Thursday, April 19, 2018
When confronted with fear, a commonly quoted scripture is 2 Timothy 1:7, "God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind." It's comforting to know that God has given us these things, and that the fear we feel is not from the Lord. What's even more comforting and cool is when you use a little logic and apply this scripture to other scriptures. Let's examine more closely the three things we are told that God has given us:
Acts 1:8 says that "I shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon me." Then 2 Corinthians 12:9 says that "power is perfected in our weakness." So that means that when the Holy Spirit comes upon me, I am perfected in my weakness and the Holy Spirit is perfected in me as well. Not only am I perfected, but that power--the Holy Spirit--actually is the Kingdom of God on earth. I Corinthians 4:20-21 says that "the kingdom of God does not consist in words, but in power." This means that the kingdom of God is the Holy Spirit. This is further confirmed by Romans 14:17, which says that "the kingdom of God...is righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit." So therefore, kingdom of God = power = Holy Spirit.
I John 4:8 tells us that "Love is from God," and that "God is love." This is speaking of God the Father. If it were Jesus or the Holy Spirit, then John would have delineated between the three. There are countless scriptures that speak of God's love for us, the most famous is John 3:16, when God the Father gave His Son: "For God so love the world that He gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life." But it's so important to remember that it's not only an action the Father shows toward us, but it's who He is. He embodies love. The Father = love.
A Sound Mind
The Greek word used in 2 Timothy for sound mind is sōphronismos. This word means an admonishing or calling to soundness of mind, to moderation and self-control (Strong's). So some translations say "self-control" instead of a sound mind. But let's look at the word sōphronismos a little more deeply. It's a compound word--which is two words put together to make one word. The first part of the Greek word is from sodzo, which means to be delivered or saved. The second part of the word is from phroneo, which refers to a person’s mind, logical thinking, will and emotions. What is our soul comprised of, but our mind, will and emotions. So the word sōphronismos literally means "to save my soul!" Who is the One who came to save my soul? Jesus. A sound mind = Jesus.
So back to 2 Timothy 1:7. We are told that "God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind." When we apply logic to this statement, it tells us that God didn't give us a spirit of fear, but He gave us the Holy Spirit, the Father and Jesus. When I think about this scripture and the deeper meaning of what God is telling us, it ignites a passion in me that can't be contained. God speaks to us so much more deeply than just the mere words on the page. I am continually in awe of how magnificent and glorious, imaginative and omniscient our God truly is!
Tuesday, April 17, 2018
One of the hardest things Jesus ever asked us to do was to forgive those who have hurt us. In our minds, we say, "He hurt me, so he should feel the same pain I am feeling right now." In our human capacity of thinking and feeling, vengeance only seems natural. However, that's not what Jesus did, and that's not grace.
When our enemies hurt us, I feel it is slightly easier to forgive. We expect our enemies to hurt us--we don't like one another, so it stands to reason that we would hurt one another. The need for vengeance is still there, but we can allow ourselves to forgive them just a little bit easier. What's much more difficult is when those whom we love hurt us. We expect so much more from the ones we love. They have given us unspoken promises just by saying the words, "I love you." Inherent in those three little words are so much more: "I will protect you," "I will be faithful to you," "I will think about your needs above my own." When we truly love someone, their hurt is our hurt.
Sometimes when we are aggrieved by those we love, it's completely unintentional. When our loved ones hurt us unintentionally, it's much easier to forgive. In addition, their level of contrition has a direct correlation with our ability to forgive quickly. To take it even a step further, when our loved ones hurt us unintentionally, we sometimes need to examine ourselves--our expectations, our demands, our attitudes--to see if what they said or did should have even hurt us in the first place.
Mikayla made a flippant comment the other day about my weight--a sensitive topic for any woman. It cut to the quick, and emotion quickly rose to my eyes. I looked at her and asked how she could say something like that. Tears welled in her eyes as she realized that her comment was not funny, but hurtful. She immediately apologized and asked for forgiveness. Her brokenness at hurting me endeared her to me even more. It took .087 seconds to forgive her as she climbed into my lap, and I honestly don't even remember the words she said.
Mikayla's immediate compunction made it so easy to forgive her, especially since I knew she didn't mean to hurt me in the first place. But when our loved ones hurt us intentionally, that's when the sting of betrayal, disloyalty and dishonesty hits us the hardest. Sometimes it's not that our loved ones are hurting us on purpose, but the hurt is the unintentional consequences of their intentional actions.
For example, my college boyfriend cheated on me with my best friend, who was also my roommate at the time. I don't believe he really intentionally sought out my best friend in order to just hurt me. He intentionally sought her out, but because of his selfishness and lack of love for me, the unintended consequences of his behavior crushed me. Conversely, my ex-husband hurt me many times intentionally. Because of his own brokenness, hurts and need to be loved, he would intentionally say things he knew would deeply wound me. At times, he took great pleasure in causing me emotional pain.
Both of these hurts--intentional hurt and the unintentional consequences of intentional actions are the most difficult to forgive. Forgiveness means that you no longer hold that person responsible for what they did to you. It means that you can release them from their actions, and can no longer be hurt by these actions. Many times, we think we have forgiven, only to be reminded of what that person did. We are then confronted with the anger, hurt and frustration all over again. "I thought I had forgiven him?" we ask ourselves. I know I did. I still do. I know that I have forgiven my ex-boyfriend, as I no longer must see him or deal with him. My ex-husband, however, we must still co-parent our children. I am constantly reminded of the things he did or said. He continues to do and say horrific things to me; he slings accusations; he falsely attacks my character. I have to forgive him not only of those new sins against me, but all of the old hurts and wounds that those new accusations bring back to my mind.
In Matthew 18:21, Peter asks Jesus how many times we are supposed to forgive. Verse 22 says, "Jesus answered, 'I tell you, not seven times, but seventy times seven.'" That's just ridiculous. Do the math on that one--does Jesus literally mean we are supposed to forgive someone 490 times?
What I've learned over the past five years since my divorce is that forgiveness is a process. It's not a one-time occurrence--sometimes it might take 490 times to forgive someone for one offense. The Bible tells us that enemy comes to steal, kill and destroy. One of the easiest ways to destroy us is to keep us in bitterness and anger toward other people. Bitterness will eat away at our souls, and it will destroy us from the inside out. In Galatians 5:19-21, anger, discord and dissension are listed right beside sexual immorality, drunkenness and idolatry as sins that will cause lives to be destroyed and an inability to inherit the kingdom of God. Hebrews 12:14-15 tells us to "Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many." This tells us that we have to be able to get rid of bitterness in order to see the Lord. That's some heavy stuff--I won't be able to be holy or see the Lord if I'm still bitter toward someone? That's a sure-fire way that the enemy can keep me from fulfilling my God-given purpose: keep me bitter.
I have forgiven my ex-husband, and I have to keep forgiving him every day. Every time that I am reminded of something he did or said to me, I have to forgive him all over again. Every time I forgive him for the same grievance, it gets easier and easier. I've probably maxed out that 490 Jesus commanded us to forgive. But I have to walk in forgiveness. I have to choose forgiveness. Every day.