Posts tagged ‘forgive’

August 22, 2012

Forgive It

by pastortimfowler

http://www.flickr.com/photos/26015375@N06/3914730774/

2 Corinthians 2:5-11
5 If someone caused distress, I’m not the one really affected. To some extent—although I don’t want to emphasize this too much—it has affected all of you.
6 The majority of you have imposed a severe enough punishment on that person.
7 So now forgive and comfort him. Such distress could overwhelm someone like that if he’s not forgiven and comforted.
8 That is why I urge you to assure him that you love him.
9 I had also written to you to test you. I wanted to see if you would be obedient in every way.
10 If you forgive someone, so do I. Indeed, what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, I did in the presence of Christ for your benefit.
11 I don’t want Satan to outwit us. After all, we are not ignorant about Satan’s scheming.

The Apostle Paul is talking to a church who is not forgiving one of its members. I am not sure what was done, but what I do know, because of his other teachings, is that this person must have asked for others to forgive. You see, it is biblical that if you have wronged someone who you should ask for the forgiveness and if you ask another Christian, they are required to give the forgiveness. If someone does not ask, there is no repentance, and no forgiveness is required to be given. I am sure that someone is going to challenge me on this, but I am talking about a situation that is being dealt with in this church and this spans both letters that Paul wrote to the church at Corinth.
Forgiveness is one of the hardest things for anybody to do. When we get hurt, it is somehow in us to return the hurt rather than forgiving. Sure, some of this comes from that person not asking, but far too often I hear people saying that they just won’t forgive.

Paul says that in the case where it has been asked, and withheld, we risk overwhelming that person. Later in this same letter Paul states that Christians have been given the ministry of reconciliation. In other words, we are to fix broken relationships, not shatter the pieces even further, making things beyond repair. So when we are asked to forgive, we should, and in that, we strengthen that person and encourage that same pattern of forgiveness and reconciliation.
Paul tells them that by forgiving, they are assuring that person of the love they have from us. It is easy to love those who treat us right. Anyone can do that. But Christians are supposed to love like Christ loves, and we must remember that while we were still His enemy, Christ died for us, showing His love. Love is not warm fuzzy feelings and never having to say you are sorry. Love is patient, kind, not selfish and doesn’t keep track of wrongs, according to the Bible.
Far too many Christians miss being like Jesus when they don’t forgive. Many others miss feeling the love of Jesus by not asking for the forgiveness. Forgiveness is the act of giving up our right to be angry and instead of holding a grudge, hold our relationship with people higher than our pride. Far too many marriages crumble because they are too busy pointing the finger of blame rather than opening the arms in love.

I encourage you to ask if you need forgiveness and give it when asked. Satan wants Christians to hold grudges and act like we don’t love people. Paul says that we should not be outwitted and that we should know that this unforgiveness thing is part of Satan’s scheme. Kick Satan in the butt and forgive. You will be more like Christ if you do, and something tells me that you will feel better than if you continue to hold that grudge.

March 12, 2012

Three Things I Learned

by pastortimfowler

I just finished reading the Bible through again for at least the 20th time. No, I am not bragging, it is just a fact. I started out several years ago trying to read the Bible from beginning to end at least once every year. For the most part I have been successful and sometimes I get through it twice and other times I fall a bit short. But I have noticed that every time I read it through I learn something different or strengthen what I thought I believed and every now and then I have to change my mind on something. Either way I am never disappointed. Another reason I do this is because I tell my church all the time that they need to read the whole bible for themselves and I don’t want to be a hypocrite.
I believe that at least 75% of Bible conversations contain some sort of misinformation. Not intentional, but out of ignorance. The Bible is an incredible group of writings that span thousands of years and many cultures. That can make proper interpretation difficult, but certainly not impossible. The reason for this misinformation is that people who say that they are Christians do not read the Bible with the intent of learning what God says, but they read it to pick out what they want to believe He says. Throw in the fact that translation any language to another can be difficult to insure the purity of the thought is intact and you can have some really wild stuff come out in conversation. But that is not the purpose of this blog.
Here are three things I learned this time.
1. God is not a liar. Now I knew this and didn’t doubt it, but I kept being reminded every day that if God says it He means it. He said that sin would cause death and it does. He said that He forgives and He does. He said that Israel would never cease to exist and despite all odds, they have not. There are prophesies that were written hundreds of years before they came true and the accuracy in which they came true are incredible. History has some amazing records of what the Bible says coming to be true. Sure there are still things that I don’t understand and have not come true, but the more I read it the more I believe it.
2. What I thought were inconsistencies are not. This is very close to repeating what I said in the first thing, but I want to elaborate. There are things in the Bible that seem to contradict itself. Yet the same Bible says that there are no contradictions and that the Bible is God’s infallible word. This is the source of friction between denominations and churches and believers and non believers. As of right now there are things that I don’t have an answer for when it comes to this subject. But every time I read the Bible, I find that the inconsistency is not in the Bible but in my interpretation of it. That is why I said that there are times when I change my mind on something that I thought before. Some call this flip-flopping or manipulating, but I just know that the God I believe in says that He is perfect and I am not. So if anything needs to change it must be me. No human will ever fully understand God until we get to heaven and He reveals to us His truth perfectly, without our sin nature getting in the way. Meanwhile, I will keep searching and adjusting to my faith to agree with God and His word.
3. God really loves me. The Bible says that God is holy and we are not. Sin keeps us from God and God hates that. So He made a way for us to be close to Him through the sacrifice of His son Jesus. Let me take a moment to clarify. I didn’t just learn that God really loves me. I just keep learning how much more He really loves me. The Bible is not a book full of perfect people who do perfect things to please God. It is just the opposite. It is full of messed up people doing stupid things that ruin our relationship with God and He has to fix it. He allows us to make a choice to trust Him or not. He never forces Himself on people but always tries to draw us close to Him. He is patient with us and waits for us to give Him a chance to show His love for us. There are hundreds of stories of people who tried and failed and still God kept wanting to mend the relationship and always accepted the repentance of those who asked for forgiveness.
Because the first two points I made are ever on my mind, I know that God has every right to kill me. I sin. But because He loves me unconditionally and I have accepted Jesus as my Savior, God has made me one of His children and fathers don’t disown their children, not loving fathers ant certainly not the perfect Father, God. Every time I mess up, God convicts me. It may take a while for me to see it His way, but when I do, He always forgives me and His love never changes. I tell you this because I mess up more than most think a pastor should. I tell you that because I want you to know that He will forgive you no matter who you are and what you have done. God really loves us!
There are several other things that I learned this time through, but I wanted to express these three because they are consistently being strengthened in my heart and mind every time I read the Bible. I challenge you to try reading it all, and then do it again. Don’t look for the gotcha moments, but look for the consistent truth that runs deep about a God that has every right to judge us, but does everything possible to redeem us.

November 30, 2011

The Need To Confess

by pastortimfowler

Confession is good for the soul, and for your election campaign. From the first time that humans did something wrong, God wanted a confession. He asked Adam, “Where are you?” not because God was ignorant but because Adam needed to confess out loud what he had done and why he was hiding. I think humans have this idea that if we do not speak it, we can act like it never happened. Then you run for public office and watch the dirt come tumbling out of the closet.
If you follow politics at all, you have heard about Herman Cain and his presidential run, or at least his run to get the Republican nomination. I do not know him personally and only know what I have seen on TV about him. That means other than what he has said about himself, I don’t know much, at least if what I know is truthful or not. His campaign began to hit the right notes and his popularity began to soar and the media began to dig into his past. Recently, every time you turn on the TV you hear of another accusation of him committing sexual harassment or some sort of inappropriate behavior with a woman. Now depending on what side of the aisle you are on this is either cause for immediate withdrawal from the race, or it makes you a great president who has the right to privacy when it comes to personal matters, ie, Bill Clinton.
Either way, I want to keep this from being political and focus on how correct God is for requiring us to verbally confess our sins to him and to each other. In case you are wondering where I get this confession to each other thing, James 5:16 So admit your sins to each other, and pray for each other so that you will be healed. Prayers offered by those who have God’s approval are effective. I hope I don’t need to show you proof of our need to verbally confess to God, but you know what, here it is anyway. Romans 10:10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
Confession does several things that help us. First it keeps us in good standing with God. 1John 1:9 tells us that if we confess, God forgives and makes us righteous. Second, it keeps us humble. Telling someone that we have committed a sin keeps us off the proverbial high horse. Third it allows for accountability. If I have someone who loves me and knows that I sin a particular sin, they can ask me the tough questions if my actions give them reason to doubt my integrity. Fourth, it allows me to move forward with whatever plans that God has for me without worrying about something being dug up from my past that will embarrass me, my family, and most of all God.
The last part is what politicians can learn from when they want to run for office. If Mr. Cain had confessed his relationships with these women, even if they were only platonic, then he would have nothing that wasn’t already known. I am not saying that he has done what they say he did, I am saying IF he did, and God, family, and friends new it, forgave it, and held him accountable from the day of confession forward, Mr. Cain may still be leading in all the polls.
When I was a kid, my parents told me that if I got in trouble, I would probably get a whipping. If I lied to try to get out of the trouble, I would get a second whipping that was worse than the first. I am not saying that I never lied, but I certainly thought harder about it knowing the consequences. And, because of their tough love and the love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ, I can say that lying is much harder for me as an adult than it was as a kid.
We all sin, none are righteous without the Blood of Jesus to cover our sins. But even someone who doesn’t believe in God can use the principle of confession to keep the conscious clear and our ability to live a public life without fear of embarrassing past failures biting us in the butt. There is a need to confess.

October 18, 2011

How To Forgive

by pastortimfowler

Forgiving is not easy. It is something that God requires Christians to do, but few Christians seem to be able to do it. Even when we say we are forgiving someone, those old feelings of anger and resentment have a way of coming back. This past Sunday I preached about how we love the fact that God forgives us when we ask, but we tend to make people wait on the forgiveness that we should give. But, for many, we want to and try to forgive but get stuck with the residue of hurt and bitterness. Here are a few things that you can do if and when you struggle with forgiving someone.
First, and this is important, we are not God and cannot forget the past. We are told that God never brings up our sins again after they are forgiven, and we hear people say stuff like, forgive and forget. But we can’t forget. What we must do is daily and if necessary hourly, every minute, or every second, remind ourselves that we chose to forgive. The Apostle Paul said that he died daily to sin. In other words, he reminded himself everyday that the old man was gone and now he was a new creature in Christ. Just like every other sin we struggle with, forgiveness is a sin that has to be dealt with daily. God is perfect and His forgiveness is perfect, ours is not.
Second, we need to do everything possible to grow in our Christian lives. There are a few wonderful verses Peter’s 2nd letter that can help. 2 Peter 1:5-8 says to add to our faith, purity, to purity, knowledge, to knowledge, self-control and so on. If we ever think that we are as good as we get in our Christian lives, we are going to stumble. Forgiveness takes maturity and to mature as a Christian, you need, Bible, prayer, church, and practice, and of course, God.
Third, sometimes we feel like that person is not getting what they deserve. This is common, but we must remember that God is the one who will judge the unrighteous, and Psalms 7:11 says, God is a fair judge, a God who is angered by injustice every day. We must trust that if there is an injustice, God will deal with it, we don’t have to. But if God has forgiven that person, and we don’t know if they have asked or not, but if so, then it is forgiven and we need to let it go.
Forth, if possible, tell the person that you forgive them. Be prepared for them to say that they did nothing to need forgiving, but if there has been a real wrong committed, let them know you forgive them. If this is not possible, write out what they did on paper. Write down how you feel and your desire to forgive. Daily, or as often as needed, pray over it and ask God to take away all bitterness and resentment and that your desire is to forgive completely. Let God know that you are weak and that you need His strength to release it. Once you have been freed from this, burn the paper and thank God for the release. Thank Him for forgiving you and forgiving the person you just forgave or if you think that person is not a Christian, pray for their salvation.
Forgiveness is hard, but it is beautiful when it comes in fullness. You can forgive because, Philippians 4:13 I can do everything through Christ who strengthens me.

July 29, 2011

Going Inter-planetary

by pastortimfowler

I was blown away this morning when I opened an email response to a blog I wrote a couple of weeks ago. It was from England! It said that they were looking for help on a subject and did a search and my blog came up on top. Usually the only way my name or something I do comes up first is if I am getting blamed for something. So, I wanted to say thanks to everyone who read my blogs and to God for using me in something that I enjoy so much.
I can remember a few years back when I was really fighting the trend for tweeting, Facebook and blogging. It wasn’t that I was against them as much as I did not understand it all. For the record, I still don’t understand tweeting, but I continue to tweet. (I feel like a bird watcher every time I say that).
Blogging has gotten me several blasts from folks who disagree with what I write. Although I do try to speak the truth, blogging is just another way of voicing one’s opinion and we are all entitled to our own. My opinion is right and those who disagree with it are usually married to me, or vegan, or even people with hair, and God loves them too. But I enjoy the feedback no matter which side you are on.
One of my goals is to offer fuel for hope, and a bit of humor. I love to see and hear people laugh and I love it when people have to stop and think about something they thought little about before or even had firm feelings about something that now have to be at least given another look. Sometimes I purposefully blog about something that I know will ruffle feathers, but I never set out to hurt or offend and if you are ever offended by one of my blogs, get over it. See, humor, fact and hope, right there.
I never dreamed that anything I would say or write would ever have an impact on someone in England. I rarely ever thought anyone would care much outside of South Carolina or really, ever care at all. I hope this is nothing more than God showing me that He can still use any of His creatures to say something, even an ass, or me. (Referring to Balaam’s animal, nor what some of you gasped about).
I will never apologize for giving God glory, pointing to Him as the answer, or tell people about the God who allowed His Son Jesus Christ to die for the sins of humanity. God has forgiven me of more than most will ever know and still forgives me daily. Because of Him, I have hope and love life because it is a gift from Him. There was a time when I said that there was no God, but when I decided to open my mind to the possibility that I could be wrong, He forgave my stupidity and forgave me. So I blog from my heart, from my experiences, and my warped sense of humor. Thanks for giving your time to read. To the person in England, we drink sweet iced tea on this side of the pond, and thanks for the prayers.
Now that my blog is international, my next goal is go inter-planetary. To boldly go where no blog has gone before!

June 28, 2011

A Better Pastor

by pastortimfowler

copyrighted photo http://www.flickr.com/photos/mike_leach/

I had a wonderfully humbling experience today. I was talking to a couple about their upcoming wedding when it was brought to my attention that the future husband was not a Christian, but the bride is. I know that this is going to stir up a lot of feelings in people but I am hoping that you will understand the big picture. The Bible tells Christians not to marry someone who is not a Christian. In the Old Testament God told Israel not to marry those outside of the Jewish faith, so this is a consistency with God and there is a reason for it. Humans have this tendency to think about what is immediately in front of them and let God and His will be put aside for what we want. That often leads to sin and that is what God sent Jesus to die for, our sin. Because of that high price, He doesn’t want us to do things that will make it easier to sin and being married to someone who is not of the same faith as we are makes it easy to follow our spouse rather than God. This is not the total point of this blog but it does have its place here.
You see as a pastor I have to do what God says, even if I don’t understand it fully. I know it would be better for a couple to be married and live together than to not be and live together. But, living together before marriage is a sin too. My dilemma is that I can’t marry someone who God says shouldn’t be married even if I think it would be better than the other choice.
SO…I am talking with this couple and the guy is a very unique person who was saying a lot of the right things, but something was not sitting right with me. I thought that he was being argumentative, and so I was putting up my shield and getting ready to fire back but I just couldn’t get a peace about how I was trying to handle things. I was seeing our conversation getting nowhere and I kept remembering my earlier blog about judging others. I was judging this guy and I was convinced that I was using the right standards to judge and at the same time, something kept telling me I was wrong.
So I asked the young lady to leave the room and asked the guy if I could talk one on one with him. He said yes.
I told him first that I was wrong to draw some of the conclusions about him and asked him to forgive me. He did. I told him why I had my convictions and to the best of my ability why I had to stick by my guns about not marrying them, but I saw that he really had a good idea of what marriage was about and asked if he would explain how he thought of God. So he did.
He began to explain how he had been hurt in some previous attempts to seek answers and ask questions about his opinions of God. He said that other pastors had gotten defensive and very matter of fact on him and he felt like he was being pushed away, not by God, but by those who should be teaching him about God. So he decided to form his own opinions with as much conviction as he could have and trust that God was as understanding as he hoped that He would be. Sadly this guy understood God better than those pastors did, or at least acted.

I asked if I could show him in the Bible exactly what God wanted from us and the extent to which God had gone to forgive us and make us His. I told him the God loved him as much as he thought, and more. I was able to show him that the only thing that he was missing in his opinion of God was the point to which Jesus was the sacrifice for our sin and it was through Jesus that we receive forgiveness and eternal life.
He told me that it was really cool to be able to talk about this and get clarity about God and forgiveness and when I asked if I could lead him in a prayer to ask for forgiveness and salvation, he said, no I think I have the right words and he prayed the best prayer of salvation I have heard in a while, because it was real and it was from his heart.
Real quickly I want to say that he had told me when we first met that he didn’t go to church because he did not like crowds. I have heard that before, but not in truth. So I remembered a line I had used many times before and had to live it. Going to church does not make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car. It helps you grow as a Christian, but is not the standard to judge by. What God wants from us going to church is fellowship and accountability. So I told him that if he wanted to, until he felt comfortable enough to come to church, I would meet with him as often as he would like and him and I would build a relationship and learn about God together. He accepted.
So I am proud to say that the wedding is on and I have a new brother in Christ and I am excited about building a new friendship with someone who taught me to act more like Jesus than a pastor, and in that I think I will be a better pastor.

April 15, 2011

Sick Mind

by pastortimfowler

Be careful what you ask for, you just might get it. We have all heard that. I am living it. I asked for blog ideas and, wow, the topics are great. Tough, but great. Today the topic has to do with a recent incident in which a mom took her own life and the lives of her children. A horrible thing to even think about.  What could have made this poor woman end it all like this?
Many people believe that suicide is an unforgivable sin resulting in hell for that person. I am talking about thinking that God will not forgive it. Two reasons why some think this. One, it is so selfish and we can’t find closure for our own feelings, and second, if the last act before death is a sin, then that person was not able to ask for forgiveness and therefore dies with unforgiven sin resulting in hell.
I personally do not believe that the Bible teaches that suicide is unforgivable. Let me deal with this from scripture, then I want to give a more personal and even medical reason for my thinking.
When Jesus died on the cross, he did not die for a specific sin of a lust, a lie, or a murder. He died to pay the death penalty for all of humanity’s sin. Jesus was our sacrifice and His death was accepted by God in place of our own if we ask. The moment we ask for forgiveness, we are made children of God, being born again. We are no longer under the penalty of the law as law breakers, but under the grace of a loving Father who has taking the responsibility to raise His spiritual children. If you have ever raised children, even really good ones, they still disobey us parents. We do not disown them, but lovingly correct them. And if one of them were to ever commit suicide, we would not stop loving them and immediately disown them either. We would mourn out of love, not disown out of anger. Romans 8:38,39 tells us that NOTHING including death, can separate us from God’s love:
38 I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love which Christ Jesus our Lord shows us. We can’t be separated by death or life, by angels or rulers, by anything in the present or anything in the future, by forces 39 or powers in the world above or in the world below, or by anything else in creation.
The Bible clearly says that God’s children are given eternal life, not life based on our ability to ask for forgiveness every time we sin. God wants us to recognize it when we sin and ask for forgiveness as we grow, but there are times when we don’t or can’t recognize that what we do is wrong. This brings me to a personal and even medical reason to why suicide does not condemn one to hell.
Many children are born with birth defects. Some with physical and others with mental, and they are welcomed and loved as they should be, despite their birth defects. Children with mental illness often can’t recognize right and wrong and therefore we do not punish them as such.
Sometimes things happen in life that cause our brains to stop functioning properly; injury, illness, drug abuse, or even mental abuse. This can cause a seemingly normal person to snap and do something wrong, even kill someone or their self. We have to make choice on how to deal with these people.
The brain is an organ like lungs, hearts, and kidneys. They operate on the basis of chemicals and blood and oxygen flow and when things are imbalanced due to injury or illness, they don’t function properly. Brains can get sick or injured too. And when they do, we see things that we think are in the control of someone, but they may not be capable of control at all.
I do not believe that anyone who has a “normal” brain will purposefully kill another or self. Normal people do not do this. Someone who is sick enough to kill others needs to be put somewhere to protect innocent lives. Those people are still someones children and even a murderer’s parents love their child. But someone who wants to take their own life often does it because signs were missed, and they have slipped past the normal ability of the brain to cope. Sadly we can’t protect them anymore.
But if they were children of God, He will welcome them under the cover of Christ’s death on the cross and not under the condemnation of their sin. God at that time promises that He has healed the sick mind.

March 24, 2011

Caught in the Act

by pastortimfowler

One of my favorite parts of the Bible is John 8:1-11, the woman caught in the act of adultery. Today I was reading it again and again I was blown away. In case you have never read it I will try to sum it up for you.
Jesus was teaching a bunch of people in the temple, (church for us). There were these guys called Pharisees. These were very religious men who knew the Bible, at that time, the Old Testament, by memory. They could quote it without even missing a punctuation mark.
Let me pause here to say that I wish I knew the Bible that well. I also wish that everyone I knew that claimed to be Christians would strive to know the Bible that well. Even if we never got it all memorized, we would have to be better off for knowing the Word of God better.
So these guys brought a woman to Jesus and she had been caught having sex with a man that was not her husband. The Old Testament law required that this woman be stoned to death for this act and the Pharisees were asking Jesus what He was going to do about it.
If that seems extreme, try to remember that the Bible is very clear that the price of sin is death and the Old Testament law was so that the Jews saw that price just as much as they saw the miracles of God when they lived right. This is another teaching for another time though.
Jesus is the Righteous Judge and like any judge has the right to pass any sentence up to the maximum under the law. So here is what He did. He wrote something in the dirt with His finger. The Bible does not say what He wrote but I have a theory. There is only one other place in the Bible that God writes anything with His finger. In Daniel 5:22-28, the finger of writes, MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN, which means, counted, counted, weighed and divided. The purpose was to show an unholy people that God knew everyone of them and that everyone of them were found unholy and that they would become a divided or broken people for their sinfulness.
The Pharisees who brought this woman to Jesus would immediately know this writing and because they were a sinful bunch, they were left with no choice but to lay down their stones when Jesus said, Let you who have no sin throw the first stone at her.
Now this does not excuse the woman. She was in front of the Judge, guilty as charged. But the Judge can do something that is well within His jurisdiction. He can show mercy. So Jesus tells the woman, I don’t condemn you, go sin no more.
Are we like the Pharisees? Are we learning God’s word so we can find fault in others? Think about this…What were these guys doing to have caught her in the very act? Were they looking through windows, following her around until they found something wrong? Then when they caught her, I bet they didn’t let her get dressed and fix her hair before they took her to Jesus, all the while they were dressed in their finest holy attire, looking like they were special.
Jesus never asked us to look good, but rather to do good. He never asked us to catch wrong doers, but to stop doing wrong. He asked us to love even those who were enemies and pray for them and show the same compassion and mercy that He did.
He told her that she was sinning, nothing she didn’t know already. He told her that she was not condemned because He could forgive her sins. Then He told her to stop having this affair, sin no more.
This is how we should handle things. Like Jesus. If we are seriously wanting to see someone sin, all we need to do is watch ourselves and we too will be caught in the act.

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