Friday, July 21, 2017

The Desire to Change Other People Is Toxic

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Lightning, over my house

Years ago God told me, "John, why are you trying so hard to change other people when you can't even change your own self?" I have come to the freeing conclusion that: I cannot change other people. Only God can. So I can let go of trying to do that.

One result of this insight is that, in our marriage, Linda and I rarely, if ever, "advise" one another. We do it if requested. This is because unasked-for advice is usually received as criticism. For example, if I saw you today and said, "Did you know that Macy's has some really nice shirts on sale?", you would think, "John doesn't like my shirt!"

If I want your advice I'll ask for it.

I do ask people for advice on a variety of things. If the advice is about something personal, I ask people who know me, love me, are themselves vulnerable and open, and trustworthy. If Linda gives me unsolicited advice (like, "Your pant zipper is down") it always comes out of care for me.

The desire to see people change into Chrsitlikeness is beautiful. The desire to change other people is toxic. I like how Thomas Merton puts it. He writes:

"Nothing is more suspicious, in a man who seems holy, than an impatient desire to reform other men. A serious obstacle to recollection is the mania for directing those you have not been asked to reform... Renounce this futile concern with other men's affairs! Pay as little attention as you can to the faults of other people and none at all to their natural defects and eccentricities." (New Seeds of Contemplation, 255)

If God shows you another person's fault, it's so you can pray for them.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Existentialism and Free Will

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Our back yard, by the river
I recently talked with a friend about free will. I choose to believe we have free will. 

He mentioned his liking of existentialism. 

I said, "Existentialists are big on free will."

How so?

To begin - the classic definition of existentialism is: existence precedes essence.

That is an anti-Platonic, anti-metaphysical statement. Plato believed persons had a pre-existing essence. Socrates, through a metaphysical Q&A, functioned as an epistemological midwife, assisting the rest of us in remembering who we already are.

For the existentialist (like Sartre, like Camus), we are left to choose our own identity. In this we are "radically free." Existentialism is a philosophy of radical epistemic and ethical freedom, in the face of an unknown future. This, also, is Nietzsche's freedom to choose an uber-morality.

Hence, free will (radical freedom, with no preexisting ontological constraints) as a core assumption of existentialism.

How to Pray for Other People's Change

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Dan, Linda, and Josh

I cannot change people. But I can pray that people would change. 

I can pray, e.g., that an abusive spouse would change. I can pray that God would break them in the right place, thereby giving them an invitation to change. But only God can change them.

It is a major step forward in the spiritual life to realize that God is the agent of change, not me. 


This helps me focus on the changes I need. 

When God changes me, he can use me to influence people. The spiritual transformation that happens in my heart is not just for me.

I have seen people change. Their transformations have influenced me for the good. 


Influence is more powerful than control. Control captures people from the neck up. (Thank you J.H.) Influence captures their heart.

Trying to control, or guilt-manipulate others, de-influences and distances them. More and more I see that I can let that go. 

At this point I am free to change. The transformation of my heart is in inverse proportion to my controlling demands that others change.

Sometimes God allows me to see how some other person, X, desperately needs to change. God gives me eyes to see this, so I can pray for them, not judge or critique them (which any fool can do). 


Here is a way to pray for X and their need to change.



  • First, pray for more self-transformation into greater Christlikeness. Pray "God, change my heart!" 
  • Second, trust that God can use what is happening in you to influence X. Pray for God to guide you in ways to relate to X (what to do, what to say).
  • Third, since all change requires brokenness, pray for X to be broken in the right place.
  • Finally, pray for a fresh baptism of love that transcends irritation with people, such as X, and such as you.

In the Absence of God's Presence, Church Becomes a Circus

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Anderson Gardens, Rockford, Illinois



The first class I taught on prayer was in the M.Div. program at Northern Baptist Theological Seminary. That was 1977. Today, after forty years of teaching prayer and spiritual formation to four thousand pastors and Christian leaders, my discovery is that 80-90% of them do not have a significant prayer life. They, like most, say "I don't have time to pray."

If a pastor or Christian leader is from a non-Western, Third World context, the odds are they do have a significant prayer life. The general rule is this: the more stuff a person has, the less they pray; the less stuff a person has, the more they pray. There are exceptions, but not many. As Jesus said, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.

In the absence of a deep life of prayer-connectedness to God, what does Christian ministry look like? Henri Nouwen writes:


"Most Christian leaders are used to thinking in terms of large-scale organization: getting people together in congregations, schools, and hospitals, and running the show as a circus director. They have become unfamiliar with, and even somewhat afraid of, the deep and significant movements of the Spirit within. I am afraid that in a few decades the Church will be accused of having failed at its most basic task: to offer people creative ways to communicate with the divine source of human life." (Nouwen, Spiritual Formation: Following the Movements of the Spirit, Kindle Locations 207-210)

The #1 thing a pastor-shepherd must do is plant themselves by the living waters and green pastures of God's earth-shattering presence, and then lead their people there.

Teach them, as Jesus instructed, to abide in Him. (John 14-16)

Then their lives will bear much fruit.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Presence-Driven Churches Remove the Word "Success" From Their Vocabulary


Chicago

When the Presence-Driven Church removes the word “success” from its vocabulary, there will come the slow death of the quantitative measurement tools of the Church Growth Movement. 

The Church Growth Movement arose in the late twentieth century. Gary Black describes it this way.

“To track the quality of church membership, [Donald] McGavran suggested modern quantitative accounting methods to evaluate and measure specific determiners of church “success.” Therefore, the CGM methodology gradually emphasized the accumulation, public reporting, and management of key metrics and measurements of congregational accomplishment.”[1]

The Church Growth Movement focused on numbers – of new converts, of membership growth, of church service attendance, and of financial giving. Black writes that “Seeker Sensitive” or “Seeker Driven” churches are the logical and historical culmination of the Church Growth Movement. “If “crowds, cash, and converts” are growing, then successful contextualization of the gospel into the culture is believed to have occurred.”[2]

The Seeker Church eventually morphed into the Entertainment Church, for that is its logical outcome. The Entertainment Church applies “the latest, modern consumer marketing techniques and technologies... essential for displaying cultural acumen, creating an entertaining atmosphere, and maintaining brand loyalty in a competitive religious marketplace. The technology and marketing efforts focus directly on the Sunday morning “worship service.””[3]

Seeker-driven worship, at its quantitative worst, becomes the creation of a performance event, a spectacle, meant to entertain, for the sake of being successful. When a pastor, perhaps out of desperation for attendees, succumbs to this, he or she has committed what Eugene Peterson calls “vocational idolatry.”[4]

***
My two books are:


Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God

Leading the Presence-Driven Church (Sept. 2017)


[2] Ib., p. 35
[3] Ib.
[4] Eugene Peterson, Under the Unpredictable Plant: An Exploration in Vocational Holiness, p. 4.

Too Dumb to Understand What God Is Making Out of Me


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In Detroit

7:30 AM. I'm awake. I begin the day by reading from Psalms and Proverbs.

Then, I read the daily entry from A Year with Thomas Merton: Daily Meditations From His Journals

I read these comforting words:

"There is only one way to peace: be reconciled that of yourself you are what you are, and it might not be especially magnificent, what you are! God has His own plan for making something else of you, and it is a plan which you are mostly too dumb to understand."

Good morning.

My Book - Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God



My book Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God, is available in paperback and as a Kindle book here

I have written a simple Study Guide to Praying. This guide is not published as a book, but is available free as a Word file. It is designed for both individual and group use. 

If you would like a copy of the Study Guide please send me an email - johnpiippo@msn.com. 


My book Leading the Presence-Driven Church will be out this fall.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

"Sin"

Chicago

Whatever happened to "sin?" 

I am told some churches rarely, if ever, talk about sin, because people will be turned off by it.

Other churches do talk about sin. I do. Of course. The entire biblical narrative from Genesis to Revelation will turn into one big smiley emoji if we eliminate sin from the story. The story will be lost in its entirety if sin is eliminated. Because then, there's no need for a Messiah, a Savior.
If you use the word “sin” in public some people will look at you like you are some kind of medieval religious crazy person. Like: "Justin Bieber sinned a few days ago." Say that and you'll get accused of being "judgmental."

I find all this stupid, and troubling.

“Sin” is just a word. Which REFERS to something real

  •  “Sin” is a word that refers to behaviors and actions that create alienation and isolation.
  • “Sin” is a word that refers to choices and non-choices that cause emotions of anger and vengeance and sadness and bitterness and bring tears and loss and grief and cries for justice and so on and on and on…
  • If sin wasn’t about something very real and very dangerous and very alienating, half the movies that are made would not be made, and many of this world's tweets would be meaningless.
  • “Sin” is a big-time reality word. There are not a lot of things more real than the reality of “sin."
  • The English word “sin” is just an ancient word that refers to a reality that is still with us. And within us, if anyone should care to self-examine.
  • Everyone does it. Everyone has it. If you don't have it, then you can start throwing stones at the rest of us.
  • "Sin" is one biblical concept that is easily empirically verifiable.
Sin is only meaningful if it has a reference point. The reality of sin evokes the question, "in reference to what?"

"Sin" falls short of something. Sin doesn't measure up. If there's no reference point, then moral outrage is absurd and "sin" doesn't exist.

Moral outrage is everywhere. Moral outrage is currently (but who cares) politically correct. Moral outrage makes no sense if sin (wrongdoing; evil; heinous acts; etc.) does not exist.

Everyone - me and you and you-know-who - has screwed up and landed short of the Reference Point. (On atheism, there is no Reference Point. Philosopher James Spiegel states how difficult it is for the noetic framework of atheism to discuss evil. "The very notion of “evil” presupposes a standard for goodness which atheism cannot provide. Any notion of evil or, for that matter, how things ought to be, whether morally or in terms of natural events, must rely on some standard or ideal that transcends the physical world. Only some form of supernaturalism, such as theism, can supply this. So to the extent that atheists acknowledge the reality of evil, they depart from their own commitment to naturalism." (The Making of an Atheist: How Immorality Lerds to Unbelief)

We need to talk more about this, not less.

There always has been, and still is, a huge SIN PROBLEM in the world.

Churches should lead the way in the discussion.

And, BTW, "sin" and "death" were the enemies Jesus came to defeat. How foolish for churches not to let seekers in on this open secret.  

Every Text Is a Cautionary Tale

Goldfinch approaching one of my backyard feeders

Every biblical text is a cautionary tale.

Every statement is a cautionary tale.

Which means: WARNING! EVERY TEXT CAN BE MISINTERPRETED!

Any text can be cherry-picked and politicized.

In a recent discussion on my views of healing and the Atonement, a responder was concerned that my perspective could slip into a prosperity gospel position. I assured them that I am not into the heretical prosperity gospel.

I am, however, interested in correctly interpreting Scripture, and even language, for that matter.

We must first ask, what is the text saying? We have to be able, as best we can, to get the text right, and not impose, e.g., a Western worldview on the text.

Once we believe we get the text right - e.g., in my case, comprehensive healing is in the Atonement (1 Peter 2:24) - then we simply present it. We present the correctly (we hope) interpreted text without worry that our presentation could be misinterpreted. Because - of course our presentation could be misinterpreted! It is a guarantee that it will be misinterpreted.

This human reality cannot prevent us from putting forth our understanding. If we operated out of fear that our position could be misinterpreted, then we would present nothing.

Every text is a cautionary tale.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Forgiving Others - Three Stages

Chicago

What is forgiveness? Lewis Smedes, in his paradigm-changing book Forgive and Forget, stages the process of forgiveness this way.

1) You surrender the right to get even with the person who wronged you.

You will no longer engage in ways of making them pay for how they wounded you.

You give whatever justice should be exacted over to God.

You let it go.

2) You reinterpret the person who wronged you in a larger format.

You begin to see the person as God sees them (much like the forgiveness seen in "The Shack," where Mack sees people as God sees them).

This help us avoid creating a "caricature" of the person who wounded us. "In the act of forgiving, we get a new picture of a needy, weak, complicated, fallible human being like ourselves.

We begin to see that we are "that kind of people" too, not in the details, but in the heart.

As you begin to view the person who hurt you this way, forgiveness is taking root in you.

Forgiveness will be securely planted in you when you experience stage three, as a matter of your heart.

3) You develop a gradual desire for the welfare of the person who wounded you.

At this stage you are like Jesus, who loved us even as we were his enemies and wounded him on the cross.

***

My two books are:

Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God

Leading the Presence-Driven Church (Sept. 2017)

The Power of Music to Fuel the Revolution

This morning I'm going to set up my laptop on our back deck and work on chapters six and seven of my book Leading the Presence-Driven Church. I'll place my Bose Soundlink Mini on a ledge, and channel music through my cell phone.

At the top of my listening choice for writing is Mark Isham's cd "Pure Mark Isham." I love this music!

I listen to a lot of minimalism - the subtle layering of Steve Reich, Jeroen van Veen, Philip Glass, Eric Satie. And Alexandre Desplat. Desplat's sound track to the movie "Tree of Life" is on my top ten list of music that moves me.

And Arvo Pärt. His music haunts me. It makes me cry. I listen to him when I need a metaphysical readjusting.

I can barely listen to Samuel Barber's "Adagio for Strings." Yet I must.

Gregorian chant. For many years I took Gregorian Chant into the forests to pray. Now, whenever I listen to it, my soul is transported to praying in the woods.

The solo piano work of Bach artists Andres Schiff and Glenn Gould.

I've listened a lot to Aphex Twin, and similar artists.

The amazing Bela Fleck. (I especially like "Perpetual Motion.")

Jeremy Begbie, in Resounding Truth: Christian Wisdom in the World of Music, writes of the power of music to frame worldviews. I'm now thinking of when I was a campus pastor at Michigan State University, and the massive offensive lineman Tony Mandarich was there. Mandarich used to listen to Guns 'N Roses music before he ran onto the field to play the game. That music empowered him.

I was listening to Tracy Chapman's incredible "Revolution" song recently, and felt like running into the streets to change the world.

This summer I've listened again to my favorite lyricist, Bruce Cockburn. His passionate lyrics and melodies interpret nature and life for me. I used to cover "All the Diamonds," the best conversion song I have ever heard. And then there is "What About the Bond?", the best musical apologetic for marriage ever written.

As a musician myself, I have no doubt that music has "power." Begbie writes that "few doubt that music can call forth the deepest things of the human spirit and affect behavior at the most profound levels. Anyone who has parented a teenager will not need to be told this - study after stufy has shown that music often plays a pivotal part in the formation of young people's identity, self-image, and patterns of behavior." (15-16)

I wrote a song that was sung at my wedding. I had it recorded, because I would not have been able to sing it to Linda on that day without totally losing it. (It was picked up by some Christian artists and recorded.)

Music relieves factory workers of boredom and fatigue, "warriors forget their fear and rush into battle, and the mentally ill are helped to health." (16)

Music fuels revolutions. Begbie writes:

"Polish sacred music played a key role in the solidarities that eventually overturned communism. It is small wonder that some totalitarian regimes have been extremely nervous about music (the Taliban administration in Afghanistan sought to ban virtually all music because of its perceived social dangers) and that others have unashamedly harnessed it precisely because of its influence (the Nazis, for example). Any Christian who cares about the good of human society ought to be concerned with what kind of power music might possess and how such power might be used responsibly." (16)

After my son David died, listening to U2's "One Tree Hill" was part of my healing.

For the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, "the slow movement from Brahms' third Quartet pulled him back from the brink of suicide." (16)

Sting has said, music "saved my life. It saved my sanity." (16)

"Music," wrote George Steiner, is "a preferred medium for expressing religious meaning." (16) Steiner says:

"Music and the metaphysical, in the root sense of that term, music and religious feeling, have been virtually inseparable. It is in and through music that we are most immediately in the presence of the logically, of the verbally inexpressible but wholly palpable energy in being that communicates to our senses and to our reflection what little we can grasp of the naked wonder of life... It has long been, it continues to be, the unwritten theology of those who lack or reject any formal creed." (In Begbie, 16-17)

Begbie cites, for example, "the fierce crucifixion symphonies of James MacMillan." (17) My soul bleeds out as I listen to MacMillan's "Christus Vincet," or his "Eli, Eli, Lama Sabachtani?" (Both songs are on his "7 Last Words From the Cross.") Begbie gives us six pages on MacMillan. (176-182)

I could barely listen to Glen Hansard's "Once" soundtrack, since I was playing it at the time our dog So-Fee had to be put down.

And then there's the thing about worship. Over the past 40 years as a Jesus-follower there have been only a few worship songs (among bazillions of them) that have simultaneously broken and elevated my heart before God. When it happens, when it hits, it's non-discursive experience time. Such music is, for me, anointed by the Spirit of God, and speaks to me in ways that sermons and books cannot. Sometimes it heals. Sometimes, in and through and by it, I see sub specie aeternitatis.

Bono & U2 wrote "One Tree Hill" in honor of their friend Greg Carroll who died in a motorcycle accident. In the recording studio Bono felt he could only do one take of the song. It was too emotional, too power-filled, for him to do it again. Now U2 is doing it on tour. Will they make it through that song without breaking down?

Who will write the music that will fuel the revolution?

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Repetitive Worship Shapes Our Hearts and Minds




After Linda and I watched "The Lego Movie" I awoke the next day humming, "Everything is AWESOME!!!" That little song repeats those words over and over... and over. The constant repetition worked its wonders on me.

That is the power of repetition.

Be careful of what you repeat over and over again, because it will get inside you, and become you. (In my college philosophy classes my teaching method is all about getting students to memorize via repetition the correct answers over and over and over again.)

I occasionally hear some Westernized linear-thinking Christian mock the repetitive worship found in a Pentecostal church like mine. But the ancient Hebrews were tribal, and tribal worship is repetitive. Repetition is a powerful learning tool, helping God's truths descend from our Western minds into our Hebrew hearts.

N.T. Wright supports repetitive worship. He writes: 

"[S]ometimes, in some traditions at least, the things we sing in church are deliberately repetitive. We use them quite differently: as a way of meditation, of stopping on one point and mulling it over, of allowing something which is very deep and important to make more of an impact on us than if we just said or sung it once and passed on.
Quite different traditions find this helpful: the Taizé movement in France, for instance, uses some haunting brief songs or chants; but you find the same thing in many branches of the modern charismatic movement, where repetition is an essential part of worship.
True, some people find these tedious, and want to get back to old-fashioned hymns as quickly as possible. This may be partly a matter of personality. But it may also be that such people are unwilling to allow the truth of which the poem speaks to get quite so close to them.
Repetition can touch, deep down inside us, parts that other, ‘safer’ kinds of hymn cannot reach, or do not very often."
- N.T. Wright, The Early Christian Letters for Everyone, p. 139

Repetitive worship is not "mindless" but mind-shaping.

Be repetitive re. the truths of God and be transformed.

***
My two books are:

Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God

Leading the Presence-Driven Church (Sept. 2017)

Sermon Notes - Forgiveness as a Gateway to Healing


Image result for john piippo redeemer

Especially for my Redeemer family - These are some of my notes and quotes from this morning's sermon - "Healing and the Atonement - Forgiveness As a Gateway to Healing."

Plus - some of the resources I quoted from are at the end of the notes.


Today…   Forgiveness is a gateway to physical and inner healing.
The one point I am going to make: forgiveness of sins and healing go together.
         
***
A REMINDER - The Comprehensive Nature of the Atonement.
1 Peter 2:24 - “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.”
The Message - His wounds became your healing.
How wide is the healing?
I think…   it is for everything on heaven and earth that needs to be healed.
The need for healing is comprehensive.
Isa. 1:5-7
          Your whole head is injured,
    your whole heart afflicted.
From the sole of your foot to the top of your head
    there is no soundness—
only wounds and welts
    and open sores,
not cleansed or bandaged
    or soothed with olive oil.
Your country is desolate,
    your cities burned with fire;
your fields are being stripped by foreigners
    right before you,
    laid waste as when overthrown by strangers.
So… a whole lot of healing is needed.
          Healing of nations. Healing of cities.
          Healing of the creation.
          Healing of persons, from their head to their toe…
                     of physical bodies…,   healing of hearts…  
… healing on the outside, and on the inside…
  healing and restoration of the soul…

What has God done about this? Well…   that’s 1 Peter 2:24.
God has provided healing once and for all through the Son’s atonement, which begins with God the Father sending the anointed One
  (Jesus the Christ)…
… to preach good news to the poor…
… to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. (Lk 4:18-19; Is 61: 1) 

THIS IS WONDERFUL…   but it’s not wonderful to Satan.
This is where the battleground is… a battleground over our souls, our minds, our bodies, our families, our communities, our nations…
Unfortunately, there are hindrances to our healing.
We’ve talked about things that hinder the comprehensive healing that is in the atonement.
          Cessationism…   Dualism…   Naturalism…  Hierarchism

This morning…   something else – a different sort of thing – that comes against comprehensive healing.
          UNFORGIVENESS
Unforgiveness affects us physically.
          I know this from experience.
          King David knew it from experience – Ps. 32
When I did not confess my sins, I was worn out from crying all day long. Day and night you punished me, LORD; my strength was completely drained, as moisture is dried up by the summer heat. Then I confessed my sins to you; I did not conceal my wrongdoings. I decided to confess them to you, and you forgave all my sins (Ps. 32: 3-5).
One of God’s rules of the universe… is that unconfessed, unrepented, undealt-with sin… puts people in captivity…
          …their hearts… in their souls…  even affecting their physical bodies.

Charles Kraft - Unforgiveness is like emotional and spiritual cancer.
As it spreads, it blocks emotional and spiritual healing and can lead to a kind of spiritual death.
It can even be one of the root causes of numerous serious physical illnesses.

That’s what is going on in Matthew 9 – the healing of the paralyzed man
Walter Brueggemann  – “This story is a specific instance where two major features of Jesus’ ministry come together – forgiveness and healing.”
Jesus stepped into a boat, crossed over and came to his own town. Some men brought to him a paralyzed man, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the man, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.”
This paralyzed man…   his sickness is related to his unforgiven sin.
          Not every sickness is caused by sin.
          But surely are.
                   Unforgiveness is not good for us… physically or emotionally.
Jesus said to the paralyzed man, “Get up, take your mat and go home.” Then the man got up and went home. When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe; and they praised God, who had given such authority to man.
Jesus healed this man to show that He, the Son of Man, has the authority to forgive sins.
If He could heal the disease, He could also heal the cause of the disease, the sin.

In Ps. 103:3 we see a connection between forgiveness and healing.
"He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases.”

***
A main part – of the comprehensive nature of the Atonement…   is the forgiveness of our sins.
          The forgiveness of our sins produces a great healing.

John Arnott – “When people forgive themselves and others, powerful emotional healing comes to them as they step into the grace and mercy of God. As we pray for emotional healing, it is common to see
wonderful physical healings taking place in the wake of forgiveness.”

Charles Kraft - I can’t estimate the large number of people, for whom I have prayed, that have received emotional, physical or spiritual healing almost immediately when unforgiveness was dealt with.
On several occasions, people have come to me with extreme tightness and pain across their shoulders. But when they forgave the person they were angry at, the symptoms left immediately.
One woman’s whole personality and outlook on life changed when she gave up her unforgiveness toward scores of people against whom she held bitterness.

Kraft - Unforgiveness is the most frequent block to freedom, and the cause of much difficulty for those who come for ministry. The habit of holding things against self, others or God results in the unforgiving person being bound up in captivity to the Enemy. This is why Jesus had so much to say about the necessity of forgiving.
David Seamands calls forgiveness “the most therapeutic fact in all of life.”

***
What is forgiveness?
2 – You reinterpret the person who wronged you in a larger format.
This is to help us avoid creating a "caricature" of the person who wronged us.
"In the act of forgiving, we get a new picture of a needy, weak, complicated, fallible human being like ourselves."
3     – You develop a gradual desire for the welfare of the person who injured you. (Compassion, empathy)
Benefits of forgiveness (From Robert Enright, 8 Keys to Forgiveness)

Why do you forgive?
1.   You forgive because you have been forgiven much.
2.   You forgive because Jesus commands you to forgive.

Why does Jesus command us to forgive one another, just as we have been forgiven?
          Forgiveness can restore relationships.
          It will release others from their indebtedness to us.
          It brings healing to us.

Robert Enright’s (U. of Wisconsin) research has discovered that forgiving others  produces strong psychological benefits for the one who forgives. They include:
·        Reduction in psychological depression
·        Reduction in anxiety
·        Reduction in unhealthy anger
·        Decrease in posttraumatic stress symptoms
·        Increased quality of life
·        Increased focus
·        Increased self-esteem

What Forgiveness is not
  • To forgive is not to forget (deep hurts can rarely be wiped out of one's awareness).
  • Forgiveness does not require two people (reconciliation takes two people, but an injured party can forgive an offender without reconciliation).
  • forgiveness does not excuse hurtful behavior.
    • Forgiveness takes the offense seriously, not passing it off as inconsequential or insignificant.
  • To forgive is not to trust.

Forgiveness is a personal transaction that releases the one offended from the offense.

Forgiveness is a gateway to healing.
          To physical healing.
          To emotional healing.
Forgiveness… is beautiful… it is so powerful!
Forgiveness is hard…

E.g. – Leannda (Chelsie) Bruck
She gave the convicted murderer who killed her youngest daughter a Bible and although she will never forget the tragic events these past few years, Leannda Bruck said in court that she has forgiven Daniel Clay.
“Today with the strength of Jesus Christ, I forgive Daniel Clay, because if I don’t, all that has happened the last 2 and three-quarters years will destroy the rest of my life,” she said.
“I do not want my Lord to ask why I could not offer forgiveness to Mr. Clay.”
I do not want the rest of my life to be destroyed.
Sin is its own punishment because it eats us up from the inside.
          It is not God’s joy to punish us for our sin; it is His joy to cure it.

Mack was raised in an abusive home, where his father, a very religious man, beat him severely many times.
There is a scene… where Mack gets a wider vision of heaven as thousands of souls appear pear in a meadow at night.
They look to Mack like multicolored lights.
And he sees angels and other heavenly beings, including a majestic Jesus.
During this event (whether vision or reality) Mack encounters his abusive father and they embrace tearfully.
Mack forgives his father just as the heavenly Father has forgiven him.
Apparently, at some point Mack's father accepted God's forgiveness, because he is among the heavenly host.

RESOURCES
Robert Enright, The Forgiving Life