The Gift That Keeps Giving

Love. It’s the foundation of our faith and salvation. It’s because of love that God sent His one and only son to suffer for our sins, providing the gateway to redemption and salvation (John 3:16). Because of love, God was that eager to restore mankind back into His arms, where we were created to be. Love is the greatest commandment – actually, it’s twofold. The absolute greatest commandment is to love God (Matthew 22:36–38). Then the second greatest commandment follows – to love each other (Matthew 22:39). 

I have always been one to hold grudges. I’ve always been one to take offense quite quickly. I can remember the details of an offense that happened 10 years ago as if it just happened today. I can recall what was  done and said, how it was done and said, etc. Most of all, I can recall the intense anger and hurt it induced. I’ve always been one to internalize, so I wasn’t always good with expressing my thoughts and feelings. Needless to say, rather than working through relational issues, it was far more convenient for me to just cut people off, leaving no room for further hurt or offense. No conversation, no mediation. I just simply disconnected. Of course, rumination kept the cycle of resentment and anger in full motion. When I examined this attitude and behavior through the truth of God’s word, I realized that I was in agreement with darkness through disobedience, and in the great danger of sin. This is greatly displeasing to God, and should in no way ever be taken lightly (Romans 6:23). 

If we don’t forgive others, God will not forgive us (Matthew 6:14–15). Yikes. If we claim to love God but hate someone…well…we actually don’t love God (1 John 4:20–21). Again, yikes. God’s requirement for us to love is nonnegotiable, and I think that’s because God continuously pours out so much of His love on us through His immeasurable grace and mercy. Christ is available to all (no one exempt), and when we except Him into our hearts, He fills us with His Holy Spirit. How sweet! He literally abides in us, helping us to walk in the obedience of His ways. In fact, love is the first stated fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). So, this tells us that love is a choice we are more than capable of making. Simply put, we can make the choice to love and forgive others because God has extended immense love and forgiveness to us. It’s the gift that keeps giving. 

Because I know me, I have to make the daily decision of drawing closer to God through prayer, worship, and His word. He’s the only, and I mean the only way I can walk in the love He has called me to walk in. Again, I have always been one to hold grudges. Letting go and forgiving does not come naturally for me. It just doesn’t. Unfortunately, I am a pro at harboring anger, but this isn’t God’s way. It is quite displeasing to Him. So, I must start my day with prayer and worship and I must make the daily decision to choose what is right and pleasing to Him. Lately during my morning prayer, I have been verbally committing to the Lord, “I choose love. I choose forgiveness. I choose joy. I choose grace.” When I commit myself to these things before God, I’m being proactive. So if someone ticks me off (which will happen throughout life), my heart and mind are already set to choose God’s approach. This not only helps me to treat people better, but it also helps me to feel better. Above all, it pleases God and keeps me focused on Him, which keeps me in peace (Isaiah 26:3).

When I think about God’s grace, my heart warms. There have been times when I have willfully sinned, and yet received a blessing instead of punishment. Now I need to make a strong disclaimer here!!! I am in no way implying that God rewards sin. He does not!!! I am, however, emphasizing how God has spared me from the wrath and punishment I deserved. His kindness and patience is meant to draw us to repentance (Romans 2:4).  In other words, there’s something heartwarming about being spared from the punishment we deserve, and it makes me want to do better. It brings deep conviction, making me want to turn from any and everything that offends and grieves Him. God deeply loves us, and He wants us to come closer to Him. He wants more than just religious routine. God wants a relationship. So, He lavishes us with so many amazing gifts, like His love, grace, and mercy.  Because we are also called to give, He expects (and helps) us to extend these gifts to one another. They are truly gifts that keep giving.

When someone wrongs me, I remember that I have wronged others in the past. I remember that I also have flaws just like anyone else. I remember that I cannot judge or hold anything against anyone, because God is not holding my sins against me. I think about how God loves me unconditionally, and He gives me the ability to love others because He loves me. His grace spares me from the punishment I deserve, so I can spare others instead of holding their wrongs against them. At the end of the day, we all need room for err. Grace helps me to keep my eye on the beauty in others. Grace helps me to look past flaws. Love drives me to embrace the beauty in others because God embraces the beauty in me. Of course the temptation to steep in anger and resentment arises from time to time. But I am training myself not to yield to it. I choose to reflect upon and extend the gifts that keep giving, which enrich my peace and joy.

All Things New

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One of the Most important things I’ve learned along this journey called life is this: DO NOT ALLOW YOUR PAST TO HINDER YOUR FUTURE. JUST DON’T DO IT.  Don’t allow people or past experiences to stop you from progressing into the greater that’s to come. Don’t allow them to stop you from embracing the new. They just simply aren’t worth it. That’s why all through the Bible we are urged to forgive others, renew our minds, and move on – NOT LOOKING BACK.

Everyone on this planet has experienced some sort of trauma – physical, emotional, etc. We’ve all experienced the harsh sting of failures and disappointments. We’ve all been hurt by others in some way. Man, it’s so easy to grow callous, closed, and guarded as a result of experiencing trauma. I’ve definitely been there. It almost seems like human nature. Think about it. When you scrape your skin, your body immediately goes into “self preservation” or defense mode. A hardened scab begins to form as a PROTECTIVE AGENT to prevent additional germs, etc. from entering and further infecting the wound. But notice this – the scab TEMPORARILY forms to initiate the healing process. Once the wound heals, NEW SKIN forms and the scab falls off. Once healed, the body doesn’t need the hard, protective agent. If only it were this easy and quick to heal from emotional trauma.

Often times, painful experiences in life (failures, disappointments, regrets, betrayal, rejection, abuse, ridicule, etc.) create emotional wounds, and similar to how our physical bodies respond, we go into emotional “self preservation” or defense mode. We build up these thick layers of callouses and scabs to prevent anyone or anything else from inflicting further pain. Sometimes it takes years for us to heal and allow the callouses and scabs to fall off, with new skin beneath. On the other hand, some never heal. They live life at less than full potential and they go to the grave with decades old callouses and scabs. Just to know that beautiful new skin was waiting to form the entire time, but never did because of over-extended callouses and scabs. People, PLEASE don’t become the latter. You’ll be doing such a disservice to yourself, others, and God. Healing is a process, but make sure you progress through the process.

A wise woman once told me that the GREATEST revenge is success. The absolute best way to take revenge on all those past hurts and pains is to simply let go and move forward (Philippians 3:13). It’s a decision that only YOU can make. There is something toxic about constantly looking back into the negative past. Check out Genesis 19:16-26. God was about to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, but he chose to spare Lot and his family. They were urged to flee quickly and not look back. God had a plan for them – something much greater than what they had…but…Lot’s wife couldn’t resist the urge to look back, and as soon as she did, she turned into a pillar of salt – her future and destiny FORFEITED all because she looked back rather than looking forward.

Jesus is the MOST progressive person to ever had live on earth and through Him, we’re all made new. God loves us. He cares about us and everything that concerns us. He’s fully aware of our hurts and pain. He desperately wants us to trust Him to make everything new (Isaiah 43:19). God wants to heal our wounds, removing the callouses and scabs of yesteryear to form beautiful new skin. While the Creator of the universe has the power to do anything, He does require our participation in the healing process. In layman’s terms, we have to do our part. Healing, moving on, and embracing the new surely takes much purposeful effort.

To begin with, we need to be enlightened and rejuvenated through the power of God’s word (aka the Bible). Jesus took lashes so we can be healed and set free from all types of bondage (Isaiah 53:5)  His word is the TRUTH and the truth makes us free (John 8:32). This implies that FREEDOM is a condition, a state of being, and anyone can obtain it. That’s why Philippians 4:8 tells us to keep our minds fixed on what’s TRUE (first and above all), noble, right, purse, lovely, admirable, and praiseworthy. The more we focus on the things of God, the more we heal and our callouses and scabs fall off as beautiful new skin grows. Now, while healing and freedom can be obtained, we MUST be sure to MAINTAIN them so we don’t end up regressing (Galatians 5:1). Aside studying, applying, and meditating on the word of God, we really need to stay in PRAYER. So many folks sleep on prayer, but it is powerful and effective (James 5:16). Prayer changes things. Really. You have to keep your heart clean. FORGIVE. Ugh, the F-word. That word has made me cringe in the past and I’m sure I’m not alone. It can be hard…it is hard. But what’s even harder is walking around wounded, resentful, and toxic – wearing layers of ugly callouses and scabs. Blah. Who has time for that? It’s legit self-torture. LET GO. No amount of hurt, anger, disappointment, etc, is worth you forfeiting your destiny. Your life is not just about you. There are so many people out there you’re assigned to reach, touch, influence, uplift, encourage, etc. You deserve to be the best you and becoming the best you requires the decision to turn away from the old and walk into the new.

MOVE ON. LET THE PAST GO. Everything that was meant to hurt you will work out for your benefit (Genesis 50:20, Romans 8:28). Don’t let your past suffocate your future – please don’t. There’s a better version of you awaiting for you to become it. Everything new is waiting for you to trash the old. Make sure you run with a tribe of folks who are headed in the same direction as you. YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Love wins. Love heals wounds. Love removes callouses and scabs. Love makes new. Believe and trust God through it all. Forgive. Move on. Love. The ingredients to a new you and a new life.

Enjoy the upbeat MercyMe song below that’ll remind you of the new that awaits you 🙂