We’ve all heard someone say, “He’s a self-made man.” What are they saying in this statement? Are they saying that this individual achieved success by his hard work and sweat? Many a person has achieved success through honest hard work. There is a danger for any of us who may have achieved significance through our work. That danger is the belief that we achieved it through our own efforts apart from God’s grace and mercy. When we live in this belief, we assert that we are entitled to certain rights and privileges because of the position we have earned and feel we deserve.
The prodigal son’s brother who refused to celebrate the wayward son’s return was a man who felt he was entitled to certain rights. He saw himself as one who had been faithful to his responsibilities and deserving of more attention. He could not appreciate his brother’s failure and the pain of falling into a sinful life because, in his mind, he had never failed. This pride kept him from experiencing God’s real grace. This is how legalism develops in believers. It grows into a cold heart and an insensitive attitude toward others who may have stumbled in their lives. This same brother did not truly understand the love of his father apart from works; for he felt he gained acceptance only by doing his job.
Do you feel accepted by God, regardless of what you do? Have you wrongfully viewed your works as something you alone have achieved? These are the minefields of which each of us in business must be aware. God has gifted us to accomplish anything through His grace, not by our works.
“You may say to yourself, ‘My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.'” Deuteronomy 8:17
Today God Is First (TGIF) devotional message, Copyright by Os Hillman, Marketplace Leaders.
“In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” Romans 6:11
What are the things that arouse the strongest emotions in you? Perhaps it is a rude motorist who cuts you off in traffic. Perhaps it is the anger you feel when you are wrongfully accused. Perhaps it is frustration that results from not having enough money to meet perceived needs. When do emotions turn into sin? Anger itself is not sin. Jesus had righteous anger when they sold doves in the temple.
Whenever our peace is upset over events and circumstances in life, we have moved past emotions into sin. Sin says that circumstances of life now dictate anxiety, worry, fear, or anger. Consider the attributes of a dead man. He does not get angry when slandered. He does not worry about the future. He does not fear what can be done to him. Why? Because he is dead. Nothing can harm a dead man.
Christ said we are to live as if we are dead – dead to the temptation of responding to stimuli in our life that are designed to stir up the sinful nature that resides in each of us. We do not have to respond to that nature; we can consider it dead. Christ said He is enough. When He is our all in all, nothing can move us. If we are moved, then Christ is not our all in all. This does not mean we cannot have strong emotion about our circumstance, it means we do not sin. Christ had strong emotions in the Garden of Gethsemane, yet He sinned not.
Today God Is First (TGIF) devotional message, Copyright by Os Hillman, Marketplace Leaders.
The Good Shepherd 133 (Photo credit: Waiting For The Word)
1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, 3 he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6 Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever…..
My walk with God now is different from 20 years ago. Today, I must consider myself battle weary because, I have fought the good fight and I am still on duty. Sometimes the idea of warring against hell and its minions is overwhelming; but when I remember ‘the battle is not yours, it’s the Lord’s‘ from Yolanda Adams, I am encouraged.
I took detours because those who were put to guide and help me along the way, turned their backs and became distracted themselves.
For years, I never went to the ‘dinning hall’ – The Church – to feast. I was discouraged, angry, bitter, depressed, impatient and honestly, unforgiving. But, God never left me, nor did He forsake me.
God was patient.
God was enduring.
God was a Father, friend, counselor, protector and still Sovereign Lord. The Lord God Almighty never deserts those who are backslidden, unless you shun Him, reject Him, blaspheme Him. Unless you totally give up your Christian Life.
Over the years, He worked on my heart. He worked on my anger. He worked on breaking my spirit, so that my only choice was to turn to Him and embrace Him. He taught me that people – Christians – are human beings first. They are flesh and have weaknesses; just like ordinary unsaved people. Therefore, they too will make mistakes, hurt people, be a disappointment and fall by the way side. But, so long as we do as Donnie McClurkin says, ‘..and get back up again…because we fall down, but we get up’ in our Christian Life.
Now, while I am still battling for my life, my mind, my spirit, my very soul; I am stronger, surer and trying my best to stay on the straight and narrow. Now, I am quick to forgive, quick to understand, quick to open my mouth to God and I am quick to identify my own weaknesses in my Christian Life. I am more mature, wiser and have more humility.
Remember, without God, as Christians we cannot survive. The devil seeks to devour us, prowling and looking for whom he may kill. So, church is important for fellowship and sustenance and I have learnt that God will move you to the best place or feast hall for you, in that time. So, if you lose heart in one church, ask of God how he can help you with handling changes in your Christian Life. The Bible says, ‘seek ye first the kingdom of God’, so seek God and His wisdom first, and he will guide you.
Its 1:00 a.m. and I am not asleep. I have fought hard to not suffer a relapse; but, its 2:00 a.m. and I am up.
I felt my blood, charging through my arteries and veins to my ears and across my retina. I felt the thoughts in my mind scatter; in my mind’s eye I could see the tornado building, spinning, climbing higher and growing stronger. I was doomed. Anger, resentment, bitterness; these were a precursor to this and it had nowhere to go. It was not loosed to lash out on anyone, so it turned in on me. Again, it turned on me. This beast took years to tame, years to not flinch at its bite, years to numb the pain; it spent years feeding off of my hurt, my shattered heart and the decimation of myself. Now, I am vulnerable, again. Now my anger is unspent, my resentment is rich and my disappointment luxurious. It has much to feed on.
I am tired and I wanted to sleep, but they wouldn’t let me. My eyes fought to stay shut but my ears are super powered to pick up every sound, every disturbance in the night hours. A light sleeper; it’s been a blessing and a curse. They know this, but all I heard was chatter beating on the doors of my drowsy mind, demanding to be let in. I heard the light flutter of a female’s laughter, skipping over the threshold of my sleep. I heard the crescendo of laughter which escalates with utter disregard; the sounds of a male and female voice, not 8 feet away from me.
I am disturbed. My mind ripped of its only preferred lover. Vexed, angered, enraged… a fantasy of murder plays out before my eyes, inside my mind. The tears scamper freely, like preschoolers at recess and the darkness opens the door lets itself in. Now the adrenaline slowly surfs the Atlantic of my bloodstream, channels my heart and erodes my REM cycle. I am fully awake with 20 years of anger diving deep to my soul. Disturbed.
My patience, anorexic. My anger, obese. My sanity, kidnapped. Rage, depression, fear; the fear of self prevails through my thoughts and the fantasy of murder with them. I am tired but cannot sleep.
Raped of my goodwill, now, there is only hell to pay.
Faith felt a volcanic rush of pain pass through her. She was not her mother’s favourite. Though she was the freehanded one, the one who gave without thinking, the one who pitched in and made sure the bills were paid, the one who ensured her mother didn’t starve.
She was not the favourite.
The user was. The addict was. The mange was.
Her brother, who never paid a bill, who never returned a loan. The one who never contributed, the one who never bought a furniture or appliance to put in his mother’s house. The one who when her mother starved for months never gave her food, though he managed one of the largest wholesales in Jamaica.
In the story of the Prodigal Son, it was the one who sinned, who left, who neglected the family; it was he who was embraced, kissed and a feast kept in his honour. So why did she think it would be different for her.
The pain made her illogical, hard and unforgiving; but somehow, God was seeping logic in the cracks of her rationality. God left obvious clues that he was watching out for Faith, even if no one else was. He loved her, she was sure. The Holy Spirit in her gave her solace, but sometimes, the pain would shut him out.
As tears fell from her eyes, Faith felt more alone on this earth than she ever felt. For years, Faith never truly forgave her mother for choosing favourites, but God required it of her now. It was locked away in her subconscious never on the surface, but somehow never far from her mind.
Faith closed her eyes and prayed, “Oh God forgive me, and help me to release those who should be forgiven.” There might be hope for her yet.
What else could wreak more of a devastation on a child?
I prayed like Daniel, Elijah, Jesus before crucification and David trying to sweet up God. I really needed peace from here on out. I was not able to psychologically or emotionally handle anymore anxiety or stress.
Psychologists would describe me as the kind of person who bottles it all in, grins and bear it, and then blows like Mount Pompeii; taking no prisoners. I am trying desperately to maintain my professionalism and sanity. They say if you hang around mad people enough, ‘yuh soon come in like dem’. Heaven forbid!
The last two days were spent venting through my writing, aiding my poor, sick mother and de-stressing as much as possible. Writing is essential for me. It is therapeutic. My neighbour read my postings and said I made her day; she couldn’t stop laughing. At least someone else is finding the humour in all of this.
Today, peace reigns; just like any day when my horrible boss is not in office. The atmosphere is light. Nonetheless, I am sighing heavily. My body feels ’12 years a slave’.
HR responded to say, “Your manager says she knows nothing about how you are feeling and why”. I am sure Cain said the same when he was confronted about Abel. Except, God sees and knows everything. I do pray that it all works out and when the anger subsides, I will have to pray for her too. I have realised that when you pray for good things in your ‘enemies’ lives, they have no time or desire to mess with you; they are too happy.
This is the good part, ” please note that in the meantime we are making arrangements for you to see the counselor, who will guide you with coping…”. Do you notice? I need to learn how to cope and exist with a harassing, bipolar, vindictive micromanager. Will counseling be recommended for her? Not likely; though this horrible boss‘s behavior is serial. But, I will discuss that another time.
Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.
In my life experience, this application is frustrating and maddening. It is made harder by the vein busting anger that I am combating in my psyche. Here is why.
My brother, he is the weapon of choice. He is the one used to offend me continually. Over and over for 25 years. This year though, it’s like he has been put on loop, but now I know for certain it is aligned with God’s will. His will to school me on offense and anger.
Even as a child, a teen, an adolescent, an adult; my brother has constantly done wrong on so many levels. It is a curse, I am sure. My father did him wrong and my brother has executed his vengeance in one selfish, purposefully disrespectful way after another. The taking of what’s mine without permission, going through my personal belongings, stealing…I can’t remember how many times and now I have a complex that is causing me to be stuck dealing with anger.
Offense after offense.
My lessons have opened up my eyes to see things as they are, why they happen and how I must be shaped by it. For to be continually offended by him means I am expected to stop being angry at him. God is shaping me His prophet, to not be triggered by ‘anger’ when offended. I think I have been at grade 1 dealing with the issues, insults, disregard and thievery from my brother all my life.
Nonetheless, I am working hard not to react, not to hold a grudge, not to get on the bitter side of things. My weapon for coping has been praise and worship; I fill my house for hours with singing and worshipping, praying and more praying.
I must sometime soon graduate this school of offense and anger.
Some of you can understand the kind of situation I am highlighting today.
God is cleansing my heart in earnest as I am being made ready for kingdom duty. But Lord, my God, the process if degrading, trying and difficult.
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; …
No one knows the exact number of Cambodians that were executed in the infamous killing fields between 1975 and 1979. Estimates range between 1.7 million and 2.5 million innocent men, women and children who were mercilessly slaughtered at the hands of the Khmer Rouge regime.
But for Reaksa Himm, the only relevant number is 13. That number represents how many family members he personally lost in the killing fields. Among those 13 family members were his father, his mother and nine brothers and sisters. To compound the tragedy, Himm witnessed the brutal murder of 10 of his loved ones just outside a small village called Thlok.
That Himm survived the mass execution is nothing less than a miracle. But no less incredible is long trek he took from revenge to forgiveness.
Journey to the Killing Fields Himm’s road to spiritual revelation was paved with unfathomable pain and heartache. But it didn’t start out that way. In 1975, Himm and his family were living a peaceful life in the city of Siem Reap despite an ongoing conflict between the ruling democratic leadership and the Khmer Communists led by brutal warlord Pol Pot. When the Khmer army defeated the American-backed government, Himm’s world was turned upside down.
After systematically executing all leaders sympathetic to the previous government, the Khmer Rouge regime began rounding up the Cambodian people and sending them to work camps. They were told they would only be gone three days to allow the army to root out American solders they suspected were still in hiding. But days turned to months, and months turned to years.
For the first two years, Himm’s family tried to conform to the new government’s policies. They never dared say anything against the leadership.
“If you opposed them, they would usually come in the night and tell you they wanted to send you to school so you could change your behavior,” Himm says. “But to be sent to school literally meant execution.”
By the age of 14, Himm was working in the fields tending to cattle and water buffalo. Each morning he would take some rice and dried fish wrapped in a banana leaf for lunch and head to his post. But one afternoon, he met an older man who was a stranger. The man asked if he would share his lunch. As part of the Cambodian culture, Himm had been trained to respect his elders, so he gave the man half his lunch.
“Before I knew it, he had eaten all of my lunch,” Himm recalls. “I was so angry. I had nothing to eat after that. But then he wanted to tell me a story. So I sat down and listened to him.”
“In the next six months,” the man said, “all of your family is going to be killed, but you will not die. You will have to go through a lot of suffering.”
Out of the GraveA few weeks later, three Khmer soldiers came to the family’s house and arrested Himm’s father. When asked what he had done wrong, one soldier barked these ominous words: “Today we will destroy you! If we keep you, we gain nothing! If we kill you, we lose nothing! You are serving the American government! You are CIA!”
Himm had no idea what “CIA” meant, but he did know what happened to those faced with that accusation.
“That person became dead meat,” he says.
Himm ran back to his house and tried to gather his younger brothers and sisters. Suddenly the soldiers busted through the door, dragging Himm’s father behind them. At first the soldiers put Himm’s hands behind his back, but then they released him so he could carry his 2-year-old brother.
And then they took them all to the jungle.
“When we finally arrived, the soldiers began digging graves for us,” Himm says. “For the next 15 minutes, we just stood there and waited for them to kill us. I tried to hug my father, but his arms were behind his back. Then I told him goodbye. My father responded by saying something I will never forget. He said, ‘I love all of you.’ In Cambodian culture, we rarely show affection. That was the first and last time I heard my father say those words.”
Himm stood there as the soldiers made his father kneel down in front of the grave. His father was clubbed from behind and fell into the pit. Then came the screams.
“I saw every single ax fall as they butchered my father,” Himm says. “It was my turn, and I laid my baby brother beside me. Someone clubbed me from behind, and I fell on my father. Then I heard my baby brother scream so loud. Then I heard the chopping and the screaming.
As the soldiers descended into the grave, they miraculously passed over Himm. When they noticed he was not yet dead, one of the men went back down and hit him again. Blood came through his nose and mouth. Himm began to suffocate and could hardly breathe.
“But no matter what, I didn’t move,” he says.
The soldiers left to find Himm’s mother and older sisters who were working on a farm back at the village. For the next 30 minutes, Himm struggled to climb through the bodies on top of him.
“At that time, I was just beginning to understand what had happened,” he says. “I couldn’t imagine how I could go on with my life. I was just lying there with the dead bodies and waiting for the soldiers to come finish me.”
Somehow he mustered the strength and courage to climb out of the grave. Had he stayed a few more minutes, the soldiers would have found him. Instead, he hid in the weeds and watched them drag his mother and sisters to the grave where they, too, were executed and dumped into the pit.
“After the soldiers left, I crawled back to the grave and knelt down and put my head to the grave,” he says. “I saw my mother’s face. I cried and screamed until I lost consciousness. When I woke up, it was about to become dark. I was by myself in the deep, dark jungle. That night, I decided to climb a tree and hold on to the tree the whole night. I couldn’t close my eyes. I was so scared.”
Three Promises For the next three days and nights, Himm stayed there and cried. He survived by eating bamboo shoots and wild fruit and drinking dew squeezed from his blood-soaked shirt. After serious thoughts of going back to the village so the soldiers could put him out of his misery, the traumatized 14-year-old headed away from the gruesome site in search of help.
Before he left the killing field, though, he made three promises to himself. First, he would take revenge on his family’s killers. If he couldn’t do that, he would become a Buddhist monk to pay respect to his family. And if he couldn’t keep his first two promises, he would go far away from Cambodia.
Over the next two years, Himm migrated among a succession of refugee camps that at times proved anything but safe. He also reunited with the only other surviving members of his immediate family—his older sister Sopheap and her husband, Chhounly. When neighboring Vietnam overthrew the Khmer regime in early 1979, Himm returned to the city and lived with his aunt.
By 1984, Himm decided to join the police force. His purpose in doing so was simple: It would help him get back to the village where his family was killed so he could “eradicate every single person in that village,” he says, to pay honor to his family.
But when Himm finally had the chance to arrest one of the men who had helped kill his family, he couldn’t go through with it—despite dragging the man into the forest and aiming a gun at the man’s head. Having broken his first promise, Himm then faced the harsh reality that he couldn’t keep his second promise, as the current regime did not allow young men to become Buddhist monks.
“Finally, I tried to fulfill my last promise,” he says, “which was to escape from Cambodia.”
Free Indeed Leaving Cambodia was both illegal and very dangerous. But Himm was desperate to leave his problems behind. He headed for Thailand, facing numerous life-threatening situations along the way, and eventually landed in the notorious Khao I Dang refugee camps. While there, he exchanged letters with a cousin who was living in California. Himm shared his desire to come to the United States, and his cousin, who was a Christian pastor, shared stories about his faith.
“He kept telling me about Jesus,” Himm says, “and I told him, ‘I need money, not Jesus!’”
Himm stayed in Thailand five years. His attempts to move to the United States were rejected by the Immigration and Naturalization Service. Undaunted, he started a vigorous letter-writing campaign to the Canadian embassy. He also decided prayer wouldn’t hurt either.
“I felt hopeless,” he says. “One night I knelt on my knees and prayed, ‘God, if you take me to Canada, I will start a new life and live for You.’”
About 90 letters later, in 1989, Himm gained entrance to Canada. He accepted Christ a year later. Then he enrolled at Tyndale College in Ontario and earned a bachelor’s degree in religious studies, followed by a master’s degree in counseling and Christian education from Providence Theological Seminary.
Yet even as Himm was growing in his new life of faith, he still struggled with bitterness and hatred for his family’s killers, in addition to the depression and guilt he privately held on to because of his failure to avenge their deaths. The journey wasn’t easy, but gradually, as he studied God’s Word, passages such as Hebrews 12:15 (“See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many,” NIV) helped him realize that his failure to forgive was blinding him from seeing the grace of God in his own life.
As the Holy Spirit healed his deep wounds, Himm gained a revelation of both God’s justice from passages such as Romans 12:17-19 (“Do not repay anyone evil for evil. … ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord”) and God’s forgiving grace (“Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more,” Heb. 10:17).
“I had failed to allow God be the righteous judge,” Himm says in his book After the Heavy Rain. “Vengeance is the Lord’s, not mine. … God does not remember my sins anymore. God had cancelled all my sins, but I had failed to let go of the sins of my family’s killers.”
By 1999, Himm felt God calling him back to Cambodia. He returned to lecture on psychology at a Bible college but stayed to plant churches, including one where his family was killed. And while he had already forgiven the killers from abroad, he knew the time had come for him to take the process one step further.
Himm located the man who killed his father and siblings, the man who had clubbed him from behind, and the man who had killed his mother and older sisters. He came prepared.
“I offered each of them a camel scarf as a symbol of my forgiveness,” he says. “I offered my shirt as a symbol of my love for them. And I gave them a Bible as a symbol of my blessing for them.”
As Himm reflects on those powerful encounters, he is reminded of Jesus’ words found in John 8:36: “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”
“To say ‘I forgive you’ from Canada to Cambodia was easy,” Himm says. “But to actually travel back and meet those killers and look into their eyes and say, ‘I forgive you,’ that was tremendously difficult. There’s no way in my own humanity I could have done that. It was only the power of the grace of God in my life that gave me the strength to do that. It was only God’s grace that set me free.”
Chad Bonham is a journalist, author and broadcast producer who has worked in mass media for more than 20 years. A regular contributor to Charisma, he recently published Life in the Fairway.