Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Finding Freedom in Forgiveness

Mountain View - Stealing Your Breath with Views of the Heart of God

Are you stuck in a place of bitterness? Have you been deeply wounded? Are you angry at those who have hurt you? If you are, I want to encourage you today with a message of "forgiveness" and the incredible transformation it can bring to our lives.

In 1983, Gary Skinner did what God asked him to do.  He moved his young family and started Kampala Pentecostal Church (“KPC”) in the capital city of Uganda.  The church is housed in the building that once served as Idi Amin’s military headquarters.  Idi Amin was one of the most vicious dictators in world history. His military headquarters frequently held detainees for interrogation.  Interrogation often included torture and death.  When KPC established residency in the building, the staff literally had to wash blood off the walls – a vivid reminder of the building’s ugly past.  Today Kampala Pentecostal Church flourishes in ministry to thousands of members.  Within the walls of that building, voices are lifted in the highest praise and people are experiencing the great love of God.  The church building itself is a radical picture of the transformation that occurs through Jesus Christ. 

God is still in the business of transforming lives today.  He wants to transform yours.  He doesn’t want to transform you because He is driven by rules or a desire to control you.  He is driven by a passionate love for you.  He wants you to be whole and healthy.  When you drop destructive behaviors, you will find freedom and wholeness. 

The inability to forgive is destructive.  You can’t fulfill your potential and live abundantly when you’re chained in bitterness.  It eats away at you.  Freedom comes when you move beyond anger to forgive those who have hurt you.  

During my teenage years, deep emotional pain filled my heart.  Our family seemed to move from one crisis to another with very little stability in between. My parents divorced, a stepfather was sexually attracted to me, another was an alcoholic, and my mother tried to commit suicide.  Reading the Bible in my early twenties, I was convicted to find forgiveness for those who had caused pain in my life.  At first, I offered forgiveness with my mind, but it did not live in my heart.  It took 3 years of prayer for God to get me to the place where I could truly release my pain and bitterness to forgive from the heart.  When I did, my soul found peace with the people whose actions had wounded me. 

It’s no wonder God instructs us to forgive others.  The healing that comes through forgiveness is truly one of His most magnificent miracles. But let’s face it.  Forgiving others (and ourselves) is tough.  We can say we forgive someone with our mouths, but we can only find peace when forgiveness is rooted in our hearts. 

Jesus Himself reminds us in Matthew 21:22 that God will give us whatever we ask in His name; however, He will only give us those things that are in harmony with His will for us.  He will never give us anything that is outside of His will.  God’s will for us is found in the Bible, and His words are clear about forgiveness and mercy.

Forgiveness is a command – and it’s reciprocal.

“Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”
                                Colossians 3:13

“Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”
                                                        Luke 6:36

Here are some things to remember:
1) Reflect on your past mistakes. God has forgiven you. As you strive to find forgiveness for others, remember what God has done for you. God has convicted me personally about this. He has gently asked me how I can desire for him to bring punishment on someone who has hurt me when I have escaped eternal punishment because of what Jesus did for me (taking punishment for my sins).

2) Forgiveness is a character trait of God. He wants us to be like him. Ask yourself if there is someone you need to offer forgiveness to today.  Write their name(s) down now.

3) Look over the list of names you wrote down.  Pray for each person on that list everyday (and each time you feel anger toward them).  Use the following prayer if you’d like, inserting each person’s name into the blanks.

Merciful Father,

You have forgiven me for so many things. I recognize this and thank you for it. But my heart is so weary and broken these days. The journey lately has been so very difficult and I find myself wondering when I will be able to breathe again - to live again - to love again. My heart is hard and I don't like it. I want that to change. In my anguish God, I kneel before you and ask you to set me free. Release the chains around my bitter and unforgiving heart. Help me to see _______________ through your eyes. I pray that _______________ will begin to grasp the immensity of your love and that ____________________ will be comforted and changed by that knowledge. I pray that you will fill ______________ with knowledge of your will and that ______________ will prosper and be strengthened. Today I declare that ___________________ no longer owes me a thing for I have found everything I need in you. And I recognize the truth that I have been forgiven much. Because I have been forgiven much, I choose to forgive ________________ much.

4) Depend completely on Christ's strength and power. We are human. Forgiveness is painful and difficult for us. Christ is able to help us because he has "been there, done that." His friends abandoned Him.  Others mocked Him, mistreated Him, humiliated Him, tortured Him, and crucified Him.  Although they offered no apology and showed no remorse, Jesus offered mercy.  Even before they asked for forgiveness (and some never would), He showed them grace.  Even as He hung on the cross in agony, Jesus forgave them from His heart.    (Luke 23:23-34) He will give you the power to wash the stains off the walls of your heart and move into a bright new future free from bitterness and anger.

Know that I'm cheering you on from my place here at The Warming House. I believe in you and know that you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you.

With Great Confidence in the Character of God,

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