Living Water: Forgiveness

This is the third post looking at chapter 3 of Brother Yun’s Living Water. The first two chapters were covered in previous posts on Repentance and Lessons from Esau (better termed, Life Derailment).

I believe that forgiveness is an important topic whether or not you ascribe to a faith. In our lives all of us would have come across, and then likely runaway from, bitter people. A lack of forgiveness causes a person to become bitter and that bitterness leaks out, polluting their lives and those around them. Bitterness is toxic and drives most sane people away; they aren’t enjoyable to be around.

It is easy to be bitter. As humans we can easily hurt others, intentionally and unintentionally, through our words and actions. I remember hurtful (albeit somewhat true) things that were said to me more than twenty years ago. Many people have suffered physical and emotional wounds by others, or events in their lives, that have left deep scars. Bitterness isn’t a dormant rock which weighs you down; it is a cancer which spreads and affects your whole life. Unchallenged, it grows in size and over time will suck the joy and hope from your life. It will cause you to become thorn-like, which pushes others away and stops you from being embraced.

Brother Yun uses the analogy of bitterness being a weed in the garden of your heart. He makes a valid statement in today’s beauty-and-success-conscious world,

“Many people spend a lot of time and effort trying to beautify the outside of their lives, pulling up the surface weeds when really they need to go below the surface and dig up the root.”

Forgiveness can be a challenge. Brother Yun, who has suffered brutal torture in Chinese re-education centres has a right (humanly-speaking) to be bitter and yet he says,

“there is absolutely no point in withholding forgiveness towards anyone, regardless of what they have done.” Yun understands that unforgiveness actually does more damage to the person holding onto it, than the one they are angry at. As the saying goes, bitterness is like (you) drinking poison and waiting for your enemy to die.

While reconciliation requires two people, forgiveness only requires one. And forgiveness doesn’t mean letting someone escape justice for their actions, only that we “release our own desire for vengeance and leave it in God’s hands.”

Forgiveness for a Christian is even more important. Actually, it’s mandatory according to Jesus. If we want to be forgiven for our sins, then we have to forgive those who sin against us (Matthew 6:14-15). Considering our job as Christians is to be ambassadors of reconciliation, it makes sense that the first place we have to do that is in our own lives. A bitter person can hardly tell others the good news about Jesus’ love. Not without it being a sad (and somewhat delusional) and unconvincing offer.

In my experience forgiveness in “challenging” situations is more than a one-time event. Our heart might struggle, wavering between anger and forgiveness. Just like a wound might need dressing multiple times to fully heal, so sometimes we have to make the choice to forgive. And that can be very hard.

What I find most personally challenging is not forgiving others, but forgiving myself for the mistakes I make. I’ve done and said dumb things which have hurt others, more often than I would like to admit. Even when I know better. And then my natural inclination is to dwell on the failures. I need to extend to myself the same forgiveness God has for me. Negative self-talk unchallenged, wreaks a dreadful cost in our lives. Allow conviction, not condemnation. Only our enemy, Satan, wants us to be trapped in the despair of condemnation.

The best way I can end this post is to quote the challenge Yun also posed:

“Dear friend, I encourage you to put this book down and spend some time in prayer, asking the Holy Spirit to show you if there is anyone you hold unforgiveness towards in your heart.”

And I’d add, including to yourself. Allow Jesus’ grace to extend to your innermost being.

Faith: Living Water – Ch1: Repentance

Living Water

Living Water by Brother Yun is a book that has sat on my shelf for years. I have started to read it a number of times and have put it down because it was special. It was a meal to be enjoyed, not gulped. It wasn’t a casual read on the bus; I wanted to read it with a notebook handy and time to properly digest its message.

This post is my thoughts and related experiences on the first chapter Repentance. (I normally try to keep my posts between 500 and 1,000 words. This is a longer post at over 2,000 so make yourself a cuppa and settle in for the read).

Continue reading

Love, like Every Moment could be the Last

Today is Valentine’s day.

Being generally opposed to commercialism, my wife and I don’t support Valentine’s day. I don’t need mass-marketing to tell me that I should express love to my wife, and the fact that I am told I am supposed to do something on a given day turns the act into an obligation, not a spontaneous gift.

I wouldn’t normally even write a Valentine’s day-featuring post, however I just heard a story which deserves repeating.

I met a woman who lost her husband to an aggressive form of cancer; from diagnosis to death was just ten weeks.

I cannot begin to imagine the immense rush of emotions that this situation would cause. The loss of a spouse would be brutal under any circumstances, but the less warning the worse it would be.

The truth is we never know how long we have on this earth. It may be a life longer than the average, or it could be that this is our last day.

If you are fortunate enough to be married, then bless that relationship by investing in it daily. Each and every day should be a day where your spouse is reminded – in word and action – of your love. Show them love by communicating it to them in the way that they receive it, not just the way that you want to receive it. (Don’t know what I’m referring to? Read ‘The Five Love Languages’ or better yet ‘His Needs, Her Needs’).

Married or unmarried, then make an effort to regularly communicate your love and appreciation to your friends and family. If they were gone tomorrow, what would you wish you had said today?

Life is too short to hold onto bitterness and unforgiveness, which does more damage to you than anyone else. Wake up thankful for each day, and resolve to go to bed each night with no regrets and no important words unsaid.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.Romans 5:8

The Meaning behind Christmas

For those of you who were following me when I was blogging under my alter ego you’ll know that over successive years I wrote several posts about struggling to embrace Easter or Christmas.

As a Christian I intellectually understand the spiritual significance of the events, but I couldn’t enjoy the festive periods as much as those around me seemed to. Perhaps I was jaded by the commercialism which respects nothing but the dollar. Maybe I just fell on my head too many times growing up… (it did happen an awful lot).

In recent years I’ve been pleased to confess that I’ve got Easter, and have had a growing appreciation for Christmas. A few days ago I sat down to reflect on Christmas, and jotted down a few faith-based thoughts.

  • Christmas was the beginning of the time when God started to write out the adoption papers for all those who would believe in Him, past, present and future.

    14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. 15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship.[f] And by him we cry, “Abba,[g] Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. (Romans 8:14-17)

  • 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. (John 1:12-13)

  • If Jesus had never come to earth, he couldn’t take on himself a punishment that we were destined to receive.

    23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:23, 24)

    15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. (2 Corinthians 5:15)

  • It was the D-day of sin; the start of the defeat of the enemy of mankind.
  • God used unlikely, unskilled individuals because they were willing to be used. There was nothing particularly special about Mary or Joseph, except for their humility and subsequent obedience.
  • How God/heaven feels about Christmas is evident in his proclamation to the shepherds.

    13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

    14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
        and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:13-14)

    If that’s how God feels about Christmas, I think I need to be less grinch and focus more on the true meaning of Christmas. I haven’t quite got it yet, but I’m getting close.

    I wish you all have a great Christmas – focusing on what is important and ignoring what is not.