Thursday, March 08, 2007

Forgiveness & Unity Among Women

I was asked to speak at a Ladies Night Out at our church in January of 2006. It was a BIG stretch for me. God is opening more and more doors for me to open my heart with other women but it has not been easy. He is doing good things and bringing good out of it all. But at the same time, I feel so incredibly inadequate, so unworthy and so humbled. My life has become an open book and has made me completely transparent and vulnerable. I'm so far from perfect and when I'm asked to speak on a certain topic, it's always a topic that I desperately need work on myself. As I'm prayerfully writing things out, searching God's Word and then sharing it with others, I'm also talking to myself, I'm teaching myself. Through studying and learning, God is always showing me what I need work on and what I need to change. God is continually working on me and molding me into the person He wants me to be. I mess up so many times but I know I need to keep getting up and keep trying and to continually learn through the trials of life, and through the mistakes I make. In these talks, I always try not to be too specific. I know at times I have hurt people but God is continually teaching me how to word things. My intent is never to hurt anyone in the stories that I share. If I have hurt anyone, I'm very, very sorry. But it's through every journey in my life that God is teaching me and showing me so many things about myself, about life and how to now raise my children. Thanks for letting me share this with you. I know this one's a bit lengthy but I hope you enjoy it.

Forgiveness and Unity among Women

When I think of Forgiveness & Unity among women, I think, wow, it takes a lifetime to achieve. Really. It is no easy task. I’ve worked with, helped, supported, encouraged, laughed and cried and prayed with women over the past 18 years. I’ve worked with women in the work force, I’ve raised children with women and been in mother’s groups with them, I’ve attended Bible study with them and for the last 13 years, I’ve led women’s Bible studies. It’s been a fulfilling, emptying, misleading, hurting, laughing, learning, enjoyable, frightening, hair-raising, frustrating, joyous, supporting, encouraging, mournful, teary-eyed, competitive, jealous, envious, lovable, and funniest times of my life all wrapped into what we call relationships and connecting with women around us all at once. What would we do without each other ladies?? Who would we compare our clothes, hair and bodies too? Who would we laugh and cry with? Who would we play Dutch Blitz with? Who would we discuss mothering tips with? Who would we tell how to raise their children?......and the list could go on and on.
It is not easy being a woman. It is not easy nurturing relationships with one another. It is not easy “working hard to live at peace with one another” as it instructs in the Psalms.
Psalm 34 v. 11-14? “Do you want to live a long and happy life? Then watch your tongue, keep your lips from telling lies, turn away from evil, do good and work hard at living at peace with others.” Ladies, this is talking to us!! These verses are just for us. Watch your tongue. How do we watch our tongue?? How do we keep our lips from telling lies?? What is telling lies? Telling a partial truth and leaving some out or giving enough information to formulate a certain idea without saying “the whole thing”? Wow, do we need work on that one! What is telling lies?? Turn away from evil. What is evil for a woman? How are women evil?? Do good. How do we do good?? And the famous last one is Work hard at living at peace with others. How do women work at peace with each others when so many of our characteristics have the notion of ‘cat fights’ in them or ‘snarling’ effects attached? How do you teach your daughters (who often fight and have claws attached) or a son who loves to bug, to work hard at living at peace with others? Wow! This Psalm has a high calling attached to it. But you know what? God never said it would be easy. Actually, He knew, and He told us that it would be hard. But He also said, that He would always be there for us, never leave us and there would always be a way out of any temptation. That includes the temptation to have it out with another woman, to swallow that pride, or to curb that frustration, or to close that mouth when you need to or to look away when a certain look wants to come out of your eyes, or to calm that voice at the last minute when it wants nothing else to do but to scream. We are human ladies. But we also have the Holy Spirit living within us and we are called to live at peace with one another.

Jesus prayed for his disciples and he prayed for us. In John 17:11 “…keep them and care for them…all…so they will be united.” When Jesus was praying, he prayed for unity among us. Jesus prayed for all who would follow him, including you and me and others. He prayed for unity in v. 11, he prayed for protection from the evil one in v. 15, and he prayed for holiness in us in v. 17. Knowing that he prayed for us should give us confidence as we work together for His Kingdom. Ladies, unity was so important to Jesus. Think of your homes, when there is not unity, is it enjoyable being in the home? Is it pleasant for others visiting in your home when there is not unity? No there’s not.

Pastor Russ had a great sermon last Sunday which I believe prepared us for tonight – it planted seeds for this evening. He spoke about people rubbing you the wrong way. You know, God has a sense of humor – I may not always appreciate that sense of humor at the time, but it is for my good. There’s one woman in my life who often rubs me the wrong way and I know I rub her the wrong way. Well, she rarely comes to our church but you know what, she came last Sunday. Hee-hee. So, there we sat, side by side, as Pastor Russ preached to us about how to act when people rub you the wrong way. That’s a funny one! I needed to hear what he had to say though. I really appreciated the verses that he used – many of them were already on my list to use tonight.

He based his sermon on Col. 3:12-17 “Since God chose you to be the holy people whom he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. You must make allowance for each other’s faults and forgive the person who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. And the most important piece of clothing you must wear is Love. Love is what binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are all called to live in peace. And always be thankful. Let the words of Christ, in all their richness, live in your hearts and make you wise. Use them to teach and counsel each other. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. And whatever you do or say, let it be as a representative of the Lord Jesus, all the while giving thanks through him to God the Father.”

WOW! We are to live as Christ’s representatives – we are to imitate His compassionate and forgiving attitude. We are to let love be our guide. The peace of Christ is to rule in our hearts. We’re always to be thankful. We’re to keep the word of God in our hearts at all times. If we did these things ladies, would it be hard to live in perfect harmony??

Russ pointed out Psalm 133:1 “…how good it is when brothers live together in harmony (unity).” But look at all these other verses talking about harmony:

Ro 8:27 And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God's own will.

Ro 12:16 Live in harmony with each other. Don't try to act important, but enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don't think you know it all!

Ro 14:19 So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up.

Ro 15:5 May God, who gives this patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other – each with the attitude of Christ Jesus toward the other.

1Co 1:10 Now, dear brothers and sisters, I appeal to you by the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ to stop arguing among yourselves. Let there be real harmony so there won't be divisions in the church. I plead with you to be of one mind, united in thought and purpose.

1Co 12:25 This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other equally.

2Co 6:15 What harmony can there be between Christ and the Devil ? …

2Co 13:11 …Rejoice. Change your ways. Encourage each other. Live in harmony and peace. Then the God of love and peace will be with you.

Remember Pastor Russ’s points in his sermon??
1. was to take the high road – we all make mistakes, we’re all God’s chosen people and neither of us is perfect. Col. 3:14 says to “forgive as the Lord forgave you.”
2. Your actions are more important than your feelings – if you don’t like someone and you show them kindness, you’re not being hypocritical – you’re being holy.
That one really poked out to me – that hit me hard. We’re so quick to say someone is being a hypocrite – I think we need to rethink that.
3. Include Christ in every conversation – what would Jesus say – you may not always know that but you sure would know WHAT HE WOULDN’T SAY. Verse 16 says we’re to use Christ’s words to teach and counsel each other. In other words, do not associate with a gossip.
4. Pursue personal peace – v. 15 says let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts. Isaiah 26:3 “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, whose thoughts are fixed on you!”
Ladies, when we’re overworked as to who hurt us and how we’re going to fix it or fix them or we’re concerned about making ourselves look good in front of others, we’re not fixing our thoughts or eyes on Jesus. If we’re not at peace, we’re not trusting enough in Jesus. Keep our focus on our Lord, not on others around us.

Often when we buck heads with someone, we’re the ones that need the work. God’s not through working on me yet – He’s not finished working on you yet!
How about the drama with the 2 couples in the parking lot?? Arguing and the men wanting to have a fist fight? Then their wives realize that they all went to the same church. How humbling!! Or how about when another person from church drives by you and gives you the finger because you had accidently cut him off when you passed him? Or when you drive a vehicle that has a fish sign on the trunk or a sticker that says God loves you! but you're driving habits don't represent the message that you are giving with that fish sign or sticker on your car. God has such ways of humbling us. Has anything similar happened to anyone ever? In order to have unity, you must let down pride, overlook faults of others and forgive.

Phil. 4:4-7 “Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again – rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon. Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank Him for all he has done. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”
Here it’s telling us that our inner attitudes do not have to reflect our outward circumstances. Paul was full of joy because he knew that no matter what happened to him or around him, Jesus was with him. It’s so incredibly easy to get discouraged about unpleasant circumstances or people, or to take things said or done much too seriously. Don’t allow things around us to rob us of our joy ladies. Keep things in perspective and work hard at not allowing people to rub you the wrong way cause it’s just not worth it. There will always be other women that will treat us unfairly and vice versa, but we are not to seek revenge or verbalize about our personal rights. One thing I try to always keep in mind, Jesus was silent before his accusers – I need to be too.

You know there have been times in my school years where I've been very intimidated or made fun of by other girls and there's been times when I've been the one making fun of others. It was no good. Things like that have gone on since the beginning of time it seems. But God works through those situations and brings good out of them. Too many times I've allowed what others have said to me or done to me to dictate who I really am. I know I've done wrong things too, but I also know that God has forgiven me for those and He's worked in my heart to forgive others who have hurt me. He's also allowed me to ask others for forgiveness for the hurt that I've cause them. It also amazes me to this day that my hubby chose me and not a zillion other girls that he could've chosen from. God had him planned for me!! :-) Also what amazes me is who God brings back into my life years later and how He uses those situations to bring healing, forgiveness, mercy and love into my life and into the lives of others. There's often challenges to work through and grow through but He's there every step of the way.

God's grace, mercy and forgiveness were written all over many many situations in my life. Life always comes full circle. It amazes me the people that God sends back into my life to teach me so many things; forgiveness, sensitivity, mercy, letting go of hurt or bitterness....and on and on. My children have gone through hard times of being bullied and at times being the bully themselves, and I am able share stories of my own life with them. This lets them know that it's happened to me too and that we can feel how they're feeling. I also tell them that you never know when God will bring someone back into your life for you to show His love and forgiveness to or to receive love and forgiveness from. God knows exactly what we need from day to day to mold us into the character He desires us to be. GOD IS GOOD!!

Because we're women, things can happen all the time where wrong things are said or done. It seems to be a constant thing that we need to teach our girls not to be nasty, treat others disrepectfully or talk about others. God has used instances like those in my life to show his mercy and forgiveness as well. Our first response is so often to lash back or defend ourselves or to react in a wrong way. But I often think what Jesus did.

You see, when we are silent before our accusers and stop ourselves from lashing back or lashing out, God takes care of the difficult situations in our lives. He brought women back into my life to allow grace and forgiveness and healing. At another time He used an innocent comment to bring out the truth of what actually happened and gave an opportunity for grace and forgiveness again. I've been there in both situations. Ladies, I'm ashamed to say that at times I've been the one that has made fun of others and I've been the one that has gossiped about another woman to another. I've been there. I feel for women who are painted a wrong picture of someone they've never met because of gossip and saying the wrong things. How many times have I done that to others? I've been there and I've done that! How wrong I've been. I've been put on both sides.

Oh Lord, forgive me for when I've hurt other women knowingling and unknowingly. Teach us Lord to be an encouragement to those around us and to show Your Love to those around us - to build each other up.

Right now in Ladies Bible study, we are doing a study on the Titus 2 woman. Titus 2:3-4 says this “Teach the older women to live in such a way that is appropriate for someone serving the Lord. They must not go around speaking evil of others and must not be heavy drinkers. Instead, they should teach others what is good. These older women must train the younger women to love their husbands and their children, to live wisely and be pure, to take care of their homes, to do good, and to be submissive to their husbands. Then they will not bring shame on the word of God.”

Women are not to take part in slandering one another, gossiping, or drinking too much wine as it says in Titus 2. Older women are to teach, to admonish, the younger women. This means they are to give encouragement through advice – they are to pass on their insights to younger women. Paul tells older women to teach the younger women so that their actions would glorify God, build His kingdom, and strengthen the family. We are to rely on each other for spiritual guidance. Therefore it is extremely important where you are getting your guidance from if you are giving it to others. Those around us also learn much more from our actions than from our words. Younger women are much more likely to take the counsel of older women to heart if they saw them doing what they are saying themselves. We often call this practicing what we preach.

Are you allowing God’s Holy Spirit to produce faith in Christ by your actions or the words you speak? What kind of example are you for Jesus, for other women around you? Do other women want to follow you?

Phil. 2:1-2 say “Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and sympathetic? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, working together with one heart and purpose. Don’t be selfish; don’t live to make a good impression on others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourself. Don’t think only about your own affairs, but be interested in others, too, and what they are doing.”

Ladies if we’re just living to make a good impression on others or to please ourselves it is selfishness and it causes disunity. In these verses Paul is stressing spiritual unity. We are to love one another and be one in spirit and in purpose. When we work together, care for one another, put others first – we have unity. Laying aside our selfishness, treating others with respect and common courtesy, considering others more important than ourselves – these actions link us with Christ, it shows humility and allows us all to experience unity.

Col. 4:2-6 “Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and thankful heart… Live wisely…make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be full of grace and effective…”

John 13:34 …“Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other” – that means without the petty bickering, jealousy and division, not having shut minds or hardened hearts, caring about right and wrong, having no greed or deception or selfishness. It’s learning to live a God-centered life. God is Love!

To live a God-centered life, it means to live in unity – in harmony. Let’s sing a note. All the same note – SING. Okay not bad but when it's that way all the time it's rather boring right? Now those of you who can harmonize, let’s harmonize. Let’s sing – SING but with harmony. Isn’t that beautiful?? I love listening to music when it’s in harmony like that. I read a devotion one time where it said that music always sung in the same note gets to be monotonous and boring – very dull. But, music sung in harmony is lovely – it’s heavenly. All the notes on the scale are different – they all have a different ring to it. That’s how it is with us. We all have different notes and scales (levels of life) and gifts to offer. That’s what makes us all so beautiful and unique. We’re beautiful and unique and heavenly together but one alone isn’t all that strong. We need each other living in perfect harmony and being one in Christ. Jesus is praying again in John 17:22-24 “…so they may be one…being perfected into one…” Jesus’ greatest desire for his disciples and for us was they we become one. He wants us unified as a powerful witness to the reality of God’s love. Ways that you can help unify the body of Christ, the church: pray for each other. Avoid gossip. Build each other up. Work together in humility. Give your time and your money. Exalt Christ. And refuse to get sidetracked arguing over divisive matters. Wow! How many have seen themselves failing in each of these points here?? I know I have failed. But it’s our choice!! It’s our choice ladies. We can choose to live in unity, in harmony with those around us. Why did you come here? Do we come together to tear others down and gossip or did we come to build each other up, seek encouragement, support, prayer, and refresh your life, and to get to know God better?

Let’s close with Ephesians 4:29 – 5:8 “…let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. V. 30 Don’t bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live…get rid of all bitterness, anger, rage, harsh words and slander, as well as all types of malicious behavior. Instead be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. Follow God’s example in everything you do…live a life filled with love for others…Impurity, greed…obscene stories, foolish talk, coarse jokes…such sins have no place among God’s people – these are not for you. Instead, let there be thankfulness…v. 7 don’t participate in these things….you are full of light from God and your behavior should show it. For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true.” LET’S SHINE LADIES, SHINE FOR JESUS! GOD IS LOVE

Col 3:14 “And the most important piece of clothing you must wear is love. Love is what binds us all together in perfect harmony.” Amen

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to stop in and say "hi". Thanks for this post; there is so much truth in it.

Sherry U