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Forgiveness without strings

Cover of "Forgiveness"

Cover of Forgiveness

Our pastor spoke on the subject of “Forgiveness” last Sunday.  It was also Mother’s Day.  It was an interesting choice – but he was right on the mark.

Mom’s are notorious for “stuffing” things – in order to better serve the family.  Putting their own wants and needs aside.  But more than that – because we are seen as the “role-model” for our home – we are not usually allowed to be as authentic as we need to be.  We always have “little eyes and ears” watching our every move – seeing our reaction to things that happen and in general making it difficult to be who we really are.

When my children were younger – there were some interesting events that took place inside the church body.  My husband and I were on staff in a few churches – where there was something done or said that left us reeling  from the remarks or actions – and yet – we chose to let it go – and to forgive.  My children don’t even know about those things – even today now that they are all grown up.

In recent years I have had other things happen – and yet – trying to model for my children – I have had to suck it up – not grieve a loss or injustice done – so that I could show that I am a person who chooses to forgive – at any cost.

This is good – and it is bad.  I’m not sure it’s totally healthy.  I’m not sure I have really forgiven – without strings.  I still feel as though some owe me.  Those that have chosen to hurt me and say bad things against me and my character.  But at the time – taking the higher road meant – forgiving.  But there were strings.

After the message on Sunday I learned something.  It is not enough to say we forgive others for what they may have done to us – but we also have to forgive ourselves for the things that we have done.  And often times that forgiveness is withheld longer for ourselves because we don’t think we need it.  We feel justified – almost self-righteous because others have ‘done me wrong’.  So we hang on – not thinking anything about it – but we have not really forgiven.

And when we have done something we know that God has forgiven – and maybe even the people in our lives (at least some) but to forgive ourselves is HUGE.  I have spoken on this subject before in the last couple of years and I know that many struggle with this subject.  It almost seems self-indulgent to say it.  And if you’re like me – you think, ‘well it doesn’t erase anything – just because I say it’.  And because it feels wrong somehow – we withhold it.  Especially from ourselves.

If you are one that lives in a place called “guilt-land” then you know what I’m talking about.  All the things that come to mind that you ‘should’ve, could’ve, would’ve’ done differently if you could go back in time.  The people who would still be in your life today – except for that one thing you said or did.  The children or parents you alienated because of that incident or letter you wrote in anger.  Yeah – that one.  If only.  You’ve asked for forgiveness – even from that person and yet – you still hang on to it.  It is what I call – “Forgiveness with strings“.

I want to get to that place in my life where I can truly let go of past hurts and issues from others – be free in my mind from things that I know I’ve done wrong and can really say – I forgive – without strings.  I no longer hold others and myself – prisoner to things I can never fix – to  wait for the magical day when others approach me and say, ‘it’s okay – all is forgiven’ – because I now know that day will most likely never come.  I can no longer secretly hope they get what’s coming to them – hoping they are miserable in their ‘unforgiveness’ – I must let it go.

The only things that matter are these:

1. Know that God has forgiven me

2. Know that I have forgiven others

3. Know that I have forgiven myself.

Anything else is gravy, people.  That’s what forgiveness is like – without strings.

Yeah I’m not there yet – working on it.

God Bless

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Secret Sin

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.   1 John 1:8-10

Our pastor spoke on the subject of the 10th commandment in his message last Sunday.  This commandment deals with the secret sin of “coveting”.  And while it sounds like nothing in light of the other big ones on the list – it is the one in which we can hide, push aside and even deny – making it the most dangerous one of all.

What exactly is coveting? And why is it so dangerous?  Coveting in it’s most basic form is this:  wanting something I don’t have. And in this last commandment that God gave to His people – He spelled it out for them – telling them not to want things that belong to their neighbor, their house, their wife or anything else that belongs to them.  Sounds simple right?  But it is not that simple.

Coveting goes beyond the above commandment.  It deals with the heart. It is all about the secret desires and motives –  known only by God.

Scripture has much to say about the heart. We’re told to “guard it” and that it is the “well-spring of life”.  And we truly believe it.  Until…there is something that we just can’t shake – a past relationship that won’t let us go – or a memory of better days – seeing someone or something that we would like to have for ourselves.  And we thing – “who are we hurting – no one knows”.  But God does.

Our pastor said that we can appear like we have it all together on the outside – we don’t murder, steal, commit adultery – you know the “BIG ONES” on the list.  We come to church and seem to have it all together.  In fact we’re so good that people are actually envious of us!  But this in itself can be a trap.  Sometimes those that look the part – are actually struggling with the most secret sin of their own.

But on the flip side of that – we can become “self-righteous” and “judgmental” when we are not as bad as all those other “sinners” out there.  Holding on to our private “secrets” but looking great on the outside.  It was those people who Jesus had to deal with most in His short 3 years on earth.  The ones that pointed their fingers at others – deflecting blame off of themselves – and the ones who did not acknowledge that they had a problem to begin with – and were just as guilty as the murderers, thieves and adulterers.  Jesus confronted this issue – knowing they all were good Jews and knew the commandments well – got right to the heart of the matter and said,

“But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”  Matthew 5:28

I imagine that this kind of radical thinking caused quite a stir.  After all – good Jewish men kept all the commandment to the letter of the law.  This one was uncomfortable and made them squirm.  Why?  Because their heart was wicked and far from repentance – far from God.

We are no different.  Sin is still sin.  Done out in the open – or in the secret places of our heart.  When we sin in a secret way – we are saying that we don’t need a Savior – that we can handle it on our own merit – that because everyone thinks we are good, pure, honest and without sin – that will be enough for God.  It isn’t.  He still knows.  Whether it’s an addiction problem, a lust problem or an unrepentant heart – it’s all the same to God.  Pride and stubbornness are the worst ones – because they tell us a lie – that we are alright without a Savior.

At the heart of our secret sin issue – is Jesus. He patiently waits for us to come to Him and to confess it.  He comes to not just forgive us when we blow it – but to fix us permanently and heal our disease. He heals us from the inside out – taking away the sin and any desire or residue that it leaves.  The sin that will ultimately lead to our destruction – little by little, bit by bit.

How many good moral people are out there?  That sit in our churches?  That have un-confessed sin in their lives?  That are so good in fact – they have no need for a Savior? Don’t be one of those – He is waiting for you today. When Jesus touches your life – you won’t be the same – the change will be permanent – done from the inside out. Something that good moral living alone cannot achieve.  We all have a sin problem – that is why He came.  To do a work that we ourselves cannot do.  Conquer sin in our lives for good – and change us, healing our disease of self-righteousness and pride.

When you get right down to the heart of the matter – Jesus came to save us from ourselves – our sinful tendencies and gave us a better way to live – healing us from the inside out.

Do you have secret sin hiding deep down in your heart that you believe is well hidden – even from God?  When you admit it to Him – He will not condemn you – but forgive you and heal you – giving you a new purpose and a new way to live.  That’s a promise.

God Bless

 

Mercy

Two candles in love. The flame is inverted hea...

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My heart is stirred today in much emotion – a heavy heart over events and situations that have lately affected my life and made it difficult to press on.  A difficult season of life – with many things out of my control – leaving deep sadness,  remorse – and resignation.

Our pastor, Stephen Collins, spoke on the subject of ‘Mercy’ today.  And although it is a subject that is not new to me – or any people of faith  – I believe  I heard newness in this simple message today – things that I will continue to ponder in the coming weeks.  I found myself very emotional.  This is a subject that is close to my heart and life.  And so with tears streaming down my face – I sat there and took it all in – and allowed the Lord to minister sweet words of comfort and blessing.  I was touched and moved beyond words.

I’ve noticed something about people who are merciful. – they are the first ones to forgive, love, embrace and welcome back,  those who are lost or fallen away.  They have no trouble accepting forgiveness or giving it.  They do not accuse and blame.  They have tender hearts – and they understand the value of mercy – because God has shown mercy to them.  They are also the happiest and most positive people in the world – with many friends.  Their friends trust them – and turn to them when they are in trouble – with no fear of judgment of alienation.  These are people who have been forgiven.

We’ve been watching ‘A Christmas Carol’  – I was noting how Scrooge shows no mercy at the beginning of the story – and then after being shown his life by the ‘spirits’ – he begins to see others and himself in a new light.  The Scrooge story is a story of mercy.  A story of second chances and a new lease on life – a valuable reminder to all of us to remember that when you show mercy to others – others will be merciful.  And it is interesting to note – that the nephew and employee of Scrooge have merciful hearts and embrace him without question – at the beginning of the story – when he is NOT merciful – and later as he is transformed at the end of the story.  No questions – no judgment – no criteria.  Just open arms of love and mercy.

I want to be one that shows mercy – even when I feel as though others have judged me and not understood me – or shown mercy to me.  I want to be the first to say, ‘I understand, I forgive, I love’.  And leave it at that.  No questions asked.  No hesitation.  No disbelief.  Just love and mercy.

Help me Lord to be that kind of person.  Help me to get over myself, my pride, my hurt and pain.  Help me to let go of others that have wronged me – those who have no understanding that their words and actions have wounded me more than they will ever know – and help me to forgive them and show mercy. For I am very aware that if I do not show mercy to others who have failed – or not done what I think they should, then you will not show mercy to me.  Help me to walk with a pure clean heart – free of agenda – free of revenge.  Help me to see others through your eyes.  Amen.

God Bless

Shake Off The Shame

1 Timothy 1:15

15Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.

Heard an excellent and thought-provoking message from our youth pastor Andy Douglas this morning.  “How many mistakes do you make”?  It was an honest question – and we say to ourselves – “Sure – I make many – or  “I at least make some” – or even – “I hardly ever make a mistake any more”  But the bottom line is this:  we all make them – even when we think we are too spiritual or too far above that in our every day life.  Andy went on to illustrate how when he first got his driver’s license – he made 3 big mistakes in the first hour – being pulled over by 3 different patrol cars.  He had us laughing hysterically – so FUNNY!!  And it was interesting to note – that even though he was talking about mistakes – and ultimately the grace and forgiveness for mistakes we make – I was thinking about those 3 different police officers that pulled him over that night.  They could have been ‘letter of the law’ and each given this new young driver – a ticket – but none of them did.  They gave him a friendly warning – and the last one said to him, “maybe you better go home now” – which he did.  That’s the definition of grace.

This is what God does with each one of us.  Grace by its very definition is this: not getting something we deserved.  It is not something we have earned.  We couldn’t earn it.  It is freely given to us.  And like Andy said this morning – if we cannot accept the ‘gift’ of grace and forgiveness – but instead  walk around with shame for something we have done – and live in bondage to that shame – then we cheapen the fact that Jesus was beat to a pulp and had to endure a horrific death on a cross – so that we could be free from that shame.

Do we continue to make mistakes on purpose.  I hope not.  No one usually does.  They are usually innocent at first – even starting out with great intentions.  You may have a huge heart for people and mean well by loving and embracing them – but then something happens you did not plan on.  You may love helping people – but then you get yourself in too deep and realize – “I made a mistake”  Or you may be naive and think that everyone has the best motives in your world – and then something happens – and you realize that there was another motive altogether and it blindsides you.  Every good well-meaning person makes mistakes.  Pastors and leaders make mistakes all the time.  They don’t mean to – they just do – because they are human.  It is humbling to admit you made a mistake – to ask forgiveness or to forgive someone else – when you may not always be at fault.  But there are times – when it is all your fault. That’s what God’s grace and mercy is there for.  God’s love does not condemn – but rather it renews and gives life and hope to brokenness and hopelessness – bring life from death and joy from despair.

Do we really believe this?  Sometimes.  Do we live like we do?  Not always.  I would like to think that when we make a mistake – and live through the consequences of that mistake – or someone else’s mistake – that we gain perspective and wisdom – and we rarely repeat the same one again.  Oh – we’ll continue to make mistakes – just hopefully not the one that caused so much pain and hard work to recover from.  This is what we gain.  A fresh understanding of the love of God.  A fresh knowledge of grace and mercy.  An understanding of the high cost of that grace, mercy and forgiveness – offered in an ever abundant supply from Jesus.  But so often instead of believing this – and living like this – we walk around with a heavy cloud over us – sometimes choking the joy right out of us.  And we think everyone must know what we’ve done – even though they rarely do.  It paralyzes us.  It prevents us from living a joyful life – a full life where we are able to clearly see the needs of others around us.

But if we could just grasp  concept of grace – we are changed. We no longer live under man’s scrutiny or insinuations – we no longer feel condemnation – and we no longer let what others think of us – rule our emotions and feelings.  We are free – and we understand what that grace means for our lives – because we can agree with Paul in the scripture above – that Christ Jesus came to save sinners, and like Paul we say – …’of which we are the worst’.

If this is true of your life today – you can shake off that feeling of shame and brokenness – forever.  It is only by embracing and accepting the love of Jesus and His covering over those mistakes in your life – that you can really be free.  Free from yourself.  Free from the weight of carrying years of guilt and shame.  Free from the lies that you cannot be forgiven – that you can’t be productive – that God won’t use you anymore because of what you’ve done.  Accept His love and forgiveness today – don’t wait.  Don’t spend another day carrying around this burden on your chest.  He is waiting for you.  Let’s ‘shake off the shame’.

I am praying for you

God Bless

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