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.

Grace in Justice

graceGod does not twist justice; the Almighty does not make wrong what is right. (Job 8:3)

Ponder It.

  • When have you taken God’s justice into your own hands?
  • When have you experienced “unfair” justice?
  • How have you personally experienced God’s justice?

Receive It. Just as God wants us to love what he loves, he also wants us to hate what he hates. Let’s be clear. God doesn’t hate people. They are his creation, and he has a purpose for each person, whether he or she fulfills it or not. He doesn’t want to lose a single person from eternal life with him, but he gives us choice, and our eternal lives are impact by those choices. God hates sin. He hates anything that comes between us and him. “Right” is that which is of God and is within his will. “Wrong” is what is against God’s will. Because we are made in his image and intended to become more like him every moment as we pursue him through faith, we’re to love what he loves and hate what he hates, which means we need to be familiar with both.

We don’t carry the responsibility of God’s justice. That’s his role. There’s a difference between being the judge and jury and being a discerning believer who isn’t gullible enough to accept falsehoods or too proud to acknowledge or assume truth. As we become familiar with God’s will and he stirs the passions within us, he will let us know when we need to respond appropriately to something that angers him. We don’t have to fix everything. We don’t need to convict someone. But we also don’t need to stand beside the road and ignore what God hates. The key is discernment, trusting God’s timing in every response of thought, words and actions.

Live It. Consider how God’s justice has helped you grow. Thank him for being just and ask him to help you reflect his justice in every response you have today.

Comfort for the Oppressed

1275416Again, I observed all the acts of oppression being done under the sun.Look at the tears of those who are oppressed; they have no one to comfort them. Power is with those who oppress them; they have no one to comfort them. (Ecclesiastes 4:1)

I feel this way sometimes, glimpsing oppression around the world today. I don’t see it all. It would be too overwhelming if I could. I feel anger, compassion, and justice swell within me.

Young girls being sexually exploited, fathers separated from their families to work for wages that only keep them trapped, mothers who are taken advantage of when their only goal is to care for their children. People, treated like objects, a means to an end.

Solomon declared there is no one to comfort them. And when I think of the oppressed in situations where they are isolated, I wonder where they might get comfort. What they believe as comfort isn’t the same as what you and I would see as comfort.

We cannot fix all the ills of the world, but we can do something. We can refuse to be silent. We can pray. We can keep our eyes open for warning signs. We can refuse to believe we can swoop in and save everyone, but we can persistently find ways that will truly help in the long run. We can be patient but refuse to be passive. We can get informed.

We can see, and we can notice, and all of our efforts together may just count as a balm of comfort.

He Doesn’t Forget

1455061_10151968801494280_1986483280_nHe does not forget the cry of the afflicted. (Psalm 9:12b)

It seems like God forgets the cries of the afflicted sometimes, or maybe that He just ignores them. But that’s our own perspective. When we don’t like His response time, we decide to project what we believe His decision and process must be.

We’re often wrong.

We can trust and believe Him, no matter what. Even when we don’t understand, when we don’t like a situation, when we feel overlooked. God is still God. He is still powerful enough, compassionate enough, just enough, and patient enough.

“Enough” is more our issue than His.

Are We Neutral, or Do We Not Care?

Sometimes being neutral is just apathy. We claim neutrality, because we don’t want to take the time or effort to care. We don’t want to find out too much, because knowledge comes with responsibility. We’ve seen how information has impacted others. We’ve seen anger, stubbornness, and what seems to be futile arguments, and we don’t want any part of it. But when we avoid the negativity that can come with familiarity with an issue or situation, we also miss out on possible compassion.

We can’t be invested in every single issue, but when we’re faced with it, we need to explore it with honesty and sensitivity. We will always be able to find someone who knows more or is more passionate about an issue than we are, but that doesn’t mean we refuse to ask questions and make a difference in a small way.

As we pursue truth and justice, we might see a couple different perspectives, and we feel we’re neutral, but perhaps it’s just that we stand on some shared ground. We still care. We still listen. We’re not apathetic. We need to check out motivation behind claiming neutrality. If it’s the easy way out, we’re not taking responsibility. Apathy is dangerous, unstable ground on which to stand.


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.