Book #1 for 2021 done. And it was a good choice to kick it off.
It’s time to let God heal you. It’s time to let God restore you. It’s time to let God do a mighty work.
Franklin takes the first half of the book to define and describe love.
Don’t speak to the fool in others; speak to the king in them.
Chapter four, “Stop Keeping Score and Start Losing Count,” by title alone moves you in the right direction. He had this to say about Jesus’ work on forgiving:
Before he could leave this earth, Jesus had to forgive those who were torturing him, those who were mocking him, those who were blaspheming him. This was important because God’s hands will not touch spirits that do not release forgiveness. Wherever you release forgiveness, you release the power of the Spirit of God.
For several chapters, Franklin focuses on the family. Why? Perhaps because it’s the place where we learn about love and also where we are most prone to be hurt by it.
You cannot be so spiritual that you neglect natural things. And you cannot be so natural that you neglect the spiritual things. God’s will is somewhere between Martha’s kitchen and Mary’s altar.
The final three chapters address one’s love relationship with God. He argues that the enemy’s goal is to create distrust. And what happens often is instead he pushes us to pray more, to run to God, and to increase our faith-particularly when we love like we’ve never been hurt.
Franklin wrote a Keeper.
In the last week I’ve been struck by a theme. It started with a conversation, then continued unexpectedly in the book I was reading.
In the conversation I realized a summary of how I was answering questions about my current life outlook had to do with being a good steward. My summary was this: “I’m trying to steward well my past, present, and future.” In a journal entry the next morning, I wrote four action words by those tenses that could describe that stewarding.
- Past: Learn, Forgive, Release, Praise
- Present: Abide, Listen, Observe, Praise
- Future: Anticipate, Release, Trust, Praise
As I chewed on these words and my summary, as God does, he showed out by having the next chapter in the book I was reading be on this very subject. Chapter 5 of A Life God Rewards is entitled “The Question of Your Life.” Using Jesus’ teachings, Bruce Wilkinson suggests that the important daily question for our lives should be this: “How will I steward what my Master has placed in my care?”
That’s what a steward does-manages his master’s assets. And in the case of a Christian’s life, those assets include talents, strengths, personality, and interests. Stewarding well requires faithfulness. Faithfulness to the action words in my journal entry may be a good place to start.
This week may be a God-given opportunity for all of us to chew on these thoughts. How do we steward the last year? How do we steward this week? How do we steward 2021?
May we all be good stewards for the Master!
I’ve continued to chew on the subject of forgiveness since posting about reading Forgiving Our Fathers and Mothers. And a question came to mind this morning. And then I thought and prayed about it through the eyes of Christmas.
Before I get ahead of myself, here’s the question: Who takes the first step in forgiveness?
Does the offender or the offended? The answer may seem obvious…until you stop and chew on it. The ideal scenario would be the offender. But what if they can’t take the first step? What does that mean, they can’t? Here are some reasons:
- They are no longer living. The conversation is no longer possible, so the offended person has to do the work of forgiveness never hearing what they wish they could.
- They genuinely don’t know. Has this ever happened to you? You found out down the road that you offended someone, but you had no idea about it. Whether the offender should have known or not really isn’t the first issue, in this case. They can’t seek forgiveness for what they don’t know-that the other person was offended.
- They innocently don’t know. Has this ever happened to you? You said or did something ignorant of it’s offensiveness. Similar to the previous scenario, they can’t seek forgiveness for what they don’t know-that their action was offensive.
- They don’t have the capacity. This may be the hardest to see and accept. That doesn’t change the reality that some people simply don’t have the capacity to seek forgiveness at the time the offended would like. That’s tough, but realizing that opens the door for forgiveness to move forward in a different scenario.
As I thought about encouraging those offended on taking the first step, I realized a connection with Christmas. All of us living today have a need for God’s forgiveness. But he didn’t wait for us to come to him to seek it in order to make it available. He took care of that before we were born. He took the first step. He did that when we couldn’t. How humbling! How glorious!
So can the offended take the first step? Yes. Is it easy? No. But it might be easier when you realize God did it for you. You can pass it along. You can take the first step.
(Photo by Pro Church Media on Unsplash)
I’ve read a few books on the subject of forgiveness. None of them match the one I just finished.
Alongside her exceptional writing, Leslie Fields makes this subject approachable through transparency and relatability. She doesn’t exploit or overstate. She tells her’s and other’s stories while paralleling them with familiar biblical ones. And although she’s addressing her journey to forgive her father, little of the biblical stories share the same context. The common need is becoming forgivers to the degree we have been forgiven.
The application and “what do I do with this” additional work by Dr. Hubbard makes this more than a well-told story. You have tools to do your forgiveness work. Outcomes or successes aren’t guaranteed, but you have what you need.
Here are seven examples of these ladies’ excellent work:
- You can’t grow up and be full adults until you can forgive your parents.
- We are all Jonahs who, in our unforgiveness, question whether we can or want to do the work of building the bridge of forgiveness that gives us the grace to see both good and bad in the one who has wronged us.
- No other religious faith claims that everything you’ve done wrong can be utterly covered and forgiven by another, by God himself.
- Sharing and crying with another is much more effective in moving us toward healing than all the crying done alone in our rooms. Talk therapy brings healing and has a positive impact on our brain chemistry.
- Boundaries are not steel doors slammed in a person’s face, but rather, loving and firm ways of saying no, not now, not here. Setting boundaries honors both people involved by not allowing either one to dishonor the other or the relationship through unacceptable words or actions.
- We can choose to reclaim our past for good-instead of replaying the same story over and over expecting something to change in the unending repetition. We do this by allowing ourselves to grieve, to mourn, to lament, to remember, to release, to revive, to live on, so that all may be well with our souls.
- We have made forgiveness too private, too small, and too hard. It is not a feeling we have to conjure up; it is an attitude of humility and love that seeks the good of the other, apart from worth or deserving. It is the living out of a daily decision to extend to others what God has extended first to us.
I came across a 6-day reading plan on YouVersion that is worth rereading over and over. The reading plan is called “Turn Your Wounds To Scars” by Vijay Thangiah. Day 4’s devotion touches on the importance of learning how to forgive in order for wounds to become scars. For a biblical example of someone putting this into practice, Day 5’s devotion goes to the end of Genesis. Take a guess at who the example is.
If you said Joseph, you’re correct. Joseph got wounded by just about everyone in his life. He bore many scars. Yet, he is lifted as a great example of forgiveness because of this statement to his brothers in chapter 50:
But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.
That’s a statement from a scar, not a wound.
In all my readings and hearing messages about this passage, I’ve never heard the following statement that was in Day 5’s devotional:
His brothers on the other hand had never been able to forgive themselves for the wrong that they had done to Joseph and were constantly living in fear. So 37 years after they threw him down a well and having lived under his gracious care for 20 years, once their father Jacob dies, they are still afraid that Joseph will seek revenge against them.
What this portrays is the weight we carry when we don’t understand or practice how to forgive ourselves. Joseph’s brothers were not afraid because of a recent act. Their fear was 37 years old. That’s a long time for the enemy to wreak havoc.
That havoc, unfortunately, may not live in just one heart. It may leak out into many relationships resulting in many wounds that have nothing to do with the original wound.
Your healing is possible. And it may actually start with you forgiving you.
Photo Credit: Unsplash/Felix Koutchinski
The media, culture, and environment in which we live has sought to define love as a feeling that lives rooted deep within our emotional character. This could not be farther from the truth when understood through the focused lens of God’s Word. God defines love not in emotional terms but in commitment and covenant. God has self-defined Himself as love and rests His identity in His intention that He will never recant that commitment to humanity nor will He break His own special covenant no matter our propensities toward sinfulness or spiritual rebellion. (-The Pastor’s Wife and The Other Woman)
I started a new book last night. This quote is from a section discussing how our choices regarding our time indicate what is significant to us.
What is significant is more than what feels good. What we know we can count on, what is solid, what has been tested, what has survived fire-that is significant.
When we question our significance to God, here are three questions to ponder:
- What promises has He kept?
- How has He shown Himself to me recently?
- When was the last time He forgave me?
Turning the spotlight on the other person in the relationship, here are three questions for us:
- What promises have I made to God?
- How am I looking for God each day?
- How do I open my heart to God?
One of my favorite songs right now is entitled “Known” by Tauren Wells.
It has a message that our culture needs: grace, identity, acceptance, faithfulness, and forgiveness, particularly from God.
I’ve recruited a few guest bloggers (Rick Howell, David Goodman, and Frank & Shelby Welch) for a collaboration based on this song. We will share how in 2019 God has shown he knows us. These will post on Wednesdays during December.
You got a story about being known by God this year? Feel free to share. If not on this platform, maybe share it this week in a personal conversation. It could be your answer to “What are you thankful for?”
“Whereas it is the duty of nations as well as of men to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions in humble sorrow yet with a sure hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon, and to recognize the sublime truth announced in the holy scriptures and proven by all history that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord, and in so much as we know that by his divine law nations, like individuals, are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world, may we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war, which now desolates the land, may be but a punishment inflicted upon us for our presumptuous sins to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole people?
We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven. We have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth, and power as no other nation has ever grown; but we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined in the deceitfulness of our hearts that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us. It behooves us then to humble ourselves before the offended power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.”
-A proclamation by the president, March 30, 1863, Our Presidents and Their Prayers
Abraham Lincoln proclaimed this 156 years ago. What might he proclaim today if he were president? What national sins would he call us to confess?
I have them. You have them.
I am one. You are one.
- …you are constantly battling the thought that they can’t do anything right
- …you are tempted to believe is unforgivable
- …you wish they’d just move on
- …you wonder if there’s such a thing as too much grace
- …you’re convinced doesn’t have a clue
That person(s) that you’re thinking about right now is your that person.
As a recovering judger and teller, I’ve labeled many people as that person. The more I own and understand that I’m also that person the fewer people I label. We have to resist labeling in our minds and hearts, and we need to be aware when we’re spreading our labeling to others by talking about that person. Not easy work.
How do we do this work? I’m doing it by asking myself three questions:
- How am I praying for that person?
- How will I stay engaged with that person?
- When’s the last time that person…
- …had an arm around their shoulder?
- …heard, “I forgive you”?
- …believed they weren’t alone?
- …experienced grace from another human?
- …felt safe with those who knew them well?
It’s hard relationship work. But that person needs it. And as someone else’s that person, I need it.
(Final day in a 28-day series from First Bradenton)
Several months ago during the prayer time after a Sunday morning sermon, a lady came forward and asked prayer for a job decision she needed to make. I can’t explain why, but I felt led to voice a prayer on her behalf that God make it clear to her within 48 hours what decision she should make.
A few weeks later she shared this with me: “I was taken back when you prayed so specifically that God would answer your prayer in 48 hours. But I have to tell you, that’s exactly what He did. Because of your prayer and the timing in which I had peace about a decision, I knew God had given me His answer. Thank you.”
Does that example mean I always get what I pray for? Nope. What it means is that we shouldn’t be afraid to pray specifically in order for God to give us direction. James wrote about this in the first chapter of his epistle.
Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God – who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly – and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith without doubting. For the doubter is like the surging sea, driven and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord, being double-minded and unstable in all his ways. James 1:5-8 (CSB)
In Eugene Peterson’s The Message, he paraphrases verse 6, “Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought.” Many biblical characters voiced specifically bold prayers:
- Hannah prayed boldly for a son (1 Samuel 1)
- Elijah prayed boldly for rain (1 Kings 18)
- David prayed boldly for forgiveness (Psalm 51)
- Jesus prayed boldly for resurrecting power (John 11)
All of these prayers lacked doubt. All of them were specifically bold. All of them were answered. All of them brought God glory.
What specifically bold prayer could you pray today that would bring God glory?