The digital age means that many more people will find themselves in need of forgiveness

Our lives are exposed in a way like never before. Cell phones can be used to collect pictures and videos,and many people don’t even realize they have been recorded. There is also the modern day paper trail, in the form of cell phone bills, or even by snooping in someone’s phone.

In these ways, our world is in the midst of major change. It was a whole lot easier to conduct an adulterous affair twenty years ago than it is today. Pictute a couple eating at restaurant, but they don’t notice an acquaintance sitting nearby who knows who they are. The cell phone comes out, a button is pushed, and the image can be emailed directly to the betrayed spouse. Or perhaps the pics or video would be uploaded to Facebook, to start a landslide of public humiliation, stress and shame.

The Internet is essentially lawless. Invasions of the privacy of regular people like you and me are very common. Consider how your friends, acquaintances, coworkers and family can upload your picture without permission, and “tag” it with your name, giving anyone with an interest your name.

I don’t agree with the multitude of ways a person’s privacy (and in some cases, their dignity) can be invaded over the Internet. If an embarassing video makes it to YouTube, hundreds of thousands of people could see it. Some video get “hits” that go into the tens of millions of views.

Emails and text messges have been the downfall of many marriages. Facebook is also culpable by facilitating the rekindling of decades old romances. It is ironic that the same social media and tech advances that have helped us can also hurt us. It is very important to consider the consequences before we have text communications that our spouse doesn’t know about.

Cell phones and the Internet create a major vulnerability to those who are doing things they don’t want others to know. Because we are human and we will make mistakes, forgiveness is desperately needed to offset the evils of online slander and secrets that are revealed in a most public manner.

In Matthew, Chapter 18 verses 21-22, it says: Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” [NIV Bible]

Revenge is much more seductive than forgiveness. It can be so difficult to really listen to the other side when we’ve been betrayed. But Jesus gave us these instructions for a reason. When you show people mercy, you are giving them a gift. Your mercy may rub off on them, and they may pass it along to someone in their lives who needs forgiveness as well. The bottom line is this–the more transparent all of the details of our lives become, the more often we will be in need of forgiveness.

 

 

God sees the good in you

As I get older, I have begun to realize how much people hurt themselves with self criticism. I think it’s a much bigger problem than conceit. Of course people will always battle with vanity, hypocrisy, selfishness,etc. But I believe that many of us treat ourselves very harshly in our inner lives. The part of us that no one knows about unless we tell them.

God knows. He knows all about our foibles and wrong decisions, beliefs, and actions. But His mercy is far greater than ours. He can love us when we do wrong. He is willing to forgive and forget, and let us make a new start.

In Psalms Chapter 103, verses 11-14, it says: For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His love for those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him; for He knows how we are formed, He remembers that we are dust. [NIV Bible]

This is one of the greatest blessings that God gives us when we believe in Him. Even when we can’t–or won’t–forgive ourselves, God forgives us. All we have to do is tell Him we’re sorry. I tell God my regrets. I tell Him when I feel guilty and wrong. I am learning how to let God heal me from that inner pain that no one else knows about. I am learning how not to stand in judgment of myself (especially my younger self!). It’s taken a long time, and it’s still difficult for me to forgive myself when I hurt someone’s feelings or when I feel anger rise up inside of me. I sin in my thoughts and my words and my actions. My hands are not clean, except through the shed blood of Jesus. The only righteousness I have is through the Son of God. The only true relief from that voice of accusation inside of us is God. He is the remedy for the way we punish ourselves for our faults. Believe He is who He says He is, and allow Him to do a work inside of you that you can’t do for yourself! God will pick you up, and He won’t stop loving you!

God can help you cope with painful thoughts

The past few days, I’ve been fighting a battle in my own mind. I’ve not been feeling well lately, with nausea and abdominal pain, coupled with uncontrolled anxiety. I’ve had IBS since I was five, but lately it’s been worse than usual, with the new addition of persistent nausea and a loss of appetite. It’s been really hard, and I found myself very upset yesterday, wondering how long this fresh hell would last. I had an appointment this morning that I really wanted to keep, and yesterday it was looking likely I would have to cancel.

I’ve also been suffering emotionally lately, with painful thoughts of regret, fear of losing people I love and fear of being seriously ill. I was on my last leg with all of this yesterday, and I felt I couldn’t endue this double assault on my mind and my body. I prayed furiously and desperately to God, and He showed up!

I was at His feet. I told Him I was tired and scared. I told Him I was frustrated and I wanted to be blessed. And I told Him I knew He could help me. He picked me up and carried me. He created in me a strength to keep going. The Holy Spirit took hold of me and comforted me.

Today, I am grateful and humbled by the way He has lifted me up. In Isaiah Chapter 41, verse 10, God says: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” [NIV Bible] I felt Him pick me up! I could feel His presence with me, and I knew that He truly understood everything that was hurting me. I was dismayed and afraid, and He soothed me and helped me release the nervousness that had me in a vice grip.

Today, my nausea is gone. I was able to keep my appointment, and He is guarding my thoughts to keep me from a downward spiral. He has prompted me to proclaim my faith that He wants to bless me and heal me again and again in my mind. He set up a hedge between me and the awful thoughts that were consuming me, and I am so grateful! I praise You, Lord, because You are so good to me! Thank You for loving me and blessing me! Thank You for guarding me heart and my mind! Thank You for upholding me in Your righteous right hand!

God can and will do the same thing for you. Come to Him and tell Him how much you hurt. Tell Him you’re angry and tired and desperate. Tell Him you’re frustrated and afraid. Tell Him you want to be blessed by Him! Have faith that He will help you and keep proclaiming your faith that He will act on your behalf. He will show up!

I’ve made mistakes, and God still loves me

We all make mistakes. And all of us have regrets. I’ve hurt people, not even realizing the extent of my wrongs until many years later. I am a kind and loving person, but that hasn’t kept me from making bad choices that affected other people. I am truly humbled when I look back at my younger years and see the wreckage I’ve been responsible for.

The weight of guilt is very heavy. It’s a ball and chain. When I was younger, it was easier for me to distract myself from uncomfortable truths. I was on to the next thing. I didn’t understand the pain I caused, and I wasn’t honest with myself about how it must have felt to be on the receiving end. I didn’t truly see the other side until years later, and then I felt very guilty.

Before I knew God, there was nothing I could do about my guilt except live with it. It wasn’t until I confessed my sins to God and asked Him to come into my life that I felt forgiveness. God knew everything I had done, and yet He still welcomed me. He knew every embarassing, tawdry detail and He still loved me.

God’s love is durable. God is strong enough to know the dirty truth and not turn away. He is loving enough to love me despite the unlovely things I’ve done. I’ve been a saved Christian since 2001. Over the years, God has revealed important truths to me about how my behavior has affected other people. He does it gently, with love, and He invites me to ask for forgiveness. There is no better remedy for guilt than the forgiveness of God.

In John Chapter 8, verses 3-12, it is written: The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery.They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing Him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning Him, He straightened up and said to them, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this, those who heard began to go away, one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you, Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” [NIV Bible]

Even when we make big mistakes, God has mercy on us. Our part is to confess our sins and ask for His forgiveness. We can’t always make it right with the people we’ve hurt. Sometimes they won’t forgive us or even hear us out. Other times we can’t approach them with our apologies because it would cause distress for them or their families. But we can always bring our guilt to God, and we can feel the relief of knowing that He knows that we’re sorry.

Let God love you in the new year

I usually don’t make new year’s resolutions. And it certainly is not because I don’t need to change things about myself! 🙂 It’s notoriously difficult to make these resolutions stick, and January doesn’t tend to be my most chipper time of year. After Christmas is over, I feel a little let down, and it’s hard to crack the whip on myself in this tender state. So I show myself some mercy, and I work toward making changes over time.

I think it’s really important to prioritize when it comes to making any resolutions, on Jan. 1 or at any date of the year. You can’t do it all, so put what you really want to change first on the list. Changing habits is hard work. Even small changes can affect your whole schedule, and you have to give yourself some leeway in other areas to make way for something new.

My priorities for this year are to read my Bible faithfully and regularly, to trust God more, and to resume regular exercise!!

Reading the Bible on a regular basis is not a given when you are a Christian. There is always something else to be done, other tasks to perform, or just a need to relax and do nothing for a while. It can be difficult to stay faithful to reading the Bible, because it requires time and attention. A lot of people use their smart phones to download the Bible, so they can read it any time they have a moment. You can also buy the Bible on CDs that you can listen while you drive. I don’t have either of these, so I do it the old-fashioned way. And I can tell you that when I do make the time to read the Bible, I am strengthened and helped.

We get to know God by reading the Bible. Even if we are reading something we don’t understand, the Holy Spirit is building us up and giving us wisdom. You may not be able to feel this happening, but it is. Don’t give up on reading the Bible because you don’t understand everything you read. Persist!! You don’t have to understand it all, you just have to let God do His work in you and be willing to hear from Him. Carve out time to read your Bible and you will see the changes over time. You will be less anxious about things you can’t control. You will see God in other people and in your circumstances. You will start to let your guard down, and the Holy Spirit will teach you how to trust God more.

Trusting God means that you believe He loves you and that you can rely on Him at all times. It can be hard to relax and not try to do everything yourself. But God wants you to fall backwards into His arms without looking to make sure He’s there. 🙂

When I make God a priority, there is a better rhythm to my life. I feel more at ease and less afraid of the future. I hear God’s voice much more clearly, and He gives me His confidence to get through the days. Don’t deprive yourself of the nourishment that comes from reading the Bible!

Talk to God (pray) about everything that concerns you. Don’t leave Him out of anything. He already knows about all of it, so there is no need for embarassment or hesitation. Do you need God’s help for an addiction? It’s no secret to God, and He wants to help you with it. Do you need God’s help to cope with emotions you can’t control? Fire away! Do you need God’s help to improve your marriage? Ask Him! He has seen it all and heard it all. You don’t have to pretend with God. You don’t have to project an image. God is happy to hear from the “real” you, and He will accept and love you no matter what your struggles are!

Exercise always seems to make everyone’s short list of goals. I (mostly) exercised regularly in 2012, and I was surprised to find that it DID make me feel better emotionally, and it DID help with energy. The many benefits of exercise are always touted, but it is difficult to start exercising. I think that it’s among the toughest changes to get started with, but you will gain momentum by pushing through with the help of God. Pray about it. Ask God for motivation. Ask Him for energy. Trust Him to help you make important changes that you haven’t been able to do on your own. Let Him help you every day, don’t try to go it alone, and remember that you are valuable to God just as you are today. You are a work in progress. And if you don’t keep your new year’s resolutions, you are in good company. 🙂

 

 

God’s mercy for us inspires our mercy for others

God is merciful. He is willing to forgive us when we do wrong, and love us despite our faults. It can be difficult to understand how God loves us unconditionally, even when we do things that we know He doesn’t want us to do. We’re used to the way of the world that says to punish those who wrong you, and not to forgive them. Holding a grudge and getting revenge when possible is often the default position, a foregone reaction to an offense. It goes against the grain for us to decline the urge to strike back or nurse anger.

Jesus speaks of a different way in Luke Chapter 6, verses 35 and 36. He says, “But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for He is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.” [KJV Bible]

When we yield to God’s will for us, our flesh isn’t happy. It’s not comfortable to deny ourselves the “right” to be angry and unforgiving to people who hurt us. But the more we do it, the easier it gets. God calls us to show who He is to the people around us. God loves us unconditionally, and He doesn’t withhold forgiveness from us. When we recognize how often God has forgiven us, it helps us to have mercy on other people.