Another week, another ‘The Weekly Mash [and Peace!] – see what’s been happening this week on the other side of my blog garage…
Tag Archive: forgiveness
‘For the director of music. A psalm of David. When the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba.’
i mean, that’s quite an intro already, right? and possibly carries a profoundly deep message in terms of really getting our minds around the fact that David, altho he had messed up horribly, still ends up at the feet of God, rather than simply trying to hide or run the other way… where do you end up when you are caught up in the depravity of sin?
‘You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; You do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart
You, God, will not despise.’ [vs 16-17]
and there we see that David really gets it – he starts at the point of his brokenness and failure but realises that it is not the outward motions that God is after – it is not about performing the right religious activities or rituals – God wants to know and see that he has truly changed – God is interested in the heart…
‘Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.’ [vs 1-2]
this is the start of the Psalm – David appeals to what He knows of God, who he knows God to be – He appeals to God’s ‘mercy’ and His ‘unfailing love’ as well as His ‘great compassion’.
Note that David is asking for mercy, not justice. Which is a thing most of us do much of the time i imagine. David knew that calling for justice for his actions would mean his life. But knowing the God he serves, he knows deep down that even though he doesn’t deserve it and possibly might not even feel like he has the right to even ask, that God is all of those things and will likely respond with much mercy and grace and undeserved forgiveness and new life.
and then he speaks those words that Keith Green turned into such a brilliant and haunting song:
‘Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. [vs 10-12]‘
this could be a daily prayer to start the day with… the search for a clean heart, the joy of really knowing God’s salvation and a spirit that is willing for whatever opportunity is placed in front of you…
i don’t feel very strong right now.
i feel wronged. badly done by. hurt. betrayed. disappointed.
and yet again and again it comes back to me that the call is on me to forgive.
pride. ego. self-righteousness. my idea of “justice”. all these things rally against me, trying to convince me that i am in the right [maybe i am] and that the other should approach me [maybe they should] and seek peace and restoration. and maybe in the ideal world that is what should happen.
but i come from a far greater than ideal world. i come from a kingdom. and in this kingdom it often appears as if everything is upside down. and yet when you tilt your head, change your perspective, and open your eyes to really see how the upsidedowness really takes shape, it is quickly obvious to see how this new way is so much better. this new way is right. this kingdom brings life.
it doesn’t demand love, it earns it. it showers it indiscriminantly on whoever is in arms reach. and those beyond. it seeks out people to Love who may not be the likeliest of candidates or people who i might feel are all that deserving.
am i? am i deserving.
if ‘forgiveness is the attribute of the strong’ then i don’t feel so strong right now.
i feel tired from having walked that road before. so many times.
always the one to seek peace, to chase with repentance, to humble myself [that's probably not true, but it's certainly what i like to think]
forgive those who deserve it? easy. i can do that. i have. again and again.
but those who don’t? sure, but can i at least make them feel bad? can i at least see them ask for it or at the very least even seek it?
because often they don’t. often it has to be me who has to set out on that same journey again [my shoes feel worn down, and in the absence of shoes, my feet]
i think of my buddy Dunc. how is he still my friend? i honestly sometimes don’t know. oh i get why we are friends and what we share in common and how we can laugh and enjoy life to the full together. i get how we can be friends. and are.
but i have given that boy some crap. man, he has experienced some of the depths of my bad moods and hockey-related tantrums and unfairness accusations and passive aggressive looks [that if they could kill i'd have been put away for life]. and yet he has still stayed around. and loved me. and been so incredibly generous to me and Val just again and again and again.
and so thankx Dunc. maybe in you i will discover some hope for myself.
and in Jesus! cos He sticks with me. and i know i’ve let Him down again and again.
and yet He keeps welcoming me back. and He keeps being incredibly generous. and He keeps putting amazing opportunities in front of me
and more importantly, when i don’t seem to possess enough of this particular attribute of the strong
and when i arrive once more at a place where i feel wronged. badly done by. hurt. betrayed. disappointed.
He refuses to let me stay there. He refuses to let me wallow.
or wait [fruitlessly perhaps] for the other person to set out on my path.
the nudge comes. the Spirit speaks. the call is made.
you put this right. you Love. you forgive. and I will give you everything you need to be able to do it.
seventy times seven – My kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.
[to all those friends and family of mine who have never given up on me - despite quite possibly having cause - i thank you so much - it means the world to me - despite how completely wrong i can get it from time to time, i really do try.]
a few years ago i visited new york with a good buddy of mine, justin paton, and one of the touristy things we came across was the Charging Bull, a 3,200-kg (7,100 lb) bronze sculpture by Arturo Di Modica that stands Wall Street in Manhattan.
being a touristy symbol, we had to wait a fair amount of time to get a picture with it and so naturally when we did i had to be a little different and took some ‘grabbing the bull by the balls’ shots [a cousin to the 'when life gives you lemons' metaphor]
why? because you only live once and so why have the same picture everyone else has? [as Garfield would say, 'why be Nermal?']
life has got to be seized by the… um, opportunities as you only get one shot at it [on this side of heaven, anyways] and so how is it possible that so many people give in to living mediocrely [i was going to say "choose" but i don't honestly believe anyone chooses to be mediocre, i just think people tend to give in, or get tired, or settle and suddenly there it is] but not me! this guy chooses to live. and to live well. LIFE TO THE FULL!
it helps that one of the central ideas of the religious faith i hold to is this same idea, where in John 10.10 Jesus says to His followers, ‘the thief [enemy] comes to steal and kill and destroy, but i have come that you may have life, and have it to the full!’
it is pretty much a command from the God i follow that we must live life well here [not just in preparation for what might come later as many have sadly made it] – but right here, right now.
and living to the full, according to Jesus, includes such diverse (and exciting) elements as… loving your enemies, offering forgiveness to anyone who has hurt you, finding a way to connect with and enrich the lives of those considered as ‘the least of these’ [with a special emphasis on widows and orphans] and teaching others the things that Jesus has taught you.
this thing is not going to be boring, and if it is, we have somehow missed the point.
so next time you find yourself standing near to a touristy attraction and someone with a camera is standing by, think out of the box and let your creativity loose and who knows how it will affect the rest of your life…
this may be one of the tabooist topics [especially in the church, not a lot of sermons preached on this in my experience] and it’s time to bring it into the light.
i have a story to share and i am hoping that this will help people towards a journey of healing, restoration, self-forgiveness, hope and sexual purity.
i do wish my story went something like this – i used to struggle with pornography and masturbation and then i became a Christ-follower and God took all that junk away from me and healed me up inside and made me well… that would be a good story… sadly, though, it is not mine.
BUT during the height of my struggles with pornography/masturbation [and believe me, they were struggles] which went on for years [i would say on and off to differing degrees for close to 15 years] i was a youth pastor at two different churches and so it was often a case of mess up hectically again Saturday nite [if i mention late nite e-tv and you smile knowingly, you have maybe caught yourself out] and then go to church to preach a sermon or be part of the worship team or lead a bunch of young people towards ‘being good Christian young people’
so add feelings of incredible failure, unworthiness and hypocrisy to the mix. anyone relating yet?
for me it was usually a tv thing which is weird cos i guess i had a lot of access via computer and occasionally would stumble on a page i shouldn’t be on but i guess the internet stuff was always just a little too hectic or in my face for me and so my struggles would generally be late nite, flipping through the channels [all four we had and when late nite e-tv was one of them it was a recipe for failure] and then inevitably getting stuck on some ridiculous porn movie for ten, twenty minutes or longer leading to inevitable masturbation to relieve the sexual tension built up and then guilt, anger at myself, pleading to God to take this thing away [after years of struggling i would at times refer to it as 'the porn in my flesh' cos it certainly didn't seem like anything God was interested in removing from me by clicking His God fingers which i desperately wanted to be the case]
what was interesting for me [and i doubt this is the case for everyone] is that it never felt like the porn did anything for me – i certainly didn’t enjoy it – it always disgusted me rather than turned me on. for me it always, or for the most part at least, seemed to be about the curiosity aspect [as if there was ever going to be a good porn story script or premise but i kept telling myself that's why i watched - and we know how curiosity treated the cat] “Let me just see what happens here and the moment it gets dodgy I’ll turn it off” and so on.
then there was a time when i would have a couple of weeks success and the enemy would change his tactic and i literally would turn on the tv late nite saturday with the attitude of ‘I have beaten this thing. Let me show it how strong I am so I am going to turn on the dodgy channel and the moment it gets dodgy I will turn it off to show it who is boss.” Inevitably it turned out to be boss and i would revert back to the porn struggle which replaced the pride struggle once more.
John 10.10 “The thief comes to steal and kill and destroy, but I [Jesus] have come that you may have life to the full.”
i was living out that verse – i was having innocence and purity and reputation [at least between me and God cos not too many other people knew] stolen, my soul was being destroyed week by week and i was heading towards all sorts of deaths… the enemy is a liar and will use whatever tactic he knows will work in you – when porn lost strength he switched to pride and took me down that way
and of course maybe the biggest part of it all was that i was fighting this fight all by myself. i was a good christian youth leader – i couldn’t be struggling with pornography and masturbation, right? it’s not the kind of thing that comes up naturally in conversations – “So, who is struggling a bit with the old porn then?” and i already felt dirty and disgusted with myself and like a complete failure week after week after week, why would i possibly share that with someone else?
at the height of my addiction to masturbation i could not go a day without doing it [at least in my head] and yet there were two of the strangest things that happened – the first was that for some reason i saw Sunday as a holy day and so i never masturbated on a Sunday [bizarre that i held that belief for so long and yet didn't see the glaring contradiction that something i 'couldn't stop' i was able to stop for one day a week...] bizarre… and then in 1994 i went on a youth ministry music and drama team for a year and after a couple of months of struggling daily with msaturbation before i left for team, i went for a complete year without masturbating once…
came home, feeling victorious and pretty much got almost straight back into it. and all the guilt, anger, frustration, crying out to God etc continued…
the struggles with pornography were not as intense as the struggles with masturbation and so they pretty much came and went and because it was generally tv related was a little easier to control than if it was computer related i imagine… and despite not getting absolute victory over it i was able to identify some weak spots and put things in place to make it less likely that i would fall
one was the obvious reality of knowing when the porn was going to be happening and so moving away from the habit of arriving home late at night and switching on the tv to going straight to my room or avoiding turning on the tv at all late in the evening. i was living at my folks home at the time and so leaving the lounge door opening rather than closing it made me less likely to get caught up in it [having your folks walk in while you are watching porn a very strong deterrent.] also another eye opener and truth to people stuck in a “i can’t control this” mentality – that is a weird thing to say because you manage to control it when you are hanging out with your parents or in a busy restaurant or on the bus for example…
the devil maintains his stronghold on people in this area using a lot of subtle lies and half-truths – you are the only one caught up in this, you can’t stop it, the pride of thinking you are able to be in control and so testing that control, the curiosity aspect, the lies of the stuff of pornography being equivalent to the stuff of sex you will find in marriage one day… and more…
possibly the best piece of advice or mentoring i got from a good friend of mine, Craig Duvel, who i spoke to one baptist summer camp about this stuff [at least i think i spoke about this stuff, pretty sure i did] was to “keep a short account with God” – like a bar tab, the smaller it is, the easier it is to settle… so the more we sin and don’t put things right with God, the easier it is to keep on sinning because “ah well i’ve messed up so much anyways what is one more time?” and so what Craig told me, which helped a lot, was that sometimes he will get up at 3am and go downstairs and get on his face and make right with God when he has done something the night before – deal with it immediately with God [and then quickly with people if your sin requires you to go and make right with someone] even if that makes you feel like a complete hypocrite…
so messing up late nite saturday, it still made sense to make right with God afterwards so that i started the new day fresh and able to go and do the things of church and so on and not allow the mess-ups to build up and overwhelm me. despite the fact of knowing that i had stuffed up 99 times before not having to live with the belief that it means i have to stuff up the 100th time.
another thing i put into place with another friend of mine years later when he was struggling with stuff was to make a text message accountability [i did this with a friend of mine who was tempted to cut herself and never did hopefully partially as a result and another friend of mine with drinking stuff so a good all-round principle of friends helping friends] with the idea that any time he was tempted to masturbate he would send me a text [well it worked both ways but i don't think i was struggling as much when that happened] and i would text back to let him know i was praying for him and that he could beat it – this is a really great thing to have in place as often just the action of interrupting the temptation to write the text was what was needed to prevent the action – it does require you being able to find someone who you can share your junk with who will love you and not judge you and be available/willing to do such a thing – but i think this can be a great help.
i believe that one of the biggest principles is getting it into the light – they say a problem shared is a problem halved and with masturbation or pornography this is indeed true as just being able to share with someone that you are struggling with one of those things takes away the enemy’s hold over you in the “if they knew what you were like they would be so disgusted” department- walk the journey with someone else. it is a tough scary thing to share the first time and you really need to pick your person well [hoping that a best friend or a youth pastor or an accountability person or cell leader might be that person] so that the sharing of it doesn’t become an added burden to you.
while i am on this, let me share a great link which is helpful in so many different areas – we stumbled upon this site called ‘i am second’ which has testimonies from a bunch of different people and this one by a guy called Nate Larkin, despite being on sex addiction, resonates with a lot of the pornography/masturbation struggle [http://www.iamsecond.com/seconds/nate-larkin]
so i have some principles and tips and advice for those who are struggling with this thing – i wish i had the formula of how to stop but after years of struggling [and not quite sure why God allowed me to struggle so long without just removing it from me cos i so desperately prayed and cried out for that on occasions too numerous to count, EXCEPT maybe because he knew that me speaking out about it some day would hopefully help others start their journey towards freedom and give me the credibility as someone who knows too well the depths to which it takes you, and if that is the case then i am okay with that for sure] i had a personal miracle – i had struggled with both pornography and masturbation through the few relationships i had had with girls and sometimes being in a relationship made it easier to not struggle and at other times it didn’t [living with a no-sex-before-marriage Christ-following frame of reference while engaging in relationship activities designed to lead one towards sex in terms of intimacy and closeness didn't help a lot] but then i met Valerie [my future wife to be] and God pretty much instantly took it all away which i am profoundly grateful for.
and then i got to stand in front of close to 1000 people at baptist summer camp [times two camps] and share about my struggles and saw some other brave leaders alongside me [some who i am hoping will add their stories to mine here] sharing about their struggles with the same things, in different ways… and then witnessing God bring about such release and hope and promise of a new journey and freedom from these two things which are incredibly destructive forces. it is never a fun moment to stand in front of people and share about your biggest failures and the things that bring you embarrassment and shame. but i have been able to do so as Jesus has freed me from that shame and the enemy does not have those holds over me that he did before.
so there it is. my name is brett “fish” anderson and i have struggled with pornography and masturbation. and been freed from the grip of both over my life. there is hope and freedom in Jesus Christ. there is strength in being able to bring your darkness/struggle into the light and in the support of a loving friend or community.
if you are a pastor, small group or youth leader, or even a parent [altho that might be a trickier one - sitting down with your kids and asking about their struggles with porn or even revealing yours might not necessarily be the best way to go - altho if you can create space for them to speak and share and for you to be able to share your brokenness or point them to others who can and will that might work] reading this then i urge you to take the ‘Taboo’ out of this topic.
if i am feeling like an incredible sinner or hypocrite, if i am unclean and disgusting because of the hold pornography or masturbation has over me then your messages of who God is and what i need to be doing as a Christian and so on can become meaningless – create spaces for your people to deal with their junk, in open and honest forums – they may be messy/awkard/embarrassing conversations or meetings to chair, but the reward and fruit of doing them will be such incredible freedom that you could revolutionise the life of your youth group, or church or small group.
i have seldom heard pastors or youth leaders deal with this topic directly and yet it has such a hold over so many people – it is time to get the stories out and let the healing begin
the thief comes to steal and kill and destroy, but I [Jesus] have come that you might have LIFE TO THE FULL!
‘Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath.
Your arrows have pierced me, and your hand has come down on me.
Because of your wrath there is no health in my body;
there is no soundness in my bones because of my sin.
My guilt has overwhelmed me like a burden too heavy to bear.’ [vs. 1-4]
Um, wait, what? This must be one of those other psalms, right, the psalms not written by david?… Nope, says it right there, a psalm of david, a petition…
something must have happened.
the “them” became the “me” perhaps…?
which i have been alluding to as from psalm to psalm we have been seeing this gung ho “kill the bastards” type attitude from david towards “those who sin” giving the strong impression that he was not part of that team… and now suddenly, he has fallen, and not just a little [popular opinion places this psalm after the bathsheba incident] and now suddenly he is the prodigal shamefully crawling home with his tail between his legs and no longer the older brother indignantly declaring his worth and deservement of reward.
how quickly the tables turn.
i wonder how differently david would write most of the psalms we have looked at already now that he finds himself on the other side – do you think his “smite the enemy” and “decimate those who sin” calls might be more grace-filled restoration focused petitions?
how does this affect the way i view the people who i don’t like or who have hurt me [maybe really deeply and painfully] when i start to get how someone maybe doesn’t have to be a complete schmunglehead to do complete schmunglehead things? because i did those things so it can’t be SO bad, right?
‘Lord, do not forsake me; do not be far from me, my God.
Come quickly to help me, my Lord and my Savior.’ [vs. 21-22]
while it is a good thing to call on God in your time of need and brokenness, once has to ask the question of whether david might have had a lot more people to call on as well and to have gather around him [dispensing grace, mercy, love, forgiveness, compassion] if he had shown a lot more of it to others in his previous writings…
i hope this psalm in some small way is a reminder to us that God has shown us incredible grace and mercy [love, forgiveness, compassion] in sending Jesus to die in our place. How dare we not extend the same kind to those around us, whose sins against us will not likely compare with God’s need to pour His wrath on His very Son.
it has been in the context of ‘being wronged’ that i have noticed it. and also brought up by an email i received the other day asking how we can be okay with the fact that God ordered genocide in the old testament [a really important question which i have grown up not asking - killing of many in the old testament was always seen as okay because it was 'the goodies killing the baddies' and i don't think i ever stopped to think much at all about the fact that they were real people with families and dreams and so on...]
in terms of someone who i think has caused offence to me [often a dangerous sign - "offence is not given, it's taken"], there is this inherent thing of violation of my rights [often a dangerous sign - the louder i get about proclaiming something that is seen as a right to me, the more i often need to look deeply within my heart, past my selfishness, pride and greed] and i NEED THIS PERSON TO PAY.
now what is unfortunate is that ‘this person’ is usually someone who is, or was, or should be, close to me [in the story, it is the guy's brother] and the basic truth of the situation is that i am wanting them to suffer [because they did that thing that was unacceptable to me] and so with the story of the lost son, the father tries to focus on the heart of the story: ‘this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found’ [verse 32]
the story is of a misguided son who gives in to temptation and greed and heads off and squanders his money and ends up with nothing and returns, absolutely broken, to try and get a job as a servant on his father’s farm… and the older son tries to make it all about himself. WHAT ABOUT ME?
and i’ve seen that in myself, and it is ugly, but while i am feeling offended or holding tightly to my rights, it becomes very easy to forget that this story also involves someone else, who is often broken and hurting and messed up and confused and when Jesus looks at them from the cross and gasps out, “Father, forgive them, for hey do not know what they are doing.” [Luke 23.34], i can hear myself wailing in the background, “No, wait a minute, what about me? I have been wronged. Is no one going to do anything? What about meeeeeeeee?”
romans 12 talks about us offering our bodies as living sacrifices which are holy and pleasing to God [ones which are screaming "he/she must pay!" may not fit so well into that category don'tchathink?] and goes on to say, ‘Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.’ [Romans 12.1-2] and so once again, we hear that in the kingdom Jesus came to speak about, everything is turnedon its head. What is ‘a right’, is freely given up. Offence is cast to the side.
what is brought to the fore is Love. Crazy, unbelievable, nonsensical, indescribable, ridiculous, make-a-mockery-out-of-offence, sacrificial, unmerited Love.
may that become my go to place. may i be identified more as the father in the story and less as the brother.