Friday, March 31, 2006

Kept in Check

A mother bear had traveled many miles looking for food with her cub, when she noticed that the cub had wandered away from her. Anxious, she began to look for him. Meanwhile, the cub, reaching the rocky area of a river, began to play. First he rolled on his back with his hind legs in the air. Then he chased his tail, and even smacked himself a time or two. Tiring, the distracted cub began to climb on the rocks and to swat at the various fish in the rushing stream. Engrossed in play, he did not realize that a cougar was stealthily approaching. Crouching, the cougar silently and slowly moved toward the cub. Suddenly, the cub thought he heard something and looked up directly into the face of the growling cat that was ready to pounce. Realizing his life was in danger, the cub attempted to defend himself. Standing on his hind legs, he growled back. Although he wasn't sure this was the thing to do, he could think of nothing else, and so on he growled while clawing the air. Startled, but determined, the cougar stared up at the cub with ears back, hissing. Suddenly he looked frightened, turned and ran away. Amazed at how easily the cub had caused danger to flee, he congratulated himself, not realizing that behind him on her hind legs, stood his mother. It was she who had frightened away the dangerous and hungry cat, as she defended her cub. By himself, the cub was no match for the cougar, but the other was. It was the mother bear that kept the cougar in check.

There is a quote from Ellen G. White in Friday’s lesson, which reads, “The prince of the power of evil can only be held in check by the power of God in the third person of the Godhead, the Holy Spirit.” There are two ways to view both this quote and the above story. One is in the subjective sense, and the other is in the objective. Let’s look first at the subjective. In the above story, the cub represents you and I, and the cougar represents Satan – the price of the power of Evil. We have wandered (and continue to roam) away from God into danger and imminent death. The Holy Spirit is represented by the mother bear, which goes looking for her lost cub. It is she who keeps the power of evil in check, so the wanderer has opportunity to escape. According to the Apostle Peter, “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” 1 Peter 5:8 (NKJV). This is the reason Peter advises us to be alert and controlled by the Spirit -- having given our will over to Him. On our own, away from God -- the source of life, we are no match for Satan. We do not have a chance against him, even if all of us were to join forces against him. But, thank God for our mother bear, the Holy Spirit.

In the book of Job, God tells Satan about Job, “Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand” (Job 1:12). So the enemy of souls can do unto us, only what God allows him to do. Being that the Holy Spirit is God, the devil must go through Him before he gets to us. According to Sister White, “he who is imbued with the Spirit of Christ abides in Christ. The blow that is aimed at him falls upon the Saviour, who surrounds him with His presence. Whatever comes to him comes from Christ. He has no need to resist evil, for Christ is his defense. Nothing can touch him except by our Lord's permission, and ‘all things’ that are permitted ‘work together for good to them that love God.’ Romans 8:28” (Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing page 71). Isn't this thought amazing? 'It is not that we resist evil, but that we allow Christ to be our defence.' What a novel thought. Whatever difficulties or trials we experience -- as hard as the hit may feel -- the Spirit of God receives it first. We merely feel what God allows us to feel. And even then, He buffers the blow, for without His presence, the entire force of the blow would destroy us.

Another way to view both the story and the quote is in the corporate sense. From this vantage point, the cub in the story represents the church. We know from reading the book of Revelation that in the final days of this earth's history, the restraint that has been upon the wicked will be removed, and Satan will have entire control of the minds and hearts of the impenitent. According to Sister White, When God's long-suffering patience will have ended, when the world has rejected His mercy, despised His love, and trampled upon His law; when the wicked have passed the boundary of their probation; and the Spirit of God has persistently been resisted, He will at last be withdrawn. Unsheltered by divine grace, the wicked have no protection from the evil one. Satan will then plunge the inhabitants of the earth into one great, final trouble. As the angels of God cease to hold in check the fierce winds of human passion, all the elements of strife will be let loose. The whole world will be involved in ruin more terrible than that, which came upon Jerusalem in the hands of Titus in 70 AD (Maranatha, page 265). Perhaps, the plagues of Revelation 16 paint the gruesome picture of the terrible trial that humanity will go through when the Holy Spirit is no longer holding the enemy in check. Persecution will ensue those who by Faith stand alone in this earth without an intercessor. The Devil will convince the agonizing masses of evildoers that the Saints are to be blamed.

We are the cub. God sees us both individually (subjectively), and objectively as one. When we are in Christ, and He is in us, the evil that Satan sends to destroy us does not have its intended effect. We are protected, because the powers arrayed against us are held in check by the third person of the Godhead -- the Holy Spirit. This does not mean that we will not feel frightened, for we will, just as that little cub was afraid for his life. Yet, God has promised -- and He keeps His promises -- He will deliver us speedily when we call upon Him. Perhaps like the cub we are calling silently, thinking no one is around to hear. Take heart, for God is faithful and will not allow any one of us to be destroyed. Keep the faith!

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Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The Elijah Solution

In the days of Elijah the people of Israel had turned their hearts from God. They were worshiping other god’s, instead of Jehovah. Evil reigned in Israel, and broke Elijah’s heart. Determined to stop the national evil of idol worship, the Lord weighted Elijah's heart with a message of repentance designed to turn the hearts of the people back to God. In allowing these wicked traits of character to go unchecked, King Ahab was directly responsible, for he himself set the example which his people were following. Thus the people had turned their hearts and minds away from God, while assuming that they were still following Him. You see, Baal worship was similar to the worship of the true God, Jehovah. After all, Baal only meant 'lord,' or 'husband.' So the people thought they were calling on God the way they had always done. Yet in reality, they had switched allegiances unaware. They could have known but by choice they did not. In the days of John the Baptist, evil also reigned in Judah in the form of greed, selfishness, sensual pleasures, and nationalistic pride.

At present -- the last days to be exact -- the Lord has said that people would be “lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God -- having a form of godliness but denying its power." We were further admonished to 'have nothing to do with them' (2 Timothy 3:2-5 NIV). Isn't this precisely the case both with professed Christians in various churches, as well as with the unbelievers and the unchurched? Sadly, God's evaluation of the condition of the last church as stated in Revelation 3:15 -17 (NIV) is accurate --

Revelation 3:15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I
wish you were either one or the other!
Revelation 3:16 So, because you are lukewarm -- neither hot nor cold --
I am about to spit you out of My mouth.
Revelation 3:17 You say, 'I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not
need a thing.' But you do not realize that you are
wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.

Professed Christians think themselves ‘good,’ because they do not behave in the obviously wicked ways that 'bad' people do. Our problems however, are deeper and greater than our behavior indicates. At issue is our human nature which, naturally bent towards evil, is manifested in evil imagination, attitudes and thoughts, continually. Human nature is filled with iniquity which naturally pulls us as a riptide pulls its victim downward and outward to the sea. As this is true of all human beings, the only possible difference between the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ people is the supernatural power which controls them. Not one of us in and of himself or herself is righteous, for as the Lord stated through Apostle Paul, good people are as bent toward evil as bad people are. “Good” people have learned to hide their evil ways. Living in denial they are deceived as to their true condition. Furthermore, they disbelieve any evaluation that is contrary to their opinion of themselves.

In the days of the prophet Elijah, God sent him to spare the people from suffering a three-year drought. God's solution was Elijah's message, and that is what Elijah preached. “Repent for judgment is near," was his constant cry; yet it was to turn the hearts and minds of the people back to the true worship of God. In the days of Jesus, John the Baptist was sent to “prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for Him” (Luke 3:4 NIV). John the Baptist was given the privilege of preaching the message of repentance ("Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near," Matthew 3:2 NIV) just as Elijah was sanctioned to preach to his generation. Both messages were not only proclaimed with authority, but the power to transform human hearts and minds was inherent within the Word itself. So potent was this message that hard hearts were melted, while lukewarm ones were heated up to white hot. Folks, the hearts and minds of those who genuinely accepted the message were turned to one another, “the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts and minds of the children to their parents." Thus the people were prepared to receive Jesus as their long awaited Messiah. Those who rejected the message ultimately rejected not only Jesus, but His Father whom they professed to serve. As the scripture says, to be without Jesus is to be without the light and life. Thus the majority of Jews, indeed the Jewish nation itself, sealed their personal and national eternal condemnation.

In our day, the last great message to go out to the world is the message of the righteous character of God's agape - love. Bound up in the good news of the righteousness of Christ is the three angels' message of Revelation 14: 6-12 in verity (EGW). This message has of necessity been given to the Elijah's of this time. And as in the days of old, inherent in the message is the power to change the hearts and minds of the people to Christ, to one another, from children to parents and vice versa. This is the power that is lacking in our Laodicean churches. The solution is therefore not more and better programming; it is not more dollars thrown at the various outreach ministries, nor is it greater local, national or global recognition. The solution is in the message. Hearts and minds who willingly, eagerly and attentively listen are transformed by the Agape - love of Christ. False worship is put aside, and the genuine article of faith comes to reside in the souls of the people, causing them to light up the globe with the splendor of Christ's character (His glory) as they go from place to place sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ.

My friends, the Elijah solution has been given to all. Just how many years do we have to go on in barrenness, weary and wilting? If we are willing to receive the message as God desires us to, it will do the work He has designated, for He has said, "So shall My Word be that goeth forth of My mouth: it shall not return unto Me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing where to I sent it" (Isaiah 55:11).

Maria Greaves-Barnes & Raul Diaz
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Friday, March 17, 2006

Entertaining Versus Hospitality

Denise grew up in a very wealthy home. Her parents were both prominent and highly regarded businesspersons who hosted many affairs in their palatial home. Countless were the evenings in which Denise dined sumptuously with her parents' guests, almost all of whom were individuals of social prominence. Guest lists often included celebrities who were involved in international business enterprises abroad, and desired her parent's influence to secure a particular outcome. Denise's home was listed in several magazines not only due to its size and decor, but also because of its spectacular and opulent gardens. To maintain and even upgrade their lavish lifestyle Denise's parents spared no expense. Unfortunately, Denise had come to think of her way of life as typical. It was unthinkable to her that worthy others did not live as she did.

As Denise grew older, she became dissatisfied with life, for it seemed to lack true meaning. Oh, she continued to participate in the social round of lavish parties her parents and others threw as part of her social obligations, but something seemed to be missing. Sometime during this turbulent time in her life, Denise decided to take a solo trip to a small country in South-America to get away from the superficiality of her life. Out of curiosity, she decided she would visit a small village miles away from the main city, to see how the native people lived. She hoped the experience would help her change something about her life. She wasn't sure what it was, but still she hoped. On her journey to the village, Denise marveled at the simple beauty of the land. The hills shimmered in the daylight as the countryside reflected the sun. No, it wasn't a glare, but a soft light seemed to bathe every tree and plant upon which she looked. Denise felt herself relaxing and thought that it was wonderful to be alive, a thought she hadn't had in a long time. Shortly thereafter, the bus -- if you could call it that -- pulled into town, and Denise got off. How simple and beautiful everything was.

Friendly and hospitable people were milling about everywhere, and most of them smiled pleasantly as they met Denise's glance. It was thrilling to finally arrive at the small village. Yet, in just a few minutes, it seemed that all of the shops closed right before her eyes. Bewildered, Denise wondered what was going on, and where everyone was heading. At last, she found herself alone in the street, lost, confused, and unsure of what to do next. An older lady, passing by her living room window, saw Denise, and bade her to come to the door. Uncertain, Denise just stood in the street. Suddenly, a young boy came out of the house and said to her in broken English, “Will you join us for siesta?” Taking her hand, he led her into his home, and to his grandmother. Once inside, Denise joined the simple family as they washed themselves and sat down to eat. Curious about their new guest who did not speak Spanish well, they communicated their welcome with hand gestures. Soon, Denise realized that if her hosts spoke slowly, she could understand them. She hoped in turn that they might be able to understand her broken Spanish, and so she attempted to speak. As the siesta time came to a close that early evening, the oldest daughter stood up, and bundled some food for Denise to take with her. Grateful, Denise tried to offer her hostess money, but was kindly rebuffed. Coming close to her, the young boy who took her hand and led her into his home whispered softly, “to give us money is insulting; we do this because you are our guest.”

Humbled, Denise never forgot her experience of genuine hospitality in the small South-American village. And upon her return home, she spoke more often of that family's hospitable treatment than she did of her parent’s lavish and sumptuous entertaining affairs. You see, Denise had come to realize that there is a difference between entertaining and being hospitable. Her parents entertained to impress and amuse their guests. Fully believing the old adage that "one hand washes the other," they anticipated that at the appropriate time, they would receive something of value in return for their efforts. In contrast, the South-American family expected nothing from Denise; they simply shared what they had. Yet somehow Denise felt that her presence was desired and appreciated. Such a far cry from so many of the guests her parents had entertained because they had to make a good impression.

As Thursday’s lesson so wisely says, there is a difference between hospitality and entertaining. In the Middle East, the concept of Hospitality is taken very seriously, for without it, many travelers would perish in that dry, hot, arid land. The taking into your home of complete strangers who are merely traveling by your dwelling has been replaced with the inviting of people you like, or want to impress into your home. Surprisingly, hospitality is about others, while entertaining is about you.

Biblical Hospitality is defined as “a tangible _expression of self-giving love ... [which] springs from the hearts of those who have been touched by God’s love and want to express their love in words and actions (to others).” In simple terms, hospitality is offering and sharing with others what God has so graciously provided for you. What has God given you? Yes, you can look around at all your material possessions, and at your degrees and your career accomplishments; you can even look back at the time God healed you of some terrible disease, or miraculously spared you from dying in that horrible accident. You can even look back at the child He gave you in answer to your prayers. But, have you not read John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” God gave to you His Son; He gave to you pardon, and spared you from eternal death. Additionally, God gave you the promise of eternal life. What else has God given you? He gave you His Holy Spirit to lead, guide and direct you on your journey to the eternal kingdom. Furthermore, God has given you His agape-love. Have you by faith received these things, and made them yours? You cannot share what you do not have. You cannot give what is not yours.

Mary Magdalene gave to Jesus all that God through Christ had given her: the 300 hundred denarii's for the alabaster ensconced Spikenard, and His agape-love (Mark 14:3). This is perhaps the most memorable example of hospitality in scripture. While Simon's guests condemned Mary for her true demonstration of hospitality, Jesus praised her. By Jesus response, Simon was rebuked for entertaining instead of being hospitable. In Luke 7:44-47 we read--

Luke 7:44 Then He turned toward the woman and said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give Me any water for My feet, but she wet My feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair.
Luke 7:45 You did not give Me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing My feet.
Luke 7:46 You did not put oil on My head, but she has poured perfume on My feet.
Luke 7:47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little."

The contrast is again established. Those who get a hold of God’s agape-love are hospitable; while those who neither understand nor receive, choose to entertain. God wants to make us hospitable; let's allow Him to have His way, for the blessings we seek, are wrapped up in benevolence.

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Friday, March 10, 2006

Culture and the Gospel

After graduating from high school, Amanda was excited about leaving for college. She could hardly wait to meet the overseas students who were attending from various parts of the globe. First hand exposure to foreign cultures was something that Amanda had looked forward to as long as she could remember. As a child, few of her family members shared her excitement. Indeed they thought her strange, and thus stifled her desire for interaction with others (not of her culture). Amanda's first year at university went well enough, but there were still barriers to real cultural exchange at the school where she attended. Then came her sophomore year, and things got worse. It seemed that although Amanda was able to meet and interact with some individuals who were culturally quite different, the experience was not always quite pleasant. Frustrated, Amanda asked herself, "Why do I feel I have to leave America to meet others, when there are so many foreign students here?" "There are even many first and second generation kids here at school, who are culturally American and something else, and still I cannot seem to form friendships with them -- is something wrong with me?" "They seem friendly enough to me as long as they need me for my voice in the talent show, or for my speed in soccer, but in the cafeteria, or during study groups outside of the class, or just for fun, they either act like they don't know me, or they just seem to disappear."

Amanda soon found herself discouraged as she encountered another strange phenomenon; many students who shared her cultural history, often resorted to treating her as a traitor when they saw her talking with students from other cultures. Amanda wondered, "Will I ever be free to be myself, and still be accepted?" Slowly, she came to the realization that the university she was attending did not promote cultural interaction between its students. Oh, it promoted itself as place foreign students could attend and become degreed; it promoted itself as a place where students could learn side by side; it even encouraged students to put on cultural activities where others could go and be entertained; but genuine student interaction in the area of culture, genuine reciprocity between students was not encouraged, it was ignored.

Like Amanda, we may believe that being among persons of different cultures is exciting. As such, we are willing to taste -- even if reluctantly -- foods from foreign lands, while we listen to exotic music. We admire (some) foreigners' attire, and may even occasionally be enchanted by their accent as they attempt to speak English. What I've noticed however is that culture divides us. As the selfish human beings we are, we tend to believe that our culture is better than others. This being the case, we become inclusive of those who are similar to ourselves, and exclusive of those who are different. Not only is this the case, but also we exclude ourselves from entering into and experiencing the culture of others. By engaging in this kind of self-preservation, we not only reject the culture of others' as a whole, but we also reject the individuals themselves who practice that particular culture. You see, to outright reject the culture of a people, is to reject the people themselves, for it is the culture that forms the individual expression. Christ has said that this is contradictory to the focus of our mission, which is to "preach the gospel to all nations, tribes and languages" (Matthew 28:18-20).

Cultural pride is what separates us into the various religious assemblies or bodies. We, who are supposed to be one in Christ, separate ourselves racially, ethnically, and culturally. And when challenged on our divisions, we rationalize our thinking and subsequent decisions. Culture, it seems, is that ethereal thing that encamps our surroundings and not even God can penetrate it. Evangelicals for example, blame the culture of the West, for the problems that the world faces. Euphemistically, they substitute the word 'culture,' for Sin. Unfortunately, culture is given too much credit by those who really should know better.

Culture is the sum of attitudes, customs, and beliefs of a group of people. It is transmitted in various ways such as through language, the use of rituals, objects, institutions, and through artifacts from one generation to another. Culture is embedded in our way of life, and is hard to quantify because although pervasive, it frequently exists at a subconscious level and thus tends to escape everyday thought. Dynamically changing -- although gradually and imperceptibly, culture both embraces and resists change, so that what is unacceptable at present, may become passé in a generation or two. One thing is sure: we all contribute to the culture and are affected by it.

Replacing that which we consider inferior culture with a higher-level culture does not help us, because, culture is man made. And, like man and anything man makes, culture is frail and plagued with Sin. Just as no human being is in and of himself good in God's sight, so very little that originates with man is good, and that includes man's various cultures. Our earthly cultures will not even exist in Heaven, for they are the derivative of the fall of the tower of Babel. In fact, Christ Himself indirectly worked against cultural norms when He walked on this earth, by seeking to bring all men into Himself. He was and is 'the Saviour of all men.' Christ's sacrifice was such as to diminish cultural differences, by bringing down the cultural barriers, which divided us. Yet, Christ did not offer any social program, corporate scheme, or political agenda to accomplish His goal. Instead, He poured out upon His agape love, as demonstrated through
His cross then left us with His greatest gift, the indwelling Holy Spirit. Folks, Christ rebuked the Jews because they gave more weight to their cultural norms and traditions than they did to the Word of God. Sadly, our generation is guilty of the same Sin. We value our culture -- whether ethnic, racial or Seventh-day Adventist -- more than the Word of God. And we have allowed Sin – disguised as Culture -- to creep into our churches, thus perverting the simple truths of the

Abraham was instructed by God to leave all behind and move to a land that God would show him (Genesis 12:1). This was so that he would learn to trust God in all things. Moving away from a land and people that were familiar was painful to Abraham; moving to a land which he did not know, while trusting God to lead him was frightening. Yet he trusted God. It was the Lord's devising that Abraham and his offspring should become a peculiar people above all the earths' inhabitants, which the Messianic first advent should occur through his lineage. To have a people prepared to both birth and herald the coming Saviour, it was necessary that the bent to idolatry be stemmed, and the knowledge of the character of God be taught and practiced free of external cultural influences to the contrary. According to scripture, Christ is the Creator, Redeemer and lover of all men. As such He did not reject anyone because of his or her culture. While on earth, Christ participated in cultural activities, which did not conflict with the principles of His kingdom. Through the power of the Holy Spirit His character remained above reproach. As the disciples came to love Christ, and after His death, to see in Him the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophesies pointing to the suffering servant who was to die for the world, they too were kept from the taint of the surrounding corrupt culture of the Jews, and others. We will be kept too, by the same power and through the same means. And so will those who in the end receive the promised "latter rain." In allowing Christ, to hold onto them, the remnant will all be one in Him, untainted by any cultural or sinful traits this world has to offer. For the remnant, culture will not be a hindrance, but under the power of the Holy Spirit, will instead be an asset in reaching the hearts of others as they preach the Gospel.

Folks, it's not our job to either indulge exclusiveness, or to get rid of the culture that divides. Our only job and hopefully our delight, is to submit to the Holy Spirit's work in us. For only He can implant: the culture of oneness in Christ and exclusivity to Him - while ridding us of the sinful cultural exclusiveness toward others.

Raul Diaz & Maria Greaves-Barnes

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Friday, March 03, 2006

Forgiveness -- New Beginning

One of the things I don't like about many video games - besides the fact that they can be a total waste of time, is that every time you lose, you very likely have to start all over again. You can't just start at the place where you began doing badly, no, you have to start from zero. No matter how many points you've made or how many levels you've conquered, once the words "game over" scroll across your screen, you have to press play and start from the very first level all over again. Somehow this can be an advantage if a person wants to become an expert in the game (I know I don't, but someone out there might). The logic behind starting over from zero is supposedly -- the more you play the game, the better you become at playing. Of course this logic assumes that you are willing to learn from your mistakes, that you want to become better but just need experience. What if in real life we had a similar system, where the third time you messed up doing anything, a message would flash by saying, "Game over. Press here to start playing again." Wow, what would that be like (I don't know, but it sounds terribly frustrating to me). Imagine if this system applied to our relationships, where after every third mess up or offense, a message would flash out to let us know we went too far, and must now start from zero. I don't know, but I wonder if starting from zero would really be so great. Well fortunately or not, real life is not like this.

When Adam sinned it was "Game over." But, he could not play again, not in Eden anyway. Another player -- another Adam, had to be sent, for the first Adam would have continued to lose after he fell that first time. The next player had to win or humanity would never play again.

The Word says that Christ is the last Adam, who became the 1st Man, and provided us with our new beginning. He was the next player who won. It is 'in Him' that we are forgiven. And since He was the lamb slain from the foundation of the world, God forgave us -- provided us a new beginning -- from the foundation of the world. This great, divine act of God allows Him to see us as if we had never sinned, for we are seen 'in Christ,' our new beginning. And because Christ as the last Adam in whom we were put, never sinned, we have descended from an Adam who never sinned. Friends, Christ reversed our history. From this one act we can see not only the depth of God's forgiveness, but why He does not refer to us as the forgiven, but as the righteous. This being 'in Christ' is the basis of all justification; we were justified 'in Christ' (in the past) and become justified in the present as by Faith we accept His presence (direction and guidance) in us. Folks, justification and therefore sanctification (cleansing) become real in us as we accept the working of the Holy Spirit in our minds and hearts. If by Faith we accept this forgiveness -- this legal justification, it enables us to forgive others as our Father in Heaven has forgiven and forgives us even now. If we wonder how we can forgive someone, we only have to look at God's forgiveness through Christ, for Christ is our model.

Isn't this amazing, through the Cross of Christ, forgiveness is granted even before we the offenders ask for it. Wow. Christ forgave us while we were still sinners. His loving act did not depend on our repenting from our sins. Yet we as human beings think of forgiveness as the decision to let go of destructive, malicious revengeful feelings, desires and intents if the person asks, and only then. As Christians, we often choose to forgive by reminding ourselves that Christ has died for our sins, then we think that if we don't forgive others, He won't forgive us. So that we can be forgiven, we then pass forgiveness on to the one that has hurt us -- often begrudgingly. Nevertheless, forgiveness is a principle which works, and thus if we really listen to the Holy Spirit, we truly let go, and free both ourselves, and the offender.
The story of Joseph provides a good example of forgiveness. Joseph's trials can all be traced back to that fateful moment when his older brothers sold him to the Ishmaelites. Sold into slavery and brought into a foreign land, he was later falsely accused and unjustly imprisoned. Still, Joseph endured, as he allowed God to maintain His hold on him. You see, although Joseph may not have understood the negative turn of events, he understood that God was in control. Thus later on when he saw his siblings who'd sold him into slavery, he could say, "what you (his brothers) have intended for evil, God intended for good." Joseph loved and forgave his brothers, and this can be seen in his protection of them. Because of the abhorrence that the Egyptians had for shepherds, Joseph apportioned to his brothers land, which would act as a boundary between the Egyptians, himself and them. His brothers were given the land of Goshen in which to live. Genesis 46:33 reads --

Genesis 46: 33 And it shall come to pass, when Pharaoh shall call you, and shall say, What is your occupation?
Genesis 46: 34 That ye shall say, Thy servants' trade hath been about cattle from our youth even until now, both we, and also our fathers: that ye may dwell in the land of Goshen; for every shepherd is an abomination unto the Egyptians.

Joseph, now an Egyptian head of state, respected (not accepted) not only the cultural beliefs of the Egyptians, but the occupation of his family; in demonstration of this, he set new boundaries for his brothers' habitation. Grateful for provision, sustenance, and Joseph's refusal to humiliate and take revenge upon them, Joseph's brothers' hearts were as last released from the guilt, which had haunted them. Their hearts softened, they were led to respect and love him. Through forgiveness, and the setting of boundaries in their relationship -- the starting from zero if you will, Joseph participated in helping to soften his brothers' hard hearts, and thus they did not abuse him again.

We have all been hurt in this life. However, since God has forgiven us 'in Christ', we have no right to hold on to anger, grudges, pain or hatred against those who've abused us. Nothing that anyone can do to us will ever compare to what we have done, and even continue to do to God. Even so, God still forgives us, even before we ask. True we don't receive that forgiveness until we ask, but it's been given already. When we give to Christ our desire to get even with those who hurt us, in exchange, He gives us both His peace, and a new beginning. And while this sounds like an unfair exchange, it's the only way we can receive life.

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