Should We Forgive Abusers?

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As I have often said, I read Dear Abby every day because it provides great fodder for spiritual understanding and teaching.

Recently someone wrote to her who had been abused as a child by her family, and now as an adult and parent is asking how she should react to those who constantly tell her that she should try to reconcile with her family.  Abby answered that when one has been abused they do “NOT” have to forgive the abusers.

Those who are God-fearing should know better than to follow that advice. True, it is hard to forgive someone who has damaged you, whether it be physically and/or emotionally. The pain and anger, unresolved anger, is very hard to live with and even more difficult to get over. In truth, I don’t think we ever really get “over” it, we just learn to get past it.

Yet God tells us that forgiveness is what we must do. We are told to be holy as God is holy, and part of what God does is forgive. He forgives because he is a compassionate and loving God, yet if we do not ask for forgiveness, it will not be given automatically. The reason for that is simple: if we do not ask to be forgiven, that means we aren’t repentant for the sin we committed, and God will not forgive an unrepentant sinner.

Here’s is the thing about forgiveness that (I believe) many people do not understand: forgiving someone else for a sin they committed against you does not make them right with God but it does make you right with God. Each and every one of us must ask God to forgive us for the sin(s) we commit. I can ask God to forgive others, but if they are unrepentant it doesn’t seem likely that God will forgive them. We can ask him to be merciful, but God will judge fairly and mercifully, anyway, whether or not we ask him to do so. What is good about us asking God to forgive or be merciful is that we can show God we are forgiving of others.

Yeshua tells us in Matthew 6:14 that if we do not forgive others, we will not be forgiven. OUCH!! That means that we must forgive if we are to maintain our salvation.

That’s right- it sounds bad and is a hard word to hear, but it’s right there in the Bible. If we do not forgive, we will not be forgiven. We are also told that the rod we use to measure out others will be used to measure us (Matthew 7:2), which is another way of saying the same thing. If we judge others unfairly and refuse to forgive them, that is how we will be judged and how we will receive forgiveness (or not.)

There is another aspect of forgiveness that (I believe) many people do not know: the only way to make the pain go away is to forgive! Without forgiveness, the pain will never go away. Even when you do forgive, it will take time. I try to remember that I need to pray for those that have sinned against me (per Yeshua’s command in Matthew 5:44), and when I pray for them I find that it is easier to forgive them.

The old adage, “To err is human; to forgive, divine” is absolutely correct, and totally biblical.

Usually, Dear Abby’s advice is on the mark, and I understand that her column is not a religious one, but it sure would be nice if she was less PC and more GC (God Correct) for then her advice would be truly good advice.

Forgiveness is self-centered

We usually think of a person who is forgiving as a compassionate, selfless being who loves people more than him or her self.

Not really.

Forgiveness is one of the most misunderstood emotions in the world; well, at least I think that. Why? Because we have been taught that it is important to forgive someone who has hurt you so that they can feel better when they apologize. We see forgiveness, often, as something we do for their sake, but the truth is that we need to be forgiving for our own sake.

God has commanded that we be forgiving of others; read Matthew 6:14

 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

God is very clear, as Yeshua (Jesus) tells us, that we MUST forgive others their sins against us or we will not be forgiven.

The Lord’s Prayer that precedes this verse tells us we should pray for God to forgive us as we forgive others (And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors), which is a statement of quid pro quo. In other words, when we pray to God (in the way Yeshua told us we should) we are telling God that He should forgive us in the same way we forgive others. So, obviously, if we are unwilling to forgive others then we are telling God it is OK to treat us the same way, i.e., do not forgive us our sins against Him. 

Yowsa!! Does that mean that even a person who has been Born Again, who has asked for forgiveness from God through Messiah and received it, can still be treated as one who has not been forgiven when he or she comes before the Throne of Judgement?

Seems that way, doesn’t it? I believe we are being told that when we pray to God to treat us as we treat others (think about Leviticus 18:19), yet we are unforgiving, then He should not forgive us, either. And that doesn’t mean forgiveness is revocable, it simply means we have told God it is OK to treat us the same way we treat others.

And here’s another important aspect to this: it makes no difference, whatsoever, whether or not the sinner asks us for forgiveness.

Essentially, we are permitting God to ignore His promise of forgiveness because we, ourselves, have failed to be forgiving. God is not reneging on His promise, we are rejecting it.

Scary, isn’t it? So, now can you see why forgiveness is self-centered? The very foundation stone of our forgiveness by God is the forgiveness we extend to others. If we refuse to forgive, we will not be forgiven. And that makes sense, when you think of the parable of the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18:23-35.

Besides ensuring our own salvation, forgiving is the only way to release the pain. Understand, also, that when you forgive you don’t have to trust again- those are totally different things. Forgiveness is from God to us, and then from us to others, but trust is something that every individual has to earn.

This is also important to understand: your forgiveness of someone doesn’t make that person right with God, it makes YOU right with God. God is the only one (well, Yeshua also) who can forgive sin, and the sinner will have to ask for it from God, directly. If they repent and ask you to forgive them, it will make you both feel better, but overall it makes your relationship with God stronger and secures your salvation.

Forgiveness of others has nothing to do with the other person, and everything to do with you and your relationship with God, and will affect your salvation. So, Nu? -what could be more self-centered than that?

And you know what else? In this case, it’s OK to be self-centered.


Let it go, already!

Is there something in your past that you wish hadn’t happened? Something you did? Something you said? Something someone did to you? And no matter what, it keeps popping up in your head, with no warning? And doesn’t it always seem to come back to you just after something upsetting happens?

Well, don’t you think it’s about time you let it go and got on with your life?

Ever try to drive your car looking in the rear-view mirror? You’re bound to crash, aren’t you? The same is true of walking with God (or even walking alone, for that matter, although walking with God is much, much better.) We need to learn from God how to forgive, which carries with it the obligation to forget, too. Not to be stupid about it- if someone has hurt you and is unrepentant, you don’t give them a chance to do that again. You forgive them, yes- that is what we are commanded to do, but you don’t let them have the opportunity to hurt you again. That is just foolish. So you forget it, but don’t forget about it.

Huh? Forget it but don’t forget about it? What the heck does that mean?

It means you first let go of the pain by forgiving, which is the only way the pain ever goes away. Once you forgive, you will be able to remember the event, only it won’t be painful. You will see it as a life lesson. And, if the person is repentant and shows that through his or her actions, once they have regained your trust, then you can totally forget the entire incident.

It sounds hard, but in truth, it is harder to do than it sounds. Much harder. Pride gets in the way, the desire to be avenged, to have the other person experience the pain and worry and strife and emotional upheaval that he put you through. The need to know that witch got a taste of her own medicine! Yeah- that’s what I want to see!

That’s pridefulness, not Godliness. That’s the enemy talking to you, not the Holy Spirit. Vengeance may come, because what goes around, does come around.  And sometimes God, in His mercy, allows us to see the person reap what they have sown. And I don’t mean God’s mercy as to allowing you to see this to enjoy it, but in His mercy allowing you to see it so that you can feel the regret at someone else having to endure what you did, someone who may not have the forgiveness that God gave you, someone who may not be able to fall down knowing that a loving and forgiving God is there to pick them up, over and over.

If you can see someone who has hurt you suffering as you did, and not feel pity for that person, then you need to look in the mirror and ask yourself if you are really trying to obey God.

Forgiveness is self-centered. Really. I believe most people, especially people who don’t know the Lord, think when you forgive someone you are making what they did acceptable. They think if they forgive someone then that person is “off the hook”, so to speak.

Not true. Everyone one of us, everyone, will be held accountable to God on the Day of Judgement. Those who have accepted Yeshua as their Messiah will be cleansed by His righteousness, not their own, but by His! Everyone else will be all alone standing at the Throne of the Lord. And let me tell you something- the carpet they stand on will be soiled by those that stood there before them, and when they have to face their sins with no reconciliation available to them, as God judges them they will add to the stains.

If you know even a little of the forgiveness God has granted you through Messiah, how can you feel anything but pity for that poor soul. Yes, he’s a rat; yes, she’s a wicked person, but still and all, they will spend an eternity in suffering and you will spend eternity in joy. When you think about that, doesn’t the harm they did to you, which only reflects their pain and suffering, seem relatively unimportant now?

It is hard to forgive, but not as hard as it is to forget. I am here to tell this to you because I am an expert- at failing. I have learned a lot about forgiveness through reading the bible and observing what God has forgiven, and how He has forgiven. But knowing how to do something is not being able to do it.

So I am practicing. I remember the hurt people have done to me so that I can practice letting go of it. When you first learn how to play an instrument and read music, after enough practice you stop reading the notes and consciously remembering the fingering for that note, and you just do it. When you learn a second language, after speaking it enough and conversing with it, you stop interpreting it in your head and you just know what the words mean.

Forgiveness can be like that- it stops being something you need to think about doing and you just do it. But that takes a lot, I mean , A LOT, of practice. I am still working at it.

My system is to first remember that I have hurt people because I was hurting. I believe people who are hurtful and nasty are suffering with tremendous pain in their heart and soul. They are so full of pain that it seeps out of them, oozes out in their words and actions; they just can’t control themselves. They are poisoned by the wormwood of unforgiveness and controlled by pridefulness, which is never satisfied. It is a hunger that gnaws at your soul and constantly causes you pain and discomfort- nothing tastes good, nothing feels good. It is torture, and they do not have the peace that the Ruach HaKodesh, the Holy Spirit, can give them.

They are in great pain and have rejected the only cure that works- Messiah. Instead of accepting the healing of the Holy Spirit, they dispense pain and suffering to others so that they do not suffer alone. They reek of sin, but instead of cleaning themselves off, they throw it on everyone else around them so that they don’t notice their own stench.

Those who have accepted Messiah have a poncho over them that doesn’t let the stink penetrate, and that poncho is called “forgiveness.” When we forgive, we cleanse ourselves before the Lord. The bad guy still stinks, but not us- we can be clean before God because we have forgiven those who have sinned against us.

And when we forgive them, the pain of the sin goes away; we can remember the act done against us, but the associated pain is gone. This way, if there is repentance, we can let the person know he or she is already forgiven (which demonstrates to them God’s power and love) and now we can totally forget the incident.

Forgiveness is how you get past the pain and how you get on with your life. Unforgiveness is like dragging your anchor; you may be going forward, but there is always something holding you back, slowing down your spiritual growth and maturity. One day it will catch on a rock and you will never go anywhere.

None of us will ever reach full spiritual joy until we learn to forgive others as God has forgiven us.

If there is unforgiveness still lingering in your heart, remember what Yeshua told the man that wanted to follow Him but said he first needed to go back and say goodbye to his family? Yeshua told him that anyone who puts their hand to the plow and looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God (Luke 9:62.) So if there is someone you have not forgiven, do as Yeshua told you- leave your sacrifice at the altar and go make it right. And if the other person refuses to repent, that’s their problem now, not yours. You have done what you could do, what you should do, and you can move on with your life knowing that you have done the Lord’s will.

If you haven’t done so yet, please- reel in your anchor; and if it is stuck on a rock, cut the line.

You can’t go anywhere when you won’t leave where you are.

Freedom through forgiveness

We all struggle to be free of things that bother us, don’t we? We want to be free of our debts, free from the drudgery of a meaningless job with no future, free of our bad habits, and more than anything, I think, free of our pain. Especially emotional pain.

We can be free of debt through careful financial management, we can be free of a go-nowhere job by educating ourselves and making ourselves more valuable in the job market, and we can free ourselves of bad habits through group rehab.

Many people seek therapy, but to be rid of emotional pain therapy isn’t always the best answer. I believe the best way to gain freedom from your emotional pain is to forgive the causer of that pain.

In my experience people just don’t understand how forgiveness works. They think that forgiving someone makes that person right with God, and by forgiving them it justifies what they did.

Not so.

Forgiveness actually has nothing to do, whatsoever, with what they did or their relationship with God, and has everything to do with your relationship with God.

Yeshua (Jesus) tells us we are commanded to forgive; in fact, in Matthew 6:15 He tells us if we do not forgive on earth then we won’t be forgiven in heaven. That’s a pretty powerful statement; it comes right after He teaches us the way we should pray, which tells us to ask that we be forgiven as we forgive others. That is a statement of cause and effect: forgive me for my sins against Thee using the same level of forgiveness that I extend to those who have sinned against me.

In other words, when it comes to forgiveness, I am asking God to do unto me as I do unto others.

The sinner who has hurt you will have to face God in the Acharit HaYamim (End Days), and your forgiveness of that person will have no bearing on that case. It will, however, be considered when you are standing “on the carpet.”

One of the the fruits of your salvation can be shown through your willingness and ability to forgive others. The end result, the reward (if you will) for doing as God says is the release from the pain. When you forgive, you are released from the pain of that event. Not right away, and not always completely, but it will happen (eventually) and you will feel better.

One “trick” I have learned is to pray for the one who has hurt you. Pray for their salvation because, as in my personal life, someone who has hurt me terribly is also someone that I know is in great pain herself, and needs the love of the Lord more than anyone I have ever met. I feel pity for this person, who will have to face God; and when she does, He will strip the Teflon off her body and all that she has done will come back upon her and stick to her skin like shingles. When you think of that pain and suffering, the emotional futility of having lived a lifetime of being unaccountable, then suddenly and completely, without any means of escaping the truth, have all the things you have ignored and shuffled off as everyone else’s fault come down on your head like a ton of bricks…I can’t imagine the horror and pain that will cause. And to top it off, you get a one-way ticket to Hell.

When you think of it, if you know the love and compassion and forgiveness that God has had for you, how can you feel anything but remorse and pity for this poor soul? The imagery just makes you want to forgive them, doesn’t it? If not, you’ve better do some serious talking with God.

It’s simple- forgiveness is God’s aspirin for the emotional pain of being sinned against.

Take two, and call me in the afterlife.

Aspirin for the Soul

Is there anyone out there without some level of pain in their soul? I know the pain of missing my children, who have been torn from me by a hateful and unforgiving mother I divorced nearly a quarter of a century ago. I visited the children every weekend for the first couple of years (I lived a 1 1/2 hour drive away, if there was no NY traffic. And there’s no such thing as “no traffic” when talking about New York City), took them to the beach, to parks, to movies. I spent money I didn’t have at first, and when I did have money, I spent more of it on them. I did all I could to teach them to be self-aware, considerate and able to get along with others. It was all against what their mother had taught them, which was that they are the center of everything, they are just children so they aren’t responsible for themselves; if they have a reason ‘why’ that is a valid excuse so they don’t have to be responsible for what they do, don’t do, say or don’t say. And as soon as they reached majority, even though we still sent them money, they decided that they didn’t need to have me in their lives anymore. I was treating them as adults, not excusing them, and trying to get them to see how what they had been taught would make them outcasts. So I became the outcast.

It hurts. It has been nearly 4 years since my son disowned me, and about 7 for my daughter. She will be 29 next month, and he will be 24 in October. I still send them birthday cards, remind them how much I miss them and still love them, and ask for reconciliation. At whatever level they are comfortable with. I don’t know what is going on in their lives, and what really kills me is that I know, without a doubt, that if (God forbid) something serious happened, or even if they died, their mother wouldn’t even tell me.

That’s my biggest hurt, and it is a big one, isn’t it? Yet I go on. I don’t mope, I don’t complain (well, not nearly as much as I used to) and I tell you this now only to demonstrate that there is hope for those who have this kind of hurt.

It is the hope we have in Messiah, the knowledge that God loves everyone, and in the power of prayer.

I pray for my children, and I pray for their mother. Yes, I do, and I mean it, which surprised me more than anyone when I started doing it. That is the aspirin for our soul- forgiveness. The pain of being hurt is never going to go away if we review it, rehearse what we want to say to the person who has hurt us, and refuse to accept that they must be hurting, inside, even more than they hurt us to do such a terrible thing. That’s what really got me on the right track- when I thought about the pain she was going through, the hurt, the feeling of desertion and rejection, which is what I was doing. Yes- I was leaving her. I had many, many good reasons for doing that, and even though I was no longer in love with her, I still waited for two years before divorcing her, legally. That was time for her to do T’shuvah, to turn from her prideful hatred and decide which was more important- the marriage or her pridefulness.

We all know what decision she made.

So, what did I have left except the pain? I had more pain to come- constant berating by her every time I visited, my children repeating the foul accusations she made against me and my parents to my face when I was with them, and many other atrocities.

I am so grateful to God and the Ruach HaKodesh for teaching me that the only way to overcome the pain of this situation was to pray for them and forgive them, only after doing that could I ask His forgiveness for them.

Oh, now- don’t get the wrong idea. This wasn’t something that came to me right away: it took years and years for me to get to the point where I didn’t talk about it all the time to anyone unfortunate enough to be within earshot. Then it took years after I was saved for me to realize that forgiveness was the only way to relieve the pain. The pain persists, so long as the reason for it persists, but forgiveness and prayer is how I deaden and dull the pain. It is my hope for the future and my trust in God to do all He will to help turn my children back to me (although I know that it has to be their decision), and when I think of the pain and suffering that her hatefulness has caused her, all her life, I can’t help but feel pity for my “ex”.  No matter how much she has hurt me, I have God and the promise of eternal joy to look forward to. When I think of what she has to look forward to, how can I not pity her and pray for her salvation?

Even Ebeneezer Scrooge would have removed some of the chain that Jacob Marley had to wear, if he could have.

Forgiveness is the only way to stop the pain that we have when someone hurts us.

Proverbs tells us to feed and give water to our enemies, David showed respect and forgiveness to King Saul, sparing his life even though he was trying to take David’s; Yeshua tells us to leave our gift at the alter if there is any animosity between us and someone else, and also that we should love our enemies.

And Yeshua also tells us, in Matthew 6:14-15, that if we do not forgive, we will not be forgiven. That’s a hard word to hear, but it is essential we understand it. Forgiveness has nothing to do, really, with the person we forgive, and everything to do with our relationship with God. When anyone sins it is, first and foremost, a sin against God. David knew that and says so in Psalm 51. The person who sins against another is sinning against God. That needs to be worked out between them, and nothing we do will make much of a difference. God will not forgive them if they do not ask for it, no matter how often we ask for it.

So, then ,why should we ask for their forgiveness? Because it is important to maintain our proper relationship with God, that’s why. Because we need to forgive them to stop the pain, that’s why. Because we are commanded to forgive, that’s why!

To err is human; to forgive, divine. That is a truth that is not written in the bible, but is exactly what the bible teaches us.

We all have some pain- how can we possibly avoid it living in a cursed world?  So what? Pain is part of life: for a headache we take aspirin, for a backache we take Ibuprofen, and for the heartache of being sinned against, we take a daily dose of prayer with a glassful of forgiveness.

Forgiveness is aspirin for your soul, and prayer is the way to administer it. Pray for those who hate you, forgive those who sin against you, and you will survive the pain.

And besides that, you will please God, who will bless you for your obedience.

That’s a pretty good remedy: you forgive, which relieves the pain, and then you receive blessings from God.


You can’t change the past

I know that sounds like a, “Duh! Really?” statement, but how many people do you know that seem to live in their past, always regretting things that can’t be changed?

I often review my life, and there are many, many, MANY things I would like to have done differently, and I confess that I am preaching to myself when I say that reliving past issues which cannot be changed is just plain stupid.

The emotional frustration that results from wanting something to be different, coupled with the sense of helplessness when you know that you can’t do anything about it, is maddening. It is a waste not only of time, but of emotional energy and it drains our spirits. It leaves us open to attack from the enemy, which is really not something we want to do.

So, nu? What is the answer? It is so simple to do, and so hard to do: just let it go.

“Sure, Steve- just ‘let it go’. Gee whiz, why didn’t I think of that?”

Yes, it is stating the obvious, but the obvious things in life are so often overlooked, aren’t they? We need to let it go, to give up trying to change what can’t be changed. For those rare cases where we may be able to get passed the past, to re-connect and start anew, we should be willing to apologize and/or forgive. That is the first step, then we can work towards building that relationship up again. Depending on the situation, it may never be the same relationship as before, but that may not be such a bad thing, after all. Some people change, some people don’t, and if you have one dynamic person with a static person, somethings gotta give, sooner or later.

God is wonderfully static- He is the same today, yesterday and tomorrow. And what is really great about that is that God doesn’t have to change because He is perfect! We need to change because we aren’t perfect, and change can go in either direction: for the better, or for the worse. When something happens that changes a relationship in our life, whether we caused it or not, once done it can’t be undone. It can be worked around, it can be forgiven and forgotten, or it can cause pain and frustration for the rest of your life.

But you can’t change the past.

And it’s not just your choice- something that happens between two or more people cannot be overcome if even just one of the participants refuses to work towards repairing the rift. In that case, you move on. You allow them the right to choose how they want to live, you forgive them (to get rid of your pain- the only way to get past a hurt is to forgive) and you move on, keeping your eyes on the prize, calling on the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) to help you (remember- Yeshua called it the Comforter, so use it to comfort yourself) and praying for the other people involved.

I have found that no matter how badly someone has hurt me, when I pray for them it is easier to forgive them, and when I forgive them (even though I still have trouble getting totally over it) it is easier to let go. Try it- you’ll like it. It really works!

Letting go means forgiving: you may need to forgive the other person, or you may need to forgive yourself. Through forgiving you can let go of the pain, and when you pray for them you are doing what God wants you to do (Matthew 5:44, Proverbs 25:22), because God knows it will help you.

Those who can’t stop living in the past can’t have a fulfilling future- don’t drag your anchor all through life. Let it go, ask God for help, and move on. Salvation is just around the corner, so why are you still sitting there?

Without Tsouris we wouldn’t know joy

As lousy a situation as it is, the absence of tsouris (troubles) in our lives results in the absence of joy.

Joy is what we feel when we are relieved of stress, there are no problems, no “issues” to overcome…complete relaxation, physical, mental and spiritual.

But if we didn’t know about stress, if we never had “issues” to worry about and overcome, and if we never were sad, downtrodden, upset or stressed-out, then how would we be able to feel joy? It wouldn’t be anything other than the same old, same old. And even joy can be boring and useless if that’s all there is.

When a woman gives birth, the pains are remarkable (so I’ve heard- not being able to tell you from experience, of course) and the total joy after, when the baby has come out, is just as overwhelming. Not just because of the birth of your child, but because there is no more pain. The cessation of pain is, in and of itself, a joyful feeling.

We go through the fire to remove the slag, and we must be melted down to our basic elements for that to happen. We must be destroyed, so that we can congeal into a more pure form of ourselves. This is what Tsouris is all about- getting rid of the dross so that the purity can be realized. We need to call on the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) during these times to help us die to self so that God can more completely live in us.

The problem is, despite how wonderful the result, going through the process sucks! It sucks in every way: painfully, emotionally, physically, spiritually- every bad “ly” you can think of happens to us when going through the tsouris of life. And there isn’t much to do about it- you can’t run away from it, you can’t avoid it, and you have to wait until it runs it’s course. You are stuck between a rock and a hard place, and calling out to God may not help because God may be behind it.

Not always. Remember, we live in a cursed world, and sometimes that means having to deal with it. God isn’t always to blame. In fact, my personal opinion from reading about God all these years, is that He isn’t so petty as to cause your car to break down if you sinned, or the ladder to fall if you are working on the Sabbath, or have you suffer through “Montezuma’s Revenge” because you ate a ham sandwich for lunch when you knew you shouldn’t have. Maybe, sometimes, little things will happen that (as we look back later) we can see led us to something that was a Godly blessing or prevented us from tsouris, and yes- maybe, just maybe, God did make sure that little thing happened to protect us. Maybe the car did break down so that we didn’t get stuck in that 10 car pile-up on Interstate 95 that we would have been in. But, then again, maybe it just happened.

I don’t drive myself crazy (which, in my case, is a very short ride) with thinking about these things. God is very busy running the Universe, and although I know He happily makes time to hear my prayers, He is multi-tasking all the time. And I just don’t see Him going out of His way to cause something small to happen to me as a punishment for a sin. If that was true, at the rate I sin, He would have a full-time job.

Tsouris sucks- there’s no doubt about it. The only way to get through it is to understand it. By that I mean we need to remember we live in a cursed world, that we are separated from it, that the enemy does make time to do many, small annoying things to get us to curse the world and to curse God, and the enemy runs the world. He wasn’t thrown down to hell, but to the Earth, and he is the Prince of the Air (Ephesians 2:2.) What goes through the air? TV, radio, advertising, cell phone usage, Internet-all of these are controlled by the enemy, by definition of his kingdom, and we are bombarded by it constantly, day after day, year after year, until we think that, just like Mick Jagger says in that famous song, “He can’t be a man ’cause he doesn’t smoke the same cigarette as me!”  We compare ourselves to others instead of to what God says we should be. And often it seems, just like the song says, we can’t get no satisfaction.

But you can get satisfaction! The satisfaction of knowing that the tsouris is temporary and the joy tsouris allows us to feel will be eternal! I wrote a blog about SWISHSo What, I‘m Saved, Halleluyah! We need to remember not just that tsouris happens, but that it makes us better and that it is part of being alive. And more than that, we need to remember that the pain we feel now will allow us to feel the total and pure joy of salvation when that time comes.

Shaul tells us in Philippians 3:14:

“Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have laid hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,  I press on toward the goal to win the prize of God’s heavenly calling in Messiah Yeshua.”

We need to keep our gaze focused not on what is behind, or even what is here now, but on what is coming. That is how we get through tsouris- not concerning ourselves with what is happening as much as looking forward to when it is over. Things always seem so far away when we wait for them, and when we look back it all seems to have happened so quickly. Keep focused on the future, remind yourself that this is going to be over and think about the joy you will have when that happens.

We need to make our own time machine, but one that only works in one direction- the future. When in the midst of tsouris, get into your time machine and travel to the future; don’t look back, just wait there. Before you know it, the present will be with you in the future and the tsouris will be over.

When the tsouris of life is over, your joy in salvation will be complete! That is a promise from God.

Keep that in mind when you feel down and you will be uplifted.

Don’t Crow: Show

Yeshua said this about the Pharisees in Matthew 6:16:

 “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.”

How this bible quote fits into the rather terse topic is simple: it all comes down to what we do and not what we say. I’ve learned (you’ve heard me say this plenty of times, already) that people don’t mean what they say, they mean what they do. And when you add to that old adage the worn-out cliche about not just talking the talk but walking the walk, the lesson about living our lives as we are told to do becomes so repetitive that we just don’t pay attention anymore.

It’s like when you get a small paper cut. It really huts when you get it, but then your brain adjusts to the neural stimuli and becomes ennured to the pain. Then, after a while, you do something like hit the exact spot where the cut is, or maybe get lemon juice in it, or after shave, and WOWSAH!! You remember you have a paper cut, in a big way.

We need to keep pouring lemon juice on where the holes would be if we had been the ones nailed to the tree. We need to constantly remind ourselves, but in different ways so we don’t become callous, that we need to live out our everyday existence in a way that glorifies God, that lets people see His spirit-led change of attitude, and His grace, His love and His compassionate forgiveness.

In Judaism we say that when we look at the Torah we should see a reflection of ourself. So, nu? What do you see when you look at the Torah (Bible)?  Do you see a bunch of fancy words that sound nice or do you see yourself?

What the statement Yeshua said (above) means is that we should not try to win the favor and respect of other people by making a show of our “holiness”, because even if we win their respect and favor, that is all we will get. The purpose of fasting is to get closer to God, to motivate Him to answer our prayers by demonstrating our desire for His help through self-sacrifice. If we really want people to see us and think of how “holy” we are, God will let us have that reward. And what He could have given us will be lost to us; God will step aside and let us have the reward we sought, which is not the reward we could have gotten from Him if we had really been looking to Him for acceptance.

No matter what you give up when you fast, the point is that it is to be between you and God- as Yeshua said (just before this verse) in Matthew 6:3, when giving to the poor (let’s expand that to doing any form of Tzedakah, or charity) that it should be done in secret, so that the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing. This is the same as when we fast: both charity and fasting should be done in secret.

It all boils down to live you life, every day, getting closer to God, and do it in such a way that you will not need to profess your beliefs because  your actions will demonstrate your beliefs.

The greatest compliment I ever received is when I have had someone say me, ” You’re born again, aren’t you?”  I am embarrassed to confess it has been so long since this happened I can’t remember the last time it did.

If you have to tell someone you are a Believer, you need to work at it harder.


Forgiveness Doesn’t Mean Trusting Again

Forgiveness has very little to do with the person you forgive, and everything to do about your relationship with God. Always remember that we are commanded to forgive (Mattitayu 6:14-15) and that forgiving someone demonstrates our love of God through our obedience.

Besides, forgiving is the only way to make the hurt stop.

No, really! If you know the pain of being sinned against, and feel the person that hurt you doesn’t deserve to be forgiven, then you have forgiveness all wrong. Someone hurt you once, but when you fail to forgive them you are just hurting yourself, over and over. Forgiving is how you stop the hurt, and (actually) has no effect at all on the person that hurt you. Most likely, that person doesn’t care if you forgive them or not.

Try to remind yourself that the other person, the one who hurt you, has to face God sooner or later, and nothing you do, including forgiving him or her, will change their relationship with God. The hurt they did to you was also a sin against God and they need to make that right with God; frankly, God doesn’t care if you forgive them or not, so far as their relationship with Him is concerned. He does care if you forgive them or not with regards to your relationship with God. So forgive, get past the pain and be more right with God. The blessing you receive for forgiving others is that the pain stops.

Now let’s cover another aspect of forgiveness: forgiving someone doesn’t mean you have to trust them, or let them back in your life, or even deal with them, ever again. Forgiveness is what we do to improve our relationship with God. If someone has stolen from you, and you forgive them, it doesn’t mean you have to let them know the combination to your safe. That isn’t forgiveness, that’s stupidity. Shaul (Paul) says that we shouldn’t do anything to provide a stumbling block that might cause someone to stumble (into sin) so if you know someone who is hurtful, don’t give them a chance to hurt you (or themself, for that matter.) If you know someone who drinks too much, don’t offer them a second round. If you know someone who is a gossip, don’t listen to them or share a secret with them. If you know someone who is lazy, don’t give them an important job to do.

You should forgive them when their sin affects you, but that doesn’t mean you have to give them the opportunity to continue to sin against you to “prove” you have forgiven them. Your forgiveness of others is between you and God, and no one else, and you don’t have to prove anything to anyone.

Consequently, when you sin against someone, you should ask them for their forgiveness. Before going to that person, confess your sin and ask God for forgiveness. After all, every sin we commit is, first and foremost, against God. David knew that and said so in Psalm 51, so ask forgiveness from God, then go to that person and ask forgiveness from him or her. And know that the rule works the same way: if they do not forgive you, it has nothing to do regarding your relationship with God. You sinned against someone and you asked for God’s forgiveness and for their forgiveness.Whether they forgive you or not is between them and God, and once you do what you know to be right (in God’s eyes) you should also forgive yourself and move on.

The saying, “To err is human; to forgive, divine” is more than just an old saw- it is an accurate definition of both terms. God says many times that we are to be holy because He is holy, and one way we can do that is to be forgiving. You don’t need to allow that person back in your life or to deal with them ever again, but you do need to forgive them. It doesn’t even matter if they know that you have forgiven them.

Just so long as God knows.

His Presence is Always Present

In the Manual we read about God’s presence. There was the time He decided to go down and see what was happening in Sodom and Gomorrah, He also went down to see what the humans were doing at Babel, His presence filled the Tabernacle and the Temple, and how many times have there been when you were worshipping and you felt the presence of the Lord all around you?

It’s really nice, isn’t it? For me, I feel spiritually relaxed, unburdened and often I cry: the tears just come all on their own. Tears of joy, of comfort and of peace.

The problem is that it doesn’t last. We feel His presence, we can actually even sense His touch: that sort of chill that goes through you. I remember when I first experienced that as the Ruach haKodesh (Holy Spirit) physically entered me. I felt totally ethereal, like I was spirit. It happened about 18 years ago, and it still gets to me, emotionally and physically. I still get all teary-eyed when retelling it.

Whenever we feel His presence it is wonderful. Why then don’t we feel it all the time? After all, God is omnipresent, is He not? That means that He doesn’t really “go down” to anywhere- He is already there. God is always right here, just a hand’s reach away from us, ready to grab us as we fall or hold us back when we go rushing into disaster.

His presence is always present, so why don’t we always feel it? The truth is painfully simple: we can’t come into His presence because we are too into ourselves. The Holy Spirit may live within us, but we have to give it more room if we want to feel it more often. A small paper cut on the finger will hurt when we get it, and then we get used to the pain and it seems that it no longer hurts, until we get lemon juice in it. WOW! Then you remember you have the cut!

The Holy Spirit is much nicer than a paper cut, but the idea is the same. We become inured to it’s presence and we forget about it. We don’t remember it’s there until we pour some lemon juice on it, the lemon juice being our sinful actions, words or feelings. When we are doing something sinful we are then reminded by the Spirit that it is still there. It causes us pain, and helps us to want to wash off the sin like we wash out the lemon juice.

With a paper cut, we put a bandage over it to stop it from hurting. How many of us have put on a spiritual bandage to prevent ourselves from feeling the Ruach when it wants to remind us it’s there?  Every time we do not “die to self” so that the Spirit can live more fully within us, we are placing a band aid on the Ruach. The more bandages on the Ruach, the less likely we will feel the sting of sin when we do something wrong in God’s eyes. And the more we cover it, the less we sense His presence, so it seems that God is not near us. But He is near- He is right there, at your side, at my side, holding out His hand and asking us to take hold.

If you want to feel the presence of the Lord more often, more intently, and more completely, remove the bandages. Allow the soreness of sin to remind you quickly and painfully that you are not doing as the Spirit leads.

We are a container- we are filled with ourselves and with the Spirit, but the container can only hold so much. If you want more Spirit, you need to make room by getting rid of more of yourself. I used to be frightened to death by that statement (literally, since this fear of losing myself meant that I was rejecting the truth about Messiah Yeshua); but now, after I faithfully took that leap and accepted Messiah, I find that I am not really losing who I am, I am just becoming a better me. The more the Spirit leads me  ( scratch that, change it to this):  the more I allow the Spirit to lead me, the better a person I am.

I have been given the gift of humor, and I used to misuse it by making people laugh with nothing but bawdy jokes, and I used foul language to shock the humor out of people. I can tell you this: it worked a lot, but it also got me in a lot of trouble. I still find exotic humor (OK, OK…yes, I admit it, they’re dirty jokes) funny but I have “toned it way down”, and I can still be funny without being sinful. Richard Pryor was one of the funniest men I ever heard, and he was well known for being filthy, but he was also exceptionally funny (when he started out) on the Ed Sullivan and the Tonight shows, and there were no dirty jokes allowed on those shows. The spirit of humor God gave me is like anything else from God- how well I use that gift is based on how much I let the Spirit guide me in it’s use.

God is always here, he never leaves, He never sleeps, He doesn’t need to hit the head; God’s presence is always present. It’s us, it’s me, it’s you, it’s the flesh that prevents the Spirit from being felt and it’s our self-absorbed nature that numbs us to God’s touch.

All any of us needs do to feel God’s presence is to reach out to Him, but to do that we need to let go of whatever we are holding on to. What you are holding on to, you need to determine for yourself.