Forgiveness Follow-Up

sorry

The very week I posted a blog on forgiveness, my pastor preached on the same topic. Many of his words were more eloquent than mine, so I’d like to share a few of them today.

What forgiveness doesn’t promise:

A free pass. Forgiveness doesn’t always bring release from consequences, no matter what our status in life may be. King Saul still lost the throne. King David still lost a child. And we still suffer the penalties of sin.

Restored relationships. Forgiveness doesn’t always lead to restored trust. We can forgive abusive behavior without allowing it to continue. However, if restoration is going to occur, it can’t happen without forgiveness.

Why we don’t forgive:

Conviction. Sometimes we don’t forgive because we are convinced that we are right. God needs to be the only judge of rightness. No one will ever be saved because of our judgement, but perhaps our forgiveness will draw someone closer to Christ.

Vengeance. When we seek vengeance, we are stepping in to do the will of God, and we are sinning.

Why we must forgive:

Obedience. We forgive because the Bible tells us to, and when we forgive, we are used by God.  (This could be a one-sentence blog, because that last line is all we really need to know!)

Our own sin. We forgive because we have been forgiven, and because we continue to need forgiveness.

How we ought to forgive:

Quickly. The sooner we forgive, the less likely we are to give our enemy a chance to create division in our hearts or our relationships. A brick or two can be removed easily. A brick wall? Not so simple.

Prayerfully. It’s hard to stay mad at our offenders while praying for them at the same time. Pray for those who have hurt you in big ways and in small.

Without forgetting. “Forgive and forget” is rarely possible. Furthermore, the miracle of real forgiveness comes in remembering the sin or brokenness of another and choosing to love and forgive nonetheless. If we forget sin, then what does it really cost us to love someone?

Thank you, Matt, for allowing me to share your words. What about the rest of you? What have you learned about forgiveness? I’d love for you to share your thoughts in the comments box below.

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Power (by Beth Smith)

christ pix 9 7 17Matthew Chapter 9 recounts a story of two blind men who called out to Jesus, saying, “Have mercy on us, Son of David.” (They had heard that Jesus could heal.)

Jesus asked them an important question, “Do you believe I’m able to do this?”

We pray, “Lord, help me. I need …” Can God really answer our prayers? Do we believe that he is able? Sometimes we give lip service to our belief that God is all powerful, but our hearts are not convinced. God’s Word, though, is completely clear and convincing. He tells us over and over again that he is fully able to meet every one of our needs. The Bible tells us that, among many other might acts, he

  • created a dry path through the sea.
  • stretched the daylight hours.
  • rained down bread from heaven
  • multiplied fish and bread.
  • stopped a storm.

He broke Peter out of jail in the middle of the night, even though that man of God was chained between two guards and watched by at least a dozen more. Peter hightailed it to a home where believers were gathered and knocked on the door. A young girl saw him, squealed with joy, slammed the door shut in Peter’s face, and ran to tell the others. “You’re crazy!” they told her. (They were just as slow to believe that God can miraculously change circumstances as we are.) When they finally opened the door, they were amazed by God’s power.

Peter, the same man who could fall asleep between two guards as he awaited almost certain death, had been a man full of fear just years earlier. Three times, he denied that he knew our Lord, afraid that he too would be arrested. Jesus changed Peter from a chicken to a lion.

We serve the same Lord who calmed the storms, rescued Peter, and then turned him into a fearless evangelist. He tells us that he is the same yesterday, today and forever. (Check out Hebrews 13:8.) Everything he did then, he can do now. When we pray, we need to do like the two blind men before Christ and say, “Yes, Lord, you are able to do all things.”

God is able [to carry out His purpose and] to do super abundantly, far over and above, all that we dare to ask or think [infinitely beyond our highest prayers, thoughts, hopes or dreams]” (Ephesians 3:20 AMP).

Oh how we thrive when we know deep in our hearts that we serve an awesome and powerful God! We want to own that fact, to bank on it, and to live within its security. We want to let God demonstrate his power and ability in our lives. And we can, because God says we can do all things through Christ.

Do Not Listen!

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When we listen to the chatter swirling about in the world, it often sounds like this:

  •             Be afraid.
  •             You haven’t got a chance.
  •             Give in or give up.

Hezekiah king of Judah, touted by the Old Testament as an excellent ruler who kept God’s commands, knew what to do with such chatter. Refuse to listen.

Sennacherib king of Assyria planned to destroy Hezekiah’s city, and he wanted all its inhabitants to know it. His messenger went to the city wall and called out, “Do not let Hezekiah persuade you to trust in the Lord when he says, ‘The Lord will surely deliver us; this city will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria’… Has the god of any nation ever delivered his land from the hand of the king of Assyria? Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim, Hena and Ivvah? Have they rescued Samaria from my hand? Who of all the gods of these countries has been able to save his land from me? How then can the Lord deliver Jerusalem from my hand?” (2 Kings 18:29, 30, 33-35).

Hezekiah commanded his people to remain silent, ignoring the messenger. He consulted with the prophet Isaiah, who brought these encouraging words, “This is what the Lord says: Do not be afraid of what you have heard—those words with which the underlings of the king of Assyria have blasphemed me.  Listen! When he hears a certain report, I will make him want to return to his own country, and there I will have him cut down with the sword’” (2 Kings 19:6, 7).

Hezekiah responded by asserting his trust in the Lord, “Give ear, Lord, and hear; open your eyes, Lord, and see; listen to the words Sennacherib has sent to ridicule the living God…Now, Lord our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone, Lord, are God” (2 Kings 19: 16, 19).

God delivered Hezekiah’s people in a mighty way. The end of the chapter tells us, “That night the angel of the Lord went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand in the Assyrian camp. When the people got up the next morning—there were all the dead bodies! So Sennacherib king of Assyria broke camp and withdrew. He returned to Nineveh and stayed there. One day, while he was worshiping in the temple of his god Nisrok, his sons Adrammelek and Sharezer killed him with the sword, and they escaped to the land of Ararat. And Esarhaddon his son succeeded him as king” (2 Kings 19: 35-37).

It doesn’t really matter how things look to our eyes. God is always in control. He always has the means to rescue us. When we hear discouraging chatter, we can learn from Hezekiah: Just don’t listen!

Forgiveness by the Book

forgiveness pixabay 9 7 17“I forgave you the moment those words came out of your mouth.”

No, sad to say, that’s not a Brenda Koinis quote. It’s something I read in a novel a few days ago. I’ve never said those words. I’m not sure it’s ever occurred to me to think them. Until now. Why not? Why do we wait to forgive?

Should forgiveness hinge upon an apology? Romans 5:8 says, “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Our Lord didn’t wait to forgive us. Perhaps we want to postpone our grace until the offending party seems deserving of it. We’d better watch out for that excuse. We’re never deserving of divine grace, but have—each and every one of us—received plenty of it.

Maybe we’ve convinced ourselves that we cannot forgive until our emotions allow us to do so. Wrong again. In much of life we are forced to behave counter to our feelings. (Did you feel like going to work today? Or doing the dishes last night?) Why should forgiveness be any different? Forgiveness is a choice, and we may have to commit and re-commit to that choice countless times before our feelings follow suit.

Is there underlying menace in our reluctance to forgive? Do we hope to exact some sort of punishment by our delay. We must stop. We are hurting ourselves, as well as others we have no right to hurt.

I once heard a great tip regarding life’s mishaps: “If we are going to laugh about this someday, we might as well laugh about it now.” Easily edited, this quote is at least as wise when it reads, “If we are going to forgive this transgression someday, we might as well forgive it now.”

Forgiveness never means approval. It doesn’t equate with saying, “I have decided you were right.” Forgiveness may not remove the consequences of a misstep. It is simply a matter of the heart. It opens an avenue to reconnection, and it puts us squarely on the path of walking in our Father’s steps.

 

 

Even as my Texas and Florida friends continue to repair their lives and homes after flooding, new friends in California are suffering from fires. Please take a moment now to ask the Lord to intervene, then join me in prayer throughout the coming days whenever those in peril come to mind. 

 

Rain

Dagny cookies

It was raining as we drove to Charlie’s birthday party, but first birthday parties are a rare and beautiful thing, never to be missed on account of moisture. We ran through the puddles and up the walk to join a festive crowd feasting on loaded platters of goodies and snapping enough photographs to keep Facebook happy for days. The first thing I noticed was the cookie tray, because Charlie’s mom is an ace in that department (see above). Then I noticed the sign (see below).

dagny sign

I thought, “I should blog about that one day,” took a photo of those thought provoking words, filed it away, and never got back to it.

Then Harvey came, and I wondered if those same words sounded too light and trite, too “just smile and bear it and move on.” I don’t believe God ever means for us to plaster a fake smile on our hurting selves and pretend there is no pain in this life. There is pain. Why else would there be so many Bible verses about comfort? We wouldn’t need comfort if we didn’t have pain.

I do believe the words, “Don’t worry. Be happy.” Don’t worry. Don’t look into the future and assume that all will be forever lost. God is on our side and has the power to do all things, to provide even beyond our asking. Be happy, or joyful if that makes you feel better about the word choice. Underneath all the present pain or rain, we know the One who makes the sun shine is still in charge.

Still we cry, we suffer, and we struggle to tap into the truth, to draw strength from that which we cannot yet see. Harvey wasn’t the only storm many of us will face this year. And when those storms come, it won’t work to hold our breath until they pass. We have to keep going, keep walking, keep working. And when we are truly trusting, maybe we can even allow our hearts to dance. 

           

God’s Crop by Beth Smith *

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When I was teaching high school, I had a poster in my classrooms. It was a picture of a flower growing out of a tiny crack in a mass of rocks.  The caption read, “Bloom where you are planted.” Good idea—maybe even a little inspirational—but how typical of a teacher to tell you to do something without giving so much as a clue as to how to do it!

How do we bloom in God’s garden? God has created us to bring him glory. As the Master Gardener, he puts us in the best soil, setting our roots in his love. And oh what love! In Ephesians 3:17-19 (NIV), Paul writes: “I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge.”

Once we’re planted, God takes care of us so that we can grow. He waters us. You’ve seen grass, plants, and flowers all curled up and about to die because of drought conditions. After a good rain they’re all plumped up and beautiful again.  We get droopy and dried up if we don’t read God’s Word. If you feel as if you’re going through a dry period, Isaiah 58:11 (NLT) provides this encouragement, “The Lord will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry and restoring your strength. You will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring.” Get in there. Read his Word. Get watered.

God also feeds his garden. We’re fed by his Word. “Trust (lean on, rely on, and be confident) in the Lord and do good; so shall you dwell in the land and feed surely on his faithfulness, and truly you shall be fed” (Psalm 37:3 AMP). Maybe faithfulness is God’s weed and feed product. As we feed on his faithfulness, we begin to see that we can trust him more and more. That trust begins to kill the weeds of fear and doubt and worry.

Plants must also be pruned to keep them healthy. (We don’t like to talk about that very much.) Jesus said that God cuts off branches which bear no fruit, trimming and cleaning the ones that do bear fruit so that they will be even more fruitful. Pruning makes us more productive in his kingdom. It’s painful to us when we don’t agree with God about what needs to go. Of course, we know in our spirits that God knows best. Hard as it is, we need to say, “Cut away, Lord.”

In winter weather, we often see tarps, old sheets, and old table cloths thrown over plants to protect them. God protects us in cold, hard, and difficult times. Read Psalm 121 sometime soon. It will confirm God’s care and protection of you.

In the hands of the Master Gardener we can be sure we’ll flower. We’ll be fruitful. We’ll fulfill our purpose – to glorify Him. That’s the way we’ll show God’s love and goodness to the world around us.

*In case you’re new to this blog, Beth Smith is my mom. You can read more of her work in Every Wednesday Morning, available at etsy.com.