Tag Archives: Lord

The Gift of Forgiveness, Part I

We hear often how forgiveness is a gift we give ourselves.  While this is absolutely true, in the bigger picture, the ability to forgive others is a gift given to us from God…because truly “to forgive is divine.”  Within ourselves we human beings just don’t seem to have the capacity to wipe others slate clean in our minds and hearts on our own power.  Our form of forgiveness is convoluted with strings attached, hidden pockets of pain and bitterness that surface at the most inconvenient times – complete with elephant-type memories regarding the deeply painful acts and attitudes toward us.  How we struggle with forgiveness!  Pure forgiveness is indeed a freely-given gift from the only perfect forgiver, Jesus Christ.

The Lord's Prayer (1886-1896) from the series ...

The Lord’s Prayer (1886-1896) from the series The Life of Christ, Brooklyn Museum (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We know we are supposed to forgive.  The Lord’s prayer, reads in part:

and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us.  Matthew 6:12

Forgiveness

Forgiveness (Photo credit: poportis)

This is clearly not an option, but a command from God who has forgiven us – that we MUST forgive those who have inflicted pain upon us to have a clear relationship with God.  But, oh how we struggle!

In a sense, granting forgiveness is like hitting bottom with a drug or alcohol addiction.  What finally causes one to surrender is unique to each person.  Those who love an addict agonize in prayer over them and keep hoping that each new crisis or even happy “big life moment” will be THAT THING that will cause that one to admit there is a problem, surrender to Christ and submit to a program that will help them overcome their addiction.  But that turning point is indeed different for every person who has made that huge u-turn in life.  And so it is with forgiveness.  For the person who knows they need to forgive and willingly travels that journey toward totally releasing that person or group of people in their lives that has caused pain, the point of letting go mentally and emotionally differs.

But God is faithful.  Forgiveness is for real.  If we are seeking to obey Him in this area, He will provide that necessary ability to forgive fully, but it is a journey.  It is a process.  The gift of forgiveness – the ability from God to forgive others is a sweetness to our soul.  It brings smiles and relief and often times reconciliation and tenderness to a relationship that looked like it was beyond recovery.  Forgiveness is a miracle.

Forgiveness is and isn’t many things.

Forgiveness does not mean that we minimize what that person has done.  Forgiveness most certainly will cost us in some way.  We may have to endure the consequences for the other person’s sin against us, and perhaps for a very long time.  Forgiveness does not mean we necessarily go back to “life as normal.”  The act of forgiveness sometimes means that we are separated from that person, yet our hearts are at peace.  Sometimes, the relationship becomes stronger and more connected with granting forgiveness.  We do not have power over the outcome of granting forgiveness, but obeying God by forgiving is always for our good.  The is greatness and exhilaration in the peace that God provides to our souls when we forgive.

Forgiveness lesson from flowers

Forgiveness lesson from flowers (Photo credit: juliejordanscott)

Forgiveness is freedom.  We give up the notion to desire any punishment or ill will toward that person in our minds.  We can pray that God will bless them and mean it, and go on with our lives.  We find ourselves to be “bigger”, stronger, more generous and sweeter human beings.  The best part of forgiveness is that it opens the doorway to run to God full throttle, leaping up into His arms and experiencing that sweet communion that cannot be described in words.  There is nothing between God and ourselves when we willingly forgive others, and in the process admit our own sins and weaknesses.

Our hearts are softened by granting forgiveness.  This too is a gift from God.

I will given them singleness of heart and put a new spirit within them.  I will take away their stony stubborn heart and give them a tender, responsive heart, so they will obey my decrees and regulations.  Then they wil truly be my people, and I will be their God.  Ezekiel 11:19-20

 

 

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No Business of Mine

Personality tests come in various shapes, sizes and colors, so I’ve learned.  At a Christian women’s retreat a couple of years back the leadership team decided to use a short, fun, colorful personality test both as an ice breaker and way to divide into teams.  This particular quiz divided the room full of women into “reds,” (outgoing, take charge individuals), “yellows” (conscientious rule-followers and hard workers), “blues,” (tender-hearted harmony seeking people) and a minority of “greens,” (thinkers, learners and problem solvers).  While all these tests are just indications, and it is pointed out that most people have more than one “color,” this quiz indicated a predominance toward these characteristics.  I was a green.  Greens like logical approaches and need to know the “why” behind decisions and like to think of helpful solutions.

This image (when viewed in full size, 1000 pix...

This image (when viewed in full size, 1000 pixels wide) contains 1 million pixels, each of a different color. The human eye can distinguish about 10 million different colors. Judd, Deane B. Wyszecki, Günter (1975). Color in Business, Science and Industry . Wiley Series in Pure and Applied Optics (3rd ed.). New York : Wiley-Interscience. p. 388. ISBN 0471452122. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The life of faith in Christ has a particular challenge for the “greens” among us.  The very essence of faith means we usually don’t know the “why” and we don’t get to create the helpful solution.  We place much in God’s hands and trust that He is indeed working all things together for the good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose (reference:  Romans 8:28).  Then we trust, wait and obey.

In the classic devotional, Streams in the Desert, a verse from Joel is the basis for a great comment by C.H. Spurgeon.  First the verse:

And it shall come to pass that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered.  (Joel 2:32)

All of us, no matter what personality “color” we lean towards can find ourselves in that “whosoever.”  When we come upon troubles and trials and perplexing situations we can take these words of C.H. Spurgeon to heart:

Charles Spurgeon (C.H. Spurgeon)

Charles Spurgeon (C.H. Spurgeon) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My case is urgent, and I do not see how I am to be delivered;  but this is no business of mine.  He who makes the promise will find ways and means of keeping it.  It is mine to obey His commands;  it is not mine to direct His counsels.  I am His servant, not His solicitor.  I call upon Him, and He will deliver.  C.H. Spurgeon

Even as a “green,” is so comforting to know the final outcome of that which concerns me is not my deal, it’s His business.

 

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Unanswered Prayers

Some of God’s greatest blessings may be in unanswered prayers.  That may not be theologically correct…exactly.  Unanswered prayer is what we are feeling sometimes, not the reality of what is happening in the heavenlies.  There are many Biblical references that substantiate that God hears every prayer and knows every intent and motive in our hearts.  It’s just that when we do not experience any outward sign of our petition that we think that perhaps God did not hear.  But because He loves us in a deeper way than we can comprehend, sometimes He holds back.  It is restrained grace.

God the Father 16

God the Father 16 (Photo credit: Waiting For The Word)

Sometimes our prayers are focused on the surface – changes that we believe would make our lives go on a little easier.  The requests no doubt line up with God’s will.  We pray for people in our lives and the choices made that cause them harm, ourselves included.  But sometimes it is in the waiting, the longing, even the suffering that His restrained grace has it’s full effect.

The Apostle Paul, when going through a troubling time wrote these words:

We think you ought to know, dear brothers and sisters, about the trouble we went through in the province of Asia.  We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it.  In fact we expected to die.  But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves, and learned to rely only on God…We placed our confidence in Him, and He will continue to rescue us.  II Corinthians 1:8-9a,10b

 

English: Saint paul arrested

English: Saint paul arrested (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Our lives are messy.  God is not any less loving than the parent or grandparent that steps back and allows the learning to take place, knowing it is for our ultimate good.  God’s plans and purposes are so much deeper than ours, and His restrained grace is always full of meaning and care.

In Psalm 77 the writer lamented:

When I was in deep trouble, I searched for the Lord.  All night long I prayed, with hands lifted toward heaven, but my soul was not comforted.”

But later in the Psalm when the writer regained his composure and insight he wrote:

But then I recall all you have done, O Lord;  I remember your wonderful deeds of long ago.  They are constantly in my thoughts.  I cannot stop thinking about your mighty works.

Both the Apostle Paul and the Psalmist recognized the mind game that unanswered prayer seems to be.  However God doesn’t play mind games.  It is a mental and emotional challenge for us and step of obedience for us to accept with trust His restrained grace for our good and His glory.  Paul in his troubled time learned to rely on God.  The Psalmist comprehended the importance of mentally reviewing how God had been faithful in the past and his thought patterns changed as a result.  He was able to see that, this too, is still in the hands of the Almighty.

May that which concerns your heart be committed to His restrained grace, and may you experience that day when the tears are ended with the night and you know the full joy of the morning.  Hang in there.

 

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Tenderhearted

As we lay down for a bedtime story my little five-year old granddaughter listened as I told her about the anointing of David to be King of Israel, even though he was just the baby in the family and not even thought worthy of consideration.  God looks at our hearts, I explained to her.  People just look at our outsides, God sees everything within.

Israel

Israel (Photo credit: tamar_levine)

The human heart can only be judged by God alone.  We sometimes think we know another person’s motives, but truly, God alone knows motive.  Oh, for the ability to see people as God does – from the heart perspective!  How thankful I am that God deals with me according to my heart – not my popularity, looks, financial situation, fame or any such external.

God the Father 05

God the Father 05 (Photo credit: Waiting For The Word)

It is so easy to get caught up in the way others view us – and that can have an effect on the condition of our hearts.  We ought often to remember that we play to a “one man audience,” and His opinion of us is the one that counts.  God knows how prone we are to allow other people and situations and things to become more important to us than they should.  The Old Testament speaks a lot of about the worship of idols which seem unrealistic and bizarre to us now, but the heart of people remain the same.  We tend to put other things in the place in our heart reserved for God alone – and that always causes trouble.   It starts spiritual heart disease, and changes our spiritual health.  It solidifies our hearts when they were meant to be soft and tender.  David was called a man after God’s own heart – because of the condition of his heart.  He still did things wronged and committed some devastating sins.  But when he repented he did it with his whole being and his heart condition returned to a gentle state before the Lord.

The prophet Ezekiel gave us words of hope for the human heart:

And I will give them singleness of heart and put a new Spirit within them.  I will take away their stony stubborn heart and given them a tender responsive heart so they will obey my decrees and regulations.  Then they will truly be my people, and I will be their God.  Ezekiel 11:19-20.

God the Father 01

God the Father 01 (Photo credit: Waiting For The Word)

There are many things that can be instruments to harden our hearts – disappointments, hurts, betrayal, rejection, financial reversals, tragedy, and the list goes on.  A human heart either becomes harder or softer one tiny decision at a time.  Turning to God exactly at that moment when our hearts hurt allows positive change to take place.  It’s a daily surrender.  Being able to trust God even when life is hard restores our hearts to its tenderness, giving us supernatural peace to face our circumstances and genuine hope to help others along the way.

 

 

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The Boston Crisis – Lord, Have Mercy

We flew out of Boston just two weeks before 911, and from the same airport where the terrorists took off.  We have a friend who was in the Boston Marathon, and we are relieved to hear she is well and safe.  It’s astounding how close terror comes to us.  If it is not us directly affected, it may be someone we know or just another step removed.  Even if we don’t have a direct connection, the television screen and internet record the faces of people just like you and I…we shake our head and get a knot in our stomach as we consider the ramifications of evil acts towards innocent people.  How could this be happening?  Again we are in national crisis.

History records time and time again, “man’s inhumanity toward man.”  How could it be that this human race that is capable of building hospitals and sending people to the moon and sending missionaries into dangerous tribes to share the peace of Christ can also bring into being those who would instigate acts of terror on the innocent?  It’s frightening to think of what we, as human beings, are capable of given the wrong circumstances, bad influences, and an openness to play at evil like it’s nothing to take seriously.  Lord, have mercy.

Thoughts matter.  Thoughts lead to actions.  Actions can be for incredible good, like those who ran into harm’s way today to rescue the injured, or actions can be horrific, like the one(s) who put those bombs together.  What we think has enormous consequences.  What we choose to fill our mind with, day-by-day, influences others for the good or the bad.  Very little in life is neutral.

Have mercy on us God.  We need You.  Please comfort the grieving, heal the hurting, give strength and energy to those who are giving of themselves on a level more than they can handle to make a difference for good in this situation.  Use, as only You can, even this devastating crisis to bring about the best that people can be.  Send those with courageous acts of love and determination to make the world better directly to combat those who would obey evil impulses.  Fill the helpers with Your Spirit!  Protect them, supply them with superhuman energy and inspire them with Your greatness!  We cry out to You, Lord Jesus, our hope.  We acknowlege that You understand suffering like no other, because You went to the cross on our behalf.  You said, “Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing.”  Lord, have mercy on us.

 

 

 

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Rock Solid Identity

What is your identity?  Who are you?

We wrestle with those questions from Jr. High days on forward.  Our identity colors what we think about ourselves, how we choose to act and with what our hearts resonate.

We often think of a relationship when considering our identity.  A parent of, a child of, a spouse of etc.  Or we think in terms of our vocation, our occupation.  I am a ………..butler, a banker, a candlestick maker.  Or we may identify with our favorite pastime – a fan of a sports team, a “skater,” a “surfer,” a “blogger,” a quilter.”

When we identify ourselves in one of those areas our worlds can be quickly shaken if something goes a rye.  If our pride and joy is being a parent and our kids make choices that break our hearts we wonder if we are good at anything at all.  Or if we are very proud of our parents and they are our stability in life, then when one of them makes a decision that makes us ashamed, our world is rocked.   If we are all about our business ventures and they go south, again, an identity crisis.  If our self-concept has to do with our physical health and that changes then we re-evaluate who we are in this season of life.

The only rock solid identity is that of a child of God.  No one can take that away.  No life change can break the cement of that relationship made available through Jesus Christ.  Hear the words of David, when he was in trouble:

I waited patiently for the Lord to help me, and He turned to me and heard my cry.  He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire.  He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along.  He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God.  Many will see what He has done and be amazed.  They will put their trust in the Lord.

Faith in the One who will never leave us or forsake us provides a strong foundation for our identity.  From Mrs. Charles E. Cowman, author of Streams in the Desert:

Faith rests on the naked Word of God.  When we take Him at His Word the heart is at peace.

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