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November 2016

Finding Freedom in Forgiveness - November 25, 2016

"FINDING FREEDOM IN FORGIVENESS"

Many of us have experienced pain so great as the result of another person’s actions that forgiveness is not an option. Or is it?

This post is not intended to minimize that pain – any hurt, mistreatment, abuse, loss, betrayal, or any of the myriads of horrific experiences you may have had is respectfully acknowledged. If you are deeply affected by the hurt inflicted by another person, I urge you to seek professional help.

It is possible that the offender is no longer alive and you may not have thought about forgiveness or it’s not feasible.

Perhaps the person you need to forgive may be yourself.

What does the Bible say about forgiveness?

Within the prayer that Jesus taught His disciples (and us) to pray, He says:

…and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us. (Matthew 6:12)

        Ouch!  As we have forgiven

That’s sobering!  

How are we to forgive that which seems unforgivable?   

Jesus showed us.  On His worst possible day, the day He was crucified, Jesus chose to forgive His enemies who were crucifying Him…in the midst of His pain.

Crucifixion was reserved for the worst criminals in its day with the specific intention of humiliating and shaming them.

Jesus was not a criminal; He was innocent. Think about that!

It may be impossible for us to fully comprehend the humiliation that Jesus experienced as He hung on the cross; naked, bruised, bloodied, and beaten beyond recognition in the cruelest and most degrading form of punishment ever while Heaven looked away!  No movie, no matter how graphic, may ever truly capture the intensity of that punishment yet in the midst of that suffering, Jesus did the unthinkable. He forgave! 

Why?  How?  

We may be tempted to say that Jesus was God and therefore had the capacity to forgive but we also know that He came to earth as man to model what it means to be a Christian living in a sinful world.  I believe that we are most like Jesus when are forgiving someone.

Forgiving someone is not easy or simple but it is necessary. Scripture tells us so:

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. (Matthew 6:14-15 NIV)

Renowned Christian author, ethicist, and theologian, Lewis B. Smedes said it this way:  “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” 

How do we forgive?

First, we pray for those who have hurt us – Multiple times in Scripture we are instructed to pray for those who have offended us. See for instance Luke 6:28, & Matthew 5:43. These instructions were given in a culture that believed and practised “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” so it is not an unreasonable standard for us today. 

Even if we don’t feel like forgiving the other person, we must do so. As you do, here’s what you notice – the more you keep praying for the people who have hurt you; the less judgmental are your prayers and then you notice that your heart begins to soften. In short, your prayers for others may not change them but they definitely change you.

Secondly, we forgive as we have been forgiven.  Colossians 3:13 says that we ought to make allowances for each other’s faults. None of us is perfect meaning, we all make mistakes and require the forgiveness of others.

You may have grounds to be upset and even legal grounds for retribution but you always have Biblical grounds for forgiveness.

If you choose to forgive, it will not change the past but it can change the future.

We are one month away from Christmas (I know!), a time when families get together to celebrate the birth of our Saviour. I cannot help but think that someone reading this post may have a family member whom they need to forgive. After all, family is often the ones who hurt us the most deeply.

Would you be willing to ask God to guide you in that direction? 

Forgiveness does not necessarily reinstate a relationship to its former status; it may not even be the wise thing to do. Speak to a trusted friend and seek professional help about that aspect but the forgiveness can take place in your heart right now.

The story behind Matthew West’s song “Forgiveness” may bring tears to your eyes; you may already know this story but allow it to inspire you afresh as you think about who God is asking you to forgive today.

  Yolande Knight – womensministry@arlingtonwoods.ca

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Doris Jackson 11 months ago
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Very moving! Thank you.
Jennifer Greene 11 months ago
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Powerful message. Thank you.
Bernadette John 10 months ago
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The first time I read this, it made me think very hard of all the hurts and painful life I have experienced, my mother never said she was sorry. I never felt that I could forgive her but I need to so I can move on.

Left Alone With Jesus - November 18, 2016

“LEFT ALONE WITH JESUS”

But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. (John 8:9 ESV –emphasis added.)

Have you ever been left alone with someone important and experienced that awkward, stomach-churning angst?  

I imagine this was the case with the woman caught in adultery as she was left alone with Jesus to face the consequences of her actions, a “crime” that, at that time in history, was lawfully punishable by death.

I can recall being in the presence of a famous person and feeling so awe-struck and nervous that it rendered me speechless and all I could muster were enough words to ask for an autograph. Looking back on that experience, I cringe at how silly I must have appeared to this other human being.

On the other hand, this woman’s “alone time” described for us in John 8:2-11 was not with another human being, it was with the Saviour of all mankind.  Imagine her humiliation and embarrassment, not to mention the terror she must have been feeling in that moment. 

Like many of you, I’ve read that passage numerous times and missed some of the key points in this story.  In a recent reading, some of these factors jumped out at me in a new way. Perhaps you had already noted that this encounter took place in the temple. It is highly likely and glaringly obvious that I must have speed-read over that little detail on all the other occasions that I studied the passage, assuming it to be a street corner encounter. Or perhaps, I was recounting a movie scene that depicted it as such. Either way, it was a startling revelation to me when I took the time to truly study this passage.  

And I began to think of its significance.

The temple – that would be like being left alone in church with Jesus Himself!  Today, I would be elated for such an encounter.  But had it happened in the midst of me committing, not just a sinful act but, a criminal act, I’m certain that I would have opted for disappearance. Especially in the middle of church!  Wouldn’t you? 

There she was, in the temple, with Jesus, alone, just the two of them – that’s what the text says. All her accusers having mysteriously vanished!  I have always found it fascinating that all the accusers left – oh the power of His Presence!  But how unsettling yet how truly comforting!  Do you see it? 

In spite of her discomfort, the woman didn’t run away. To me that would have been the easy and obvious way out of that situation. So why didn't she run? Could it be that she sensed the love and compassion of Jesus toward her?  Could it be that she saw forgiveness and redemption in His eyes?  Because NO ONE has an encounter with Jesus and leaves the same!

Can you see yourself in this story?   Can you see how EVEN in the midst of our messes, God still loves us, desires to be close to us and reaches down to rescue us? If we let Him.

This woman didn’t run away; she remained in His presence and allowed God to change her. Sometimes I wish we could see the rest of the story because you just know that there’s more than was recorded. Her story didn’t end there.  We can only imagine the impact this woman’s changed life had on her family, and on her community and within her sphere of influence.  God expects the very same with us; that our changed lives will make a difference where we live – in our homes, schools, workplaces, neighbourhoods, communities and our world.  Your story doesn’t end here.…wherever here may be for you.  Ponder that.

I want you to think about the honour of being alone with Jesus – not to be condemned, but to be loved and valued. We have the awesome privilege of meeting with Him every day; don’t take it for granted.  It’s so easy to allow our “To Do” lists, our stresses, our successes, or our trials to get in the way of spending time with God.  The very things that we are supposed to take to Him can so consume our time that we miss out on the greatest benefit of being in relationship with Him, that of being alone with Jesus.

In this season of your life, you may be having a mountain-top experience or you may be going through yet another valley.  There is one thing I know for sure – that God is with you.  And not only that, He is for you and He will NEVER leave you nor forsake you. He so desires for you to spend time alone with Him; He's waiting for you to remain in His presence.

Let’s Pray

Heavenly Father, Thank You for the privilege of coming to You in prayer today.  I humbly bow before Your throne of grace and ask Your forgiveness for the times I have failed to come.  Help me to see that my need for You is more than I know.  Help me to experience the fullness of Your life-changing Presence in a fresh and powerful way.

In Jesus’  Name. Amen.

  Yolande Knight – womensministry@arlingtonwoods.ca

 

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Worst Case Scenario - November 9, 2016

"WORST CASE SCENARIO"
When life is heavy and hard to take, go off by yourself. Enter the silence. Bow in prayer. Don't ask questions: Wait for hope to appear. Do not run from trouble. Take it full-face.  The worst is never the worst.  Lamentations 3:29-30 (MSG)
(The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson)
 
Are you the type of person who spends time figuring out the worst case scenario so that IF it happens, you are well prepared?  Would that be considered having little or no faith? 
 
On the other hand, are you overly optimistic and ONLY see the best in a given situation? Is this naïve thinking or is that a person who is faith-filled?
 
Is there a middle ground and would that be considered the “being practical” approach?
 

Many of us instinctively know if we are a "glass half-full" or a "glass half-empty" person
and most of us can immediately think of a situation where we've had to practically make
 the decision to act as an optimist or a pessimist in a given life circumstance.
 
It’s not that easy, is  it? 
 
   Because life happens and  unlike the decision about which pair of shoes to wear, most  life decisions have dire consequences  & cannot be indefinitely delayed! 
 
What does the Bible say about this?
 
The writer of the book of Lamentations affirms that life is hard, however; he provides us with options for dealing with life’s troubles.  He suggests that we should seek alone time with God, pray without ceasing and never doubt God’s faithfulness as His mercies are new every morning. 
 
Yet there are multiple times in both the Old and New Testament where we see people planning for “worst-case scenarios” that never actually materialized; the same is true in our lives. In Genesis 32:6-8, Jacob is preparing to meet up with Esau from whom he had fled years prior after deceiving Isaac, their father, into receiving the first-born blessing which rightfully belonged to Esau (See Genesis 27:41-45). The outcome of that worst case scenario for Jacob was that Esau ran to meet him and embraced him (Genesis 33:4); a very different response from the angry reaction that Jacob had anticipated.  
 
Another Old Testament incident involves Joseph and his brothers who had previously sold Joseph into slavery when he was a young adult (Genesis 37:12-36). Eight chapters later, and after much growth and maturity, Joseph is moved to tears as he reveals himself to his jealous brothers when they came to Egypt in search for food during a severe famine in their homeland (Genesis 45:2-3). Rather than the revengeful response that the brothers were expecting, Joseph is in fact overjoyed to be reunited with his brothers after so many years. As time passes and their father dies, Joseph’s brothers are still in worst-case-scenario-mode, planning for an inevitable retaliation by Joseph (Genesis 50:15-17a). But God, in His sovereignty, had a different plan in mind and we see Joseph assuring his brothers that they and their families will be provided for by Joseph as opposed to the horrible fate they imagined. (Genesis 50:17b-21)
 
A New Testament incident comes to mind around the birth of our Saviour when Joseph learns that Mary, his betrothed, is pregnant with a child who is definitely not his. Being certain that this is his “worst case scenario”, Joseph begins to make plans to alleviate both his and Mary’s public humiliation: in Matthew 1:19, he decides to divorce Mary quietly but in verse 20, we see that God has a plan of His own which He unveils as He appears to Joseph in a dream advising him to act otherwise.
 
Experience and statistics tell us that worst case scenarios seldom come to pass and that 85 percent of what we worry about never happen and of the 15 percent that actually does happen, we are able to handle the situation much better than expected.  So being realistic is not a bad thing; throughout the book of Proverbs in particular, and the Bible, in general we are told to act wisely, to use discretion, seek wise counsel, and ask God for wisdom (Proverbs 1:5, 12:15, 13:10, 19:20, Psalms 1:1-2, James 1:5). The glue that ties this all together is our faith in Jesus.   
 
What worst-case scenario might you be facing today
 
Is it relational, financial, health or career related, or any host of circumstances? 
Are you able to release it to our Heavenly Father and trust Him with the outcome? 
 
Chris Tomlin’s new song “Yes and Amen” speaks about the faithfulness of God’s promises. Indeed He is the same yesterday and today and tomorrow (Hebrews 13:8).
 
Yolande Knight – womensministry@arlingtonwoods.ca
 
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