Grabbing Onto Bitterness

Yesterday my family experienced another medical emergency. Like in times past, we quickly packed things in a backpack to prepare for what could be an extended stay at the hospital. The only difference was that we were not taking the dogs to the kennel.

As we left the yard to get into the car, the beagle mix thought he was going on a trip. To try and hurriedly get him out of the car, my wife decided to grab him by the collar. It was then that he lashed back and bit her on the forearm. She did not let go and he continued to attack: not a pretty sight or experience.

It is the same with people who live in bitterness. Bad and hurtful things happen to everybody, but these people decide to grab and hold on to those issues. The result to is not a pretty experience. As long as they hold on to the issue they will be emotionally attacked by it. My wife’s forearms were bruised by the event, but these individual’s heart and soul is wounded. They are wounded by their own making. They hold onto events in life until the acid of bitterness destroys them from within. The longer they stay in this condition, the more they blamed those around them and that blame turns into more bitterness.

The greatest prison is the one of our own making. Surprisingly though is that we also have the key for escape.

Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:31-32)

Fearing God: What Does It Mean? Psalm 147:11

The Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear him,

in those that hope in his mercy. Psalm 147:11

The question has arisen about the meaning of the term fearing God. Some propose that the word means that we need to actually be terrified of God. If that were true, how could the person who is terrified hope in the Lord? In fact, how could he actually exercise love towards God? The actions perceived as love would only be fear tactics intended to avoid the fear of God’s actions toward him.

Many define fear as reverence. For me, the term reverence was difficult to understand. I finally figured it out through life circumstances. I fear fire, but I am not afraid of it. I don’t cower in terror of fire when I am exposed to it. I understand what can occur if I am not careful and I adjust my actions to its presence.

When I was an electrician, I feared electricity. I worked with it everyday and at the same time had a fear of it. Get hit by a few thousand volts and you will have the same attitude towards it. I knew what electricity could do to me. I acted in fear or I governed my actions in light of what I knew electricity could do to me if I violated safety precautions.

Years ago while worked in the steal mill an alarm would sound when a furnace of molten steal was either going to be tapped for a pour or to be opened to add addition scrape metal for the heat. When the alarm sounded a blood curdling sound tore through the building. There wasn’t any place where the warning sound could not be heard. When I heard the alarm, I had fear, but I was not afraid. My fear was that I immediately stopped what I was doing, checked to see my location in reference to the furnace being tapped and made the necessary changes in order to remain safe.

I fear the Lord. As I go through life, there are times when his spirit speaks to me. It is at those moments that I exercise the fear of the Lord. I hear his voice, stop and assess my situation and make any necessary changes in my behavior so as to avoid the catastrophe that sin may bring into my life. I am not afraid of God, but I do have reverence for him, his word, his power, and potentially his correction.

This fear does not hinder me from loving or even hoping in him. I don’t act in love because I am afraid of what he may or may not do. I act in love because by his love he has warned me of dangers in my life. I can hope in him because of his goodness and guidance.

Terrifying fear is a snare. You can never know if you are right enough, close enough, serving enough or obeying enough. Oh, there may be moments when God’s blessing falls upon your life and your heart experiences love towards him, but the remainder of the time you are like a hamster in a cage running on a wheel ever so trying harder and harder to perform so as to avoid the fear of God’s hand coming down hard upon your life.

Terrifying fear robs you of experiencing love, joy, peace, hope, and happiness. True biblical fear cultivates these experiences. Under which view are you living?

Three Sources for Forgiveness

Each of us have experienced wounds in our lives, which were caused by other people. Sometimes these actions were accidental and other times they were purposeful acts driven by the wicked sin nature that resides in everyone.

Freedom from these wounds can only occur through forgiveness. Forgiveness is not based on the works that a person does so as to earn it. Otherwise it would not be forgiveness, but instead the payment of debt that was met. Forgiveness means to send, to leave or to put away. When a person forgives, they are breaking the tie between themselves and the person who sinned against them. In other words, they are leaving it or letting it go.

What gives a person the ability to forgive or release someone from a debt against them? There are three sources: the source of pain, the source of mercy and the source of one’s love for God.

Countless people have been hurt by someone and after carrying the burden of hurt for so long, finally decided to forgive the offender and let the issue go from their lives. This decision resulted from their pain. It was not caused by faith or any virtue, but merely from pain and the desire to be free from the source of it.

The two other sources for forgiveness are the spiritual virtues of mercy and love. It is by these virtues that the Psalmist petitions God for forgiveness. (Psalm 51:1) Forgiving out of mercy comes from recognizing the struggle of the offender and reaching out to them in forgiveness because of it. The forgiveness is not condoning the wrong, but recognizes the person’s fallen state and releases them from personal debt because of it. Those forgiving out of the source of mercy have insight into the needs of the offender and are moved to meet that need. This type of forgiveness occurs most often among friends, family and spouses, but will also be manifested towards others by individuals filled with the Holy Spirit’s power.

The final source of power for forgiving is love for God. The pain a person has may continue to hurt and never get to the point where it moves them to forgive, let go or move on and they may never develop the insight necessary to forgive in mercy. These occasions require another motive or source for forgiving and this source is love or specifically love for God.

God, in his tender mercy, has forgiven us. It was his love that moved him to create, implement and submit to his plan for redemption. Although it would be extremely difficult and very rare for a person to forgive because they love their offender, it is possible to access this great motivation to forgive someone who has been wounded greatly. Since the greatest of qualities that a person can have is love, the same love can move a person to forgive. The difference is that the focus of love is on God and not the offender. Love for God will create a desire to be in his will, an obedience to his leading, a yielding for him to receive glory, and a submission of faith. A heart in this condition can forgive because the focus is not on the event or the offender, but on God. When they forgive, they are putting the care of the matter into the hands of a righteous and just God and are able to let go and finally leave the matter behind them. However, this love can only come about by abiding in God. When we abide in him, we as a branch tap into the vine of his strength and enable it to produce the love that can move someone who has struggled for years to finally forgive.

Forgiveness is never easy, but God has provided all that we need in order the be victorious and conquerors in life. (1 Corinthians 15:57; Romans 8:37)

Waiting on the Lord (Psalm 40:1)

It is important to wait patiently before the Lord. When you do, you are performing three important acts.

When you wait on the Lord, you knowledge him as your sovereign Lord. By that, you recognize that he is in complete control of all events that take place and regardless of how they appear, you believe he will use them for good and his glory.

When you wait on the Lord, you are exercising your faith and when I say exercise, I mean exercise. Each time that you place your faith in the Lord, you are strengthening it and also developing the closeness of your relationship with him. Your relationship with God is what gives your faith strength. This comes from his word (Romans 10:17) and also his joy (Nehemiah 8:10).

When you wait on the Lord, you are relying on his love. God is love and everything that he does for you or allows to happen is motivated by that love. When we cannot understand or see the workings of his love in his actions, it is then that our faith must moves us to wait on the Lord.

Waiting on the Lord will always bring his results. When we fail to wait on him, we act on our own independently of God. These actions are works of the flesh motivated by the emotions that we experienced in the trial.

So instead of allowing your emotions to drive you to disobedience, instead allow God’s working through your faith to lead you to rely on him who on countless times has guided, comforted, carried and loved you. He did not fail you then and he will not fail you now.