freedom


I’ve mentioned our LIFE group before, but I thought I’d expand on it a little.  It’s become a big part of our lives, Tommy’s and mine.  As I said in this post, we were really thirsting for community, for a deeper, more close connection with fellow believers.  We wanted a way to share our testimonies and minister to others as well.

God filled those needs almost all at once.  A friend from our Emmaus community had invited us to join the LIFE group she and her husband were leading and during a weekend that she and I were both working at camp, a pastor at our church called Tommy to ask if we would lead a discipleship group and he agreed!

So we are in the middle of our LIFE group study, which happens on Thursday nights and also leading the group at church on Wednesdays.  It’s been so great!  We use discussion questions provided by our church to delve into the prior sermon at church, so the discipleship group isn’t anything like our LIFE group.  However, we end up mentioning things we’ve learned in LIFE to our Wednesday night group…so much so that one of the ladies asked us what “LIFE group” was exactly!  Maybe one day, we will go through LIFE with our discipleship group, too!  That would be awesome!

LIFE stands for Living In Freedom Everyday.  The curriculum is from Church of The Highlands in Alabama.  Casey, my youngest son, and his wife went through a group last year and several others I know have gone through the study.  I have seen positive changes in them and while I’m kinda a sceptic when it comes to “studies” that aren’t solely focused on the Bible, I have found that most of what’s in LIFE is very sound.  I may not agree with a particular angle or way of describing something in it, but the principle itself is sound.  Both Tommy and I have already grown by participating.

This video is from another church, but it describes the basic framework of how a LIFE group works…

LIFE – Living In Freedom Everyday from Lifechurch of Maryland on Vimeo

Last night’s lesson was on forgiveness.  That’s something I’ve struggled with all my life.  I grew up seeing a lot of bitterness and unforgiveness, even if there was an attempt to hide it or it wasn’t spoken of.  After all, can we really hide those things?  They always tend to manifest somehow in our words and behavior.  So maybe I felt it rather than saw it, but unconsciously, I grew up with this idea that people will use you and you can’t give them too much or they’ll hurt you.

As early as elementary school, I learned firsthand that you can’t trust people.  I learned that, even though you are the best friend you can possibly be to someone, it doesn’t mean they will return the feeling with nearly as much effort as you have given it.  Sometimes, they will even do something to purposely hurt you, having deceived you into thinking they cared about you when they really didn’t at all.  Of course, none of this is a great revelation to anyone, right?  Don’t we all know this?  But for some reason, I think as a child this came as a shock to me.  Finding that people didn’t put as much into a friendship as I did was a sad discovery for me.

That kind of realization can hurt and create a deep wound.  It can also set us up to become a wall-builder.  We decide that in order to avoid that kind of pain again, we will build tall walls so that no one can get to us.  What that meant for me was that I never gave myself fully in a relationship, either a romantic one or in a friendship situation.  I decided that I would give of myself as much as I could while still reminding myself not to expect anything in return.

I sorta had the second part right, but was totally missing the first part.  How can you really have a relationship with someone if you are always holding back?  I mean, you can do it, but it’s not a relaxed, comfortable relationship.  You don’t really feel good about it.  It will always leave you almost keeping score.  Like “I did this thing for them, let’s see if they reciprocate.  If not, I will pull away and not extend myself that much anymore.”

sigh  I have lived most of my life with this mindset.

As for the subject of forgiveness, I have come a long way in the past few years.  I’ve been able to let go of things that just kept me raw and hurt and bitter.  But I’m certain there are some things that have buried themselves deep enough that I seldom think of them anymore so I don’t realize the unforgiveness is there.

Ha ha…well, until last night.  Obviously, I’ve been pondering what might be buried in my personal graveyard.

The things that stood out most to me were the fact that forgiveness is NOT a feeling.  It’s a choice, a decision.

forgiveness

Another thing that was really helpful to me in choosing to forgive is to remember what Jesus suffered for us all, even while we were still His enemies, when we didn’t love Him or even know Him at all!

 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. —Romans 5:8

Once years ago, when I had some deep resentment toward my in-laws about something, I heard a preacher say something to the effect:

If Jesus was willing to die, to be tortured, mocked and humiliated but He could still say, “Father, forgive them” then what in the world is  your problem?  Whatever you are mad about is less than minescule compared to what Jesus forgave!

Something else is this little tidbit…unforgiveness doesn’t hurt the other person, but it eat you alive.  It can kill something inside you, turn your heart to stone.

It’s like drinking a poison and expecting the other person to die.

poison

Hmmm.  That’s deep right there!

Forgiveness is also a command to us as Jesus-followers!

“… Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?”  Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” —Matthew 18:21-22

 

It is also required in order for us to be forgiven by God!  Once we have accepted Jesus’ call to salvation, He expects us to extend that same grace to others.

unforgivness makes you a prisoner

“…but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” —Matthew 6:15

So today, I’m chewing on all this stuff.  I’m looking inward to see if there’s any bitterness and unforgiveness I need to deal with.  I hope that some of this has been helpful to you as well.  Sometimes we just need to be reminded of how God expects us to live, ya know?

How about you?  Whether you have experienced a LIFE group or not, are there times that bitterness has robbed you of joy?  Do you have a testimony about being blessed by releasing that and forgiving someone in your life?  Please share!  I’d love to have a conversation about it!

Blessings,

G~