The Unforgiving Servant

Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.

“Therefore, the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So, the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ So, his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger, his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also, my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”  -Matthew 18:21-35 ESV

 

Jesus taught us how important it is to forgive.  He desires us to respond to others out of love, compassion, and mercy.  When we do, we can let go of our fears, self-judgments and freely share love and mercy to others. Jesus explains to the disciples how to deal with those who have caused an offense with them starting from just talking to them about the issue to the point of taking it to the elders or to the courts.  It is after this teaching that Peter poses the question to Jesus about how many times should he forgive others.

Jesus answers Peter and tells him it’s not just seven times, but seven times seventy!   Jesus wanted Peter to understand we are to keep forgiving even when we don’t really want to.  By the time we have forgiven over and over again, it will become second nature to us.  I don’t know about you, but I struggle at times with patience towards those who consistently hurt me.  Patience is key to love and forgiveness

Jesus explains why we should forgive by sharing a parable.  A king wanted to settle his accounts and he had a servant who owed him ten thousand talents equalling about several million pounds.  In Roman times, one talent would equal a day’s wages about £40 per common laborer.  The king ordered that the servant and his wife and children plus all that he had was to be sold in order to pay off the debt.  The servant, of course, bowed before the king and asked for patience for him to be able to pay back all the money.  The king had compassion and mercy and set the servant free.

As the servant in this story was indebted to the king, we too are to our God.  We deserve punishment for our sin, however, as the king in the story pardoned the servant, so too our God pardons us when we ask for forgiveness.  Jesus took all of our sin, sickness, pain and paid our debts on the cross of Calvary.  It is through the blood of Jesus that all of us are set free.  Jesus forgave us, washed away our sins.  God says in Isaiah 1:18-20, “Come now, let us reason together,” says the Lord, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land; but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.” For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”  Christ paid the ultimate sacrifice so we would not have to. What an awesome God we serve!

You’d think that the servant here would be very grateful for canceled debt.  However, the opposite is true.  The servant’s servant only owed a hundred denarii which equal about £5000 today.  Five thousand pounds compared to several million is only pocket change, yet the servant was harsh with his fellow servant and demanded that he pay back the money. Even when the man begged for patience, the servant refused and sent him to prison until the debt was paid off.  Jesus wanted His disciples to understand no matter how big or small the debt or action is, we should be willing to forgive and not hold it over someone.  The king pardoned the servant and yet the servant didn’t appreciate the patience and love.

Other servants watched and listened in horror to the one who did not have patience.  They went back and told the King what had happened because they were greatly distressed.  People are always watching us in how we deal with others, especially with different ethnic groups, religions, and cultures merging into one.  If we are critical all the time about people and complain about how things are, we are being very much like the servant who turned on his servant.

God wants us to forgive others.  The consequences are great if we do not.    The king/master called in the servant.  Because of the servant’s actions, he was thrown into prison to be tortured until the debt was paid off.  Jesus tells us that this is how God will treat us if we don’t forgive others from the heart.  Those are very harsh words which are not easy to swallow.  When we don’t forgive others and are very critical or bitter, our fellowship with God is hindered and we end up separating ourselves from Him.  I believe it is like a slap in God’s face when we harbor ill feelings towards others and don’t forgive especially after all He has done for us.

Jesus said, “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from the heart.”  Can God actually revoke a pardon once given?  Jesus says here, yes He can and He will if we don’t forgive and are critical towards others.  Forgiveness is so important to God that Jesus even teaches us at the end of the Lord’s prayer to forgive others as God forgave us.  “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Matthew 6:14-15.  Although it is hard to hear these words, they cannot be ignored or avoided.  Forgiveness is not given as part of a legal matter, but of grace.  If God has done so much for us, how can we not share that love with others?  The Gospel of Jesus is one of forgiveness and love.  God is a forgiving God but He is also just.  It is expected of us as Christians, that have received God’s forgiveness to show God’s character and a forgiving attitude towards others.

These words have convicted me.  How many times have I been judgmental or critical of others?  It is so easy for us to fall into the gossip trap complaining about others.  How would remembering what God has done for us help us to forgive others?

I don’t know about you, but I would not want to be left out of the Kingdom of God because of an unforgiving, critical spirit.

 

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Difficult, painful decision leads to healing

In recent months, life has changed dramatically for me. I made a decision to leave the United Kingdom, Mark and the boys, to move back to the USA. I was very unhappy, feeling unworthy, unloved, hurt, and literally hated myself. Everything I did was never good enough. I was the butt of sarcastic jokes, laughed at, made fun of on an almost daily basis. There was no affection, no touch, hugs, etc. for so long that I honestly believed there was something wrong with me.

I was great at pretending everything was fine. Only a select few knew something was wrong. I was depressed and lonely. I felt trapped.

At one point, I started declaring who I was in Christ every time something negative was said. However, I was told I was acting weird. I stopped my usual encouragement and supportive words and was told something was wrong with me. I literally mentioned how much it hurt to be made fun and this was said practically every day.

I was told the only way out was if someone came to get me. You see, I suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, and osteoarthritis in my lower back. I cannot walk far and need a wheelchair for distance. When I do walk, I need crutches for support. Trust me, I have tried walking without crutches or a crutch, and it doesn’t work. Sadly, there were many times when I could not go out. In fact, many of the times I wanted to, someone was too tired or it was raining and the only place to go was the local mall which that said person hated going to.

Several months back, a gentleman, Ben, who was my fiancé in college, found me online. We caught up with each other and shared what was going on in our lives. I told him all that had been happening.

Long story short, we both realized we still loved each other, even after 24 years! Ben flew to England, met me, and a few days later we flew back to the states. Yes, I do live with Ben because I need help everyday bathing, getting dressed, cooking, etc. And I need help getting out and about. I did not have enough money or insurance to hire someone to help out if I lived on my own.

Despite my limitations, Ben still loves me. In fact, I feel more loved and appreciated than I have in years. I am gaining strength each day. I even have walked with crutches in a grocery store (I suffered greatly for a few days after, but this is a huge stepping stone in the right direction). Granted, I still have really bad flare up days of pain and sheer fatigue, feeling as if I have been completely drained.

I am able to be myself without having to change. Ben treats me with love, respect, honor and like a queen. I can honestly say our love for each other has grown stronger with each passing day.

I am truly happier than I have been for a very long time. I have lost “friends” because of my actions of leaving and then living with another man. Ben and I do plan to get married after the divorce is completed. We want to fulfill a promise made to each other years ago.

I honestly never thought anyone could love me. I was told I was not good enough and would not even be good enough for Ben either.

The hardest part of leaving the UK was leaving my boys behind. They love the UK and both are finishing high school this year, one finishing Year 11 and the other sixth form. The oldest will be going to university to study forensic science and the youngest to college to study sports in September. They, understandably, are very upset, angry, hurt, and frustrated. The last thing I wanted to do was to hurt them. I love and miss them dearly. I know they are happier there and neither one of them wanted to move back to the states.

I am not perfect. I still love the Lord and want to serve him. I am no longer a minister or a part of The Salvation Army. I do plan to join a local Mennonite church; Ben grew up in the Mennonite faith. They are based on Wesley theology just like TSA.

As I said before, I have lost “friends,” but I have also learned who my true friends are.

Please pray for me as I heal from the wounds caused by words and lack of contact, affection, etc. Pray, I will be able to find work from home. Please pray for daily strength. And, please especially pray for my boys. Thank you ever so much. God bless you all.

 

Appreciation of God’s creation

I love cool, spring days. The sun shining, birds singing, leaves of green bursting forth. Daffodils, tulips, dandelions, and daisies blooming in neighbors’ yards. It’s such a lovely time of year. Everything that once looked dead and gloomy comes to life and becomes brilliant and full of color.

God is so good to us. He cares about every detail. I am amazed at God’s creation.

Each flower.

Each blade of grass.

Each leaf on the tree.

Each insect.

Each bird.

They are all different and made by God.

His presence is all around us if we but look and listen.

When is the last time we looked around us as we go to work or go out taking care of errands? Do we pay attention to the details or do we just go about our business without thinking about the beauty God provides for us?

Psalm 24:1-2 ESV says “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein, for he has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers.”

God wants us to enjoy his creation. He wants us to take the time to appreciate his goodness. How can we do this if we are always busy?

  1. Take time to sit in the sunshine- during lunch breaks or an after shift walk in the sun.
  2. Look at nature around us. What do we see? Take a mental note of the trees, flowers, insects, animals, people, etc.
  3. Give thanks to the Lord for all he has created as we look around at his creation.
  4. Blow away seeds from a dandelion.
  5. Take pictures on the cell phone or camera of the trees beginning to blossom and afterward as it continues to grow. See the changes that happen within a short period of time.
  6. Take pictures of flowers for the computer background.

Father God, thank you so much for all you have created. The trees are so beautiful budding and growing leaves. The flowers are full of life and color. The ants, bees, and other insects are busy gathering food. Lambs, calves, chicks, puppies, kittens, etc. are being born. It’s a beautiful time of the year when everything we thought looked dead comes to life. Thank you for showing us your love through nature. Thank you for providing for us these things to enjoy. Help us today to pay attention to the simple things of nature. Help us to appreciate all you have created. Amen.

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What will you do today to appreciate God’s goodness in creation?

What other ideas have you done or will do today or in the near future to pay attention to nature? Please take time to share in the comments. God bless you.

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Words and moving forward

I think it is easy to treat people with respect and honor, especially if your heart is full of love for others. However, sadly, there are some who struggle loving others. They mistreat them. Not necessarily with physical violence, but their words can cause a lot of pain. This type of pain causes a person to question who they are and if they actually have any worth at all.

Words have power. They can heal or they can destroy. The can lift up or tear others down. People don’t seem to realize how what they say matters. Words truly reveal what is in our hearts.

There is a saying that says actions speak louder than words. I agree that this is true to a point. Yes, your actions and words should match. This is very important in all relationships. However, there may be actions that show love but then deleted because of words that are spoken during or after those actions. A person can buy things for someone or do things to help them physically if they are disabled. However, this can all be turned around by words that tear a person down, making them feel as if they are stupid, garbage, not good enough, and the person sadly begins to question their own worth. In the name of “love,” some may even use “kind” words to control a person.

The scars from these words take a long time to heal. Everyone someone says more negative words; it is like a rubber stamp stamping those negative feelings- tattooing their imprints upon the mind and soul of a person.

It is even hard when you actually get away from the situation and all there is negative from people who don’t or want to try to understand. They don’t know what went on behind closed doors. They only saw what was shared on social media, church, or in public. It is not easy to slap on a happy face when inside you are hurting, but you do to save shame and embarrassment.

The difficult thing is the mind is waiting for something negative to happen. It is like a tape playing over and over again in your head reminding you of the words said about you. Another difficult thing is when the said person still tries to control you when you leave. They are not willing to share their side of the blame and make you feel as if you are delusional.  They also make you out to be the only bad person in the situation.

I honestly do not understand how anyone can say they love someone and constantly tear them down. Yes, actions matter, but at the same time, so do words. It’s difficult when a person thinks they possess you. When they think they can control you from a very far distance by playing cards to manipulate you. Sadly, I wish it hadn’t taken so long to figure things out.

On the positive side, I am very thankful for those who knew what was going on and stood by me. I am thankful for their friendship, they are very few in number, but they are very much loved and appreciated. I am also thankful for the love of my life coming to get me out of the situation. People don’t understand why I did what I did, however, because of disabilities, I had to have help somehow or another. I knew I could not live alone, especially in the UK. I also knew that I could not live on my own as I need help dressing, etc. still. I know I am loved and have been shown love like I never have seen before. I am so grateful for this. I want to move forward, and I also want to cut ties with the person who hurt, controlled, and thought he possessed me.

I am able to do more things than I used to do because I have the help to do them. I have been able to go out more often. I have been able to cook because I have help. I have been able to clean some here and there. Yes, I traveled a long way to get away but sometimes you have to do something for yourself.

I love being back home in the United States. I am sleeping much better. I am feeling better emotionally and mentally. I am feeling loved and adored. I am feeling free to be myself. I am on a journey of great healing. I look forward to what the future has in store. God is so good. Amen.

The Good Samaritan

Every town we visited, crowds followed Jesus.  He taught for many hours about the Kingdom of God.  Today we were sitting down listening to Jesus teach when an expert rabbi stood up in the crowd to test Jesus about his teachings.  He asked, “Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?”

Jesus asked the man, “What does the law say?”

The man replied, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength and all your mind.  And to love your neighbour as yourself” (Deuteronomy 6:5; Leviticus 19:18).

These two commandments have been engraved in our hearts since Moses and the laws were given to him.  We have these commandments memorised and recite them often.  I was not surprised the man answered Jesus question pretty quickly.

The man wanted to justify his actions for standing up in the crowd testing him so he asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbour?”

In order to answer the man, Jesus told another parable.

“A Jewish man was travelling from Jerusalem to Jericho.  He was attacked by bandits.  They tore his clothes, beat him up and left him for dead on the side of the road.

A priest came by and saw the man lying there but crossed to the other side of the road ignoring him.  Not long after the priest, a Levite walked over, looked at the man and passed by on the other side as well.

Then a Samaritan came along.”

Gasps were heard among the crowd. Sadly we were not at all surprised the priest and the Levite would have left the man on the side of the road.  They would have been afraid to touch him because it would have made them unclean according to Jewish law.  However, they of all people should have stopped. They should show compassion towards the man despite the laws. Surely, God would have protected them?

I wonder what the Samaritan would do. None of the Jews had time for Samaritans, they hated them. Thus, the reasons for the gasps from the crowd. Shock was seen on our faces and even worse in our hearts.

Jesus continued “The Samaritan came along and saw the man and felt compassion for him.  The Samaritan walked over, soothed the man’s wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them.  He put the man on the back of his donkey and took him to an inn where he looked after him the rest of the day and overnight.

The next morning the Samaritan gave the innkeeper two silver coins. “Take care of this man.  If his bill runs higher, I’ll pay you the next time I see you.’”

Jesus asked the man “Which of the three was a good neighbour to the man who was beaten up and left for dead?”

The rabbi answered, “The one who showed mercy.”

Jesus told him to go and do the same.

We could not believe that a Samaritan helped the man on the road.  Wasn’t he scared of what would happen to him afterward or what other people would think?  I guess he didn’t care, he acted out of compassion not worrying about religious laws.

I thought for a long time about this story.  How many people have I ignored and still do because they are different than me? Why can’t there be peace between us Jews and the Samaritans?  I need to be more like the Samaritan and love others no matter what.  I pray for a change of heart towards people who are not like me. I pray for forgiveness for judging the Samaritan and others who are commonly hated by Jews. I pray God will help me to love and show compassion to everyone I meet. May I be more like Jesus and the Samaritan in this story.

 

Notes:

*The priest and Levite should have been the ones who cared for the man on the side of the road, but they were too worried about consequences.

“The Samaritan was not liked.  However, because he didn’t worry about religious laws, he acted.

*Love does not consider the worth of a person, it responds to their need!

*Prejudices separate people from needed assistance.  The Samaritan helped one who would have utterly despised him.  Jesus came to break these types of divisions-politically, ethnically, and territorially.

 

For further study:

Luke 10:25-37

 

Parable of the Good Shepherd

Once again we were sitting together with Jesus with a crowd surrounding us.  Jesus taught in parables which are simple stories that helped us understand him better.  I enjoyed listening to Jesus.  He’s firm but full of love and compassion. The story he shared today is a great example of his love.

Jesus shared a parable about the Good Shepherd and his sheep.

“Anyone who sneaks over a wall of a sheepfold instead of going through the gate is a robber.  The one who enters through the gate is the shepherd.  The gate is opened for him and the sheep recognise his voice and they come to him.  The shepherd knows each sheep by name.  He gathers together the flock, walks ahead of them and they know his voice.  Sheep won’t follow just anyone, they will run away from strangers because they don’t recognise their voice.”

I love sheep.  My youngest brother is a shepherd, so I understood about how important it is for the shepherd to look after their sheep.  I can come and visit and hold the new-born lambs, but the sheep don’t respond to my voice.  Yet, when Moshe, my brother speaks, all the sheep come to him and follow him wherever he goes.  He has to go in and out of a gate to get to the sheep and bring them back to safety.

People didn’t understand what the illustration of the shepherd had to do with Jesus or them so he explained the parable to them.

He said, “I am the gate for the sheep.  People have come up to the gate as thieves and robbers trying to snatch the sheep away.  The true sheep didn’t listen to them as they didn’t recognise who they were.

“I am the gate, safety and security for my sheep.  Those who come through me will be saved.  The sheep who come to me will go freely in and find good pastures.  The thief’s purpose is to steal and to kill.  My purpose is to give you abundant life, life to the full.”

How marvellous!! Jesus is my safety and security.  If I stay with him and trust him, I will continue to have abundant life.  I already know I have this as he has already changed my life so much.  I do not want any thief to try and steal this joy away from me.

Jesus continued by saying, “I am the Good Shepherd.  The shepherd gives his life for the sheep.  A hired person will run away if he sees a wolf coming. He will abandon the sheep because they don’t belong to him and he isn’t their shepherd.  The wolf comes, attacks and scatters the flock.  The worker runs away as he is only working for money.  He doesn’t care about the sheep.

“I am the Good Shepherd.  I have an intimate relationship with my sheep and they with me just as I have the same relationship with my Father and he with me.  I sacrifice my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not in this sheepfold and I must bring them too.  They will listen also and be one flock with one Shepherd. The Father loves me because I sacrifice my life so I may take it up again.  No none can take my life, I give it up voluntarily.  I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also take it up again.  This is what the Father commanded.”

I love being a friend with Jesus.  However, right now there is a part of me that is grieved again. Jesus told us about his death before.  I put it behind me until now.  I don’t want to think about him leaving us and dying.  I want to stay with him forever.   He says he will take his life up again and be raised up from the grave.  I have heard about him bringing the little girl back to life, but how is he going to raise himself up once he’s dead?  I don’t want to lose the best person in my life.

My thoughts were distracted by the people talking around me.  They were divided in their opinions about Jesus.  Some thought he was out of his mind and or demon possessed.  They thought we should not listen to him.

Others said “It doesn’t sound like he is possessed.  Can a demon heal and open blind eyes?”

I believe Jesus is who he says he is.  He is the Messiah, the Son of God.  The sad thing is I cannot tell the people this.  I wish they would just listen, truly listen to Jesus and open their hearts to him.  Oh, how my heart grieves for their souls.

Notes:

*A shepherd is one who tends, leads, guides, loves, feeds and protects a flock.

*Abundant life- is a rich, satisfying life that is superabundant, overflowing, excessive, over and above, extraordinary, profuse and more than sufficient.

*God wants us to be happy and prosperous.  Jesus declares His intention to restore to man what God intended for us and block the enemy’s intent to stop us from receiving this abundant life.

*I AM the Good Shepherd- I am, I have been, I always will be I am Yahweh.

For further study:

John 10:1-21

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Lent Series: The Greatest in the Kingdom

We were walking together going to a new area with Jesus.  The disciples were arguing on the road about which one was the greatest.

Men!

Why do they always have to be the greatest amongst themselves?  What is the big deal anyway?  Are we not in this together with Jesus?

The disciples even had the nerve to ask Jesus “Who is the greatest in the kingdom?”!

I cringed when I heard them asked. But Jesus was so calm with them. He is so patient and compassionate. I guess he understood why they were asking.

Jesus saw a child on the side of the road and asked the boy to come beside him.

He said unless we turn from our sins and become like little children, we will never get into the kingdom of Heaven.  We are to become humble as the little boy in front of us.  This child is the greatest in the kingdom.

He continued by saying “Anyone who welcomes a child like this one on my behalf is welcoming me.  But if you cause one to fall into sin, it would be better for you to have a large millstone tied around the neck and be drowned in the sea.”

I remembered as a little girl enjoying sitting on Father’s knee whilst he shared some of the stories of the early years of the Israelites.  I had so much fun during our Jewish holidays playing the games, joining in building a sukka, lighting candles and finding the remaining scraps of chametz (part of the matzah).

Part of me now feels like that little girl as I listen to Jesus.  I desire to have a childlike faith as I did when I was younger. I don’t want to lose the wonder of when I saw Jesus for the first time and the sheer joy that filled my heart. I want to keep this joy all of my days.

Jesus continues and says “Sorrow awaits the world because it tempts people to sin.  Temptations are inevitable but what sorrow awaits for anyone who does the tempting!  So if a hand or a foot causes us to sin, it is to be cut off and thrown away.  It is better to get rid of them instead of being thrown into the eternal fire with everything intact.  If our eye causes us to sin, we are better to gouge it out and throw it away for it is better than keeping it and being thrown in the fires of hell.”

The only way I knew how to get rid of my troubles was to come to Jesus and ask for help.  I know if I was not healed, I would have been heading straight to hell.  I don’t want to tempt other people and make them do what is wrong.  What a large responsibility!  I am to be an example to those around me.  If something makes me do wrong I am to get rid of it.  I don’t want to go to hell when I die.  I have heard stories of how horrible the place is with fire and gnashing of teeth.  The thought of it makes me shudder.

Jesus finished his illustration with the little boy and said “Don’t look down on any of the little ones.  In Heaven, their angels are always in the presence of God.”

I wonder what the men were thinking now.  I think we women understand a bit better about children because of our motherly instincts.  I understood very clearly what Jesus was talking about. The men were looking a bit embarrassed and sheepish.  Who knows? Maybe they won’t fight over being the greatest again.

Notes:

*Childlikeness- humans tend to associate authority as being dominant over others.  God wants us to live fruitful lives, getting rid of things that would lead us to hell or gaining control of others only to serve our own interests.

*Childlike humility establishes the style and spirit by which our authority as a believer should be exercised as agents of God’s kingdom.

*To become humble means to be made low or lower oneself. It is a person who is free from all arrogance and self-exaltation, one who submits to God and His will willingly.

For further study:

Matthew 18:1-10; Mark 9:33-37; Luke 9:46-48; Deuteronomy 4:9; Psalm 145:4

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