Wednesday, June 18, 2008

When the Phone Rings

What is your response when the phone rings?  All depends…


First picture.


The phone rings, you pick it up and immediately feel a gag reflex.  That relative who can make a rock frown and keep a telemarketer from hanging up.  You love her but you don't want to take a cross-country trip with her.  She goes on and on and on and on.  Without breathing.  Or pausing.  Or listening.  You could set the phone down on the coffee table, do your laundry, return in half an hour to say, "uh-huh" and she wouldn't notice.  You used to try to tell her your latest news, but get out no more than, "Did you hear…". You love her, but she wears you out.  You look at your spouse, who breathes a deep sigh of relief that you picked up the phone, make a horrible face and moan.  You hit the mute button and almost shout, "We have GOT to get caller id!"  You love her, but you don't want to get caught by her.  Three days later, you pry the phone from your ear and collapse in exhaustion.  Because you love her, because you know she is lonely, because you are a nice person you refuse to hang up rudely, but it is nothing but a DUTY to talk with her.


Second picture.


In the past year our kids, Amber and Chadd, have both spent time out of the country.  Amber in Ireland, Chadd in Thailand.  During those times the ringing of the phone signaled a footrace.  Sheila was especially brutal at elbowing me to get to the finish line.  We longed for the phone to ring because of the limited times when they could call.  We'd schedule phone appointments just so we could hear their voices.  The few times we missed their calls and we got the message they left on the answering machine our hearts would plunge.  We just wanted to hear their voice, to know they were okay, to connect with them in some small way.  The house was so quiet, our hearts were empty with their absence.  If one of them called and Sheila got to talk with them while I was away, I felt cheated.  We reveled in the time talking and the half hour sped by.  It was nothing short of a PRIVILEGE.  When they returned home, well, you'd thought we'd won the Reader's Digest Sweepstakes!


What was the difference?  Same phone.  Same activity. All are human voices.  All take time.  All are relatives. 


The difference? the kind of relationship.  The needy relative is distant, disconnected and a duty.  The kids are our precious, treasured, heart connected loved ones and a privilege.


What is your response when God invites you to talk?  All depends…


If you see God as a duty, it will be something like a gag reflex.


If you see God as a loving Dad who fills your heart with joy, it will be a longing.


Tragedy is that the most view God as a duty while He stands by longing to fill our hearts and lives with meaning, joy, encouragement, instruction, protection, wisdom and so much more.  Truth is there is nothing like conversation with God.  Not duty kind of talking, but real, meaningful, heart-to-heart conversation that connects us with the one Who knows us best and loves us most.


It is time to pick up the phone.


""Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. 9 "Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!" Mat 7:7-11 (NIV) 


Boldly, Herb 


(To listen to Herb via the internet go to )

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Forgiving and Moving On

(This is the cherry on the previous 3 blogs.  I suggest reading them first, then coming back to this one.)


I do not make light of the pain some of you have been caused.  Some of those reading this have been abused, abandoned, betrayed, cheated, stepped on, and harmed in ways that I can't even imagine.  I do not dismiss those offenses or trivialize them.  Forgiving those people is even more important for you, not less.  For your good, your future and those you love.  You are my heroes when you put your full energy in forgiving.


As long as we view forgiveness as a feeling, we will be stuck.  Forgiveness is a mental transaction. A choice in opposition to our feelings because we know it is the right and best thing to do.  The truth is "forgiveness" can seem "touchy-feely." Nothing could be further from the truth – it is AN ACT OF THE WILL, a calculated decision often made in conflict to our strongest, raging feelings.  It requires all the strength of character within and God's strength poured into us.


It takes a real man, a real woman to forgive when all within cries out to give into emotions of anger, hate, bitterness and revenge. 

So when we pray, "Forgive us our debts as we have also forgiven our debtors" (Matthew 6:12) it is one of the most courageous, self-sacrificing, strength of will actions possible by a human being.


How do we do that?  In previous blogs I described the first steps:  realize forgiveness is best and receive God's forgiveness.  Once we have done that, here are the rest of the practical steps to choosing to make the willful transaction.


FORGIVE MYSELF. The extent of our acceptance of God's forgiveness and forgiving ourselves determines the extent that we can forgive others. The transaction is the same, I choose to release myself from the guilt of my actions, I pardon myself and cancel the debt.  We will always have regrets, but the guilt must be forgiven.


SEEK FORGIVENESS OF OTHERS.  Do you know the definition of major surgery?  Major surgery is my surgery; minor surgery is your surgery.  We tend to amplify the offenses of others against us and minimize the offenses we have done against others.  We excuse ourselves and hold others to a high standard.  We need to reflect, identify anyone we have hurt, and ask for forgiveness.


GRIEVE THE PAIN.  One of the reasons we don't like to think about forgiveness is that it brings the original pain back to us, often in vivid Technicolor.  To truly forgive, we need to grieve the pain that was caused and the pain of what will never be.  If we lose a leg because of someone's negligence, the leg is lost. Gone. Never to grow back.  We need to grieve the pain involved just as we grieve the loss of a loved one until we can come to accept the circumstances as they are, not as we want them to be.  (In another blog I talk about living in reality rather than fantasy.)


TRUST GOD WITH THE PAIN AND JUSTICE.  Forgiveness does not mean the other person gets off the hook.  Justice will be delivered, but we are not the ones to exact that justice.  God will hold them accountable and justice will be given, in His time and His way.


Remember the Old Testament story of Joseph? His eleven brothers sold him into slavery out of jealousy, his master's wife accused him of attempted rape, he was thrown into prison and left there for over ten years.  In God's time he was promoted to vice-president of the world (read it, it's in Genesis chapters 39-50), in charge of selling food to the famined world.  His brothers come, don't recognize him, he tests them, finally reveals himself, tells them he forgives them, moves the entire family to Egypt and they prosper.  Some years later their father dies, the brothers believe Joseph will now get even so they concoct a story to protect themselves, "Dad told us to tell you that you have to take care of us…" Joseph is dumbfounded at their fear.  He forgave them long ago.  (SIDENOTE: notice how unforgiveness and fear hurts those who hold on to it more than those who forgive?  It had left Joseph's mind over a decade ago.)  Joseph responds, as we all should as we trust God:


"You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives." Genesis 50:20 (NIV) 


RELEASE THE OFFENDER.  Choose to remove the chain of guilt and unforgiveness that binds you to the other person and place it into God's hands.  With the chain gone, both of you are free.  Even if they never ask.  Even if you never see them again. Even if they are dead.  How did Jesus forgive us?  Completely and before we even knew we needed forgiveness.


"Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you." Colossians 3:13 (NIV) 


MAKE FORGIVENESS A LIFESTYLE.  Give people the benefit of the doubt.  Don't be easily offended.  When hurt, release it as quickly as possible.  Get some perspective on what is important and let things go.  Lighten up.


Most important, pray blessings on those who offend you.  It is impossible to hold on to hurt and unforgiveness when you pray for blessings on that person.  Jesus knew this.


"But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you," Matthew 5:44 (NIV) 


Forgiving others, no matter how hard it is or how deeply they have hurt us, is worth it. 

Holding on to hurt and unforgiveness, no matter how it seems to satisfy, is not worth it.  Ever.



Boldly, Herb 


(To listen to Herb via the internet go to )


Monday, June 02, 2008

If Jesus Did So Can We

What is forgiveness?  Here's a definition: "canceling a debt, pardoning an offense, releasing an offender from guilt."


Imagine this…

      You loan me $2000 interest free because you think I'm a dependable guy and you are a very nice person.  You're not wealthy, so it's a stretch.  A few months later I do some electrical work on my house and I blow the thing up.  I know, I know, I should leave that to the professionals, but I don't.  Now I'm in a heap of trouble and have even more financial woes.  You decide, again because you are a nice person, to forgive – cancel the debt.


      More serious:  You invite me to your house I have no place to live or eat, (remember I blew up my house). As I pull into your drive way, I run into your classic car.  A car that has all original features from bumper to fenders to upholstery.  That dent means it will no longer be original equipment.  I have damaged it in a way that can never be corrected – repaired, yes, but not corrected.  I can't tell you how bad I feel.  I'm devastated as I walk into your house to confess, offer to fix the car and give you the $2000 someone loaned me.  But no matter what I do, the car will never be the same because the fender will not be original.  I beg you to forgive me.  Though you are deeply hurt, you forgive.  You forgive - pardon my offense.  It does not go back in the past and make it never happen, but you no longer hold me guilty. 


      Even more serious:  Your child is driving when another driver has a mechanical failure, crosses the center line, hits your child and kills him.  The most devastating experience ever.  Through no fault of anyone, the child is taken from you.  The driver comes to you devastated, begs you for forgiveness, sobbing in sorrow.  Not because you feel it (forgiveness is not about how we feel), you choose to pardon the offense, to release the offender from guilt.  THAT IS FORGIVENESS.


      Most serious:  Someone sees your child, stalks and targets her for no reason, follows and brutally murders your child.  Senseless.  Heartless.  A child taken from you and nothing will ever make it right.  The murderer is caught, tried, convicted.  While in prison Christ gets hold of his heart and he is miraculously transformed.  He comes to you, sincerely expresses his sorrow and regret and then asks for forgiveness.

      "Herb", you might be saying, "What kind of hurtful picture is that?"  THAT is exactly what we did with God.  We deliberately chose to turn our backs on God, go our own way and the price was the death of His Son.  By our sin we brutally murdered Jesus. 


      Deeper and stronger:  Back to the saved, repentant stalker - the time comes for the death sentence to be carried out for the murderer of your child.  You meet the executioner and murderer in the hallway to the room where the lethal injection will occur.  You stop them, take the handcuffs off the murderer, put them on yourself and walk into the death room to take the murderer's place.  That is what Jesus did for us.  Not only forgives when we ask, but before we even knew to ask, He took our place, writhing in the punishment we deserved, paying the price for our offense and offering deliverance. 

Romans 5:6 (NIV)  "You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly."


Here's the formula of forgiveness, whether it is us with God or with another person, whether we're on the giving or receiving side of forgiveness:

Offense  Ú  pain  Ú  responsibility  Ú  choose to release from guilt


For me and you:  An offense occurs (I hit your car)  Ú  pain follows (for me and for you)  Ú  someone has to take responsibility (me to fix the car, you to hear out my apology)  Ú  you have to choose to pardon, to release me of guilt or hold on to the hurt, anger and unforgiveness


For God:  we sin (the offense) Ú  causes pain for God (Jesus has to suffer and die, we experience the damage of sin)  Ú  God takes responsibility to pay for our sin with Jesus' death  Ú  God chooses to offer us forgiveness, pardon, release us from our guilt before we even ask.


      So what do we do?  Accept it.  It is free, but it is not cheap or easy.  It cost God everything.  It will cost us ownership of our lives.  If we truly believe Jesus gave everything for us, the only way to receive the forgiveness is to do the same in return. 


I hope you will.


Boldly, Herb 


(To listen to Herb via the internet go to )