Category Archives: February 2021 Chips

I’m Pretty Bull-Headed

I’m Pretty Bull-Headed

I’m still waiting for that perfect moment. When our paths cross, when a smile is exchanged, when some sort of acknowledgement happens between two glances to signal to each party that this is a salvageable relationship.

That is my prayer at least.

Almost eight years ago, I had a falling out with a friend and team member.  It sucked.  Probably the worst moment in my entire 20-year career of ministry.

Time has passed, and the anger has long since ceased but the burn is still there.  I’ve worked hard in my heart to turn my ‘enemy’ into someone I could truly pray for.  There is a reason Jesus calls us to pray for our enemies—it’s nearly impossible to keep someone in ‘enemy status’ in our minds when we actively pray blessing for them.  God has done a work in my heart where I can honestly say I want nothing but the best for them. But they don’t know that.

So I keep praying for that moment when God allows reconciliation to happen.  Forgiveness is a tricky thing.  I don’t really know how to go about it when it doesn’t flow two ways.  I don’t know how to do it when the open door doesn’t present itself. I only know to work on my own heart and ask God to help guide me through this process and allow it to come to fruition.

I can’t say I’m great at forgiveness.  I’m actually pretty bull-headed, stubborn, proud and resistant to admitting fault. I don’t like being wrong, especially when I’m not! Ha!  I can list a million reasons why it’s always someone else’s fault and feel completely justified in taking zero action in moving toward reconciliation.

I’m so glad that even in our stubborn, bull-headed and proud states, God continues to work with us and call us to deeper places of His love!

Leah Carolan
Director of Worship & Media

 

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Forgiveness Can Be Hard

Forgiveness Can Be Hard

Forgiveness can be hard to offer! Especially when you have to forgive yourself. Parenting at church has challenged me to offer forgiveness to myself– week after week. Let me explain. The average Sunday morning rolls around and we prepare to attend church with our kids.  I have grand expectations about how my children should sit quietly during the service. They will entertain themselves with the two overflowing bags of goodies that I’ve deliberately packed the night before:  magnet dolls, crackers, crayons, finger puppets, Cheerios, books, toy cars, granola bars, wooden lacing shapes, white boards, etc. However, enter the real world Sunday morning at church and both kids are crying, darting through the chair rows, running on stage, crawling underneath the chairs, throwing toys at the poor family behind us, and grinding all those snacks into dust using only their fingers.

Many Sunday mornings I’ve had to take a deep breath (or three) and offer myself forgiveness that my children are not perfectly behaved during church. This forgiveness did not originate with me though. I’ve learned to be kind to myself through the forgiveness and love I’ve received from other church-goers. (And they’ve learned that forgiveness from Jesus who offered it freely to all of us.) The elderly woman who comments, “I love watching your kids dance and be happy to be at church.” The parent who is one step ahead of me in parenting, “I miss my kids crawling under the chairs. Man, I never would have said that 5 years ago.”  The church staff member who catches my eye, nods, and chases after my child as he runs away for the third (yes, third) time. That simple nod told me to sit down, listen to the sermon, and know that my child was being cared for. The couple who purposely finds me after the service to offer a kind, “You’re doing a great job!  You’re teaching your kids to worship corporately and that’s a huge gift.” So, even when some Sundays I don’t feel like it, I remember to offer myself forgiveness.

Cathy Poole
Children’s Ministry

 

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Stuck Between An Offense and Forgiveness

Stuck Between an Offense and Forgiveness

I dreaded writing an article on forgiveness because I’ve got some un-forgiveness being harbored in my heart. I put this article writing off until the last minute. When I finally started writing, I checked social media a dozen times.

I’ve got a lot of hard heart-work to do in this area. Or rather, I’ve got a fist to unfurl.

If I’m being honest, the lack of forgiveness is causing me to have anxiety and a dreary attitude. As Marshall Segal writes on the ‘Desiring God’ blog, “Much of our confusion and misery in life is due to our underestimating (or ignoring altogether) the enemy of our souls.” 

Derecho damage at our home.

But I’m stuck in the in-between. I’m beyond the initial hurt, but haven’t yet made it to the forgiving. My heart is headed that direction, but then the devil reminds me of all the reasons I have to be offended. As I sit in the middle of the matter, energy is stolen from my parenting and my marriage and my ministry (none of which were the offending party).

Segal tells me that, “Forgiveness outwits Satan, and forgiveness subverts his wickedness.”

Of course it “so happens” that I’m studying the book of Ephesians right now in my small group, which is a call for unity.

I will make it to real forgiveness with the Holy Spirit’s help. This article is a stepping stone in the right direction as I remind myself what is at stake.

I’m certain that on the other side of forgiveness is peace, joy, and love. Letting go of the poison of unforgiveness will allow my heart to experience the health I’m ultimately seeking.

Lindsey Ungs
Connection & Communication Architect

 

 

 

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Forgive Like a 3-Year-Old

Forgive Like a 3-Year-Old

“He took my toy, Miss Kris”, I hear shouted across the room.  “He took it!  Miss Kris, he took my toy.”  Boy, have I heard this phrase a lot in my classroom over the years!

I teach three-year-old preschool. Three-year-olds come with a set of eyes that are only fixed on their own path. They do not see other students in the room. They see a toy they want, and they see nothing else until they get it.

We teach social skills in preschool, although COVID-19 has made it mighty difficult.  We ask the kids to “share” and “take turns” and “watch the person in front of you.”  I have learned though, that most three-year-olds are in their own bubble. Most three-year-old kids have one thing in common…a short memory. When a toy is being disputed over, after the problem has been dealt with, most kids just let it be, they do not carry a grudge.

I have decided recently that I want to forgive and forget like a three-year-old. Really, though, would it not be great if everyone was able to forgive like a three-year-old.  Most of them, (although it must be initiated by a teacher) will forgive at the drop of a hat. Someone says sorry and the other one says OK. They move on and forget.

You see, you can distract almost any three-year-old with “something else” to play with. Before you know it, if you hype it up enough, the toy they thought they wanted is a thing of the past and they will be pushing everyone out of their way to the new toy!  As an adult when someone takes my toy, although let us be honest…it is never a toy.  It is usually a feeling or an event that hurts me.  I want justification. Unfortunately, adults do not always redirect like three-year-olds can.

I pray that Jesus will rest in my heart and remind me that events are in the past, there is no going back to doing it differently. The real trick is how I handle it right now and how that will affect my future. I am determined to learn as much as I can from my three-years-olds. I am learning to “redirect myself” when I’m feeling like I need an apology. After all, Jesus forgives me the minute I ask for it.

Kris Crowther
Director of Noah’s Ark Preschool

 

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Choose ‘Cultivate-Culture’ Over ‘Cancel Culture’

Choose ‘Cultivate-Culture’ Over ‘Cancel-Culture’

What is cancel-culture? Ask a young adult or teen for their definition! This is a familiar part of their culture. Wikipedia defines it as “a modern form of ostracism in which someone is thrust out of social or professional circles – either online on social media, in the real world, or both. Those who are subject to this ostracism are said to be ‘canceled.”’  This cancel-culture allows people to feel justified in attacking people with which they disagree. In fact it dehumanizes them. If they believe ______, then I will have nothing to do with them.

God calls us to be different. He calls us to “love your enemies” (Matt. 5:44) Jesus himself prayed, “Father forgive them” (Luke 23:34) over those who were crucifying Him. This is the heart of cultivate-culture! Brothers and sisters, let us follow in Jesus’ footsteps. Let us glorify God by being counter-cultural in the way we value people, forgive people, and refuse to cancel those with which we disagree. Instead, we pray for them. We cultivate instead of cancel. Cultivate means to prepare the ground before planting to increase growth. Therefore cultivate-culture means to recognize that God wants to prepare everyone’s heart to receive the truth of the gospel, and bear fruit of the Spirit. The very people who hurt us, like us, NEED Jesus to cultivate their hearts. First our hearts are cultivated for the seed of the Gospel to take root, but then, for the tree of faith to bear fruit. Jesus teaches us cultivate-culture in an unusual parable:

6 And he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. 7 And he said to the vinedresser, ‘Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?’ 8 And he answered him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. 9 Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’” Luke 13:6-9

So, when you are tempted to “cancel” someone because they have hurt you, remember that God created them. Jesus died for them. Who are you to chop down their tree? Jesus would rather you get your hands dirty and shovel some manure instead!

Steve Poole
Director of Youth & Young Adults

 

 

 

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Forgiveness-Choosing to Remember

Forgiveness–Choosing to Remember

I have been in and around church my entire life. As I have gotten older, there are certain “church sayings” that I have had to check for their truthfulness. One such phrase is “forgive and forget,” and another is “you need to learn to forgive yourself.”

The phrase “forgive and forget” is not found in Scripture. Yes, yes, the Bible does say such things as, For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.” (Hebrews 8:12), “I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.” (Isaiah 43:25), and “Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out,” (Acts 3:19), but let’s be realistic.  One, our all-knowing Father God cannot forget, and two, we can’t just automatically forget something. Try not to think of a purple gorilla riding a unicycle. How’s that working for you? Sure, there are those times when God takes memories of heartache and pain away. So it isn’t that forgetting isn’t possible, but Scripture simply does not couple forgiving and forgetting.

Let’s look at thing from a different perspective. Let’s try remembering. In 2 Corinthians 7:10, Paul comments on the pain and sorrow. He writes, “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret.”  A ‘godly grief’ looks something like 1 John 1:9, “But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.” This leads to salvation! This is good news, otherwise known as the Gospel!  Christ’s atoning work on the cross perfectly covers all of your past, current, and future sins. God will never again allow the knowledge of these sins to play a part in relating to you. Christ reconciles you to God the Father, who then sees you as washed us “white as snow” (Isaiah 1:18) through Christ’s shed blood. Because of Christ’s atoning work on the cross, any pain you have dealt with in the past, are dealing with in the present, or will deal with in the future is perfectly cared for by Jesus. God perfectly models what forgiveness entails through Christ. You are called to walk in the power that is extended to you through his mercy. To let the pain from a past hurt or offense keep you from walking in healing is to misunderstand the all-encompassing work of the gospel to save, sanctify, and glorify us. Humans are not able to do this perfectly like God does, and this is why regular reminders of the gospel are so important.

This brings us to the second ‘church phrase,’ “You need to learn to forgive yourself.” To get straight to the point, never does the Bible talk about the idea of “forgiving yourself.” We are told to forgive others when they trespass against us and seek forgiveness (Matthew 6:12). When we ask for God’s forgiveness based upon Christ having already paid for our sins and our having trusted in Him as Savior and Lord, He forgives us. However, even though we are released from the bondage to sin (as spoken of in Romans chapters 6-8), we can still choose to wallow in it and act as though we are not freed from it. Likewise, with guilty feelings we can accept the fact that we are forgiven in Christ, or we can believe the devil’s lie that we are still guilty and should therefore feel guilty. So although, the Bible does not directly command us to forgive ourselves, it does tell us to believe. Think about it for a moment. Paul tells us plainly that there is “now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). He also says that “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17). If you continue to condemn yourself after receiving the grace and forgiveness of Christ, isn’t there a sense in which you are denying the faith and crucifying the Son of God afresh (Hebrews 6:6)? When our former sins come to mind, we can choose to dwell upon them (with the resulting guilty feelings), or we can choose to remember and fill our minds with thoughts of the awesome God who forgave us and thank and praise Him for it (Philippians 4:8). Remembering our sins is only beneficial when it reminds us of the extent of God’s forgiveness and makes it easier for us to forgive others (Matthew 18:21-35).

In both cases, forgiveness is a choice that takes courage and strength, and it gives us the opportunity to become an overcomer rather than remaining a victim of our own scorn. Forgiveness is an opportunity to apply Gospel truths. You have been forgiven so you are able to forgive (Col. 3:13, 2 Cor. 5:18-19), and forgiveness is not just a great gift to bestow on others; it’s also something that allows us to be free. We can forgive because of who we are in Christ.

2 Corinthians 5:17 says it best, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

Gary Sager
Ambassador of Care

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The Problem With Forgiveness

The Problem With Forgiveness

I can relate to Peter, the disciple of Jesus, because Peter’s hang-ups seem to be similar to my own. In Matthew 18 Peter asks Jesus, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”

The clue to why Peter asks this can be found in the context. Jesus has been talking about sin in the church and sheep who wander away so I am fairly certain that one of these wayward sheep had offended Peter. Peter, feeling rather good about himself, suggests that he might be willing to forgive the offender seven times.

Peter’s self-congratulatory question raises a problem with forgiveness – we don’t really want to forgive others. Our reluctance increases when we know that we are right and when the offender has not yet come clean. Our unwillingness to forgive is echoed in the proverb “to err is human, to forgive divine.”

Mistakes are easy. Forgiveness is not easy. When we forgive, we surrender our right to make the other pay. Jesus blows Peter (and me) away when he answers Peter’s question about forgiveness. “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times” (Matthew 18:22).

The problem with forgiveness is that we are called to do it. And keep doing it.

Kent Landhuis
Pastor of Teaching & Leadership

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