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True Love Keeps No Record of Wrongs

True love – God’s kind of love – is both possible and impossible at the same time. It’s possible to love people the way God does when we’re living under His truth and grace and in His power. We know this because He commands us to love and defines it for us in explicit terms, and He never commands us to do that which He will not also enable us to do.

Then again, there are aspects of love that seem so far beyond reach. In particular, real love includes the ability to truly, completely forgive a person to the degree that we never, ever remind them of their former faults again. “Love keeps no record of being wronged,” the Bible says in 1 Corinthians 13:5. In other words, real love really forgives, not just temporarily, but forever.

We humans continually demonstrate our utter failure to truly forgive, and resentment is a toxin that poisons even the strongest of relational bonds. We claim the right to hold grudges and justify our record-keeping ability on the basis of what seems fair and just. But the God of justice and truth has gone first in this area.

God, who alone has every right not to forgive us for our rebellion against Him, has set the ultimate example, justifying us and declaring us not guilty by transferring the record of our wrongs to Jesus on the cross. And once we’ve accepted His payment and turned to Him in complete trust, He expunges our records and promises that “He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.” (Psalm 103:12 NLT)

Real, true, unconditional God-like love does the same for others. Real love doesn’t remind someone of their past or flaunt their weaknesses before them. Real love lets it go. This doesn’t mean allowing abuse without accountability. It simply means that we yield our right to be vindicated for the good of the guilty, and ultimately for our own good too.

Who do you need to love and to forgive?

Charles Stanley: The Gift of Forgiveness

UnforgivenessI couldn’t help but be moved by Charles Stanley’s definition of unforgiveness. It’s something we ultimately do to ourselves, not to others:

Webster defines gift as “something given to show friendship, affection, support, etc.” Using this definition, it seems logical to give gifts only to people we love, not to those who hurt or abuse us. Yet Scripture clearly tells us to offer one of the greatest possible gifts—forgiveness—to those who mistreat us.

To forgive means “to give up all claims to punish or exact a penalty for an offense.” No strings or conditions can be attached, or else it ceases to be a pardon. Ephesians 2:8-9 expands on this by contrasting the gift of salvation with works. Neither salvation nor forgiveness can be earned; both must be freely given. God granted us forgiveness, which we did not deserve and could not earn. And in much the same way, we are to release every offender from any form of penalty.

Unforgiveness is emotional bondage that consumes minds with memories of offenses, distorts emotions with revenge, and fills hearts with churning unrest. Its tentacles reach deep into the soul, affecting both spiritual and physical health. But the one who chooses to put on love and offer forgiveness is ready to receive the peace of Christ. Let God’s Word help you release hurt and anger into His caring hands—then watch as vengeful thoughts are transformed into praise and gratitude to the Lord.

Thankfully, the gift of pardon is not something we have to manufacture in ourselves. This present is wrapped in the love of God and tied with the red ribbon of Christ’s sacrifice. It is freely given to us by the Savior, and our job is simply to pass it on to others.

Via In Touch Ministries Daily Devotional, July 11, 2014

Forgetting the Past

HistoryWe all have a past. It’s filled with proud moments, and not-so-proud moments. It contains joy and pain, and we are continually tempted to live in it. But God wired us to face the future, to think forward, to live for today and tomorrow and leave yesterday behind. Paul put it this way,

No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.

– Philippians 3:13-14 (NLT)

For the future to be all that God imagines it to be for us, we need to settle the issue of our past. Thankfully, Jesus Christ has given His life on the cross so that our past sins could be forgiven. And once He forgives, God will never again remind us of our failures. Ever. Now it’s our task to stop reminding ourselves of our regrets and to live in the full light of God’s forgiveness.

Our accomplishments in the past can be a problem too. If you saw Napoleon Dynamite, you’ll remember the uncle whose conversations always managed to revolve around 1982 when he “could throw a football a quarter of a mile.” His glory days were apparently behind him and stunted his growth in the present.

Good, bad, and ugly, leave the past behind at the foot of the cross and face forward today.

photo credit: tricky (rick harrison)

What I Really Deserve

Nice FruitThis week, I’m staying in a nice hotel in Ocala, Florida, driving around in a rented Camaro, and eating fresh fruit – all sweet gifts from The Church at the Springs where Pastor Ron Sylvia and others are hosting Nuts & Bolts, a conference for church planters. I feel very blessed to be here. I don’t deserve it.

What I do deserve is the full weight of the wrath of God toward sin for my rebellion against God. I learned a huge lesson a long time ago from my friend, Bobby Conway. I walked into a nice hotel with Bobby where we were hosting him while he preached a revival at our church. He looked up at his beautiful surroundings and exclaimed, “I deserve hell, and I’m staying here?” That line deeply impacted me. I am not entitled to any of the good and gracious gifts of God.

I don’t deserve nice surroundings. I don’t deserve my awesome, loving wife. I don’t deserve my precious kids that make me smile daily. Life, for most of us, especially in America, is cushy. If we ever get the impression we deserve any of it, we’re sorely mistaken. Instead, we need to understand that each next breath is a gracious gift of a very forgiving God.

Not only have I been spared from ever seeing the wrath of God toward sin, I also get to enjoy the bounty of the goodness of God. Why? Because of what the prophet Isaiah foretold about Jesus: “But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed.” (Isaiah 53:5 NLT)

I’m not saying at all that we should refuse to enjoy good things. That would demonstrate ingratitude toward the Creator and Savior of the world. What I am saying is that every time we enjoy even the smallest of gifts, our hearts should be reminded of the price Jesus paid on the cross so that we might enjoy the freedom and promise of eternal, abundant life.

The old phrase is “never forget where you came from.” That’s a good starting place, but I like the way the apostle Paul put it even better…

Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world… All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else… But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!

~ Ephesians 2:1-5 NLT

Look around, and be thankful. You and I deserve hell, but the offer is freely on the table for anyone in all the earth to receive complete forgiveness of sin because of the price Jesus paid for us when He died on the cross. If you aren’t sure what to make of that, let’s talk.

21 Things Pastors Need to Know About Porn

Just this morning, a book came across my desk, Eyes of Integrity: The Porn Pandemic and How It Affects You, and I devoured it in a matter of hours, not because it was an “easy read” but because it shares a compelling story that rarely gets talked about – what happens to people who consume or produce pornography, and how they can find hope and help.

It’s written by Craig Gross and Jason Harper, both a part of XXXChurch, a radical kind of rescue outreach into the porn industry and the porn problem as a whole. The book shares dozens of stories of real lives damaged by the power of pornography, as well as the divine rescues that often happen when people turn from porn to God for help.

You’ll read of young men and women trapped by an industry that treats them as merchandise and men and women hiding behind the immense shame of a secret addiction. The book should break your heart, for one reason or another. I found it eye-opening, and it inspired me to share some thoughts on what Pastors (and you, too) need to know about pornography.

  1. It’s sin. It’s lust. Lust is sin. It’s mental adultery.
  2. It’s everywhere. Half the men in your church are likely exposed to it every week, and some of the women too.
  3. It’s a ruthless slavedriver and traps people in shame and secrecy.
  4. NOT talking about it with your people does NOT help them.
  5. The porn industry is a dark and twisted place, filled with people with souls whom God deeply loves.
  6. People who act in pornographic films are people whom God loves.
  7. People who produce pornography are people whom God loves.
  8. It does NOT encourage more intimacy in marriage – on the contrary, it destroys it.
  9. It is NOT victimless. Broken marriages and shattered lives are all around us as evidence.
  10. The internet has exploded the number of porn addicts, offering the three deadly “A’s,” making porn accessible, affordable, and anonymous.
  11. Pornography is a drug. It triggers chemicals in the brain that create addictions. It offers a temporary high, followed by a crash into guilt and shame. And one kind of pornography is almost always a gateway into something worse.
  12. The younger you are when first exposed, the more susceptible you are to addiction as an adult.
  13. Pornography WILL cause you to treat people (especially women) like objects and not living souls.
  14. Pornography WILL harden your heart.
  15. There is hope.
  16. Consumers and producers of pornography can find forgiveness of sin in the blood of Jesus and be made righteous and pure by the saving power of God.
  17. Those trapped in pornography addictions can be forgiven of what they’ve entertained themselves with.
  18. Breaking the cycle is possible, but extremely difficult, as with any addiction.
  19. The cover-up is always worse than the crime.
  20. The cost of recovery is high, but the cost of not recovering is much higher.
  21. You need help. You need help and accountability, without question.

Don’t be a story of tragedy – be a story of hope. If you have a problem with porn, or if you’re involved in the industry in some way, turn to God and reach out for help. He knows where you are. He knows your pain. He knows your shame, and He longs to rescue you! Angels will cheer in heaven if you’ll just turn to Him by faith!

By the way, have you "liked" Grace Hills Church on Facebook yet?

If you’ve failed again and feel God will not forgive you this time, you’re wrong. 1 John 1:9 is an irrevocable promise that “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Try Him – He’ll prove Himself a forgiving and gracious God. But also, “flee youthful lusts” and “fight the good fight of faith.” “Take every thought captive” and “put on the whole armor of God.”

In case you missed the link earlier, if you’re not using accountability software, click here.

Disclaimer: I did receive a free copy of this book for review, but was not asked to give a positive review. The Amazon links above are affiliate links on which I would earn a small commission.