[You can read Part 1 here.]
[You can read Part 2 here.]

and forgive us our trespasses – As much as I may joke and other people may contradict this statement, I do not think I’m perfect. That said, I do occasionally start getting a little too big for my britches (well, literally and figuratively). And without fail, God uses each of those big-britches opportunities to show me how very small I really am. It’s called humility, and it’s a recognition of ourselves through God’s eyes.

When I first started walking closely with God some four-and-a-half years ago, he didn’t convict me of everything all at once. The major, glaring acts of disobedience were acknowledged right up front. But then he gradually revealing other things to me, like music and software piracy, speeding, or gossiping. I guess somewhere along the way I thought, “Okay, now he’s brought all these sins to light and I’ve changed my ways and that’s it.” Not that I thought I didn’t still sin, but I thought I was aware of all my sins. That I may still gossip, but I know it’s wrong and genuinely repent and seek strength in turning completely from the sin.

Ha, how often I mislead myself!

God still convicts me of sins I never noticed or recognized as sins. They may or may not be “new” sins, but they’re sins I never recognized as any form of disobedience.

What’s more, in addition to revealing more sins to me, God is teaching me to have joy in my conviction of those sins. One day, after a particularly hardcore lesson about my behavioral and attitudinal response to, well, every single thing God tells me, I was filled with the most extreme joy. God hasn’t left me down here to try to figure it all out on my own. He loves me enough to mold me, to teach me, to discipline me. He hasn’t, nor will he ever, written me off or given up on me. My sins are many, and I stand next to Paul, who called himself the greatest sinner of all. I think he too said it joyfully, not in a celebration of our disobedience but in a celebration of God’s desire to free us from our disobedience.

as we forgive those who trespass against us – Now the other side of the coin.

Just as much as it’s going to happen that we’re going to sin, it’s going to happen that people are going to sin against us. I’m not talking about someone casually saying something that hurts your ultra-sensitive feelings or someone exposing your insecurity simply by doing what they always do. I’m talking about people who actually act very un-Christlike toward you. Perhaps anti-Christlike would be a better choice.

Because of my current circles of relationships, the amount of people who fall into that category are few and far between. Yet at the beginning of 2011 I found myself in a situation where only about two people were left standing beside me. What God taught me through that was how I must rely on him only. That anyone and everyone else will, at one time or another, fail me. And that’s okay. Because he won’t.

So, keeping him in perspective, he gave me opportunities to love people who have hurt me deeply, and each opportunity looked a little different from the other. The overarching lesson was, “Never stop loving.” Regardless of actions, regardless of emotions, regardless even of whether the person is a believer or not, we can never stop loving. And true, if you consider that often our hurt and anger at people is due as a result of, and not in spite of, our love for them.

There’s a reason Jesus says we should pray for forgiveness of our own sins first and then aid in forgiving others. Because if we can recognize God’s grace in forgiving our multitude of sins, we’re more capable to show grace to others. And grace doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t matter what anyone has done to us, because our sins against God are invariably worse. We can forgive because we were forgiven.

and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil – Interestingly, so often our temptation to despair or give the Devil a foothold begins with a thought. It snowballs, gains momentum, and quickly one negative, defeating thought turns even the strongest believer into a disaster. But if we can catch it and recognize it, we can stop it.

In years past I learned the power of speaking the Word aloud, especially when my thoughts attempted to overtake me. I had a couple go-to verses memorized and ready to recite at a moment’s notice. Did I forget this lesson? Perhaps.

A couple weeks ago I was sitting with a dear lady, an amazing woman of God. I told her about my struggles this year with fear and defeat and insecurity. She told me to close my eyes and silently count backward from ten. I began, and she asked, “What is your name?” I paused, said, “Rebecca,” and realized my thoughts had been interrupted. I know I stopped at the number seven, but was it right before seven or right after seven? I have no clue. The point: speaking out loud can interrupt even the most deliberate of thoughts.

God has already equipped us with everything we need to combat temptation and deliver us from evil. Sure, he’ll keep pulling us through, but we can use what we already know, what he’s given us, to stop our thoughts in their tracks.

That said, living a Christian life is fighting a constant battle. If it wasn’t, we wouldn’t have verses about putting on the armor of God. You don’t need armor to go play in a happy little meadow. You need armor when you’re going to war.

So we equip ourselves with the Word he’s given us, we prepare for battle by wearing the armor he’s given us, we learn to recognize it and stop it within the ability he’s given us, and we let him do the rest.

Amen. – And now it’s a new year. I have a thought that twentytwelve (because I like the ascetics of writing it like that) is going to be the best year for us yet. My prayer for this year is to retain these lessons he’s spent almost thirty years teaching me and at least one year really driving home. Because life is like the cumulative exam–you build off previous lessons to understand the next lessons.

Thank you to those of you who have shared 2011 with me in one way or another. Here’s to the lessons of 2011 and the lessons in store for us this year.