Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Draw A Heart Over Those Offenses

We make lists for everything. We have our to-do lists, our party lists, our grocery lists, and so on. We carry them in our purses, in our notepads, in our computers and phones. We are the list keepers. While making the grocery list we go through the fridge and cabinets checking for what isn't there and what should be. When we make our invitation lists we think of those friends and family that impact our life. At Christmas we even make gift lists. We want to give back to those who have given to us at one time or another. Lists are a good thing, right? They help us remember. They keep us in check of what needs are to be done and chores to check off.

What happens when a disagreement between you and your husband occurs? If your like me, you bring out the list. The list is powerful and its aimed at the heart. Now that disagreement has gone back two months to the last disagreement and as if that wasn't enough to help we go back two years ago when the disagreement burst out of control. We bring our lists to the battle as if the mention of every offense will some how win the war for us. But that list of offenses we keep doesn't win the war. That's not even battling on fair ground.

Our friend forgets the date we planned to spend the day together. This isn't the first time it's happened. In fact, it happens often. You wanna know how often? I can give you date, time and offense just by checking my list. That's right, the list that is built and managed in my heart. A heart filled with offense keeping has no room for a Jesus who wants so much for me to have a forgiving heart and a life filled and lived in love. When we are forgotten it is easy to feel as if we don't matter much at all. We plan a day out in excitement, but then that days comes and we are let down.

"Love does not seek its own, is not provoked." 1 Corinthians 13:5


Offenses are wall builders. They are heart breakers. They are reminders of the past and they keep us from moving forward. Forward into a life of peace. Oh, how we point fingers. We seek forgiveness only to keep lists of the wrongs of others. We can have an attitude of, I'm going to break your heart before you break mine once again. Have you been there? It's just a stones toss away. There isn't mercy in list keeping. No grace found in those dotted i's and underlined anger. We hold on. Why? Because we fear if we let go of the offenses we then in some way lose the battle and open our heart for more wounds.

Name the offense. They are everywhere. They surround us. We are an imperfect people expecting perfection. Sometimes we offend not meaning to at all. Sometimes offense is meant, but its what we do with it that matters. The longer we hold on to the offense the more anger builds. Everything changes when we hold offenses close. They impact us so strongly it can change who we are. After a while we no longer look for the best in people, but expect the worst. Am I getting close?

Our daughter forgets our birthday. Our son tells another lie. Our mother shares what was only for her ears. Our husband doesn't notice how hard we worked on dinner and skips it all together to spend another evening with the guys. The list that keeps us down. The list that holds no power over the other who has offended, but keeps us in chains. Forgiveness frees us. It's time to erase the offenses. It's time to put down the pen that writes in red anger. We cannot seek forgiveness in a list of wrongs. Praise God we have a Savior who keeps no list of wrongs. We have a Savior who can right every wrong. Beauty from ash can only be found in Jesus. Forgiveness begins with me.

"If someone does wrong to you, forgive that person because the Lord forgave you." Colossians 3:13


Forgiveness isn't easy. Is is really suppose to be? It's part of our journey. It's learning grace. We need the Lord to forgive. It is His strength and mercy combined that bring us a new peace when we begin to erase the wrongs. Forgiveness isn't so much for the other person. There will be times when we hear the words, "Please forgive me", but there too will be times where no forgiveness is asked. What do we do then? We forgive and we love. Why? Because that is what our Savior has done for us. That is what the cross brings to our lives. Forgiveness, grace and mercy. We forgive because our Savior forgives. We lay those lists at the feet of our Savior. We tear off the page of offenses and give God the room He needs to start healing. Remember the Savior who forgives?  Forgiven forever and to be remembered no more. Yes, that is the forgiveness we too must offer.

Forgiveness doesn't mean the offense was okay. It's not giving permission for that person to hurt us again. Forgiveness is understanding we make mistakes. Forgiveness is showing grace to the one who has hurt us and it is releasing us from continuing in the pain. The longer we remain in the pain of the offense the more control we are allowing it over our lives.

When anger is present healing cannot begin. Healing begins in the heart of the humble. In the heart of those who seek the Lord. It's not easy to forgive, but Christ makes it all possible. He frees us from the offense and He tears down the wall we have built and replaces it with a shroud of love.

"Love does not count up wrongs that have been done." 1 Corinthians 13:5
 
 How is it that we justify all of our wrongs? We expect forgiveness, but are not willing to do the same. Where is the mercy and compassion? In Jesus we find a hope and a future. In Him it is possible to let go of those lists. How? We trust Him. He knows our heart like no other possibly can. It's time to be honest with Him. Open your heart up and speak to to Him. It doesn't have to be eloquent. "Jesus, I'm angry at my husband. I can't believe he said those words to me. I don't understand him. He isn't the same. Fix him, Lord. Make him better?" Have you uttered those words to the Savior? I have. I have prayed those words and what I have heard from my Savior is, "Forgive and trust Me." I am not accountable for the  behavior of any other person, but my own. If I can change my attitude and my response, might I become the woman of God to inspire another? If I speak in peace, the Lord is sure to show Himself in every situation.
 
Prayer is powerful. Jesus is mighty. I am to pray for my offenders. God can change the heart of any man. With Him there is always hope found. No situation is too big for God. Hold on. Pray and seek Jesus with all your heart. Make the first move to Jesus and get ready to see Him do a mighty work.
 
There are times I just open up and share every anger that has burdened my heart. I give each one to Jesus and trust Him. I don't trust so that I get my way, but that the Lord will not only work in the heart of the one who offended, but in my heart. May He change me through every offense to look more like Him. I am human just like you. We get hurt and instead of forgiving we keep count. Who is that helping, really? Forgiveness is freedom. Forgiveness creates second chances and third chances. People are going to let us down. People we love and who love us. We cannot have love without forgiveness. You may say, "But you don't know what she did to me". This is true, but Jesus knows. Jesus is offended daily by those who choose not to accept Him. Friends, we have a choice to forgive or to hold on. In letting go we are trusting Jesus.
 
This world is full of offenses. Turn the television and watch the 6:00 news. Offense is all around us. When we open up our heart to love we are going to be offended. Those hurts are going to come, but in faith we continue to love. We love so that God's love is able to pour out of us.
 
We become offended by our church. The gossip we have no control over. The unjust judgement. By our teacher and co-worker. Our government offends us. Friends, offense is everywhere. So, what are we to do? We are to live as Christ has called us. We are not the exception, but the example to the world. Anger only turns to bitterness and when bitterness takes root all ugly begins. Change begins with me. Within my heart I can seek the Lord and He is sure and true to forgive me. He washes me in His grace.

Friends, isn't it time to extend that same forgiveness we seek daily? It's time to look beyond the list and allow mercy to shine before us. We can make the choice to share with the person who offended us. We can speak the words to them, "I forgive you". In us opening up we are showing there is a better way. We are showing grace. How can we not? We are sinners in need of grace. We don't have to wait to hear the words, "Please forgive me", before we forgive. Let the love of Christ be bigger than the offense. May we continue to love and walk in grace. There is no weakness is forgiving. It is there in the light of grace we find a strength that brings a love able to cast out all wrongs.
 
 "And now abide faith, hope and love, these three; but the greatest of these is love." 1 Corinthians 13:13    

"Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not  provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails." 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a
 
Dear Heavenly Father, please show me the grace I need to forgive today. Give me the strength I need to set down every offense. Lord, help to trust in You. Help me to be the woman of peace You created me to be. Help me to bring peace to every situation. May anger not be my first response, but my last. May I first call upon You for guidance. Let Your love flow through my words, my actions, my life always, so that You gain glory and honor. Lord, forgive me for holding onto the offenses of others. Show me the truth. Show me how to forgive and make way for Your sweet grace.
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