Category Archives: forgiveness

Could he forgive the death of his brother? Bryann Trejo punches the devil and doesn’t retaliate against the killers

AR-190919667Bryann Trejo was a cold-blooded killer* who’d already spent half his adult life in jail. So when gangsters gunned down his twin brother, Bryann T was tempted to exact a brutal and immediate revenge.

“Even after he was saved, he was murdered,” Bryann says about his brother to Rapzilla. “I came to know Christ as well. I forgave his enemies and murderers and God wrote a new song in my heart.”

Bryann’s twin, named Ryan, is a frequent subject in the hip hop of Bryann Trejo, who is leader of the Kingdom Music Family based in Abilene, Texas. The gangster-turned-pastor’s music, which recently catapulted to the highest levels in CHH, communicates an urgency and passion to get lost souls out of the unforgiving streets and into Jesus’ eternal forgiveness.

bryann trejoBryann was born in Corpus Christi, Texas, but his family moved to Chattanooga, Tennessee, when he was 13. There, he fell into armed robberies and selling narcotics. The juvenile delinquent system and then later adult jail, had a “revolving door” for Bryann, he admits on his website.

“I was thugging, out whiling, a Mexican with a cohete (Spanish slang for a gun) with the love the streets,” Bryann says on a Frontline Ministries Braden Hall YouTube video. “That type of love landed me in shootouts, prison, depression and suicide attempts.”

Because FIRST TIME gangsters attempted to kill his brother, Bryann unleashed a furious retaliation that landed him 30 years in jail for two attempted murders. Eventually the charges were lowered with a plea bargain.

Bryann got out of jail at age 27. His brother had gotten saved and Bryann determined to straighten up with God too.

“I’m a knucklehead. I had an identical twin, and we were mixed up in all kinds of bad stuff,” Bryann told Rapzilla. “But he came to know Christ. We started rapping together. But even after he was saved, he was murdered. I came to know Christ as well.”

bryann and monica trejoThe SECOND ATTEMPT on Ryan’s life was a case of mistaken identity on May 28, 2013 in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Ryan was trying to disciple a young hoodlum, whom the gangsters were looking for in reprisal for a murder days earlier. The killers showered him with bullets.

Bryann was enraged and broken beyond belief. But he was committed to not relapsing into the old life. Even though he knew who the killers were and could have easily tracked them down, he decided to walk in Christian forgiveness.

“The anger came. God, how could you let my brother get murdered? He served You. I wanted to question Him,” Bryann says on a CUTV video. “I wanted revenge. I’d been in prison before for attempted murder, so when he died it’s already in me to retaliate, especially since he was innocent. I wanted them to pay.”

Bryann came to a crossroads. He faced a momentous decision: either relapse into ravenous revenge or make an audacious stand of forgiveness.

He cried out to God: “Lord, I’m about to go cuckoo. I’m about to lose everything. I got six kids; he got six kids. They’re going to lose daddy and uncle. I knew right then and there, I had to forgive.

“I argued with God, ‘But my brother was innocent,’” he continues. “And the Holy Spirit was like, ‘Jesus was innocent.’ Then I was like, ‘But he didn’t deserve this.’ And the Holy Spirit was like, ‘Jesus didn’t deserve it.’”

It wasn’t by any means easy, but Bryann struggled to truly forgive. He still struggles with “bitterness and poison” in his heart. Every day he’s reminded about his brother’s death every day.

“I see his face in the mirror. We’re identical twins,” Bryann says. “His case is still open. The so-called friends didn’t want to be snitches, so they didn’t say nothing. Everything I thought was real in the streets was fake. So now I have this passion to expose Satan and tell people that he is a liar.”

When he returns to the neighborhood, his former friends still provoke him to take revenge.

“The people ridicule me,” he says. “Homeboys be like, ‘You ain’t going to retaliate? That’s your brother. What kind of brother are you?’” he says. Those words stir up the old street pride.

“What, you don’t think I will?” he counters. But then he remembers he’s living in forgiveness.

“I’m not that man. I don’t fight the way I used to fight,” he says. “I trust through Christ that His way of fighting is better than my way of fighting. I’m really punching Satan every time I forgive. I just didn’t know that was the way to fight back because it didn’t make no sense in the physical. We all want to fight the enemy.” Read the rest: Bryann Trejo rapper no revenge

Beyond God’s forgiveness because he altered his body to be transgender?

72137812_1391789564304612_6296076620306317312_nSamuel’s mother prayed but couldn’t get pregnant. So when Samuel was conceived, he was her miracle child.

Growing up in a Christian household in Fort Myers, Florida,, little Samuel Jordan III dreamed of becoming a pastor.

But at eight years old, he was sexually abused by a friend’s family member.

“He starts saying things like ‘We’re just acting, I’m gonna be the man, you’re gonna be the woman,’” says Samuel. “The innocence that I carried as a little boy that loved Jesus, I really felt like that got snatched away from me,” he recounts on a 700 Club video.

samuel jordan as a kidSamuel didn’t tell his mom about the first traumatic abuse. It happened again, followed by more violations.

Perversely, Samuel began to enjoy the sin and seek it regularly.

By age 14, he was exploring homosexuality on his own with friends from school.

Meanwhile, feelings of guilt and shame troubled him at church.

“I asked God, ‘Whatever this feeling is, I need you to take this out of me,’” Samuel recalls. But “it seemed every time I prayed, nothing really changed.”

The routine of secret sin got upended when mom discovered an explicit note in his backpack. She was shocked and decided to take a radical stand of tough love: to cut off her relationship with her son.

“My relationship with her at that moment took a shift. She told me, ‘If this is how you’re gonna live, I can’t talk to you.’” Samuel remembers, crying. ”I was like her blessing, but I became her curse, and she could no longer look at me.”

In hopes to restore his relationship with his mom, he halted the promiscuity.

transgender transformedHe never could patch things up with his mother. She died of cancer after two years of broken communication with her son.

“I felt like that last piece of me had left the earth,” he says. “There was a hollowness in my heart and Samuel was gone.”

Then his father moved in with another woman and Samuel was left on his own.

With no one around to support him, Samuel gravitated back towards the life of sin and found acceptance in the gay community.

“I really hated Samuel. He wasn’t accepted, Samuel was disowned, Samuel was alone,” he continues. “So when I finally saw (the gay) lifestyle and found a sense for belonging, I went for it.”

Samuel changed his name to Simone and lived as a transgender and got breast implants.

He even worked as an escort.

“Simone was that person that got the level of affirmation and love and acceptance that Samuel never got,” Samuel states.

At the same time, he wrestled with guilt and shame.

“Though I had become this person, I didn’t know who I was looking at,” Samuel recalls. “I just felt like my inside who I really was, was now being destroyed.”

After he dropped out of Tallahassee Community College, he moved back to Fort Myers into the home of a family friend who took him on the condition that he go to church with her.

He wasn’t altogether turned off by the idea of going to church. He felt very lost and hoped to find some direction.

As he listened to the worship, he felt a new sensation coming over him.

“I knew I was desperate for something, and that moment made sense,” Samuel says. “I was desperate for Him and I was lost without Him, and so as he began to sing, began to cry from a very desperate place.” Read the rest: transgender not beyond the forgiveness and restoration of God.

Chained in basement 11 years, she now offers hope to victims of abuse

cleveland-kidnapper-ariel-castro-sentenced-in-clevelandMichelle Knight was held hostage, chained and raped for almost 11 years by a macabre man. She also endured starvation, lack of sunlight and extreme thirst.

“Almost every day he did beat, rape, and do horrible, unimaginable things to me,” Michelle said on the Today Show. “I just thought of myself as a punching bag because that’s all he did to me.”

Since her ordeal, Michelle has gathered her courage — with God’s help — to forgive her tormentor, Ariel Castro, who hanged himself with bed sheets in his prison cell one month into a sentence of life plus 1,000 years.

ariel castro“He had a disease,” Michelle told Christian Today. “I was able to forgive him. God put us on earth for one reason, to do his work. The situation (he) put me in didn’t define me. I choose to live a meaningful life.”

On May 6, 2013, fellow captive Amanda Berry escaped and fled to police, who rescued Michelle and another girl, Gina de Jesus. Shortly after that, they arrested Castro. Since then, Michelle has married and moved on from the trauma. As part of her new life, she legally renamed herself Lily Rose because she wants to disassociate herself from the ugly past.

Raised in a troubled home, Michelle, 20, was living under a bridge in 2002, upset over losing custody of her 2-year-old son. On August 23rd of that year, she left her cousin’s house in Cleveland and accepted a ride from Ariel Castro, the father of a friend. He took her to his Tremont home, where he chained her in the basement.

Amanda Berry was abducted the following year, and they were joined by Gina DeJesus in 2004.

ariel castro victimsCastro first starved his victims for days to break their will to resist. Then he beat them and raped them. Michelle got pregnant from Castro at least four times, and the beast beat her with his fists and even dumbbells, sometimes slamming her against the wall to induce miscarriage.

Amanda somehow gave birth to a child in 2006.

Neighbors say they reported to police suspicious activity at the home on Cleveland’s rough west side, but police found nothing unusual, even though parts of the home were locked and inaccessible.

In 2013, Amanda managed to escape, catalyzing the subsequent rescue of her co-captives and arrest of Castro. Michelle was only 80 pounds when she was found and taken to the hospital. She had lost the will to live.

“They told me I only had two days to live, I was dying of a bacterial infection. I just wanted to let go.” Michelle recounted. “The first time that I tried to let go (and die), the first thought that came to my mind was my son. I don’t want my son to see me as a person that took the easy way out. That’s the real reason why I didn’t commit suicide.” Read the rest of the harrowing story with a happy ending of Michelle Knight Christian.

But how do I deal with the pain? A book explores options

Dawn Forman human sufferingOne woman’s husband died at war while she was pregnant. Another lost 198 Jewish family members during the Holocaust. A man witnessed the sexual abuse of his sister and withdrew into himself, drinking excessively to deaden the memory.

How do you move beyond life’s pain and suffering? Between the Lines, Beyond the Pain examines that question and weighs why some people never recover from the injustices of our fallen world.

The author, Dawn Forman, personally experienced her own torment when she was raped by her step-dad.

Dawn Forman's sistersRemarkably, she makes the case for compassion — and empathy — for everyone. She urges her readers to stop judging others or writing them off. She exhorts them to greater understanding, valuing everyone.

“The stars cannot be seen until they are set against ebony background of the night sky,” Forman writes. “So it is with people… (they) shine as stars (when we learn) what they have endured or overcome in their lives.”

Forman is a poet and includes some of her poems in the small volume. In the process of overcoming pain, poetry can be part of the healing journey, as evidenced by David in the Psalms.

Forman was born in the San Fernando Valley to an angry, distant father, who never processed his childhood trauma and lashed out at those around him, including his three girls.

Dawn and Charlie Forman“Though I have found much healing,” she says, “I still bear scars.”

Absent a loving father, Forman became promiscuous. Sex, drugs and the under-21 dance club “The Sugar Shack” were part of the equation.

“Emotionally crippled by my formative years spent with my father, the choices I began to make as a teenager reflect my aching soul,” she narrates in the autobiographical volume. “Unworthy, unloved and unequal to those around me, I was always searching for a place where I felt I belonged. This left me extremely vulnerable. Male attention became like a drug itself. I was gouging multiple, deeper scars into my already wounded heart and soul.”

Her parents divorced when she was 16. She started spending more time with friends as lost as herself. Quaaludes, cocaine, barbiturates and angel dust became her thing, all to the beat of David Bowie’s “Rebel, Rebel.”

She went from hanging out with drug addicts to hanging out with drug dealers. Once she got accused of being a narc at a satanic party in San Francisco. Several times she had brushes with death.

After a three-day drug binge, she overdosed. Only then did she think of the Jesus freaks she ridiculed when she passed them on the sidewalk. They told her Jesus loved her and had a plan for her; she sneered and moved on. But when she overdosed, she remembered.

“My life was a miserable mess,” she recalls. “In my eyes, I was a pathetic waste of flesh, a failure, unlovable wretch, full of anger and pain.”

As she lingered close to death, she cried out. “Jesus, if you are real, I do not want to die.” Read the rest: No easy answers for emotional pain Between the Lines, Beyond the Pain

Brother forgives cop who accidentally killed accountant

brandt-jean-hug-amber-guyger-10-yearsA Christian man said he forgave and loved the killer of his brother in court Oct. 2. He then asked the cop to turn to Jesus and gave her a long hug at her sentencing in a case that is sending goose bumps up and down the spine of the nation.

The extraordinary demonstration of love over hate was a powerful testimony of what Christ can do in our nation if we’ll turn to God.

“I wasn’t going to ever say this in front of my family or anyone, but I don’t even want you to go to jail,” said Brandt Jean in court. “If you truly are sorry, I know I can speak for myself: I forgive you. I think giving your life to Christ would be the best thing that Botham would want for you. I love you as a persona and I don’t wish anything bad on you.”

Brandt then asked state district Judge Tammy Kemp for permission to hug former Dallas cop Amber R. Guyger, 31, right then and there. The hug, which renewed lengthily after almost pulling apart twice, finally ended, and Brandt’s father gave him the a thumbs up. His mother was left in tears.

Guyger burst into Botham Jean’s apartment Sept 6, 2018 in the South Side Flats and shot and killed him while he was eating ice cream. Guyger said she thought she was in her own apartment, and believed she was confronting an intruder. She said a similar red door mat at the door contributed to her confusion. She got off on the fourth floor instead of the fifth.

Because Guyger was white and Brandt was black, the case was seen nationally as another in the long line of racial injustice, but Brandt upended the polarizing narrative by injecting an unusual dose of Christian forgiveness in a scene of outrage and grief.

Judge Kemp also gave Guyger a Bible and praised Brandt for his gesture saying to the mom: “Thank you for the way you modeled Christ.”

Prosecutors had sought a sentence of at least 28 years, a symbolic sentence reflecting Botham’s would-be 28th birthday. Guyger was off duty and in uniform when she arrived at what she apparently thought was her apartment. She failed to follow police procedure, which mandates she first call for a backup in a similar situation. Guyger was fired first and then put on trial.

The tragedy provoked turmoil in the black community. Read the rest Christian forgiveness trumps racial hatred.

Framed man forgives corrupt cop, becomes friend after Jesus moves in his life

jameel_mcgee_marqueeIn prison, Jameel “Zuki” McGee vowed revenge on the cop who framed him unjustly.

“I made a goal for myself in prison to harm the officer whenever I got out,” Jameel says in an “I am second” video. “I was deeply hurt by everything that happened.”

But three things softened his simmering rage: He found out that he had become a father. Second, the corrupt cop got saved. Third, Jameel started reading his Bible in the cell.

Today, Jameel McGee, wrongly convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison, and former corrupt cop Andrew Collins are friends and brothers in Christ thanks to an unusual outpouring of grace and forgiveness.

Years after the fateful false accusation, years after being released from jail before schedule, Jameel happened to see the formerly crooked cop who stole years out of his life. Jameel was with his son and so was Andrew.

crooked copJameel was quick to forgive. Evil was overturned by grace.

Andrew Collins had a rough home life. Growing up in Benton Harbor City, Michigan, he decided to become a cop because a police officer, summoned to his parent’s home, brought peace during one particularly acute domestic dispute. Little Andrew associated heroism with the cop.

“I remember thinking from that point on, that’s what I want to do with the rest of my life,” Andrew says.

He started police work with high ideals. But eventually, his sense of justice crumbled and the old evil upbringing began to exercise a bizarre control over his professional course.

Jameel McGee also grew up in tough circumstances.

“Mom used to kick the crap out of us,” says Jameel, the youngest of six. Dad left the picture early on. “Violence became a part of my nature.”

Their lives became intertwined in February of 2006 when Officer Andrew, on the narcotics beat for four months, acted on a tip and was looking for a crack dealer. The car matched the description, but the suspect did not.

Then Jameel walked out of the grocery store with milk and groceries. Because he nearly matched the description, Andrew moved in.

“Where’s the dope?” he barked at Jameel.

“What?” Jameel responded. “What dope?”

Andrew, who was plain clothes, pulled his badge. Jameel, who had been confused by the confrontation, suddenly realized that something had gone terribly wrong.

“This is for real,” he thought.

Cops are rewarded for arrests and convictions. Andrew decided that Jameel was his suspect and made the arrest. He wrote in his report that he found dope on him. That was a lie. Jameel was charged with possession with intent to distribute. Andrew fudged facts, knowing this would secure a conviction in court. He didn’t really think much about the possibility that he nabbed the wrong guy.

This is what Andrew had come to. The old ideals of heroism has succumbed to the dirty work of busting guys without regard for the means. Sadly, his conscience didn’t bother him.

Andrew’s life had descended into utter corruption, and there was no way out… until he got caught.

“Two years after I met Jameel, I got caught with crack, heroin and marijuana in my office,” Andrew says. “I got caught on a Tuesday. I thought about killing myself on Wednesday.

“I couldn’t see coming back from this.”

Fortunately, his wife was a Christian, and at her urging, Andrew went to see her pastor. He confessed everything. Read the rest of crooked cop and framed man.

Overcoming overeating in Christ

michelle-aguilar-biggest-loserMichelle Aguilar was 18 when her mom told her she was leaving her dad. She was devastated. Wasn’t her life with Christian parents supposed to be perfect?

Michelle cut off communication with her mom and her insecurities grew. To internalize the rejection and depression, she turned to eating sweets to boost her spirits.

“I didn’t know what to do,” she says on an I am Second video. “I didn’t know how to deal with my pain or the confusion that I was going through. I think when you’re at a place where you’re kind of out of control with a lot of things, it’s an easy step to turn to food.”

michelle aguilar marriedShe gained weight steadily, always hiding behind a million dollar smile. She reached 242 pounds.

As a Christian, “I knew I couldn’t turn to drugs or alcohol,” Michelle says. “Food was acceptable and it gave me a sense of control. (But) it becomes a guilt thing. You realize that you’re eating, and you’re feeling bad while you’re eating, and it’s just making it worse.”

Mom remarried and took Michelle’s two siblings. Michelle was left alone with dad.

Then a co-worker told her about The Biggest Loser reality TV show, in which overweight contestants worked out to see who loses the most weight, and the “biggest loser” wins $250.000. Michelle auditioned and was rejected the first time, but producers called to include her in the new season.

michelle aguilar smileIt had been six years since she talked to her mom. Dad suggested she participate in the program with her mother, who had also gained substantial pounds. Perhaps their participation might break down the walls between them. In this edition of Biggest Loser it was teams, parent-child or husband-wife.

“I really felt like God was saying, I’m going to give you an opportunity to start over and change from the inside out, and this could be the option if you’re willing to do it.”

But there were mixed emotions. Re-connecting with mom appealed to her, but Michelle viewed her as “the source of my pain, the source of my weight gain.”

She charged into a rigorous physical regimen like a would-be winner. But then she chipped her tooth. Her smile had always been her shield. It projected an image of self-confidence even when she was crying on the inside. It was her only defense against shame, and now it was gone.

“I felt like somebody had stripped away that armor, and said, “No, look at you. You’re smile is gone now. What are you going to do?’” she says. Finish reading how to overcome overeating.

She dedicated her life to help women after suffering Post Abortion Syndrome herself

post-abortion-syndrome-westside-los-angelesYears after having three abortions, Maria Field suddenly found herself numb, her emotions in disarray at a time she should have been joyful – her recent engagement to be married.

“I didn’t think my past affected me emotionally,” she said. “It took God to show me that this was the wall in my life that I needed to deal with. I needed to work through the loss and find forgiveness and healing.”

Because of her experience, Maria started a licensed family counseling practice specializing in Post Abortion Syndrome, something unrecognized by the medical community that bears striking parallels to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

teen-cryingSince opening her office in 1995 in West Los Angeles, she’s seen hundreds of patients. Some of them are coming to terms with their decision to abort 40 or even 50 years earlier. Others come to see her immediately after an abortion. Even men can suffer Post Abortion Syndrome because they are participants in initiating life and its deliberate termination.

“These people experience anxiety, depression, low self esteem, flashbacks and even suicidal thoughts,” Field said. “They have triggers. Sometimes it’s a sound that reminds them of the procedure. Sometimes it’s a song that reminds them of their partner.”

The syndrome has not been recognized by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (fifth edition), or DSM-5, but not because it’s a bogus condition concocted by pro-lifers, as the secular media suggest.

Rather, the disorder simply lacks clinical studies in the same way PTSD lacked clinical studies and was not officially recognized immediately following the Vietnam War, Field said. It is hard to find subjects willing to offer themselves as subjects of study, which may re-open painful wounds.

the childless wifeTypically, women who abort adopt some coping or defense mechanism to suppress the grieving over the loss of a child, Field said. In her own case, her successful busy life, studies and professional career provided her a sufficient cover.

She was in denial about what happened. But she stopped going to church with her mom because church made her cry, and she didn’t want her mom, who didn’t know about the abortions, to ask why she was crying, she said.

The coping mechanism worked for 15 years. Then she planned to get married and suddenly a host of long-suppressed emotions surfaced like a boiling cauldron in her heart. At first, she couldn’t figure out what was wrong. But she had studied for her master’s in psychology at Pepperdine University, so she was in tune enough to start connecting the dots.

Eventually, she realized she needed therapy and drove once a week to Newport, the only place she could find a therapist who would deal with the issue.

“I realized, ‘Oh my God, this is a big issue!’” she said.

Even among Christians, who supposedly oppose abortion because of the belief it is murder, abortion is prevalent. Young girls feel the shame of an out-of-wedlock pregnancy and think it will be too much burden for them or their family – so they choose the easy way out. Read the rest of the article: post abortion syndrome.

She not only survived, she smiled

How-to-survive-in-a-single-parent-setting-with-joyBy Kayla Armstrong, LCA sophomore

Growing up I always seen kids with a mom and dad and always going out to eat and having a good time. Well believe it or not, I didn’t have that. My mom was my mother and father, and it was always just me and her.

My father was really never in the picture, wasn’t at my games, awards, or plays, etc. As a little girl, I had so many questions and wanted the feeling of what it was like to have a full-time father.

single-parent-home-and-not-suffering

I saw my dad a few times but not often. I remember the times where I would wait for him to pick me up but he never came. My dad and I were never close and even when he did pick me up, I would just be in my room for the whole weekend just watching TV and my dad and I wouldn’t really talk. It would be small talk like, “Are you hungry?”

It was embarrassing and made me very sad because I felt unwanted and felt like my dad didn’t love me or didn’t want me. But as I got older I was thankful he wasn’t in my life because my mom and I had a close relationship.

As time went by, my mother got married. I was happy because I had a father in my life, and he didn’t single me out because I was his “stepdaughter.” He treated me as if I was his own. We had a close relationship, and I got attached to him as if he were my biological father.

I was happy because I had someone to come to my volleyball games, there for my school recitals and if I got rewards and someone who can be there for me as a father.

In the middle of the year, things twisted, and the home wasn’t a “happy” home. There were lots of arguments, and next thing I know he was out of the house. I rebelled against everyone, especially God because I felt like God didn’t want me to be happy.

I felt like if He really loved me or was “real,” He would let our home be a happy home. Go to this link to find the happy ending and I invite you to comment there.

Gutter cleaning

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It rarely ever rains in LA, but when it did, I discovered all kinds of flaws in the gutters of the apartment complex I manage. My handyman and I realized they hadn’t been cleaned in approximately 36 jillion years. The dirt was caked into the gutter and blocking drainoff.

Today I got my hands and knees and crawled around the roof. I scraped and vacuumed with the shop vac. Not all of it was dry since there was a low point not draining that was mud. It was a dirty job, and I’m a klutz, so that’s how I splashed water and mud all over me and the stairwell. Now I have more work to clean up the stairwell.

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I don’t mind being on the edge of the roof right next to a 60-foot drop. I lost my fear of heights when I rock-climbed as a college student. Specifically, it was rapelling that defeated the fear of heights (you have to lean out backwards over the abyss with only a harness).

Gutters help direct runoff water to where you want it hit the ground. But if they get clogged with leaves and buildup dirt, they sprout leaks and become defective. You need to clean your gutters from time to time just like you need to clean your heart. Keep runoff flowing.

In your heart, forgiveness needs to flow. If it doesn’t, the hurt builds up and makes you into a mean and nasty person. Jesus said we should be like kids. Yeah, kids forgive and forget easily.

To forgive is to taste God

forgiveness

Forgiveness is a pain in the butt, from a human perspective. Actually, it is humanly unnatural. That’s how my buddy Matt found out the Bible wasn’t written by men, as atheists are wont to say. Because it reiterates the need to forgive your enemies.

But when you receive the forgiveness of God, they you can enter the earthly nirvana of forgiving others and discover the best revenge is to forgive, to release yourself from the inner torment of holding a grudge.

To forgive is a privilege that the sinner cannot enjoy. It is beauty that the sinner is incapable of feeling or perceiving. It is a better medicine than penicillin. It heals the heart. To forgive is to taste the flavor of God.

God so loved the world that He forgave us our sins.

When you can’t resist temptation

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I couldn’t resist Anita’s chocolate chip cookies.

I’m trying to build a muscular body. I’m going to the gym. I limit my sweets intake. But when it comes to Anita Guerechet’s cooking, all will power succumbs to taste bud power.

The human condition is weakness. Oscar Wilde famously said, “I can resist everything except temptation.”

Nobody is perfect, and if you lay claim to perfection, you’re in the camp of the Pharisees. The Bible says we are all sinners.

We all need forgiveness. This is the heart of the Gospel. We are saved NOT by what we do but by what Christ did on the cross to forgive us.

Now, it’s true that we have the obligation to strive to live for God as best we can, out of gratitude. But we don’t earn salvation by good works.

And don’t be calling me a hypocrite. I’m human, as are you.

So why resist temptation? For the greater joy of being in right relationship with Him. And when you fall (to cookies, or whatever), get back up and on the right path again.

Just because I broke down and ate three cookies doesn’t mean I’m going to let myself go and become obese. Get up, dust yourself off, make some good decisions. Maybe it’s not a good idea to have a constant supply of Anita’s cookies within reach, for example. (Fortunately for me, those cookies showed up at church for a sendoff service, and those types of services are very infrequent.)

Was the cookie worth it? Yes.

Is a healthy body worth it? Yes.

Is it worth it to strive to resist temptation? Yes.

Is it better to walk in right relationship with the Lord? Yes.

Do we have forgiveness for when we slip up? Yes.

Honestly, I can’t figure out why anyone in the world wouldn’t be a Christian.

Transparency

Christian transparencyOne of things they hate the most about us Christians is we pretend to be better than we are. God hates that too; just look at when David condemned a rich man for stealing his poor neighbor’s sheep when David had slept with Bathsheba and killed Uriah.

Really, we’re no different than people in the world: they like on their resumes, we in our testimonies.

There are forces that push us to insincerity. One is that we cannot deny the Word even while we are not living it. The world says: I don’t criticize your sin; you don’t criticize mine. Even if Christians are in sin, they can’t verbally embrace it. To do so would be to renounce Christ. It’s better to be a failed Christian than not a Christian.

Another force is the pressure of ministry. A standard of conduct is required for any job. When we hedge that, it’s too easy to cover up. This is a universal tendency. “Hypocrite” is a quick and easy way to bash Christians. But in the Greek, a hypocrite is an actor. I live near Hollywood, and when a person calls himself an actor, it’s a compliment. Everybody on the planet is a poser. Not even Socrates was so sincere.

But having explained why Christians are insincere, I want to state that a push for sincerity will attract people. Ultimately, we are saved by grace, not by works. We are just as messed up as people in the world. We experience temptation and fall. We get back up, ask for forgiveness and try to serve Jesus again. A sinner has no one to turn to. We turn to Christ from the holes we fall in.

If you make an effort to be sincere, people will relate you. If all you do is brag about how good you are, you’re turning people off to you and the gospel. Not even Jesus bragged about how good He was, and He was sinless. To the contrary, he cracked down on the Pharisees pretended to be good in front of society but wanted to kill Jesus — now that’s what I call “hypocrisy.”

Why did American media largely ignore the story of forgiveness

forgivenessSomething extraordinary happened — just days after Dylann Roof killed nine African-American church-goers a year ago — and the MM almost completely ignored it. In court, mere days after the white supremacist snuffed the lives of their loved ones, family members forgave him in court statements. Most of the media saw fit to omit the quotes.

dylann“You took something very precious from me, but I forgive you,” said a victim’s  daughter as reported by the UK’s Guardian. “It hurts me. You hurt a lot of people, but may God forgive you.”

The New York Times included the quotes in the video segments but didn’t put them in print. Other media didn’t include them even on their video. Discussions of racism and gun control abounded, Christian love at its finest, got overlooked.

But while the MM — mainstream media — continually hit readers with the onslaught of post-Christian drivel, a quiet revolution of revival is shaking our country, off the radar because it doesn’t fit their concept of utopia. It is the revolution of the triumph of good over evil, of love over hate, of Christianity over Satan.

Erosion in the church


erosion in the church

There are two kinds of erosion: breaking and smoothing. The first happens when water flows into cracks and then freezes. It makes jagged edges and rough surfaces. The second when water or wind slowly wears down and rounds.

When people disappoint you in church, it’s wearing. It can erode your spirit. But what is left is up to you. Does it become beautiful, as if molded by God, or does it show the painful barb of breakage?

Let us, as Joseph, see the hand of God ultimately in the pain other “Christians” inflict.

Overlooking offenses

forgiveness

Proverbs 19:11 praises you as a strong person if you are able to overlook an offense. Latin American hero Simón Bolivar said the greatest revenge was to forget the offense. In others, don’t validate it by giving it attention or credibility.

Of course this is very hard to do, and if you are able, you are an incredible human being. The rest of us are shooting as best we can for the goal.

If it tastes bitter, spit it out, don’t swallow.

forgiveness

We must master the art of moving on. Humans hurt each other because of selfishness and self-promotion. Don’t let yourself be pushed down by others forever. They may push you down, but it is up to you to pick yourself up.

Hoarders of bad memories

hoarders

Some people hoard newspapers and trash. They just can’t decide what to throw out so they don’t throw out anything. Their house becomes a trash dump.

Others hoard hurtful memories. These endanger us of turning bitter, grudging, inward, suspicious or anti-social. Everyone needs a sewage system connected to the heart to flush out the wrongs suffered, else we lose the joy of each day.

This is why Jesus urges his followers to forgive. From the cross, in excruciating pain, Jesus forgave his crucifiers. It is the model for us.

She forgave would-be killer

immigration attorney los angelesWhen the gang-banger was on trial for nearly killing her brother, Cynthia Santiago wrote a letter to the court asking for leniency.

“We are Christians. We believe in forgiveness,” said Santiago, 31, now an immigration lawyer based in El Segundo. “We prayed for him (the shooter). We prayed God transform his life. I’m not the person to pass that kind of judgment on another human being.”

Santiago said her brother got involved in a race-based altercation at 20th St. and Delaware in Santa Monica in the early 2000s, and he was shot with a 22-caliber gun from close range. One bullet shattered his jaw and another pierced his heart and lung, she said.

He was rushed to St. John’s where he lay unconscious for nearly three weeks. When he woke up, he asked about his kids. After months of physical therapy, he returned to normal life.

Santiago’s extraordinary plea for clemency is part of the troubled past of a Santa Monica once beset by gang violence. Part of the reason she chose law is because she saw her own parents, as working class residents, struggle to get sound legal advice for her troubled brother. Read the rest of the article.

Editor’s Note: Cynthia Santiago was the flower girl in my wedding 25 years ago. My wife and I lost track of her when we spent 16 years in Guatemala as missionaries. When I found her on Facebook 24 years later, I’m surprised to see her all grown up and a lawyer! I praise God she, coming from a family without college students, had the wherewithal to study and achieve a dream. It seems to me that her choice to forgive is extreme and compelling. Her choice to help the neediest who need help only makes me admire her more.

For Christmas, give forgiveness

forgiveness

The greatest gift you can receive comes from the Father in Heaven: It is forgiveness. The greatest gift you can give on Earth is forgiveness.

You may not be able to wrap it up in red paper with a bow. It doesn’t go under the Christmas tree. It goes into the heart.

Forgiveness restores love. When things “don’t work out,” people think that “moving on” is the solution. They find “true love.” Only too late do they realize they trade one set of problems for another; no one is free from baggage. Instead of dumping love, give forgiveness a try. As much as our society has “advanced beyond the antiquated norms of the Bible,” we still have need of eternal wisdom.

Look up

sky poolThe latest rage is no longer glass bridges and glass platforms extended out from skyscrapers or canyon edges over the hair-raising expanse. The latest rage is sky pools. But only the wealthiest can enjoy them.

I think it’s as much to show off as the thrill of swimming in the air: not just feeling like Superman but flaunting Super Riches.

It’s pretty cool to look up and admire the architectural beauty in the sky.

Look up to the architectural beauty of Heaven. If earthly opulence is out of your reach, heavenly riches are within it. The pricelessness of Heaven is incalculable price free to you and me because Christ paid with his life.

Forgiveness is sweet

revenge is sweetNo longer does her riches matter. At the end of her life, Miss Havisham has lost the adopted daughter she treasured. In Charles Dicken’s Great Expectations, Miss Havisham steeled Estella against the inconstant love of men. She only wished to spare Estella from her own heartbreak; she had been jilted on her wedding day. But in trying to protect Estella against the dangers of love, she made her incapable of love.

She also made her an instrument of revenge upon all men.

A tease, Estella was drilled on how to break hearts. She would wreak her Miss Havisham’s vengeance.

Stunned when Estella turns against her, Miss Havisham moans alone on her vast estate in the wee hours of morning. Nothing is left, nothing matters.

So she tries to do good. To Pip whom she trapped with Estella’s beauty, she now asks for forgiveness. No longer the haughty rich woman, she falls to her knees and begs desperately to have played with Pip’s emotions such that he was tortured by unrequited love for almost 20 years. He willingly and readily forgives her.

The dramatic scene from the book highlights a hugely underrated satisfaction in life, that of being forgiven.

As you move along in life, you accrue wrongs to yourself. You offend and sin against people dear to you. You become burdened with guilt and regret. The antidote is not more sin, drugs, alcohol or therapy. It is forgiveness.

First and foremost, mankind has need of forgiveness from God. Second from his fellow man. Third, he has need to forgive others. This is true bliss.

Revenge is not sweet; it is bitter. Forgiveness is sweet.

For Christmas, I want your forgiveness

havisham estella

The altercation between Estella and her adopted mother.

The fact that I’m 48 doesn’t make me any smarter or wiser than my high school students. It makes me more experienced, particularly in the area of mistakes. I’ve committed more errors than these kids by simple abundance of years.

Of all my sins and guilt, the thing I regret the most are the sins (errors) I committed against my children. I offended my parents rather nonchalantly. I offended my brother and my spouse. But what hurts the most is the conscience of wrongs done against my kids.

GREAT EXPECTATIONS

GREAT EXPECTATIONS

Can my children forgive me?

Miss Havisham moans as she wanders aimlessly around her estate in Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations. She has lost her only love, the love of her adopted daughter, whom she sought to protect against jilting love by making her incapable of love. Call it karma, but the girl who cannot love turned the lack of love against her adopted mother.

So she moans. Her life is now meaningless. Can we forgive ourselves for the wrongs done against our children? Can they forgive us? The cycle of victim-victimizer can only be broken by forgiveness.

Forgiveness: it’s beautiful

forgiveIf it is hard to forgive, if it is necessary, we must also understand that it is beautiful.

It is a release of pain, thus a relief from pain. In theory, it is strange that we would retain pain. In theory, we want immediate relief, whether it’s a headache or a heartache. But such is the human condition that we hold onto the grudge, we remember the wrong suffered — even more, we sickly savor the memory.

I’m not pointing fingers. I myself struggle.

Think of that moment when you were speeding and a cop car lights up and blows its sirens behind you. Instantly, you sweat and start to pull over. But no, the cop goes on and pulls over somebody else. You feel joyful relief.

Forgiveness is even better than that.

Christianity is portrayed as condemning (sometimes we are to blame for this). In fact, we ought to be portrayed as forgivers, albeit imperfect forgivers.

Image source: google

Forgiveness: it’s difficult

ForgivenessThe most difficult thing on the face of the Earth is not proving string theory. It is not harnessing fusion energy. It is not finding a cure for cancer.

It is forgiveness.

Jesus cried out, in the midst of unimaginable pain on the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” I tend to think the knew very well what they were doing.

Stephen was being pelted unto death with stones. He did the same. “Don’t take this sin into account against them,” he prayed as he was being struck.

Can I forgive? Can you?

Christianity is not based on works. It is based on forgiveness. We are forgiven of our sins only for the asking.

Jesus asks us to forgive as best as we can those who have wronged us, and he does so most emphatically.

I think that all the rigmarole that blasts around the internet about how bad Christianity is misses its central tenet. Why is nobody talking about forgiveness? It is the most beautiful thing in the world. It is also the most difficult.

It is necessary. If you are going to have any semblance of human relations with people, you are going to need to master forgiveness.

Image source: Google