Archives for : March2014

Matthew 3

Matthew 3

New International Version (NIV)

John the Baptist Prepares the Way

3 In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea 2 and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” 3 This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah:

“A voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.’”

4 John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey.5 People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. 6 Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.

7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. 9 And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham.10 The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.

11 “I baptize you with[b] water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with[c] the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

The Baptism of Jesus

13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. 14 But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”

15 Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented.

16 As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

By His Stripes We Are Healed-Isaiah 53

53 Who really believed what we heard? Who saw in it the Lord’s great power?[a]

2 He was always close to the Lord. He grew up like a young plant, like a root growing in dry ground. There was nothing special or impressive about the way he looked, nothing we could see that would cause us to like him. 3 People made fun of him, and even his friends left him. He was a man who suffered a lot of pain and sickness. We treated him like someone of no importance, like someone people will not even look at but turn away from in disgust.

4 The fact is, it was our suffering he took on himself; he bore our pain. But we thought that God was punishing him, that God was beating him for something he did. 5 But he was being punished for what we did. He was crushed because of our guilt. He took the punishment we deserved, and this brought us peace. We were healed because of his pain. 6 We had all wandered away like sheep. We had gone our own way. And yet the Lord put all our guilt on him.

7 He was treated badly, but he never protested. He said nothing, like a lamb being led away to be killed. He was like a sheep that makes no sound as its wool is being cut off. He never opened his mouth to defend himself. 8 He was taken away by force and judged unfairly. The people of his time did not even notice that he was killed.[b] But he was put to death[c] for the sins of his[d] people. 9 He had done no wrong to anyone. He had never even told a lie. But he was buried among the wicked. His tomb was with the rich.

10 But the Lord was pleased with this humble servant who suffered such pain.[e] Even after giving himself as an offering for sin, he will see his descendants and enjoy a long life. He will succeed in doing what the Lord wanted. 11 After his suffering he will see the light,[f] and he will be satisfied with what he experienced.

The Lord says, “My servant, who always does what is right, will make his people right with me; he will take away their sins. 12 For this reason, I will treat him as one of my great people. I will give him the rewards of one who wins in battle, and he will share them with his powerful ones. I will do this because he gave his life for the people. He was considered a criminal, but the truth is, he carried away the sins of many. Now he will stand before me and speak for those who have sinned.”

Psalm 148-Praise The Lord

148 Praise the Lord!
Angels above,
praise the Lord from heaven!
2 Praise him, all you angels!
Praise him, all his army!
3 Sun and moon, praise him!
Stars and lights in the sky, praise him!
4 Praise him, highest heaven!
Waters above the sky, praise him!
5 Let them praise the Lord’s name,
because he gave the command and created them all!
6 He made all these continue forever.
He made the laws that will never end.
7 Everything on earth, praise him!
Great sea animals and all the oceans, praise the Lord!
8 Praise him, fire and hail, snow and clouds,
and the stormy winds that obey him.
9 Praise him, mountains and hills,
fruit trees and cedar trees.
10 Praise him, wild animals and cattle, reptiles and birds.
11 Praise him, kings of the earth and all nations,
princes and all rulers on earth.
12 Praise him, young men and women,
old people and children.
13 Praise the Lord’s name!
Honor his name forever!
His name is greater than any other.
He is more glorious than heaven and earth.
14 He made his people strong.
His loyal followers praise him.
Israel, his precious people, praise the Lord!

 

 

 

 

 

Embrace Wisdom


Proverbs 1

New International Version (NIV)

1 The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel:

2 for gaining wisdom and instruction;
for understanding words of insight;
3 for receiving instruction in prudent behavior,
doing what is right and just and fair;
4 for giving prudence to those who are simple,[a]
knowledge and discretion to the young—
5 let the wise listen and add to their learning,
and let the discerning get guidance—
6 for understanding proverbs and parables,
the sayings and riddles of the wise.[b]

7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,
but fools[c] despise wisdom and instruction.

Prologue: Exhortations to Embrace Wisdom

Warning Against the Invitation of Sinful Men

8 Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction
and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.
9 They are a garland to grace your head
and a chain to adorn your neck.

10 My son, if sinful men entice you,
do not give in to them.
11 If they say, “Come along with us;
let’s lie in wait for innocent blood,
let’s ambush some harmless soul;
12 let’s swallow them alive, like the grave,
and whole, like those who go down to the pit;
13 we will get all sorts of valuable things
and fill our houses with plunder;
14 cast lots with us;
we will all share the loot”—
15 my son, do not go along with them,
do not set foot on their paths;
16 for their feet rush into evil,
they are swift to shed blood.
17 How useless to spread a net
where every bird can see it!
18 These men lie in wait for their own blood;
they ambush only themselves!
19 Such are the paths of all who go after ill-gotten gain;
it takes away the life of those who get it.

Wisdom’s Rebuke

20 Out in the open wisdom calls aloud,
she raises her voice in the public square;
21 on top of the wall[d] she cries out,
at the city gate she makes her speech:

22 “How long will you who are simple love your simple ways?
How long will mockers delight in mockery
and fools hate knowledge?
23 Repent at my rebuke!
Then I will pour out my thoughts to you,
I will make known to you my teachings.
24 But since you refuse to listen when I call
and no one pays attention when I stretch out my hand,
25 since you disregard all my advice
and do not accept my rebuke,
26 I in turn will laugh when disaster strikes you;
I will mock when calamity overtakes you—
27 when calamity overtakes you like a storm,
when disaster sweeps over you like a whirlwind,
when distress and trouble overwhelm you.

28 “Then they will call to me but I will not answer;
they will look for me but will not find me,
29 since they hated knowledge
and did not choose to fear the Lord.
30 Since they would not accept my advice
and spurned my rebuke,
31 they will eat the fruit of their ways
and be filled with the fruit of their schemes.
32 For the waywardness of the simple will kill them,
and the complacency of fools will destroy them;
33 but whoever listens to me will live in safety
and be at ease, without fear of harm.”

1 Peter 5-Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

The Flock of God

5 Now I have something to say to the elders in your group. I am also an elder. I myself have seen Christ’s sufferings. And I will share in the glory that will be shown to us. I beg you to 2 take care of the group of people you are responsible for. They are God’s flock.[a] Watch over that flock because you want to, not because you are forced to do it. That is how God wants it. Do it because you are happy to serve, not because you want money. 3 Don’t be like a ruler over those you are responsible for. But be good examples to them. 4 Then when Christ the Ruling Shepherd comes, you will get a crown—one that will be glorious and never lose its beauty.

5 Young people, I have something to say to you too. You should accept the authority of the elders. You should all have a humble attitude in dealing with each other.

“God is against the proud,
but he is kind to the humble.”

6 So be humble under God’s powerful hand. Then he will lift you up when the right time comes. 7 Give all your worries to him, because he cares for you.

8 Control yourselves and be careful! The devil is your enemy, and he goes around like a roaring lion looking for someone to attack and eat. 9 Refuse to follow the devil. Stand strong in your faith. You know that your brothers and sisters all over the world are having the same sufferings that you have.

10 Yes, you will suffer for a short time. But after that, God will make everything right. He will make you strong. He will support you and keep you from falling. He is the God who gives all grace. He chose you to share in his glory in Christ. That glory will continue forever. 11 All power is his forever. Amen.

Final Greetings

12 Silas will bring this letter to you. I know that he is a faithful brother in Christ. I wrote this short letter to encourage you. I wanted to tell you that this is the true grace of God. Stand strong in that grace.

13 The church in Babylon[b] sends you greetings. They were chosen just as you were. Mark, my son in Christ, also sends his greetings. 14 Give each other a special greeting[c] of love when you meet.

Peace to all of you who are in Christ.

“A Real Homecoming” By David N. Mosser

Isaiah 35:1-10
During the time of the prophecy of Isaiah, as most Christians know, Babylon deported Israel to a far away land. Of course, scholars tell us that at most those whom the Babylonians deported numbered no more than 10% of the population. Nonetheless, the Babylonians plainly knew what they were doing. The persons that they deported from Israel were those who were most instrumental in administrating Hebrew society — the priests, the wealthy, and the most educated of Israel’s leadership. This “strategic deportation” effectively crippled customary Israelite life during the years of deportation.
The days of the exile were difficult for Israel. The deportation into exile changed everything for those exiled, as well as those who remained behind in the sacred land of Canaan. We can get a sense of the misery of those in exile when we recall the plaintive cry of those cut off from the temple and other familiar fixtures of worship in their homeland: “By the rivers of Babylon — there we sat down and there we wept when we remembered Zion” (Psalm 137:1). This prayer reveals the deepest and most profound experience of homesickness — feeling cut off from even God!
Conceivably one of the reasons that the lectionary constructors selected our lesson today from Isaiah is that it speaks to the hope of all people for “Homecoming.” Many people in our modern society feel detached from life. Work has become increasingly ruthless with demands on companies and small businesses to increase profits. This circumstance forces workers into longer and more stressful labor. In families, economic pressures increase stress on relationships. Children are unsupervised with the advent of both parents, if they are still together, working harder and longer hours. Urban traffic virtually guarantees fretful or short-tempered parents when they finally do arrive home to the family. Our sense of home seems distant from earlier American scenes depicted by the artist Norman Rockwell or the nostalgic Currier and Ives commercials of days gone by.
For these reasons and many more, most of us yearn for simpler times. When we remember our own childhood, it seems that times were better and more secure. Consequently, we relish the evocative days that Christmas represents. Christmas prods us to recall our best memories and what we all hope for when we consider home. For modern people, Christmas is not merely a religious holy-day, which it certainly is, but it also signifies the in-gathering of family and homecoming.
Home is a notion valued in the Bible. Possibly for the Hebrew people the idea of home was especially precious. From the beginning, God had led them toward it. We all remember how God’s relationship with the covenant people began: “Now the Lord said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you’ ” (Genesis 12:1). Later, after Jacob had served many years under the discipline of his father in law Laban, Genesis 30:25 tells us, “When Rachel had borne Joseph, Jacob said to Laban, ‘Send me away, that I may go to my own home and country.’ ” Even the wisdom literature reminds us that “Like a bird that strays from its nest/is one who strays from home” (Proverbs 27:8). Home and the idea of homecoming is in our spiritual DNA.
For people like the exiles and for people like us modern and sophisticated folks, homecoming nearly always conjures images of hope. It is likely that some in Israel, however, said that Isaiah’s image of a homeward journey was naively optimistic. Isaiah wrote that Israel would travel homeward on “A highway . . . and it shall be called the Holy Way” (35:8). Faith in God gives us a positive option by which to react to the things that life throws our way. Genuine homecoming is to be re-united with the Lord. Our faith keeps this option open to us. The other option is despair which lead to death. Faith places this decision within our grasp and Christmas helps us focus on what authentic homecoming is all about.
Most of us know that there are basically two responses to bleak and oppressive circumstances life presents: despair or hope. It all depends on one’s faith perspective. For an example of perspective a shoe company sent a salesperson was sent to a remote country. When he arrived, he was dismayed because everyone went barefooted. So he wired the company, “No prospect for sales. People don’t wear shoes here.”
Later another salesman went to the same area. He too immediately sent word to the home office. But his telegram read, “Great potential! People don’t wear shoes here!” A person’s perspective depends on a person’s faith. For the Hebrew people and Christians Isaiah reminds each of us about that largely untapped resource we call faith. By faith we can get home!

Gods Promises

What can be said about God’s promises to us?

  1. He has promised to supply every need we have. The Bible says: “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus”. That’s Phillipians 4:19. Now notice, God has obligated Himself only to the extent of our needs. That would include food, clothing, shelter, companionship, love, and salvation thru Jesus Christ. It would not include the multiplicity of luxuries that we have come to think of as needs.
  2. God has promised that His grace is sufficient for us. (II Corinthians 12:9). in fact, He has made provision for our salvation by His grace through faith. Read Ephesians 2:8. It is through an obedient faith that we have access into the grace of God according to Romans 5:2.
  3. God has promised that His children will not be overtaken with temptation. Instead, He assures us that a way of escape will be provided. This promise is recorded in I Corinthians 10:13. Jude wrote: “Now unto Him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present your faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy” (Jude v 24). Darius, King of the Medes, said to Daniel, “Thy God whom thou servest continually, he will deliver thee” (Daniel 6:16). He did deliver Daniel from the den of lions.
  4. God has promised us victory over death. He first resurrected Jesus by way of assuring our resurrection. Peter said: “This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we are all witnesses” (Acts 2:32). Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures” (I Corinthians 15:3,4). Later on he adds: “but thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Corinthians 15:57).
  5. God has promised that all things work together for good to those who love and serve Him faithfully (Romans 8:28). It may be difficult for us to see and understand how this is accomplished at times, but God has promised it, and He will deliver.
  6. God has promised that those who believe in Jesus and are baptized for the forgiveness of sins will be saved. (Read Mark 16:16 and Acts 2:38).
  7. God has promised His people eternal life (John 10:27,28). In closing, let me appeal to you to live so that the promises of God will be yours.

What Does the Bible Say About Fasting?

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is fasting?
  • How should one fast, and for how long?
  • Does the Bible say to fast?
  • Are there different kinds of fasting?
  • What foods can I eat while fasting?

What is Fasting?

Fasting means self-denial by going without food for a period of time. Fasting may be total or partial — avoiding certain foods or eating smaller than normal quantities. The origin of fasting as a religious practice is unclear, but both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible mention a number of instances of fasting for various reasons.

Reasons for Fasting

Distress and Grief

Loss of appetite is a natural reaction in times of distress, grief and mourning, and fasting was considered appropriate at these times. David fasted as a sign of grief when Abner was murdered (2 Samuel 3:35). There was a seven-day fast at the death of Saul (1 Samuel 31:13).

Spiritual Preparation

Fasting is a self-sacrifice that makes one humble and more accepting of God’s will. Moses fasted for forty days in preparation for receiving the Ten Commandments (Exodus 34:28). Daniel fasted for three weeks before receiving his vision (Daniel 10:2-6). Elijah fasted forty days before speaking with God (1 Kings 19:8). Jesus fasted for forty days in preparation for His temptation by the devil (Matthew 4:1-11Luke 4:1-13).

In both the Old and New Testaments, fasting is seen as useful for humbling oneself as a sign of commitment or repentance and for increasing faith, especially when accompanied by prayer. Fasting allowed one to be devoted to spiritual matters without distraction from earthly things. However, fasting was not to be considered an end in itself, nor a substitute for obedience to God and doing good deeds (Isaiah 58:3-10).

Repentance and Atonement

When Jonah predicted the downfall of Nineveh, The Ninevites fasted as a sign of repentance in hopes God would spare their city (Jonah 3:3-9). The Day of Atonement was an annual obligatory day of rest and fasting for the Israelites (Numbers 29:7). When the Israelites had sinned, they often humbled themselves and fasted in hopes of regaining God’s favor (Judges 20:261 Samuel 7:6).

Jesus’ Teachings on Fasting

Jesus said that fasting, like prayer, should be done in private and not for show (Matthew 6:16-18, cf., Matthew 6:5-7). John the Baptist’s disciples routinely fasted according to Jewish custom, but Jesus and His disciples did not. However, Jesus said His disciples would mourn and fast after He had left them (Matthew 9:14-15Mark 2:18-20Luke 5:33-35). The early Christians practiced fasting at least occasionally (Acts 13:314:232 Corinthians 6:511:27).

Fasting Not Required

Despite the tradition of fasting in the Bible, and Jesus’ references to it, the New Testament teachings do not require fasting, and neither Jesus nor His disciples made fasting obligatory. However, a tradition of partial fasting on Wednesdays, and especially on Fridays dates back to the early days of Christianity.

Church Traditions

Church teachings about fasting vary. Many Catholics observe partial fasting traditions during Lent (the period between Ash Wednesday and Easter). Orthodox Christians observe even more fasting days. Most Protestant churches do not have any firm rules or traditions about fasting.

Health Effects

The partial and token fasts observed by some churches are not known to cause health problems. However, more severe fasting regimens could result in an array of health problems and even death.1,2 Medical advice is recommended before beginning a fasting program.

Psalm 91- Gods Protection

You can go to God Most High to hide.
    You can go to God All-Powerful for protection.
2 I say to the Lord, “You are my place of safety, my fortress.
    My God, I trust in you.”
3 God will save you from hidden dangers
    and from deadly diseases.
4 You can go to him for protection.
    He will cover you like a bird spreading its wings over its babies.
    You can trust him to surround and protect you like a shield.
5 You will have nothing to fear at night
    and no need to be afraid of enemy arrows during the day.
6 You will have no fear of diseases that come in the dark
    or terrible suffering that comes at noon.
7 A thousand people may fall dead at your side
    or ten thousand right beside you,
    but nothing bad will happen to you!
8 All you will have to do is watch,
    and you will see that the wicked are punished.
9 You trust in the Lord for protection.
    You have made God Most High your place of safety.
10 So nothing bad will happen to you.
    No diseases will come near your home.
11 He will command his angels to protect you wherever you go.
12 Their hands will catch you
    so that you will not hit your foot on a rock.
13 You will have power to trample on lions
    and poisonous snakes.
14 The Lord says, “If someone trusts me, I will save them.
    I will protect my followers who call to me for help.
15 When my followers call to me, I will answer them.
    I will be with them when they are in trouble.
    I will rescue them and honor them.
16 I will give my followers a long life
    and show them my power to save.”

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What I’m Learning About – Forgiveness

I listened quietly as my friend Jamie told me the frank details of the sexual abuse she’d suffered as a child.

“I hate my father!” she blurted out. “He abused me for more than a decade!” Jamie cried. “But my pastor said if I want to heal from my childhood pain, I have to forgive.”

“What did you tell your pastor?” I asked.

“I told him I could never forgive my father, that I didn’twant to forgive him, that no one—not even God—wouldexpect me to forgive him!”

Jamie told me all the reasons that kept her from forgiving her abusive father. I’d heard many of them before. In fact, I’d used some of them two years earlier, when a friend I’d trusted to keep a confidence told several women in my Sunday school class about a painful circumstance I was going through. I felt betrayed by my friend—as I should have. But forgiveher? That was the last thing I wanted to do! I dropped out of the Sunday school class and avoided her at church. But a year later, when I reread what the apostle Paul said about forgiveness, his familiar words touched my heart in a special way: “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32, my emphasis).

As I meditated on that verse, I knew I’d been forgiven much. I needed to forgive my friend, even if I didn’t feel like it. I decided to do so. Later, when I met her and told her I’d forgiven her, she apologized, and we both cried. I wish I could say she and I became good friends again—but I can’t. Her betrayal deeply hurt our friendship, and I was careful never to share another confidence with her. But God’s Word and my decision to forgive set me free from bitterness.

Facing the Challenge

Jamie and I are just two of a legion of Christian women who’ve struggled with forgiveness because it’s difficult—almost impossible—to do. Yet in Luke 6:37, Jesus says, “Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” He elaborates in Matthew 6:14-15: “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” The apostle Paul repeats Jesus’ command: “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:13). Surely Paul’s “whatever grievances” covers any kind of hurt, betrayal, or injury another person could inflict!

In talking with hundreds of women about forgiveness, I’ve discovered six myths that keep us from the healing and freedom God desires for you and me.

Myth 1:

Forgiving means the offender didn’t really hurt you.Jamie thought if she forgave her father, it lessened the severity of his abuse. Yet Jamie’s forgiveness doesn’t deny her father hurt her. In fact, it clearly recognizes the enormity of his evil—if Jamie’s dad hadn’t deliberately caused her pain, she’d have no reason to forgive him.

“Forgiveness is a redemptive response to having been wronged and wounded,” wrote author Lewis B. Smedes. “Only those who have wronged and wounded us are candidates for forgiveness. If they injure us accidentally, we excuse them. We only forgive the ones we blame.” Choosing to forgive her father acknowledges the pain Jamie endured at his hands. It also begins her healing.

Myth 2:

Forgiving means you excuse the offender’s hurtful act. When I chose to forgive my friend, I didn’t condone her cruel behavior. Forgiveness, I’ve discovered, is a response that seeks to redeem the hurt, not brush it off. An accidental “slip of the tongue” needs no forgiveness because it isn’t deliberately caused. Intentional hurts—like my friend’s betrayal—need forgiveness. When I forgave my friend, my forgiveness didn’t lessen the impact of her painful action. But forgiveness unlocked my own “prison” of bitterness.

Myth 3:

Before forgiving, you must first understand why the offender hurt you. On December 1, 1997, Missy Jenkins, a sophomore at Heath High School in Paducah, Kentucky, stood with her classmates and prayed before school started. Before they said their final “amen,” 14-year-old Michael Carneal pulled out a pistol and fired 11 shots into the student prayer group. One bullet severely damaged Missy’s spinal cord. Paralyzed from the waist down, Missy will spend her life in a wheelchair.

Missy doesn’t know the reason her classmate deliberately hurt her. Michael may not understand his reasons. But that didn’t keep Missy from choosing to forgive him.

“I believe hating him is wasted emotion,” Missy says. “Hating Michael won’t make me walk again. Besides, I know it isn’t what Jesus would do.”

Our human mind yearns to make all the confusing puzzle pieces fit together neatly before we forgive. However, the truth is we can forgive an offender even if we never discover the reasons for the inflicted pain. Author Philip Yancey writes in What’s So Amazing About Grace, “Not to forgive imprisons me in the past and locks out all potential for change. I thus yield control to another, my enemy, and doom myself to suffer the consequences of the wrong.”

Myth 4:

Before forgiving the offender, you must feel forgiving. Forgiveness has nothing to do with how you feel. You can feel hurt, betrayed, and angry, and still completely forgive the one who wounded you. Biblical forgiveness is an act of the will. It’s a choice you make.

Can you still feel angry after you forgive? Yes! Anger means you’re in touch with reality—it’s part of being human. But be careful to aim that anger at what your offender did, not at the offender herself. Then let your anger push you toward justice.

Myth 5:

Forgiving means the offender will face no consequences. When we choose to forgive someone, our forgiveness doesn’t “let him off the hook.” Forgiveness also doesn’t mean justice shouldn’t be served.

In December 1983, Pope John Paul II visited a prisoner, Mehmet Ali Agca, at the Rebibbia prison in Rome. In May 1981, Agca had aimed a pistol at the pope and shot him in the chest. After much pain and agony, John Paul recovered, and now he looked Agca in the eye, extended his hand, and said, “I forgive you.”

Even though the pope forgave him, Agca still faced the consequences of his crime. He served a lengthy prison sentence until he finally was released years later.

Myth 6:

When your offender is punished, you’ll find closure.On June 13, 1990, Linda Purnhagen saw her two daughters, Gracie, 16, and Tiffany, 9, for the last time. Dennis Dowthitt, a dangerously sick psychopath, strangled Tiffany to death, then raped Gracie and slit her throat. When authorities discovered the girls’ bodies, they arrested and convicted Dowthitt, and scheduled his execution.

A decade later, as executioners strapped him to his death gurney, Dowthitt apologized for the savage killings. But not even his confession, apology, and execution brought closure for Linda. She was disappointed after the execution, not relieved.

We think we can more easily forgive others if they confess the crime and apologize for the pain they caused. But don’t look to justice, imprisonment, or execution to bring needed closure and healing. Only forgiveness will do that.

The Choice to Forgive

The decision to forgive an offender is probably the hardest choice we can ever make. Some crimes seem too horrible to forgive. Our instincts tell us to avenge the person who caused us pain, not to release him from the debt he owes us. But as Christians, we can’t afford to have unforgiving hearts, for we have been greatly forgiven by God in Christ (Ephesians 4:32).

Only forgiveness can release us from a life of hatred and bitterness. “Forgiving is a journey, sometimes a long one,” wrote Lewis B. Smedes in Shame and Grace. “We may need some time before we get to the station of complete healing, but the nice thing is that we are being healed en route. When we genuinely forgive, we set a prisoner free and then discover the prisoner we set free was us.”

Denise George, www.authordenisegeorge.com, is the author of more than 20 books, including A Woman’s Right to Rest(Leafwood).

Forgiveness ABCs

Acknowledge the hurt. When someone deliberately hurts you, don’t try to diminish the pain and its effect on you. Acknowledge your suffering—and express it aloud to God. Scripture promises: “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18), and “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Psalm 147:3).

Blame the offender. If a person hurts you by mistake, she didn’t mean to inflict pain, so she needs no forgiveness. But if a person intentionally hurts you, then the pain she caused was deliberate. Say aloud: “I personally blame you, (name of offender), because you hurt me on purpose.” Correctly placing the blame readies you to begin the forgiveness process.

Cancel the debt. You’ve acknowledged the hurt and rightly blamed the offender. Now you’re ready to make the willful decision to “cancel the debt” your offender owes you. Find a quiet place to be alone and ask the Lord’s help in forgiving the person who hurt you. You might pray the “Lord’s Prayer” (Matthew 6:9-13) and meditate on verse 12: “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” After you’ve prayed and while you’re still alone, speak aloud your decision to forgive: “(Name of offender), I’ve chosen to forgive you for hurting me; I’ve decided to cancel the debt you owe me.” You’ve now embarked on the process of forgiving the person who hurt you. —D.G.

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July/August 2006, Vol. 28, No. 4, Page 38

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