Bitterness

Hebrews 12:15
“. . . looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled; . . .”

Bitterness is the byproduct of being unwilling to forgive. We are warned against allowing bitterness to take root in our lives, thus springing up and defiling us. Roots, for the most part, are the unseen part of the tree. We understand for a large tree to be able to support itself, its roots must go deep and spread wide. Bitterness begins to develop its root system in us the moment we choose to keep record of wrong, rather than forgive the wrong doings of others. While we are able to continue on for some time unaffected by it, this unforgiveness will soon spring up and bitterness will reveal itself.

It seems to me, bitterness may have been one of the chief causes behind Moses’ failure, which kept him from entering the promised land. Scripture records that the children of Israel once again complained about their circumstances in the desert. They were thirsty, and rather than trusting in the provision of God, they looked to Moses and began to complain that their needs were not being met. Moses went to the Lord with the problem and was told to speak to the rock and water would be provided for the people. Instead of speaking to the rock, Moses unleashed his fury on the people, then in his rage he struck the rock. God, in His mercy, provided for the people. However, Moses was disciplined for his disobedience; he was forbidden to enter Canaan. The punishment might seem severe if we do not keep in mind that the spiritual leaders must rightly represent the Lord to the people, or they will develop a wrong view of God. This was not the first time God provided water in the wilderness, He had done it years earlier, and in response, Moses named the place “Meribah” meaning contention.

This has always struck me. Moses took a stick, struck a rock and water, enough for two million people, was provided in the desert. Rather than naming the place “God is Awesome” or “Great Provision”, or something else that would forever remind the people of how amazing the Lord is, Moses chose to remember the failure of the people. Now we find him, years later, facing similar circumstances. His unforgiveness has birthed bitterness, and his bitterness springs up as he lashes out in rage against the people.

While bitterness is the byproduct of being unwilling to forgive; forgiveness stems from looking at the cross and realizing all that Jesus has forgiven you. The forgiveness of God is complete. Paul wrote, our sins were nailed to the cross never to be brought up again. Forgiveness means to treat someone as though they had never done the thing that hurt you, or that has made it hard to be kind to them. Choosing to forgive is sometimes very difficult, but being unwilling to forgive has much greater consequences. If there is anyone who you are harboring bitterness toward, take some time right now and pray that God would help you to forgive them and treat them as though they had never hurt you in the first place. Do it now before the roots take hold of you.

Pastor Jim

 

Poison 

Job 42:10
“And the Lord restored Job’s losses when he prayed for his friends. Indeed the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before.”

Job lost his health, wealth, family and friends, yet he “Did not sin nor charge God with wrong” (Job 1:22),No matter what the devil threw at him, he remained faithful to the Lord. When his wife told him he should curse God and die, he responded, “Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?”(Job 2:10)  We are told “In all this Job did not sin with his lips.” However, by the end of the book, Job, in fact, sinned and charged God with doing wrong. It wasn’t his circumstances or the attacks of the devil that led Job to sin, but the treatment he received from his friends. What Satan was unable to do, his friends did. Their treatment led him to sin with his mouth. It is no wonder Job declared,

Job 16:2 “I have heard many such things; Miserable comforters are you all!”

Job seems to have had every reason to hold a grudge against those who tore him down instead of building him up, but he chose to forgive. We read “The LORD restored Job’s losses WHEN he prayed for his friends. Indeed the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before.” The blessings of God flowed into Job’s life when he chose to forgive those who had wronged him. No matter how we have been wronged, forgiveness is always the road to take. Failing to forgive will slow your progress and keep you from experiencing the blessings of God in your own life. One man put it like this, “Harboring bitterness is like drinking poison and expecting someone else will die.”

Sadly, Job is not alone in this experience. It is common, in our times of greatest need, to find those who we thought were our closest friends and allies are no where to be found. I have met many people who wandered from the Lord and are currently backslidden. They once had a vibrant relationship with the Lord, but that bond is in the distant past. Now, they find themselves far from the Lord and missing out on His blessings. Frequently, their fall from the Lord can be traced to a time when they were hurt by another Christian, or let down by their church. Instead of forgiving and moving forward, they harbored bitterness; and it has eaten away at their relationship with the Lord.

Let’s learn a lesson from the closing verses of Job. No matter how we have been wronged, lets choose the road of forgiveness and allow the Lord to pour forth His blessings on our life.

Pastor Jim

 

Seek Him

Luke 24:1
“Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning…”

Crucifixion was a violent and public form of execution. The display was designed not only to punish the condemned, but to dissuade others from violating the law of Rome. It is difficult for me to comprehend the emotions that would flood those who watched, as Jesus was beaten and crucified.

These women were not casual observers, they did not watch the events as spectators or journalists, they were some of Jesus closest friends, and Mary was His mother. Watching the events of the cross must have filled her with fear, confusion, sorrow, anger and even hate. Her own Son had been betrayed by one of His close friends, He had been falsely accused, condemned, beaten and violently killed. It would be reasonable for us to read that Mary shut down, or she was filled with sorrow, wept, and questioned the love of God. Instead, we read she rose early, went seeking, and found Christ was risen from the dead.

What pains are you enduring today? Are you struggling with the emotions caused by loss, confusion, or disappointment? Are you allowing your emotions to keep you from God, or like Mary, are you willing to rise early and seek Him? I wonder what we are missing out on when we fail to take time to seek Christ.

Pastor Jim


Meant For Good

Genesis 50:20
“But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.”

2015/01/img_1378.jpgWe have all faced times in our lives when we have looked up from our circumstances and wondered, “How God could truly love me and let me go through this.” If any man had a right to allow his circumstances to call into question the loving-kindness of God, it was Joseph. I can only imagine the horror he must have experienced when his brothers suddenly turned on him and cast him into a pit. That scene must have played over and over in his mind, perhaps even while he slept. That first bitter act put Joseph’s life on a course that would seem to be leading ever downward, from kidnapped victim, to slave, to convicted rapist; forgotten in a foreign prison cell. Many men, perhaps even most men, would allow these circumstances to harden them as they plotted revenge on those who ruined their life. But Joseph proved himself to be unlike most men when, instead of looking back with vengeful hate, he looked up and saw the hand of God redeeming what had been destroyed. Long before he found himself face to face with his brothers, Joseph had gotten face to face with God, and learned that the hand of God had been guiding his life for a single purpose – the salvation of souls. In what is one of the most beautiful and searching statements in scripture Joseph declares,

“But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.”

Instead of allowing bitterness or regret to control our thoughts and action, we should follow the example of Joseph, and realize that the redeeming hand of God has placed us where we are, for the purpose of saving souls. Whether we are in a jail cell or sitting atop a corporate kingdom, it is the hand of God that places us there, with the purpose that we might win others to Christ.

Pastor Jim

 

Let It Go

Matthew 18:21
“Then Peter came to Him and said, ‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?’”

2015/01/img_1347.jpgI think Peter had a little more insight into the mind of God than he gets credit for. In the passage leading up to this, Jesus spoke regarding confronting those who are in sin. He spoke of going to a sinning brother, bringing others and going a second time, then telling the church of his sin, and finally treating the unrepentant as you would an unbeliever (which of course means that you want to do all you can to win them back to Christ). It is in response to this that Peter asks regarding forgiveness.

Not all sins are to be confronted. When a believer is committing a sin that endangers their relationship with God, we must do all that is available to us to warn them, instruct them, and win them back to Christ; but not all sin is like that. Some sins are what we might call the sins of humanity. They are sins that manifest themselves in things like forgetfulness, or being inconsiderate, or even unkind. We might also call these relational sins. Those are not the sins that need to be confronted, but forgiven. Many of us have had a well-intentioned believer come to us, quote Matthew 18 about confronting sin, then proceed to tell us of the recent times when we disappointed them by neglecting to call, seeming to ignore them, or sitting in a different location at church. I want to suggest that those are not sins to confront, but to forgive.

Forgiveness is really the key to relationships within the body. The longer we walk with Jesus, the more we will find that even the Christians we admire most will do things to let us down or hurt our feelings. If we carry those things around, not only are we disobeying Jesus’ example and command to forgive, but we are also carrying around weight that will slow us down in our Christian progress.  It will work like a poison, turning us from a sweet and fruitful tree that draws others to Christ, into a bitter root that others avoid.

Perhaps now would be a good time to examine your heart. Are you bearing a grudge? Is there anyone you are not forgiving? Is there anyone who you would like to see in debtor’s prison?

Paul said, “Forgiving one another as God in Christ forgave you.”  Ephesians 4:32

Look at the debt which you have been forgiven, and forgive!

Pastor Jim

 

Face Of God

Genesis 33:10
“And Jacob said, ‘No, please, if I have now found favor in your sight, then receive my present from my hand, inasmuch as I have seen your face as though I had seen the face of God, and you were pleased with me.’

2015/01/img_1341.jpgI am sure we have all been complimented, at one time or another, for how we looked, or what we were wearing. Of all the compliments I have received, none has been quite like what Jacob said to Esau. After not seeing his brother for 20 years, Jacob said, “you look a lot like God.” Jacob is not saying God is a six foot tall man with red hair, but that the actions of Esau were, in some way, reflective of the character of God. What was Esau doing that was so godlike?

The answer is forgiveness. After being deceived time and time again by his brother, Esau finally resolved to let it go. He was no longer haunted by his hurt, anger, or bitterness, but had freed himself by letting it go. Instead of bringing an army to attack Jacob, he brought a welcoming committee, and extended an arm in forgiveness.

Sadly, many of us carry around a heavy weight of unforgiveness, not realizing it is like a poison that pollutes our joy. We think ourselves justified in holding a grudge, instead of looking at the cross and realizing, we too, are guilty of the most heinous sins. Instead of harboring bitterness and hurt, it is time we reflect the face of God, and forgive those who have wronged us.

Pastor Jim