The Spirit of Unforgiveness

There was story in the news recently, the details of which I will not go into for they are not the purpose of this post. But if you “Google” Josh Duggar, I’m certain you will come up with plenty of information about the situation. I discussed in a previous post that I believe that everyone has a Darth Vader, Anakin’s was after power and recognition, and mine was after control. You see, American discovered that Josh Duggar has a Darth Vader, and most people can now only see shining black armor and a red lightsaber.

I saw in (most of) the responses to this undeniably bad news, a lack of grace and unwillingness to forgive. People tossing statistics and hopes that Josh’s past will be daily rubbed in his face. Something that I did not see, a lot of, was the willingness to see that Josh has changed, he is not that person anymore. The Duggar’s chose to make this information public, knowing full well that the “boom” would be lowered on them with much more force and severity. Why? Because they are Christian family. And the general public expects Christians to be perfect rather than the broken, saved by grace people that we are. Imperfection requires forgiveness, which can be difficult because it goes against our human nature. Its easy to be angry and to hurl someone’s past in their face. But Jesus calls us to forgive, it says in Matthew 18:21-22, “Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”

This begs the question. Why would Jesus call us to do something that can be so difficult? Because He knows that the unwillingness to forgive can be draining, that grudges get heavy, and that bitterness can steal our joy. To be clear, forgiveness does not mean that one should forget or to quote the popular phrase, “Sweep it under the rug.” But rather chose to recognize that the person has changed and/or to release your own spirit from the burden of carrying a grudge, which can lead to anger.

Obi-Wan also carried within him the spirit of unforgiveness, he believed that Anakin had been completely devoured by the dark side of the force. He could not see past Anakin’s mistakes (which yes they where HUGE mistakes) but, he also refused to even allow the possibility that Anakin could change or that any goodness could be left in him. According to the book, The Life and Legend of Obi-Wan Kenobi, Obi-Wan’s spirit was present (but unseen) during Luke’s battle with Darth Vader on the Death Star at the end of Return of the Jedi. And he was completely shocked that Anakin managed to fight his way back from the dark side.

“And suddenly Obi-Wan realized where he had failed. For unlike Luke, Obi-Wan
had not only believed that Anakin was completed consumed by the dark side,
but had actually refused to believe that any goodness could have remained within
Vader. And by refusing to allow that possibility, Obi-Wan had condemned not
only his former friend but his own capacity for hope.”

Jesus calls us to forgive because He knows that it will not only benefit us, but also has the potential to benefit the one who sinned against us. Luke’s willingness to forgive helped Anakin regain his true self and I’m sure that the Duggar family’s willingness to forgive did the same for Josh. And if God can forgive, then with the strength, humility, and peace that is gained by reaching for Him, we humans can forgive too.

If you are carrying the spirit of unforgiveness I encourage you to pray for the strength to forgive.

“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” -Colossians 3:13

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True Friendship….a Revisit

I just finished reading (for the forth or fifth time), The Rise and Fall of Darth Vader. I know what you may be thinking and yes it is 211 pages of awesome. But that is beside the point, I came upon a passage that was a conversation between Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine. I mentioned in my previous post about friendship, the fact that Palpatine calls Vader/Anakin “friend” 4 times. This bugs me because the last thing that Palpatine ever was to Anakin or Vader was a friend. According to the book this conservation had occurred several times and started with the same taunting question:

Palpatine: “Are you afraid of death, Lord Vader?”
Darth Vader: “No, Master.”
“Then why do you go on living?”
“To learn to become more powerful, Master.”
“Do you seek such power so you might try to strike me down?”
“You are my path to power, Master. I need you.”
“Yes, my apprentice. Remember, your place, and that you have much to learn.”

Now compare this conservation with the last talk that Obi Wan had with Anakin before he turned to the dark side. Obi Wan was about to leave on his mission to find General Grievious, and Anakin took this opportunity to apologize for his recent behavior. In response Obi Wan said, “Anakin, you are strong and wise and I am very proud of you. I have trained you since you were a small boy. I have taught you everything I know and you are far greater Jedi than I could ever hope to become. But be patient Anakin, it will not be long before the council makes you a Jedi Master.”

The way that each of these men talk to Anakin is very different, one seeks tear him down and the other, to lift him up. One really was a true friend, one other was only using Anakin in his own quest for glory and power. One loved Anakin, and the other, most certainly did not.

People flow in and out of our lives, probably more often than one may notice. Most are trustworthy and honest, although few may use us for their own selfish needs, whether it be attention, money, or time. Much like Palpatine (although not nearly as severe), these “friends” are not going to look out for the needs of the other person. And will probably move on to someone else, when a better opportunity presents itself. It is important to know who your true friends are, they will tell you what you need to hear rather than what you want to hear. They won’t push you into something that you are not ready for, and will value your happiness and well-being. The Bible teaches about love in several places and in 1 John 4:7 it states, “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.” Love, is important, from it flows, hope, trust, patience, understanding, and forgiveness. Without love it’s difficult to be true friend. For if you love someone, regardless of how much, a friendship will surely blossom.

Friendship is not always easy, and it certainly wasn’t for Anakin and Obi Wan, but love (that is the love that Luke had for Anakin) is what brought him back. And Obi Wan, well, he was ready to forgive Anakin, and welcome him back as a friend.

Significant Calling

While Anakin Skywalker is not the “poster child” for good decision making, he does give us plenty of mistakes from which we can learn. As has been discussed he was impatient and prideful, yet talented beyond measure, and blessed with an incredible gift with which he was to benefit many, many people. But he stumbled and as we know he fell from grace. The one pulling Anakin’s strings and encouraging his slow fade into the dark side of the force was Palpatine who was to become the evil Emperor. There are many things that were said to Anakin during the time that he was working on him but a few statements rise up above the rest. During the conversation in Episode III when Anakin discovers who Palpatine really is, he tells Anakin that he feels like he has always been looking for a life of significance outside of being an ordinary Jedi. Two things bother me about that statement, both of which of course are a part of Palpatine’s lies.

First, think of all the people that inhabit the Star Wars galaxy, billions and billions. How many of those people at one time are Jedi? Maybe a couple thousand at the most. Jedi Knights are not a common thing, it is a very rare talent to have, so that alone is significant just by itself.

Second, Anakin was not called to be just an ordinary Jedi, he was to be one of the most important Jedi ever. That seems awfully significant. But Palpatine played down this calling and his duty as a Jedi, wanting to deliver the promise of greater power and recognition else where, something that would bring respect and “show up” those who Anakin thought where out to devalue him.

The enemy often engages in this same kind of tactic, down playing a good work that you are called to do or the career that you are meant to have, especially if God is to receive all the glory from your actions. Proverbs 21:21 says, “He who pursues righteousness and love finds life, prosperity and honor.” The best way to receive the abundance of blessings that God has in store for our lives is to stay on track with His will, His perfect will. We may have to wait longer than we may think is necessary, but trusting in God’s timing is key.

A few days ago there was news of a shooting in California, the young man who was responsible for this crime was bitter and disgruntled with life. He felt that he was not getting enough recognition or attention, especially from girls, his plan was to prove to those around him just how much power he really had and what he was capable of; therefore hoping to gain…something. Much like Anakin he was impatient, much like Anakin he had lost faith in those around him and just like Anakin he lost everything. Sadly however, this young man died as his Darth Vader. God only knows what sort of Kingdom potential was within him, yet he was talked into tearing it all down in the pursuit of fruitless gains and he even more sadly, took some innocent people with him.

Anakin found himself in a similar position, he tore down everything that he was called to be and took a great deal of people down with him. He lost everything; his wife, his children, his friends, his hope, and his passion. Well he almost lost everything, his calling stayed with him. His calling that was so good and so significant, that it managed to stay alive within what little was left of Anakin Skywalker after he turned into Darth Vader. Anakin was reminded of who he was meant be and gained more in that one revelation than in all his years as Darth Vader. Luke had faith in his father’s goodness (the goodness that both him and Padame knew was still there), more importantly he had faith in the source from which that goodness came from and it brought Anakin back.

The calling that God has in store for your life whether big or small is significant, more than you may ever know. God will reveal His plans in His time, have faith and trust Him. There is nothing that can be gained from following the urgings of the enemy, don’t allow him to minimize God’s plans. Have faith the goodness that flows through you, for it comes from a source that never fails. 

True Friendship

There is one thing that always bothers me every time we watch Star Wars, having to hear the Emperor call Anakin, “friend”. I have seen those movies many times and not once did I see him do anything that was “friend-like” toward Anakin. He convinced Anakin to mistrust to Jedi, storm the Jedi temple, think he could achieve some great power by following the Dark Side but never anything that showed true friendship. All of the Emperor’s actions were for selfish reasons, not caring what these acts would do to Anakin or the people around him. Yet Anakin was called “friend” by this guy not once, not twice, but three times.

When the Emperor was still Chancellor Palpatine he spent years being “buddy-buddy” with Anakin, earning his trust and getting him to agree with his ideas. The enemy can work in the same way, moving in too close trying to make us think that his ways and his thoughts are the ones we should listen to. The enemy may make you feel like he is on your side-just as Palpatine did with Anakin. Do not be fooled he is not your friend and never will be, just how Palpatine was never Anakin’s friend, he was barely even Darth Vader’s friend.

In Proverbs 22:24-25 it says, “Do not make friends with a hot tempered man, do not associate with one easily angered, or you may learn his ways and get yourself ensnared.” Sounds like the situation Anakin found himself in does it, I mean what kind friend would pull someone through the muck that Anakin was pulled through. All of that was for Palpatine, to bring him glory, to bring him power. Once Anakin had outlived his usefulness, Palpatine was going to have his next guy kill him, which he was hoping would be Luke. By listening to the words of his so called friend, Anakin ended up fighting his true friend and probably the best friend he ever had.

Obi-Wan had been patient with him, he cared about Anakin enough to tell him the things that he needed to hear, rather than feeding his foolishness by telling him the things he wanted to hear. Obi-Wan was a true friend that turned into Darth Vader’s enemy. You can see it in Obi Wan’s eyes and hear it in the tone of his voice when he speaks about Anakin in Episode IV, just how much he still misses him. It is important to be mindful who you allow into your circle of friends, because it is true what it says in 1 Corinthians 15:33, “Do not be misled, bad company corrupts good character.”

It can be easy to be enticed by the words of the enemy but we all have the authority given to us by Jesus to but the enemy back in his place. Never be afraid to tell him he no longer has the right (in fact he never had the right) to rule over your heart or keep your true self in the background. Do not be afraid to speak God’s truth over the situation, the enemy doesn’t need an explanation he just needs to know that he is not welcome. After all in the end did Anakin give the Emperor any explanation? So do not associate with those who anger easily for bad company corrupts good character and be mindful of your friends.

Remember, there is one that you can go to any time for anything and He, truly is the best friend you’ll ever have.

The Wisdom of Being Humble

Pride: a sense of one’s own proper dignity or value, self respect; arrogant or disdainful conduct, haughtiness, an excessively high opinion of ones self. Hmm..sounds a little bit like someone we know doesn’t it? Anakin was very prideful, he felt that his abilities should give him special privileges or help him rise to the top faster than other Jedi. It is easy forget that Anakin was in his early twenties when he turned to the dark side and became Darth Vader. People in their twenties are usually very sure of themselves, yet they still have much to learn and, they need guidance. Anakin received way too much guidance from the wrong source, which of course led to his undoing.

The Bible tells us in Proverbs 16:18, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” Pride can make one believe that they can handle any problem themselves, with out God’s help or guidance, or the help of those wiser than them. Pride can make one think that their timing or way is better. Anakin was led to believe that the Jedi did not value his skills and that they were not giving him enough respect. The Jedi (well mainly Obi-Wan) begged him to be patient, in fact in his final conversation with Obi-Wan before turning into Darth Vader, Obi-Wan ensured Anakin that it would not be long before the council made him a Jedi Master he just needed to be…patient. But his pride ate away at that patience, he was lured into a power that was easier and faster, yet came at a heavy cost.

As believers it is important for us to trust in God’s timing, He knows each person better than they know themselves. Trouble sometimes comes when He asks that we lay aside our own understanding and follow His. In James 4:10 it says, “Humble yourselves before the Lord and He will lift you up.” God, out of love, makes sure that one is ready for the path He has laid out for them before they begin to walk on it. If they act too soon, based on their own timing, the enemy could take it away.

Anakin was not ready for the responsibility and the burden of being on council or being a Jedi Master, but he was too prideful to wait and it was taken from him. Pride but a twenty year hold on Anakin fulfilling his calling and one can be certain that it would not taken him that long, had he stayed with the light side of the Force. Trust in Him, His ways are always better, His timing is always better.

Walk in the spirit of humility, for it is not weakness but a great strength.

Grace Enough for Darth Vader…and then some!

Grace, the exercise of love, kindness, mercy, favor: disposition to benefit or to serve another. Grace is mentioned several times in the Bible like in John 1:16 which says, “Out of His fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given,” some translations even say grace upon grace. So God gives us ALL grace on top of grace, a double portion. We are all recipients of grace, it is through grace that we are forgiven, it is because of grace (which is there to catch us when we fall) that we can go out and speak the truth of Jesus to the world.

God doesn’t hold grace back from anyone, even Darth Vader. Darth Vader?! But Darth Vader said all that stuff and did all those things! Yes he did, but in the end grace came rushing back to his true identity, Anakin Skywalker. Why? Because he opened himself up to it, even though he didn’t think that he deserved it. Nobody deserves grace but, we all receive daily, its always there. God doesn’t look at how someone behaved that day and decide how much grace they will get because He doesn’t base it on actions. It says in Romans 11:6, “And if by grace, then it can not be based works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.” We don’t have to earn grace, its open to everyone even our Darth Vader’s.

God will reach down and light up the sky for you no matter how far you fall; He is a God who allows U-turns. We, like Anakin, will keep stumbling over where we were, what we did, what we said, trying to apologize or explain ourselves to God. He is focused on the present and the future and we are tripping over the past-thinking that it should have some effect on the present.

**Not that its not important to ask for forgiveness, God just forgives rather quickly and we don’t always notice and start dwell and keep making sure that we are really forgiven.**

After Anakin dies at the end of Return of the Jedi, the last thing he expected was to be reunited with light side of the force and that Obi Wan would be there to greet him. Pretty surprising for a guy who spent 20 years as Darth Vader and well…was the one who killed Obi Wan. When Anakin asked, “Why me?” Obi Wan said, “Because you ended the curse.” Anakin did it, he stopped it, he brought himself back from the dark side. It was his calling and he fulfilled it, then grace was there to greet him.

Who you are in God is something that nothing and no one can take away. Even when you take a detour or make a mistake, your calling is still your calling. Grace keeps it in place, because grace knows that you CAN reclaim it or even see it for the first time. Our God is a God of second chances, He will be there to pick you up when you fall ready to give you a double portion of grace. It enough for you, its enough for me and its even enough for Darth Vader…and then some!

As it says in Hebrews 13:25, “Grace be with you all.”