Grace in Forgiveness

graceForgive us for our sins, because we forgive everyone who has done wrong to us. (Luke 11:4)

Ponder It.

  • When have you struggled to extend forgiveness to someone?
  • When have you struggled to receive forgiveness from someone?
  • How completely do you accept God’s forgiveness of you?

Receive It. Grace is sufficient for forgiveness. In fact, true forgiveness cannot be given without God’s grace. Forgiveness is not easy. It’s easier in some circumstances than others, but it’s definitely not a simple process. It’s not the same in every situation. There will be times when someone says “I’m sorry,” and you can easily say, “No problem!” Other times you might hold onto the hurt for years. Someone might not actually say he or she is sorry. You might wait, expecting an apology and expecting to be able to forgive once the apology is given, but if you can’t forgive without the apology, you likely can’t fully forgive with the apology. Your forgiveness isn’t reliant on someone’s guilt and offering of forgiveness. People often want justice and can’t imagine getting it without something tangible. God’s forgiveness doesn’t require justice. If it did, none of us would be forgiven. God’s way of forgiving is undeserved. Even when we know someone doesn’t deserve our forgiveness, we have to extend it when we’re living by God’s will. We forgive because of who God is. Forgiveness doesn’t mean you don’t learn lessons from what has happened in the past. It doesn’t mean you never think about it again. It doesn’t mean whatever is forgiven has no impact on your life. There are still consequences. Forgiveness simply places the situation in God’s hands. It’s the act of saying to God, “I yield this to you and trust you in guiding me how to deal with it. Use it to draw me close to you.” Forgiveness is more about your relationship with God than the worldly justice you crave.

Live It. Say “I forgive” to someone today. It can be someone in your past or present. It can be verbal or written. You might need to say it to God because you no longer have contact with the person or don’t know how to reach her/him. It might be for something small or something big. It might be for a small piece of a larger issue or the big issue itself. Start somewhere. Start today.

Extending (and Witholding) Forgiveness

imagesThen Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how many times could my brother sin against me and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” (Matthew 18:21)

Jesus answers Peter’s question with a parable of a man who was greatly forgiven, then refused to forgive a much smaller debt. Whether the debts against us are big or small, I wonder: How often do we not extend the forgiveness, grace, and mercy that God has extended to us?

I know, it’s easier to carry a grudge, to hang on to the hurt. It’s easier to remember the offense and recall it in a way that might punish the other person. We might want to hold the person in a cell, trapped by what he or she did.

But in that process, we trap ourselves, too. We can only truly experience the freedom we claim for ourselves and also extend to others.

Extending (and witholding) forgiveness is, in reality, accepting (or rejecting) freedom.

Celebrating the Prodigal

indexHe also said: “A man had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the estate I have coming to me.’ So he distributed the assets to them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered together all he had and traveled to a distant country, where he squandered his estate in foolish living...

while the son was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion. He ran, threw his arms around his neck, and kissed him. The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight. I’m no longer worthy to be called your son.’

But the father told his slaves, ‘Quick! Bring out the best robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Then bring the fattened calf and slaughter it, and let’s celebrate with a feast, because this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ So they began to celebrate.” (Luke 15:11-13,19-24)

We are all prodigals. We all run from something at some point in hopes that we can escape one thing or person to find something or someone better. We all have running in common. Maybe not the same circumstance, but the same type of action. So, judging each other for running is nothing more than calling out our own faults and shortcomings.

What sets us apart is how we see and receive others when they run. Is our response like the father’s? Do we expect people to pay a certain price, learn specific lessons, and say the words we want to hear from them, or do we let God work in their lives and expect grace, mercy, and forgiveness as He would?

An Honest Plea

15982610748_624795b881_oOnly God can be fully forgiving, compassionate, and cleansing. Only He is blameless. He desires our integrity. He restores us. When we trust His authority and claim His character and promises, then we are able to receive His fullness.

The first step is an honest plea:

Be gracious to me, God, according to Your faithful love; according to Your abundant  compassion, blot out my rebellion. Wash away my guilt and cleanse me from my sin. For I am conscious of my rebellion, and my sin is always before me. Against You—You alone—I have sinned and done this evil in Your sight. So You are right when You pass sentence; You are blameless when You judge. Indeed, I was guilty when I was born; I was sinful when my mother conceived me. Surely You desire integrity in the inner self, and You teach me wisdom deep within. Purify me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones You have crushed rejoice. Turn Your face away from my sins and blot out all my guilt. God, create a clean heart for me and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not banish me from Your presence or take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore the joy of Your salvation to me, and give me a willing spirit. Then I will teach the rebellious Your ways, and sinners will return to You. (Psalm 51:1-13)

Wake Up Call

You acted in secret, but I will do this before all Israel and in broad daylight.

David responded to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.”(2 Samuel 12:11-12)

indexWhen faced with the truth of what we’ve done, it can be a wake up call. We might have rationalized choices along the way, one after another that seemed to fit and make sense. But then we face the truth.

If we are honest and wise, we will respond with immediate humility, reverence, and submission to the truth instead of rationalizing or blaming.

There will still be consequences, but God is able to immediately forgive us and help us move on.

Perhaps you can faintly hear a wake-up call right now. Tune out everything else. Listen. Wake up. Change.

What Do You Want More Than Anything?

Help me want the Healer more than the healing.
Help me want the Savior more than the saving.
Help me want the Giver more than the giving.
Help me want you Jesus more than anything.

There are a lot of things we want. Healing for loved ones. Rescue for hurting people. Gifts to be able to use for God’s glory. All things with good intent, but how often do we want to result more than we want a relationship with God? Are we willing to give up the outcome we expect to be best for the relationship that will be better?

I’ve listened many times to Natalie Grant’s More Than Anything, and it has become an ongoing prayer for me. I don’t want to confuse what I want with Who I want. I don’t want to put the benefits that God can give me ahead of the relationship He gives me. He gives me Himself, not just blessings, grace, mercy, forgiveness, provision, understanding, and so on.

I want to to know the One who knows all more than receiving a specific answer. I want to know the Provider more than a specific provision. I want to know the One who created me and gives purpose to my life more than I can explain creation and purpose. None of those benefits are bad things. In fact, they are very good things. They flow out of who God is. As I know Him better, all those benefits come in His doses and timing. But receiving them isn’t my goal.

Knowing Him is.

More than anything.

Steep, Don’t Dip

One of the things I appreciated most when recently speaking north of Toronto was the excellent tea. In most places I travel (and live), when I ask for a cup of hot tea, I get a cup of hot water with a tea bag. I don’t get tea; I get potential tea.

Tea needs to steep. That’s how the flavor floods the water so it is bold and consistent. Dipping a tea bag in water that cools with every passing second doesn’t have the same effect. Steeping requires heat and time.

There is a lot in our lives that needs to be steeped with heat and time, yet we prefer to dip. We cautiously, repeatedly dip and are satisfied with the results because we see some change. We don’t worry about the potential, better results we could get with a different process, because we rationalize contentment with our smaller efforts. We don’t want to endure the heat, and we certainly don’t want to wait across much time.

The topic of the weekend at the conference was joy, and we talked about how we can’t expect to truly experience the fullness of the joy God intends by just dipping into it every now and then. We need to steep in it, so that its flavor truly permeates us.

Isn’t that the case with so much of what God provides and wants for us?

What would happen if we steeped in His love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control? His mercy, grace, forgiveness, generosity, wisdom, power, justice, and compassion?

Steep or dip? It’s your choice.