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Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good. Romans 12:21 (NLT)

Remember the game you played in Jr. High? A friend punches you, kicks you or plays a prank of some sort on you and yells, “Even”. Maybe this was more of a guy thing, but I remember it well. It usually started out relatively harmless. Sometimes it could escalate into a full-blown war. It may have started with an accidental push and usually you never knew who really started it. One thing you did know is that ‘Even’ never happened because you always had to get in the last act of (usually) playful violence.

There is, deep within us, the desire to win, to stand for ourselves, to be victorious. It may be buried under years of physical, emotional or sexual abuse. It still lies beneath the scars of our pain, but it’s there. It’s longing cries out to us. Its desire cloaks itself in anger, hopelessness, fear and worry. We use chemicals, lifestyle and other control issues to soothe its longing.

The fact of the matter is, we’ll never be victorious as long as we have the attitude of “It’s me against the world.” Until we realize we are nothing more than pawns in a cosmic, spiritual battle we’ll continue to try to win a battle we can never emerge from victorious.

The lifestyle of the Christ-follower is one of dichotomies. The war for our souls is no exception. The best way to ‘win’ is to ‘lose’. The best way to ‘be strong’, is to ‘be weak’. The best way to ‘get even’ is to ‘give in’. The best way to combat the evil in our lives is to do good. Evil acts will always conceive more evil. The only remedy is to allow the Holy Spirit of God enter into your life and develop his fruit in your soul. “God’s Spirit makes us loving, happy, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, and self-controlled. There is no law against behaving in any of these ways” (Galatians 5:22-23CEV).

The Christian life is one of dichotomies. Society says, “Revenge is the best way to handle conflict”. God says, “Doing good in the face of evil destroys evil.” Society says lives by the adage, “I did it my way”. God says, “It’s my power working in you, not your power that accomplishes things.”

When faced with the desire to ‘get even’, remember you will accomplish much more by taking a step back and seeking God’s power and wisdom to know how you can best turn this evil into good; to show Christ-like character to those needing the freedom grace has to offer.

PRAYER: Father God, there are so many times when I’m mistreated, offended, ignored and blamed. During those times when I seek to get even give me the wisdom to follow your path and show Christ’s love in response to those who persecute me. Amen.


Israel, I won’t lose my temper and destroy you again. I am the Holy God—not merely some human, and I won’t stay angry. Hosea 11:9 (CEV)

The difference between punishment and discipline hinges on the desired outcome. When a wrong is done, the human response is revenge. Those who do wrong must pay. It’s Justice.

What is it that gives the parent freedom in the courtroom to forgive the drunk driver that killed her child? What is it that empowers the father to visit the man in prison that molested his daughter? How can a spouse forgive when he/she has been cheated on, abused or humiliated? How can you forgive a God who claims to be loving but allows famine, cancer and war to tear the lives of people apart?

The answer boils down to a single word: value. It’s a matter of mercy over justice. Man seeks justice because justice demands repayment for sin. Punishment is the motivation for justice, but punishment will never fully repay for actions done.

To the mother that forgives the drunk driver, all the pain, all the anger, all the hatred and all the prison time in the world will never bring her daughter home. There is no amount of time in prison that will heal the scars the molester leaves on the life of a young girl. There is nothing that will heal a broken heart.

Man’s punishment is never intended to improve the life of the perpetrator. On the other hand, God seeks to amend, to build up, to correct. His actions are intended to correct an error so that the guilty person can continue on the journey stronger, more confident and more useful.

That’s not to say we should never send anyone to prison, or that justice should never be served. The justice system, flawed as it may be, is designed to physically protect us from those who would harm us, but that system was never intended to deal with issues of the heart.

God’s dealing with us is a simple case of mercy over justice; of natural consequences over penalty; of value over revenge. The two may look the same in some cases but one destroys value the other is intended to build character. One is motivated by love, the other by anger; one frees us, the other enslaves us; one brings eternal life, one brings eternal separation from a holy and loving God.

Whether you are sitting behind physical bars of a prison or emotional bars made from the scars of a life gone wrong, know this. The God of the universe isn’t into punishment for the sake of punishment; his goal in allowing you to go through whatever you are going through is to build character in you. He values you far beyond anything else in the world.

PRAYER: Lord, even though you have freed me through Jesus there are still times I want to keep others in the prison of their souls. There are times I live entrapped by my own guilt and shame. Help me to see the value you have in me and pass that value on to others. Amen.


Do not say, “I’ll pay you back for this wrong!” Wait for the LORD, and he will avenge you. Proverbs 20:22

The toughest prisons are the prisons with no visible walls. Prisons of our souls that rob us of our freedom to love, our freedom to trust, our ability to live free of fear. In a ‘real prison’ the walls are built thick and strong by someone else for the express purpose of keeping you inside and protecting others from you.

The prison of the soul is built with your own hands. Brick by brick. Hurt by hurt. Failure by failure. Misunderstanding by misunderstanding. In your own mind, whether it’s a conscious thought or not, the prison walls of the soul are built to keep others out and to protect you from any more hurt. You’ve contracted with the master builder of walls, vengeance to make sure no one ever hurts you again.

One of the key ingredients to wall building is the desire to get even. We want to make sure that the perpetrators of our wound ‘pay for what they did’. We want to see justice served and are willing to do whatever is necessary to ensure that happens.

The problem is, when we try to settle the score with someone else we usually just imprison ourselves in bitterness, anger and fear. ‘If I don’t trust, you won’t fail me; If I don’t love you, you won’t hurt me again; If I don’t forgive you, you will never forget what you did to me.’

Your heavenly Father has a better way. His is the way of freedom; of hope; of love. His way offers you the healing you need from the emotional, spiritual and physical scars that weigh you down every day. His is the way of love, forgiveness and trust. Not trust in others, trust in His ability to take care of the situation in his time and in his own way.

When you forgive someone you aren’t saying what they did is okay, you are saying you trust God enough to let him take care of the situation. Think about that for a moment. Who better to deal with the enemies of your soul than the creator God of the universe? Trusting God to handle each situation in your life not only frees you from the prison of your soul, it protects you from the enemy that seeks to destroy you.

Who better to defeat your enemy than the creator God of the universe who loves you so much he was willing to give his very own son so that you could live free. It’s time to tear down the prison walls of your soul. It’s time to live in the freedom of forgiveness and trust. Not trust in mankind, but trust in an almighty God who wants desperately to free you from your hurt.

PRAYER: Father God, I’m angry today. I’m looking out at a world of hurt and fear from walls I’ve built to protect me. I sought freedom and gained incarceration. I thought pain-free living, but live in anguish and worry. I can’t tear these walls down on my own. I need your help. Empower me with your Spirit to be able to hand all this ugly stuff over to you. Help me to forgive for my sake and trust you to take care of the rest. In Jesus name, Amen.


I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. John 13:15 (NLT)

“And Jesus had compassion…”

Those words spring up throughout the ministry of Jesus while he was on earth. He had compassion on the woman caught red-handed in bed with a man she wasn’t married to.

He had compassion on the parent whose child had just died or was very sick.

He had compassion on the rich young ruler who, tried as he might, just couldn’t do what was necessary to receive the gift of eternal life. He just couldn’t let go.

He had compassion on the traitor who sold out to the enemy and, as a result, was a social outcast.

He had compassion on the person so steeped in religion that he couldn’t comprehend the simple steps it took to receive eternal life.

He had compassion on those who were his closest friends and yet were more concerned about their own status than they were their brother.

He had compassion on the guard that beat him nearly to death and then pounded huge spikes into his already pain-filled flesh.

“He had compassion….”

Why did Jesus have compassion on so many people that rejected him, either openly, or unintentionally? What drove him so such lengths to give his very life for the very people who thought they took it from him?

Jesus had compassion because he knew the Father and knew that the Father was, in his very essence, compassion. That is what drove Jesus to reach out to the weak, the frail, the sick and the rebellious. And that’s what drives Jesus to reach out to you. Not a single deserved the touch of Jesus compassion. Not a single person can repay him for what he did. Neither can you.

Jesus says to us, “Follow my example”, and when he does so he is asking…commanding us rather, to show compassion in the same way that he did.

Our reaction to those around us is a reflection of our view of God. If we see a god of revenge we will seek justice rather than mercy. If we see a god of anger we will respond to those who have hurt us in anger. If we see an unforgiving god we will refuse to forgive those who have hurt us. But if we see a God of compassion, we will respond to those around us as Jesus did.

PRAYER: Father, once again I am humbled as I approach your throne today. I confess that it is easy to show compassion to those I don’t know, or those who are like me and who are kind to me. It’s hard to show compassion to the ‘bad people’ around me, yet that is what you would do. Fill me today with the power from your Spirit to show compassion to those who need it the most. Thank you for the example you gave us in Jesus. In his name I pray, Amen.

 


For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:10

You are being followed. Don’t be alarmed. It’s not as if you were being stalked by some dark threatening figure lurking in the shadows. He means no harm to you, in fact he follows you to protect you.

You are being followed. Relax. He’s not some ‘helicopter dad’ who hovers over you and watches your every step in order to protect you from every bump and bruise. In fact, he’s been known to keep his distance from time to time in order for you to test your freedom.

You are being followed. Celebrate! You are being followed by a King! You are being followed by the Creator of the universe. By the wisest and richest and most powerful being around.

He’s not following you to try to catch you at some evil deed. He’s not following you to gather evidence of your shortcomings so that he can bring you to trial and convict you. He’s not following you because he thinks you are going to show him anything new either. In fact, his decision to follow you has absolutely nothing to do with who you are, what you look like or what has happened in your past (good or bad).

He’s following you for one reason and one reason only. He loves you. Not only does he love you but he loves you enough to follow you wherever you go. When you take him to good places where he hears and sees good things, he loves you and celebrates with you. When you take him to places that are dark and threatening, he loves you and protects you.

He’ll never leave you. He’ll never let you out of his sight. Like a protective Father he’ll let you wander a bit, let you feel like you are in control and like you are on your own. But you will never be more than an arms reach away from his protective grasp.

His decision to seek you out and follow you is in no way affected by what other people think about you or say about you, or by anything you have done. The accusations of those who like rules, and those who flaunt freedom fall on his deaf ears. He doesn’t care what others think about you. He loves you. They won’t stop him from that!

To think that God, Creator God, the God of the universe loves you so much that he seeks you out. He follows you on the crowded streets. He watches over you when you go through the dark valleys of life. Always there. Always watching. Always loving. That’s your Heavenly Father. Your sin doesn’t surprise him. Your actions won’t bring revenge. When you stumble he is there to pick you up. He loves you and nothing will ever change that.

PRAYER: Father God, I’m in awe of the fact that you would love me so much that you would seek me out and follow me. I see myself as so weak, so unworthy of your love, so incapable of living the life I know you’d like me to live. I think of the things I’ve let you see and hear. I’m embarrassed by the places I’ve taken you. Thank you for being patient. Thank you for loving me and protecting me in every circumstance. In Jesus name, Amen.

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