Christianity 201

March 30, 2011

Healing Power of Forgiveness

As of tomorrow Christianity 201 will complete a full year of daily devotional writing and deeper Bible study.   There has been a mix here of original pieces and “reprints” from across the Christian blogosphere.   There is no shortage of sources for devotional material; anyone with a need simply has to look.  Today I discovered Daily Enounter, a ministry of ACTS International, which you can read by subscription.  This sample devotional appeared there under the title, Forgiveness: The Power to Heal

Some years ago during a visit to Yellowstone Park, one writer observed that the only animal that the grizzly bear would share his food with was a skunk. It wasn’t that the grizzly wanted to share his food but rather that he chose to. With one swing of his powerful paw he could have crushed the skunk. So why did he allow the skunk to eat with him?

Because he knew the high cost of getting even. Smart bear!

Undoubtedly he learned the hard way. Strange that we humans often aren’t as  smart. Sometimes we carry grudges for years, often repressing them from conscious memory, and end up hurting ourselves more than the ones we would like to get even with. We fail to see how damaging an unforgiving spirit is.

In his book, None of These Diseases, Dr. S.I. McMillen says, “Medical science recognizes that emotions such as fear, sorrow, envy, resentment and hatred are responsible for the majority of our sicknesses. Estimates vary from 60 percent to nearly 100 percent.”

I read one report of an astonished patient who was told by his doctor: “If you don’t cut out your resentments, I may have to cut out a part of your intestinal tract.”

Fortunately, the man took the doctor’s advice. He had been nursing a bitter grudge against a former business partner. He went to see this man, resolved their differences, and forgave him. When he returned to the doctor, his physical condition had cleared up.


That advice isn’t new of course. The greatest physician who ever lived, Jesus Christ, pointed out 2,000 years ago the importance of forgiveness. When he encouraged us to “forgive seventy times seven,” he was thinking of our physical as much as our spiritual well-being. As Dr. McMillen says, he knew that a forgiving spirit would save us from “ulcerative colitis, toxic goiters, high blood pressure, and scores of other diseases.” including ulcers, asthma, arthritis, neuro-dermatitis, and heart ailments—all possible effects of resentment.

The Bible’s advice is therefore just as relevant today as it was when written 2,000 years ago: “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”1

“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.'”2

“Suggested prayer: “Dear God, thank you God that you have forgiven me for all my sins, failings and shortcomings. Help me to forgive others as you have forgiven me. Gratefully in Jesus’ name. Amen.”

P.S. “Failure to forgive is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die!”

1. Ephesians 4:32.
2. Matthew 18:21-22, (NIV).

March 17, 2011

Extreme Makeover — Soul Edition

No specific text today, but you’ve already taken care of that already, right?  I wanted to use this anyway because I really liked what it said.  This is by Murray Wittke who blogs at All The Days of my Life, where it appeared earlier this month under the title Soul Surgery.

They call it medical tourism or vacation makeovers.  This unique sector of the travel industry involves flabby, saggy, and droopy adults being pampered in exotic and sunny destinations while they recover from tummy tucks and surgery to lift and tighten the neck, face, brow, and breasts.  Just imagine with me, a Mediterranean Villa nestled on a hillside with a spectacular view of the ocean and overlooking groves of Orange trees.  There’s a warm breeze blowing and there in your own private garden, on a deck chair beside a pool, you’re relaxing in the sunshine.  Hidden from view no one sees the surgical tape, the black eyes, the puffy face, or the bruises. You simply return from vacation to a chorus of compliments from friends and family about  How good you’re looking!

Recently I’ve had a similar experience, my own vacation makeover, but in a lot colder location.  This winter I’ve spent a total of five weeks away in Fort Saint John at a counseling course undergoing what I can only refer to as Soul Surgery.  I’ve returned looking much the same on the outside but very different on the inside.  I admit there’s still some puffiness around my eyes and my heart feels a bit tender but the surgery went well and I’m healing fast.  I now have a much healthier heart.  From now on my friends and family are going to be seeing a brand new me!

It’s hard to get a man to go to the doctor and I’ll confess I’m one of those men.  In November I went to the first module of a counseling course for my initial two week checkup.  I was aware of a few signs in my life that suggested there might be problems somewhere below the surface, but like many men I did a good job of minimizing their significance.  I’m sure you’ve heard it before or maybe even said it yourself  “Hey don’t worry about me, it doesn’t hurt that much, I’m fine… really!” You know the routine, stiff upper lip, be a man, just suck it up and soldier on, and then get busy helping people with real difficulties.

My visit revealed I was not as healthy as I thought I was.  I actually needed some serious work done in my heart.  I discovered there was painful infection lodged throughout my past.  Through the five weeks of the course I came to clearly see how my reaction to the pain in my heart was negatively affecting my current behavior and relationships.  I was not only living with pain but I was also guilty of unconsciously hurting others.

My surgery began with writing out and then talking about the difficult and painful stories from throughout my life.  I discovered some deep wounds that I’ve carried for many years.  Then with my friends helping me I set to work examining my style of relating to other people.  What I found out was not pleasant.  I had to acknowledge and accept some difficult truths about myself.  I had to honestly face the truth of how in my pain, my negative behavior had hurt others, especially those I love.  I then began the hard work of forgiving others for what was done to me, and the even harder work of forgiving myself.

Shame and sorrow are very real emotions but I came to realize that I could not stay there forever.  In hope I kept moving forward, but I’ve been surprised at how difficult dislodging longstanding infection of the heart can be.  Lastly I committed myself to the task of asking forgiveness from those I have hurt or negatively affected over the years.  This will take some time but it must be done.

I’m thankful for the loving support and encouragement of my fellow travelers, teachers, and counselors.  I’m grateful I have not had to go through Soul Surgery alone.  He who is called Wonderful Counselor has been with me and guided this whole process, and I realize He is not finished with me yet.

If you’ve noticed a bruise on your soul that refuses to heal, or a pain in your heart that won’t go away, or even a pattern of behavior that keeps causing you problems don’t ignore it and don’t keep putting it off, ask for help.  Life can be much better, trust me I know first hand.  I went and had my pain looked at, had the surgery,  and now that I’m feeling much better I’m looking forward to helping others find relief from the pain in their heart.  I like the sound of that, Murray Wittke Soul Surgeon.  Here’s to Healthy Hearts!

~Murray Wittke