The Journey of Forgiveness.

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Recently, as I sat in worship I was pondering the greatness of God’s love for me, what little we can actually comprehend, and I went back to about 14 years ago.  It was a painful time in my life, but the love of God was ever present and ever pursuing me.  The key to much of my freedom over the years hasn’t just been receiving the forgiveness of Christ, but forgiving those who wounded me deeply…even forgiving myself.

I think about the women I work with, beautiful, precious and brokenhearted.  For some, the greatest steps of healing they will walk through will be to forgive those who exploited, abused and wounded them deeply.  While those will be some of the hardest steps to make they will also be some of the most freeing.  I love the quote floating around about how keeping unforgiveness in your heart is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die, because it is true.  Nothing binds so much as unforgiveness.  Maybe that is why the journey of forgiving seems daunting, painful and at times unattainable, because it is possibly one of the most freeing journeys to make.

Maya Angelou once said, “You can’t forgive without loving. And I don’t mean sentimentality. I don’t mean mush. I mean having enough courage to stand up and say, ‘I forgive. I’m finished with it.’”  That seems to fit with Jesus’ final words on the cross, “It is finished.”

The cross doesn’t just represent freedom, but forgiveness.

Jesus made that journey over 2000 years ago.  It was the hardest journey anyone would ever have to make.  He took each step strengthened by the power of His Father and the Holy Spirit and His passionate love for us.  His journey of forgiveness paved the way so that we could make that same journey of forgiveness that leads to freedom.  Remember that love keeps no record of wrongs…that means forgiveness is an act of love.  Jesus went through the ultimate act of love…He forgave and still does today.    I don’t believe that forgiveness is so much about loving those who hurt you, but more about loving yourself enough to let go.

Let’s follow that lead and walk in the freedom He intends.  Take the journey that leads to a whole heart.  During this month of “love,” make a decision to love yourself a little better…you are worth it.

Love doesn’t exploit.

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Characteristics of Love Series

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It ALWAYS protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 1 Corinthians 13:6-7  (emphasis my own)

January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month, and with more people enslaved now than ever in history we can safely say that we have a monstrous problem on our hands.  Human beings are buying and selling each other; men, women and little children.  While I say the word “human beings” I recognize what drives this industry…evil, pure evil.

Women and children are forced to sell their bodies (actually someone is selling it for them), forced to have abortions, and are becoming drug addicts just to try to mentally, emotionally and spiritually escape their daily horror.  There have been times when I have looked at what seems like an unconquerable situation, where heartache reigns and evil triumphs.  Then, I remember what love is and who love is and my heart is renewed within me.  Isaiah 61 promises that Christ came to set the captives free and God isn’t a man that He should lie (Numbers 23:19) and it also says that He has given us what we need to overcome.

We can have faith, we can have hope, but the greatest of these is love (1 Corin. 13:13) and love is the greatest thing we can give.  Remembering, that real love doesn’t exploit and it is the action of love that will bring an end to this atrocity.  Love will not buy sex, love will not sell another human being, love will rescue, love will heal, love will reach out and love will not exploit because it always protects.

Next time you see a picture in the news of a woman arrested for prostitution, don’t skip by the article, don’t skip by the picture.  Look at her, have compassion and pray for her (act in love).  Next time you hear about a prostitution ring (trafficking ring) being busted, don’t ignore it…thank God (the One who is love).

I also urge you to get involved, even if it’s only for January…do something because someone needs you…heck the world needs you.  Be the love someone needs because they matter.  Make a decision to protect…make a decision to love.

Characteristic of Love #6…love protects (it doesn’t exploit) 

Want to learn more about human trafficking and what you can do?

Contact Us

Sharedhope.org

Polarisproject.org

Exoduscry.com

Books about trafficking:

Renting Lacy by Linda Smith

Refuse to Do Nothing by Shayne Moore, Kimberly McOwen Yim

The Slave Across the Street by Theresa Flores

Movies:
Nefarious, Merchant of Souls
Not My Life
Not For Sale
Born into Brothels
Half the Sky

Love looks ahead.

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Characteristics of love series

When Jesus died on the cross He wasn’t looking backwards…He was looking straight ahead.  Hebrews 12:2 says, “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.  For the joy set before Him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Emphasis my own) We were and are still that joy.  He was looking ahead, He knew His purpose on that history making day, He came for us.

I find this extremely comforting when I have flesh out days and lose my temper with my kids.  I find it extremely freeing when shame or regret tries to grab ahold of me because Jesus endured the cross and the shame for the joy that was set before Him…me and you.

You see, love looks ahead.  It offers new mercies each and every day.  In fact, it says in Deuteronomy 30:15, “See! I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction,” which means that each day God sets before us life and death.  No matter what we choose He is there and the morning comes and His everlasting patience sets before us life and death again.  Now, I am not saying that when we sin there are no consequences, what I am saying is that Jesus paid for our sin…period…it is finished.  We look back, hold records of wrong against others and ourselves and wait for the axe to fall.

If we just understood who we are in Him, we would choose life more and more.  If we understood that love keeps no record of wrong (1 Corinthians 13 and Psalm 103:12) and it knows the end from the beginning we would live differently.  If we understood that God, who IS love, doesn’t love like we mere humans understand it, because His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8).

Walt Disney once said, “Keep moving forward.” Well, you can’t move forward very well if you keep looking back. Think about this: He sent His son while we were still sinners, knowing full well that not everyone would love Him in return and we get so lost in our past and at times our present.  Yet, I believe God in His infinite wisdom looks ahead.  Maybe today He wants us to know that He knows there is a better tomorrow, but today we need to know He loves us no matter what.  That is life changing.  That’s the love I want to know more.

Characteristic of love #5: it looks ahead

Love is looooong.

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Characteristics of Love Series

The scripture passage in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 about the qualities and characteristics of love is probably one of the most quoted parts of the Bible, but may be the hardest to live out.  You know the one…”love is patient, love is kind, etc.”

The first part of (v.4) says, “Love is patient,” and while most versions say “patient,” some say, “Suffers long” or “long-suffering” such as the NKJV.  I don’t know about you, but at times being patient does seem like I am suffering long…so I can see why they are used interchangeably.

Dictionary.com defines long-suffering as:
adjective
1. enduring injury, trouble, or provocation (angers, irritation, instigation) long and patiently.

noun
2. long and patient endurance of injury, trouble, or provocation (angers, irritation, instigation)

Being patient sometimes means we suffer a little bit, never really anything too life-threatening or damaging to our self-worth.  I experienced a little long-suffering last night, but soon realized how it was for the benefit of another…and really wasn’t suffering compared to what someone else was going through.

A friend and I went out to eat to meet up and chat.  The restaurant we had chosen was closed and so we went down the road a ways and found another.  We sat down, ordered waters (as if you need to know that) and waited…and waited…and waited to order.  I was beginning to get a smidge perturbed that our waitress had not returned and was no where to be found.  The restaurant was not empty, but not super busy either.

It wasn’t until I realized that this woman was the only waitress (and bartender) for the whole restaurant and then I spotted her there behind the bar…crying.  “Ok, God, my food isn’t so important.”

All too often we do not see why we need to be better in the long-suffering department.  We don’t stop to think that our patience will positively affect another person.  To me long-suffering isn’t just about being patient, but caring about other people around us.  Not being door mats, but a little less self-centered.

It would have been easier to remain annoyed at that waitress and not be understanding.  It would have been easier to get up, leave and go to another restaurant instead of asking her if she was ok.  It would have been super easy to not leave a very good tip.  Yet, people need to know that someone cares, is patient and isn’t so self-centered in their moment of stress…that they are more important than burgers and sweet potato fries.

Remember, that love isn’t just “long in the tooth,” but it is also loooooong-suffering at times too.  It is also probably good to remember that God doesn’t command us to do something that He doesn’t do daily (love thy neighbor).  He is pretty patient and loving with us.

 Characteristic of love #3: it is looooong.

A Love that Protects

January has been named Human Trafficking Awareness Month and January 11th is Human Trafficking Awareness Day…a large step in the right direction for America.  Maybe it isn’t a coincidence that this comes before the month of “love”…February and Valentine’s Day.

Our culture has a problem with slavery today because it indulges in lust not true love.  The lust after one another has created a dark society of prostituted women and children, women and children forced into pornography, brutality, murder and the complete devaluing of human life and the feminine form.

We could look out to other nations and say, “well we aren’t as bad as they are.”  I’m not so sure about that.  While it is true that women are valued more highly in the US than say, in India or China, we still have a deep lust lurking in the hearts of many and it is only masked better here in the United States than elsewhere.  Did you know that prostitution is illegal in Las Vegas, but that Las Vegas is one of the world capitals for traffickers to bring their victims?  Did you know that the prostitution of women and children isn’t just happening in places like Vegas, Los Angeles, and New York City, but it is happening in the small towns of America?  Did you know that at least 17- 18,000 women and children are trafficking annually in the United States?  That doesn’t include those brought into the US from other nations.  Did you know that the average age of entry into the sex trade in the US is the age of 12? THAT’S RIGHT 12!

Lust is a counterfeit of love.  Jesus is pure love and He came to set captives free.

It’s time our culture stops indulging in a counterfeit and goes right for the real thing.

We must stop failing to love one another and begin valuing life as a beautiful thing, not something to be used and tossed aside.  When we begin to love one another and not lust the demand for women and children to be used horrifically will cease.

As it says in 1 Corinthians 13:4- 8 (emphasis my own):

Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does NOT DISHONOR others, it is NOT SELF SEEKING, it is not easily angered and it keeps not record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  IT ALWAYS PROTECTS, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

LOVE NEVER FAILS…

**All statistics can be found at sharedhope.org or polarisproject.org