Part II: Forgive by Beth Smith

In Matthew 6:14-15(NIV), Jesus said, “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”  The longer we harbor unforgiveness, the deeper the root gets, and the more it affects our attitudes and our relationships. Let’s examine our hearts for any unconfessed unforgiveness. Then, finally once and for all, confess it and give the person or situation over to God.

To forgive someone doesn’t mean that we approve of their actions, nor are we excusing what was done. We’re not saying, “Oh, that’s okay. Just forget it.” We’re simply making a choice to forgive the person and leave him in God’s hands. Forgiveness is a choice, not a feeling. This is very serious business and vital to our relationship with God. Don’t let the devil or your mind tell you, “You didn’t really forgive. You don’t feel any different.”

Just say, “Oh yes I did! My feelings are up to God. I choose to forgive.” When we forgive, we become able to plant those seeds of love and reap a harvest.

  • We can sow peace. We don’t have to be right all of the time. We don’t need to argue about everything.
  • We can sow encouragement. We can look for the good in people and tell them about it.
  • We can sow patience. No, “they” do not need to do “it” right this minute.
  • We can sow gentleness. The seeds of a soft answer, a tender word, a pat on the back, or a hug can help overcome an angry situation.

Many years ago, I attended a Bible study that centered on improving marriages. (Deep inside, I felt that my husband Bert should be attending. Certainly, he needed it more than I.) The main points of the three-session seminar were the Triple “A” system. We were to concentrate on: adapting to, admiring, and appreciating our husbands. (Well, phooey, now I knew Bert should be doing it. He always got his way. I was the one who needed to be admired and appreciated.) But I did the Triple “A” system. I planted those three seeds. And guess what! After sixty-five years of marriage, Bert does the Triple A system better than I do. I may have sown the seeds, but, oh, what a healthy harvest God has produced for me!

Sometimes we may wonder if we are capable of planting good seeds. The Bible says we can.

  • Grace abounds to us so that we can abound in good works” (2 Corinthians 9:8 NIV).
  • For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10 NIV).

What we do might seem as small as little seeds, but our acts of love, sometimes fueled by forgiveness, can produce a joyful harvest. What we sow, we will reap.

From Friendship to Family

I’ve been focusing on marriage and parenting for the last two weeks, with a nod to the crossover these words have regarding friendship. This week, I’d like to share words from my pastor, Matt, with specific focus on friendship, although I’m sure you’ll see that everything he says carries over into marriage and parenting as well. After that, I’ll share a few more resources with you.

  • A friend shows up.
  • A friend sticks around.
  • A friend pays attention, takes the initiative in meeting a need, and goes the extra mile without being asked.
  • Friends pursue a common goal. For believers, that means—most of all—they pursue the Lord together.
  • It takes great courage to be a friend. 
  • All true friendships require a willingness to be second, to love to the point of sacrifice, to open oneself up enough to speak the truth (with kindness!) and, as Proverbs 17:17 says, to “love at all times.”
  • Married? Be friends!
  • Single? Be a friend to at least a few who need your friendship and bring you joy.

(And, parents, without losing your position of authority, remember to be friends with your kids!)

More resources:

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Family Values, and Valuing Family

Photo by William Fortunato on Pexels.com

First, let me explain. I used a colorful question mark as my photo last week. My daughter graciously alerted me to the fact that it was NOT formed from beads, but from pills. It was really too late to do anything about that, so, in case any of you are confused, it was just a silly error on my part. Now, on to the good stuff:

A couple of good friends asked me to write about marriage and parenting, so I started a long list of thoughts and challenges last week. As I continue, I think you’ll find that, in almost every case, what works in marriage works in parenting as well. Calm kindness carries the day.

  • Love the other person more than yourself.
  • Beware those time-sucking, attitude altering screens we now have all over our homes and in our pockets. Discover better ways to rest and play together.
  • Believe the best of one another always. Never assume the worst.
  • Take walks together often; they open up special opportunities for communication.
  • Say “yes” and “I love you” many times every day.
  • Follow all of God’s rules, but don’t put much stock in the ones man makes up.
  • Tithe, and spend less than you make. Teach your kids to do the same.
  • Be generous to one another. (And generosity doesn’t have to be expensive.)
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Because You Asked

Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

A couple of good friends asked me to write about marriage and parenting. As you will see, some of this may be familiar to those of you who know me well. In that case, consider this a refresher course. Some of you may be neither married nor parents. If so, consider this a course in how to be a good friend, exuding kindness, patience and compassion. In most cases, you’ll discover the same words that apply to a good marriage usually apply to good parenting.

My favorite sermons, podcasts, and advice books are filled with clear instructions, sentences I can turn into actions. So, I’m going to offer clear, actionable advice here, and I’m going to do it in bullet form—way, way too many bullets for anyone to tackle in a week or a month. I’m hoping you’ll go through this list and prayerfully choose areas where you think you ought to improve. Focus on those until you’ve mastered them well enough to move on to a few more. If this list leaves you wanting to ask a question or get more details, let me know.

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Legacies: One Wedding and a Funeral

I love weddings, and just got back from yet another delightful one. Of course, I could tell you all about the cake and the flowers, the great music, the adorable children, and the shock of winning the “who’s been married the longest” dance-off. But instead, I want to tell you about the vows. The happy couple said their traditional “I do’s,” but they also wrote personal vows to share with one another and, since I was one of the fortunate on-lookers, with me. Here’s what the groom said:

“Today is not only the beginning of a covenant commitment, but the fulfillment of God’s promise. Psalm 37:4 reads, ‘Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.’ Little did I know that those times I prayed for my future wife, I was praying for you. You are a testimony to God’s goodness and blessing in my life. We know that marriage will not be easy. There will be times where our marriage is tested with trials and uncertainty. I promise that you can always count on two things—the faithfulness of God and my unwavering commitment to you. It’s my delight to serve you, my privilege to lead you, my honor to protect you, my delight to build you up, and my joy to spend forever with you. Today I am making a covenant with you before God and everyone that I will love you selflessly and sacrificially until God calls me home.”

Wow! What a blessing to watch a new marriage begin! And what a great reminder: the promises made by that young man are the same ones we who are married can and should make anew every day!

But life is not all about romance and beginnings. We walk through endings as well. My Uncle Jack died last month. I had a chance to sit by his bedside just days before he passed into heaven. Soon thereafter Steve and I attended his funeral—the best, if it’s okay to say so, that we’ve ever experienced. I want to tell you part of what Jack’s son said about his dad.

  • “He believed God wants every child to grow up in a loving home.”
  • “Whenever he saw a problem, he always tried to do something about it. No one could tell him he couldn’t.”
  • “His life was a life that was lived in obedience to God’s call and to his purpose.”
  • “Of all the things he taught me, I will remember these three things: Think about others. You matter, and you can have an impact. Persist.”

Those words are now a part of Jack’s legacy. They honor him even as they challenge me. I hope they challenge you as well, and spur you on to think about the legacy you are creating.

What are you teaching others by word and deed? And are you living in obedience to God’s call and to his purpose. If so, hallelujah! If not, time to get started!

*photo by 3D_Maennchen via Pixabay.com

 

54

wedding Beatriz Perez Moya via Unsplash.com

Today marks the 54th anniversary of a couple dear to me. In their honor, I’m writing about marriage today. But if you’re single, think of it as tips for a deep and dear friendship.

Our pastor, Ky, said this about marriage: “The essence of marriage is for 2 people to live out gospel grace with each other.”

What does that look like in a practical sense?

  • I think it involves spending time together. For Steve and me that includes syncing our schedules as much as possible, and being very careful about our use of “screens.” Taking regular walks together enhances our communication, as does just sitting down to the table for a meal or a game.
  • It includes making prayer a priority—together and out loud—even if it’s only for a couple of minutes a day.
  • And it means each putting the other first.

This excerpt from an earlier blog based on the writings of Sheldon Van Auken covers a great deal of marital grace. His lesson is two-pronged:

  • Love others far beyond yourself.
  • Do your best to trust the people you love.

Sheldon and his wife, Davy, made this pledge to one another: “Whatever one of us asked the other to do – it was assumed the asker would weigh all the consequences – the other would do. Thus one might wake the other in the night and ask for a cup of water; and the other would peacefully (and sleepily) fetch it. We, in fact, defined courtesy as ‘a cup of water in the night’. And we considered it a very great courtesy to ask for the cup as well as to fetch it.”

Imagine what would happen if all requests between spouses (and, for that matter, friends) were handled in this manner! Were love and trust to prevail, there would be little room for discord. I try to ask of Steve only that which I have already weighed and considered best for him to do. And while I sometimes fail, it is my intention never to question his requests of me. In a perfect world, where the “cup of water in the night” principle reigns, each request one of us makes of the other is granted if at all possible. Isn’t it what our Lord would do and would have us to do?

Grace. It’s a tricky thing. May we give and receive more and more of it as the years go by! (If you have a tip to share regarding grace in marriage, please send it on!)

And for a bit more of Sheldon Van Auken’s wisdom, here’s another archived blog:https://smoothersailing.wordpress.com/2015/04/29/scratch-and-dent/