you are facing an issue with a brother or sister right now, if so remember that your fellow believer IS God’s temple, the Holy of Holies, treat them accordingly.  Let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ.

Praise Him!!

 

 

 

Unforgiveness

 “To err is human, to forgive, divine.” – Alexander Pope

As we go through life, not one of us is immune to being hurt by someone or hurting someone else.  It will happen on purpose, by mistake or we may not realize we have even hurt someone.  Basically, people are people.  We live in a body of flesh that is imperfect in all ways and we must understand that no one is perfect.

God’s word clearly teaches if we have an issue with a sister or brother we need to take it to them in an effort to bring about restoration and reconciliation.  In today’s world of technology we have brought this to a new level by taking it to our sister or brother via text messages or emails.  This has enabled us to become bold with our words we use toward others because we are hiding behind this technology.  How can a true discussion that will result in restoration and reconciliation take place when you are not willing to sit down with the other person to work it out?

I’ve been doing some studying about forgiveness and really trying to dig in and grasp its meaning.  First, we must realize that forgiveness is the very center of the gospel.  2 Corinthians 5:18-19 (NIV) All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.  That God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them.  And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.

So we are commissioned to take the message of forgiveness to the world.  God has forgiven us a life of sin yet we hold all sorts of things against each other.  How can we take the gospel message to the world when we can’t forgive others as Christ has forgiven us?

It’s something we all need to pray about and think about.  Mark 11:25-26 (NLT) But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too.  Friends this is a clear spiritual command from God’s Word. Forgiveness requires an act of your free will to obey God’s command.  I have found many scriptures that have talked about forgiveness; however, this one really sets in how important forgiveness is to God.  If you do not forgive, your Father in heaven will not forgive you.  Wow!  Do you get that; that’s serious?  When you forgive you free yourself from forgiveness and strife. God does not look upon forgiveness favorably.  Bottom line, you cannot have God’s forgiveness unless you forgive.

We are told by Jesus that we would know who a person really is by their fruit, by the life this person produces.  The lack of forgiveness means the forgiveness that Christ has given them has not taken root in their lives.  Therefore, if a person lives with forgiveness it shows that they probably don’t understand the payment that Christ made upon the cross.   I know this is a hard teaching but it is God’s command and it is serious stuff.

Whether or not you understand why a person hurt you does not really matter.  If they ask for forgiveness we must choose to forgive them.  After all Jesus shed his blood for all the sins that we have or ever will commit.

In Matthew 18: 21 – 35 we read The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant.  In verse 32 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In this parable what is sticking out for me is that an unforgiving person is looked at as a wicked person.  At the very least, they are giving Satan a foothold into their life.  When we allow him a little entrance by having an unforgiving heart it will lead to all sorts of battles and attacks.

Ephesians 4:31-32 (NIV) 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as Christ God forgave you.

Listen, every offense we hold on to allows Satan an opportunity to bring hardheartedness, bitterness and strife.  When we choose not to forgive someone our prayer life will be hindered, God will treat us how we treat others, God will not forgive us and we open the door to all kinds of evil spirits and schemes of the enemy. Is forgiveness really worth any of that?

Luke 6:36-38 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

Where are you with forgiveness; do you need to receive it or give it?  Friends, we need to do a heart check.  We need to bow down before God’s throne and ask Him to reveal any forgiveness we may have towards someone.

With many situations I strongly believe that we are unable to meet an expectation that is placed upon you and when you fail to meet that expectation they became offended.  This is especially true when it concerns people in leadership.

Every believer must learn how to live and walk in forgiveness. This totally goes against our human nature because in order to live and walk in forgiveness we must put aside our pride and humble ourselves before others.

We must realize there are many reasons why a person may not forgive you.  Perhaps, they didn’t really value the relationship and were willing to throw it away instead of restore it.  Maybe, they don’t want to be vulnerable and they use forgiveness as a shield because of past hurts.  Or pride may be at the center of forgiveness.

Whatever the underlying issues are we must focus on the examples of Jesus.  We need to stop focusing on the offender and the hurt and forgive as Jesus forgave his offenders.

To that end, I encourage you to seek God and close all doors to the enemy.  Make the commitment now to let go of all bitterness, strife, resentment and unforgiveness.  It is time for the body of Christ to come to maturity in this area.

Praise Him!