Forgiveness Begins the Healing Process

“If you hold anything against anyone, forgive them.” Mk 11:25 NIV

The hardest offenses to forgive are committed by the people who are closest to us. Why? Because we have to live with them every day! When we’re young, our emotions are so intense that wounds and injuries may stay with us for a lifetime. And the pain is worse when the one who wronged us was a parent. Perhaps a mother rejected us instead of providing the love we needed, or an alcoholic father was sexually abusive in the midnight hours. Victims of such horror may still be consumed with resentment and anger many decades later. This can cause you to “act out,” and hurt the people you now love and need most. What’s the answer? Forgiveness. Dr. Archibald Hart defines forgiveness as “giving up my right to hurt you for hurting me.” Only when you find the emotional maturity to release those who’ve wronged you, whether they have repented or not, will your wounds begin to heal. Jesus put it this way: “When you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” Here’s something you may not have considered: God’s willingness to forgive you depends on your willingness to forgive others. You say, “But if I forgive them, I’m letting them off the hook.” No, you’re letting yourself off the hook! You’re setting yourself free of pain and resentment, and positioning yourself to walk in God’s blessing. Leave the offense and the offender with God; He’s the only one who understands what they did and why they did it. As far as you are concerned—forgiveness begins the healing process.

Psalm 38:21 Forsake me not, O Lord.

Frequently we pray that God would not forsake us in the hour of trial and temptation, but we too much forget that we have need to use this prayer at all times. There is no moment of our life, however holy, in which we can do without His constant upholding. Whether in light or in darkness, in communion or in temptation, we alike need the prayer, “Forsake me not, O Lord.” “Hold Thou me up, and I shall be safe.” A little child, while learning to walk, always needs the nurse’s aid. The ship left by the pilot drifts at once from her course. We cannot do without continued aid from above; let it then be your prayer to-day, “Forsake me not. Father, forsake not Thy child, lest he fall by the hand of the enemy. Shepherd, forsake not Thy lamb, lest he wander from the safety of the fold. Great Husbandman, forsake not Thy plant, lest it wither and die. ‘Forsake me not, O Lord,’ now; and forsake me not at any moment of my life. Forsake me not in my joys, lest they absorb my heart. Forsake me not in my sorrows, lest I murmur against Thee. Forsake me not in the day of my repentance, lest I lose the hope of pardon, and fall into despair; and forsake me not in the day of my strongest faith, lest faith degenerate into presumption. Forsake me not, for without Thee I am weak, but with Thee I am strong. Forsake me not, for my path is dangerous, and full of snares, and I cannot do without Thy guidance. The hen forsakes not her brood, do Thou then evermore cover me with Thy feathers, and permit me under Thy wings to find my refuge. ‘Be not far from me, O Lord, for trouble is near, for there is none to help.’ ‘Leave me not, neither forsake me, O God of my salvation!'”

“O ever in our cleansed breast,

Bid Thine Eternal Spirit rest;

And make our secret soul to be

A temple pure and worthy Thee.”

The Message of the Firstfruits

Celebrate the Festival of Harvest with the firstfruits of the crops you sow in your field.” — Exodus 23:16

Today is the second day of the Jewish holiday, . Because this is a non-working day for observant Jews, this devotion was prepared in advance for you.

This past Sunday, Jews around the world celebrated the holiday of Shavuot, the Festival of Weeks, also known in the Greek as Pentecost. It is a holiday celebrated with Bible study, often all through the night, culminating in a massive gathering at the Western Wall. Shavuot, which means “weeks” in Hebrew, marks seven weeks since the holiday of Passover. It also marks the day that the Torah was given to the children of Israel on Mt. Sinai. On this holy day, we celebrate the fact that God not only freed us physically from Egypt, but that He also set us free spiritually by giving us the manual for life — the Bible.

This is all very well and good, except for one glaring omission. When Shavuot is mentioned in the Torah, it isn’t mentioned in connection with the revelation of God on Mt. Sinai. Rather, we find that this holiday was designated as a time for bringing bikkurim, or firstfruits, to God in the Temple. Shavuot was an agricultural holiday, also referred to by Scriptures as the “Festival of Harvest.” So how did we go from marking this holiday by bringing offerings of the firstfruits of the harvest to God to linking the day with the study of His Word?

The answer is simply that the Temple was destroyed and the Jews were exiled nearly 2,000 years ago from the Holy Land. Bringing the firstfruits became impossible. Yet, this holiday was not to be ignored. It’s one of the three biblically mandated holidays that required pilgrimage to Jerusalem. What were we to do on this sacred day now that its central feature had become obsolete? The rabbis preserved the sanctity of the day by making the connection to the giving of God’s Word on that same day. This secondary feature filled in for the primary event while there was no other choice, and remains so through today.

However, we would be losing out on the true meaning of this holy day if we did not even consider the bringing of the firstfruits. When God took the Israelites out of Egypt, the goal was not merely to grant them physical freedom. It wasn’t even to give them spiritual liberation with the giving of the Bible. The goal was for the nation to enter Israel where they could integrate God’s Word into their everyday lives, as symbolized by the bringing of their firstfruits and recognizing God even in the most mundane elements of their lives.

This week, let’s consider the message of the firstfruits. Let’s remember that it’s not enough to study God’s Word; rather, we must live His Word by bringing God into every aspect of our lives, no matter how mundane. It’s precisely in the most physical arenas of our lives that we are to infuse with God’s glory.