Archive for category Repentance & Forgiveness
Ken and I attended a special meeting yesterday. I would identify it as a worship service—although we were drawn there because we’d been told a respected teacher would provide excellent teaching.
For the familiar reasons, we struggled with attending. 5:00 p.m. on Sunday afternoon is a good time to relax at home.
In the end, we went. And I’m don’t think I’ll ever be the same.
I hope not.
What was the life-changing message about? Well, part of it dealt with forgiving others. Part of it dealt with receiving forgiveness from God. Because it was about knowing God and receiving His grace—about knowing He loves, accepts, and forgives those with whom He has a relationship.
Oh, yes. Relationship was a major topic—because knowing God is more than knowing facts about Him or than having correct doctrines about Him. Knowing God involves interaction with Him.
But I could have told you all those things before we heard the message. I could have laid it all out systematically if asked to do so. And the speaker wasn’t systematic at all. He wound around, sharing not only his story but the stories of others as examples. All jumbled together.
He shared several Scripture passages, but I can’t tell you any of them today.
But as he meandered, the message somehow became Life. I not only heard and understood; I received the Holy Spirit in my inner being. Somehow, the Holy Spirit revealed and imparted and the Life of Christ.
To make sense of this—to explain why I needed this impartation—I’ll mention that I’ve struggled for several years, ever since we retired, with indefinable feelings of inadequacy and alienation that affected relationships with family and friends. I wanted to withdraw. At times I did withdraw. I wounded people, people I cared about.
I felt judged. From within because I felt guilty for not being able to respond the way I should have to others. And because I failed to meet reasonable expectations of others. And the more I failed, the deeper the despair. I knew that my failures—my sin, if you will—had caused schisms beyond repair. I felt family and friends could not forgive me. God was surely very disappointed, too.
The only thing left was operating without emotions.
Which only compounded matters.
I believe it was God’s grace that allowed me to begin bringing some of this up before a small group several months ago. (Because I was so desperate, I had begun attending a prayer group a few years ago—difficult because I knew and know so much about the Christian life. I can seemingly operate on a spiritual level while overcome by guilt, making it difficult to be transparent and honest before God and others.)
Meanwhile, in life outside the prayer group, I tried to extend love to a couple of people who are especially important to me on several occasions. Although I struggled during the processes—generally felt miserable, estranged—I believe the efforts were important.
And last night, as you might imagine I was uncomfortable as the speaker began.
He continued to probe deeper—to reveal more and more of human frailty and of God’ grace. I hope you won’t be surprised or disappointed when I tell you I cannot exactly explain what happened. I do know I was emotionally wasted and devastated.
And when it was over I was free.
Free from guilt.
My understanding of God’s grace somehow expanded. I realized that God was not surprised by my sin or my capacity for sin. He is not surprised by my failure to love with His love. He understands emotional weakness, and He accepts me and others just as we are. He receives us and loves us. By the end, I somehow knew God receives me, accepts me, loves me, and forgives me.
I went to sleep easily last night. And after waking up around 4:00, I easily returned to sleep.
Of course, there are thorny issues ahead: I can do nothing to change the past. Right now, at least, I have faith to believe I can live with the problems I’ve created, even with the wounds I inflicted. Because God’s grace will reach out to others. His grace can turn all things to good. And His grace is big enough to sustain me through the process.
I understand this faith will be challenged—and that my part will be limited to prayer, to hearing His voice, and to responding to His leading. There will be difficult times.
But truly, the grace that was big enough for this breakthrough will be big enough to sustain me during difficult times ahead. I cannot undo the damage my diseased soul wrought. But God set me free, and He can and will set others free as well.
If I try to remain in His grace, I’ll fail. But if I look to Him rather than to myself, His grace will continue to work on my behalf. I don’t expect it to actually be easy, but the hard part will not be self effort or working to make changes. It will be continuing to release my guilt, to receiving His forgiveness, and to move in others because He loves them.
I didn’t stand up during the call to ministry. I couldn’t. I was too overcome and remained glued to my seat. Nevertheless, transformation occurred. Something larger than mere understanding occurred. It would seem God’s Spirit penetrated my inner core, my heart. He wrought a new relationship between us.
Lord, I love You. I praise You. I come to You with joy. Because You love me. You welcome me. You desire to bless me even while I’m a sinner.
Praise Your Holy Name.
After an unusual week, I searched my files for something ready-made to post, and I found a rambling discourse. Even though it fails to express my appreciation, it seems almost appropriate because today we celebrated my husband’s birthday (I think he knows I appreciate him) and because this Wednesday we’ll celebrate the Fourth of July. So, with a few last-minute changes, here’s a new twist: something from the files.
Jesus said, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. (Mk. 12:30)
I love my family more than life. I really do. They even define who I am.
Yet I’ve loved God more than them for many years—all the while loving them more deeply because I loved God first. I simply know that apart from God, raising children and rejoicing in grandchildren would be meaningless. I believe a person needs to belong to something bigger than their earthly family.
I believe people need to find and understand their place in the family of God.
The family of God, identified in Scripture as the Church, is not a closed, limited group of people. It’s people bonded by relationship through their relationship with Jesus. It’s always growing, adding numbers as it includes new Christians who seek God’s grace.
So what’s my place in this family? How does my place change as I grow in grace or mature in the family of God?
I love my country and hope I’d be willing to die for it. I really do. My country even defines who I am.
Yet I love God more than country—and believe my citizenship is more productive because I love God first. To be an effective citizen, I need to belong to something bigger than an earthly kingdom.
I believe people need to find and understand their place of service as citizens in their country.
This bigger kingdom, identified in Scripture as the Kingdom of God, is more than a static group following rigid rules. It includes people bonded together under the authority of Christ, our Head. The authority of Jesus and His Kingdom is expanding as people respond to Christ and live the life of grace He offers.
So what’s my place in my earthly country? How does it change as I grow in grace and mature so I find my place in God’s kingdom?
I love my God and I get a bit frightened at times when I think I might not be willing to die for Him. More than anyone or anything, He defines who I am.
I turn to Him daily for strength and support. Although I’m a better wife and mother and a better citizen because of Him, that isn’t why I love Him. On a realistic but admittedly selfish level, I love Him because He loves me, and I need the daily reassurance that it is so.
I believe people need to find and walk in God’s love because He makes us better people.
But God is bigger than my need. Bigger than the needs of all people put together. And He’s willing to listen to the smallest prayers.
My focus changes when I turn to God apart rather than to family and country. I seek Him for selfish reasons, but He lifts me above my selfish desires. With Him, it’s not about finding my place, or fulfilling my obligations, or striving to serveas I want to serve.
This God of the universe reveals Himself and visits me. He’s made my life rich as I’ve struggled with heart-rending disappointments. He’s all about grace—and walking with Him is about His ability to establish a foundations of grace when I feel bereft. He gives and gives and gives some more.
Understanding this God is an impossible quest. Especially during a strange week when I have trouble thinking straight. But He’s bigger than my fatigue. Bigger than my quest, even. And the search—the journey towards understanding—fulfilles my deepest longing. He is worth everything.
If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. (I Jn. 1:8,9 NLT)
I’d been saved several years when I went through a season I did not understand. God wasn’t speaking through His Word. I read it every morning, but nothing came to life. I felt bereft of spiritual insight. I wondered if I’d really been walking with God. Had my salvation been just an emotional gig? A literary adventure?
At the time, the possibility seemed plausible and frightening.
Then one morning, during my usual time in the Word, I read the verses above.
I read them differently than I’d read them before. Read them as a revelation. And I didn’t like the message. He somehow let me know He hadn’t shut the door on me.
No, I’d shut the door on Him when He asked me to forgive someone—and I’d ignored Him.
Of course, with my conscious mind I knew all along that I should love this difficult woman in our church. But it hadn’t become part of my inner response when He sent the gentle nudge my way.
And I hadn’t expected Him to be so sensitive. He hadn’t been in the past.
That morning God set a new standard for a new season: Love Me—Love my children. The two go together.
And as a mother, I understood. It’s so obvious, so simple. Why had I ignored His voice?
Something happened that day that’s happened more than once—or twice—or three times—or many times since. God seemed changed, different.
But He hadn’t changed and He wasn’t different.
I was changed and I was different. He had opened my heart to receive Him as I hadn’t received Him before.
Of course, it isn’t always easy to love, so the call to follow Him in love was and is ongoing. But that’s another post on another day. Suffice it to say here that if I truly understand His love for me—and His love for others—I can truly walk in love.
I know. It really makes no sense at all. I think, perhaps, that after salvation, loving others is one of God’s greatest miracles.
The point, however, is hearing Him when He reminds us to love. He’s the One who lets us know when we’re falling short.
Confessions can be positive or negative and, contrary to what some think, both can have value.
Based on Ruth 1:19-22, we see that when Naomi returned from Moab to Bethlehem, she didn’t try to pretend everything that had happened to her was good. And she made no claims for her future after her ten year absence. Rather, she confesses her great loss and her difficult circumstances.
But there’s always more. Additional Scriptures referred to include the story of the blind man found in John 9 and the story of the woman caught in adultery found in John 8.
In addition, Isaiah 30:18 offers understanding because it tells about this God who interacts with His people. To get the full benefit of the verse, read it alone and then read it within the context of the entire chapter.
Naomi surprises her daughters-in-law Oprah and Ruth after they begin their journey from Moab to Bethlehem of Judah. She gives each a choice that forces them to make a difficult decision.
The Scripture for this portion of their story is found in Ruth 1:8-19.