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Posts tagged ‘forgiveness’

Forgiveness: Doing what Christ does

SOURCE:  Adapted from an article in  Discipleship Journal/Jack & Carole Mayhall

She looked at me defiantly.  Hope, hurt, pain, and anger were mingled in her eyes and in her tone as she said, “I can’t do it, Carole. Could you?”

She had just told me her problem—and it was a giant one. Her in-laws had physically and verbally attacked her in front of her husband and children. And her husband had not only failed to come to her defense, but had sided with his parents. How could she forgive such a thing?

“No,” I replied, “I couldn’t forgive him. But God can—and will through and in you, if you’ll let him. There is no hope for your marriage if you don’t forgive.”

I could have added that there would be no hope for her, either. The lack of forgiveness produces a poison that will eat away one’s very existence, especially the existence of any joy or peace in our lives.

What heartache!

There is no easy answer. But this I know: God does have a solution. It is somehow tied in with the solemn warning in Hebrews 12:15—”See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” I would paraphrase that first part, “Make sure no one fails to receive enough of God’s grace.”

If we don’t have enough of his grace, it isn’t God’s fault. His grace is sufficient for our every need (2 Corinthians 12:9). The fault is ours, because we haven’t really asked for his grace with an accepting heart.

What is forgiveness? One dictionary defines the verb forgive as “to cease to feel resentment” against someone, “to pardon,” “to give up resentment,” or “to grant relief from payment.”

I was struck with two things about this definition. First was the feeling involved—”to cease to feel resentment.” This statement rules out attitudes such as “I forgive him, but I can’t forget it,” or, “I forgive him in my head, but not in my heart.” Our hearts are free only when we cease to feel resentment.

Many times we don’t really want to forgive, for if we do we become vulnerable to be hurt all over again. So we build our walls of resentment and unforgiveness in order not to feel pain again.

Logically this makes some sense. But emotionally it is deadly poison. And it poisons the person with the unforgiving heart first of all. When a person hardens his or her feelings against pain, all feeling can be deadened.

The second thing that struck me about the dictionary definition was the verbs that are used: “cease,” “give up,” and “grant.” An act of our will is involved in ceasing to feel resentful, in giving up a claim, in granting the offender relief from paying for his offense. But to do this is not easy.

David Augsburger, radio speaker for “The Mennonite Hour,” put it this way in Cherishable: Love and Marriage

Forgiveness is hard.  Especially in a marriage tense with past troubles, tormented by fears of rejection and humiliation, and torn by suspicion and distrust.

Forgiveness hurts.  Especially when it must be extended to a husband or wife who doesn’t deserve it, who hasn’t earned it, who may misuse it. It hurts to forgive.

Forgiveness costs.  Especially in marriage when it means accepting instead of demanding repayment for the wrong done; where it means releasing the other instead of exacting revenge; where it means reaching out in love instead of relinquishing resentments. It costs to forgive.

Forgiveness, Augsburger says, is when the injured person chooses “to accept his angry feelings, bear the burden of them personally, find release through confession and prayer, and set the other person free.”

This is what Jesus Christ did for us.

He forgave us unconditionally, bearing the burden, setting us free. “In him, we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us” (Ephesians 1:7–8).

Many times it is the little, picky matters that stick in our throats and cause us to choke when the need arises to forgive. When we do not deal with the seemingly inconsequential things, we fail to “walk in the light.”

If we walk in the light as he is in the light we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from every sin. (1 John 1:7)

Are you walking in the light with your mate?

In Christ, there is “no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5), no hidden, secret resentment, no anger or self-pity, or criticism. If we are walking in the light as he is in the light, then we will have true fellowship with one another. We will be best friends in open, honest sharing.

We must forgive, and forgive immediately.

Listen again to David Augsburger:

Forgiveness is smiling silent love to your partner when the justifications for keeping an insult or injury alive are on the tip of your tongue, yet you swallow them. Not because you have to, to keep peace, but because you want to, to make peace.

Forgiveness is not acceptance given “on condition” that the other becomes acceptable. Forgiveness is given freely. . . .

Forgiveness is a relationship between equals who recognize their deep need of each other, share and share-alike. Each needs the other’s forgiveness. Each needs the other’s acceptance. Each needs the other.

Four Promises of Forgiveness

Adapted from The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict
by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 207.

“As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” Psalm 103:12

I once heard a joke that described a frequent failure in forgiving. A woman went to her pastor for advice on improving her marriage. When the pastor asked what her greatest complaint was, she replied, “Every time we get into a fight, my husband gets historical.” When her pastor said, “You must mean hysterical,” she responded, “I mean exactly what I said; he keeps a mental record of everything I’ve done wrong, and whenever he’s mad, I get a history lesson!”

Food for Thought

Take a moment today to remember the Four Promises of Forgiveness:

1. I will not dwell on this incident.
2. I will not bring up this incident again and use it against you.
3. I will not talk to others about this incident.
4. I will not let this incident stand between us or hinder our personal relationship.

Then take a moment to remember something else: This is the way God forgives you.

It’s natural for us to read the Four Promises of Forgiveness as another set of laws to which we’re presently failing to live up; however, the gospel reminds us that they should be read first and foremost as God’s commitment to us because of the sacrifice of his Son. That commitment says that he will never “get historical” in bringing up sins for which we have been forgiven!

Is there an area in life where you feel condemned even though you’ve genuinely repented before God? Take a moment to hear God speaking the Four Promises of Forgiveness to you with regard to that particular issue. As you read them again, try adding your name to the beginning of each promise as a reminder that God speaks them personally to you. Remember Romans 8:1 applies to you, not just other Christians: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

When you accept this and apply it to your own life, prepare to be pleasantly surprised how much easier it will become to apply the Four Promises of Forgiveness to others who have hurt you.

Being Formed in Forgiveness

 

Perhaps no issue more quickly assesses the true state of our spiritual formation in Christ than how we respond to being sinned against. Forgiveness becomes concrete when we talk about how we deal with anger. How do you deal with your anger? Maybe a rude driver on the road cuts you off, Someone steals your credit card, A friend criticizes you, A family member continually mistreats you.

Most of us know that as Christians we should forgive in these cases. However, we may need to clear up some misconceptions so that our forgiveness will be genuine and result in healing for us and release for our offenders.

“Forgive and forget,” some say, but forgiveness is not about forgetting. It is about not being resentful, but you can remember and not hold onto anger. It’s important that we remember our experiences in life so that we can learn from them.

“Just let it go to God and move on,” is a common approach. This advice may work for minor offenses, but to attempt to overlook deep wounds and repeated violations is denial. If forgiveness is to be real then it has to be honest about the violation against you that needs to be forgiven. Forgiveness in these cases is a process of working through hurt, anger, and other feelings. “You can’t heal a wound by saying it’s not there” (Jeremiah 6:14, LB).

“I’ll forgive when…” It’s easy to think that until your offender apologizes or stops mistreating you that you don’t need to forgive. It doesn’t work that way; forgiveness is a gift of mercy. No one deserves to be forgiven! The only way to forgive is to “Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:13). By appreciating how fortunate you are that God has forgiven you of your sins then you are helped to share that forgiveness with the one who has sinned against you. “I can’t forgive,” some believe, “it’s not a safe relationship for me.” But this thinking confuses forgiveness and reconciliation. If you’ve been abused and are vulnerable to be re-injured then indeed you need boundaries to protect yourself. At the same time, you can learn to release your offender to God’s justice, refusing to hold onto a posture of angry judgment.

I’ve found that the acid test for whether or not I’ve forgiven someone is if instead of holding onto anger at those who sin against me I can pray for and sincerely desire God’s blessings on that person. Jesus taught us: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who persecute you” (Luke 6:27-28). We can’t do this by gritting our teeth and forcing it!

How do we learn to forgive and bless the one who curses us? “Train yourselves to be godly” Paul answers (1 Timothy 4:7). We each need to grow in grace to become the kind of person who, like God, forgives. We need to be formed in God’s forgiveness through a heart connection to God’s favor in which we’re thankful that God has blessed us though we don’t deserve it and his blessings are flowing through us to others. Then we can offer the gift of his mercy to those who sin against us, even if in some cases it takes some time to pray our way to that point.

 

18 TEXTS THAT SAY “I’M SORRY”

SOURCE:  Marriage 365

While it’s important to give a formal apology in person when you’ve messed up, it’s also good to follow up with a phone call or text to remind your spouse how sorry you really are.

Sending “I’m sorry” texts shows that you’re trying to rebuild trust and repair your relationship. Now, these texts are to help inspire a more in-depth conversation, and please make them personal… make them your own.

  • I am sorry for arguing with you. I want us to be a team. Please forgive me, babe.
  • I’m sorry for avoiding our issues. I’m sorry for not showing up and working on our marriage, especially when you’ve needed me. I’m sorry for neglecting your feelings.

  • I want you to know that I love you and take responsibility for the words I said. I promise I’ll work on thinking before I speak.

  • Angry is ugly, forgiveness is sexiness. Forgive me, please?

  • I’m apologizing because I value our relationship more than my ego. I’m so sorry my love.

  • I am extremely sorry for hurting you yesterday and want your forgiveness. I love you.

  • I don’t know what to say but to apologize for being such a jerk. I hope you can eventually look beyond this mistake and forgive me.

  • I feel like the worst person in the whole world. I’m truly sorry and want you to know that you didn’t deserve that.

  • I want you to know that I am willing to get help for our marriage. I will do whatever it takes to make sure we are happy and thriving.

  • I need you in my life and I’m very sorry about last night.

  • If I could, I would take back all the things I did to hurt you. But since I can’t, please consider forgiving me. I want us to work on healing our marriage.

  • You need to know that I was a fool. I allowed my pride to get the best of me. I forgot that you are on my side. That you are my best friend. I love you so much.

    I want to validate how you’re feeling. You are completely justified in feeling that way.

  • I love that you help me become a better person. I need you in my life. You are my everything.

  • You are the kindest person I have met. Forgive this fool who can’t live without you.

  • I know forgiving me will take time and is a process. I am waiting patiently. You’re worth it. We’re worth it.

  • You mean the world to me and I want to do everything I can to make up to you for last week. Let me know if there’s anything I can do or say that will show you how much I am sorry.

  • I’m sorry for putting work before our marriage. It’s not healthy and it’s making you feel unimportant. Please forgive me.

ADDICTED? “RE-TIE” TO GOD

SOURCE–Adapted from:  Stepping Stones

Transformational Thought

Tens of millions of people in the U.S. are tormented by compulsive addictions according to the latest statistics regarding substance abuse and compulsive-addictive behaviors. An addict’s primary relationship is with a drug or a behavior, not with himself. Our society, in large part, denies the addiction problem. Treatment centers and state hospitals are closing, program funding is being cut, and insurance reimbursement for treatment is decreasing. The walking wounded are, therefore, on their own to get help for themselves and their families.

Physical, spiritual, emotional, and psychological disabilities brought on by addictions are rampant. Major damage caused by drugs also includes the drug environment and the impurities associated with it, namely, secondary infections, especially with illegal drugs. This lifestyle, regardless of the type of addiction, causes a person to be only a shadow of what God intended.

There. That’s the bad news. Now the good news.

Have you ever noticed what a bad rap the word “religion” has gotten? It doesn’t seem to be regarded today as the original word suggests. The root word is “ligio” (Latin) meaning to tie or bind together. For example, in a tubal ligation a woman has her tubes tied. “Re-ligio” means that something that was once tied became untied, and it is now re-tied or bound together again. There is no better example than the Garden of Eden where Adam and Eve disobeyed God, causing perfect fellowship with God to become untied. God’s plan of salvation, through Christ’s sacrifice once and for all, re-tied us back together into relationship with God for eternity, by His grace alone. He does the work.

Addiction is synonymous with idolatry.

When we strongly desire something as much as or more than we desire God, we have given ourselves to a false god, a weak imitation. People have become unbound with God through their addictions. What we give our time, money, and energy to becomes our god. We become like our object of worship. It’s amazing to consider what we pursue to soothe our discomfort, and the dire spiritual consequences we choose to endure for a momentary thrill.

Today, if you have an overt addiction, know that God stands ready and willing to forgive and restore everyone who has been carried away by addictions.

Let Him in. Trust His ways, and not yours.

Becoming untied causes us to disintegrate. But receiving God’s gift of healing allows us to re-integrate, restoring us to what God intended in the first place! If you don’t have an overt addiction, examine what you go to when you are uncomfortable. If it is God’s word and prayer, awesome. If it is anything else, then you have an addiction and need to wrestle with that. Start to look at why you turn to those other items first.

Prayer

Father God, You are our source and our strength, and a very present help in time of trouble. Deliver us out of the claws of addictions and addictive behaviors. We need Your supernatural strength to overcome the effects of mood-altering chemicals and behaviors that are self-destructive. Heal and restore us in body, mind, and spirit to what You intended us to be. We ask this in the powerful and comforting name of Jesus;  – AMEN!

 

THE TRUTH —–

“Let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.”

2 Corinthians 7:1

“So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of a sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature.”

Galatians 5:16-17

 


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Originally posted in 2011.

TRUE REPENTANCE OR NOT?

Source:  Mark W. Gaither, Redemptive Divorce, 2008, 141-142

How do we know that repentance is genuine?  John the Baptist told the multitudes to “bring forth fruits in keeping with your repentance” (Luke 3:8).  Paul told the Gentiles “they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance” (Acts 26:20).  It appears, therefore, that genuine repentance will make itself evident by its deeds.  The truly repentant sinner will freely acknowledge his sin (1 John 1:9).  The truly repentant sinner will seek to make restitution for the wrong done, especially if material loss or property damage has resulted (Philem. 18-19).  The truly repentant person will exhibit genuine sorrow over sin (2 Cor. 7:8-10).  The truly repentant person will manifest the fruit of the Spirit:  “love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23).  (Source:  J. Carl Laney, A Guide to Church Discipline, 1985, 93)

Sometimes people merely pretend to repent in order to avoid loss or retain control.  And they can appear authentically sorrowful, only to return to their destructive behavior later.  An obvious change in attitude and behavior always accompanies repentance.  The following signs of repentance should be observed:

  1. Repentant people are willing to confess all their sins, not just the sins that got them into trouble.  Has the person demonstrated a desire to be completely honest about his/her behavior?
  2. Repentant people face the pain their sin has caused others.  Has the person allowed you to express the intensity of emotions you feel—anger, hurt, sorrow, and disappointment—without trying to justify, minimize, or shift blame?
  3. Repentant people ask forgiveness from those they hurt.  Has the person asked your forgiveness?  Does his/her sorrow seem genuine?  Does the person pressure you to say, “I forgive you?”   Does the person expect you to “get over it” without sufficient time to heal?
  4. Repentant people remain accountable to a small group of mature Christians.  What has the person done to address any issues that may have contributed to his/her destructive choices?  What is the person doing to avoid a relapse and to grow stronger as a God-honoring person?
  5. Repentant people accept their limitations.  Does the person resent your need for reassurance?  Doe he/she seem to understand the need for the rebuilding of trust over time?
  6. Repentant people are faithful to the daily tasks God has given them.  Is the person putting forth good effort to fulfill his/her duties at work and at home?  Is the person moving forward in life with humility, or do you sense that he/she merely wants to get things back to normal as quickly as possible?

Father, Forgive Them: Why and How

(Adapted from Wounds That Heal by Stephen Seamands, Chapter 8)

Throughout His ministry, Jesus consistently stressed that as God has forgiven us, we in turn ought to forgive others. In the Lord’s Prayer, he taught us to say: Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors (Matthew 6:12).

On another occasion, He commanded His disciples, “Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone” (Mark 11:25). When Peter inquired how many times He was obligated to forgive, Jesus insisted, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times” (Matthew 18:22). He then told a story about an unforgiving servant (Matthew 18:23-34). Although his master had forgiven his immense debt, the servant refused to forgive a minor amount owed to him by a fellow servant. When the master found out what the servant had done, he had the servant thrown in jail. Jesus warned His disciples, “So, my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart” (Matthew 18:35).

Jesus not only consistently preached radically extending forgiveness to others, He also practiced it. And He practiced it when it was incomprehensibly difficult – as He was hanging on a cross. The victim of gross injustice, His body wracked with pain, the vicious taunts of His enemies ringing in His ears, He gathered His strength and cried out, “Father, forgive them. They don’t know what they are doing,”

The Christian imperative to forgive those who have inflicted pain on us is a call to imitate Jesus. However, we are not called to imitate Christ in our own strength. We discover that as we will to forgive, He imparts His strength to us.

The Process of Forgiveness

I cannot overemphasize the importance of forgiveness in the healing of human hurts. Forgiveness unlocks the door to healing, restoration, freedom and renewal. Until we open that door, we will remain stuck in the past, destined to carry the hurt and burden forever without hope of a restored heart or a renewed future. There is no greater blockage to a person’s receiving healing from God than that person’s refusal to forgive others. We will never find healing for our hurts until, like Jesus, we say, “Father, forgive them.”

What then does true forgiveness – Jesus called it forgiving “from the heart (Matthew 18:35) – involve?

1. Facing the facts. Forgiveness begins when we are ruthlessly honest about what was done to us. We don’t cover up what happened, explain it away, blame ourselves or make excuses for the other person. Squarely and realistically, we face the truth: “I was violated and sinned against. I was hurt. What they did was wrong.” Real forgiveness means looking steadily at the sin, the sin that is left over without any excuse, after all allowances have been made, and seeing it in all its horror, dirt, meanness, and malice, and, nevertheless being wholly reconciled to the person who has done it. In facing the facts, it is important to be specific. General acknowledgments of wrong followed by sweeping generalizations of forgiveness won’t do. For many, the first step in forgiving will involve getting out of denial. Truth can be hard to bear, and at times, we will go to great lengths to avoid it. Forgiveness begins by acknowledging the nails in our hearts hammered in by the actions of others and looking at them intently.

2. Feeling the hurt. Forgiveness begins with facing the facts but then goes further. More than “just the facts,” we must connect with the feelings bound up with the facts – feelings like rejection, loneliness, fear, anger, shame and depression that still reverberate in us today. For many of us, the emotions of past hurts are so painful and threatening we have simply disconnected from them. And so we have to persistently ask, “What was I feeling when that happened to me?” Answering that question can be extremely difficult. No one wants to reexperience such unpleasant feelings. Better then to deny them, it seems, or sweep them under the rug. But we can’t reach the threshold of forgiveness until we recover, at least in some measure, the feelings bound up with the painful facts.

3. Confronting our hate. Forgiving involves letting go of hatred or resentment toward the persons who have wounded us. But again, before we can let go of something, we have to acknowledge it’s there. We must admit we resent those who wronged us, for a part of us hates them for what they did. Forgiveness is not blaming ourselves for what happened. We may not be completely innocent, but what our victimizers did was unjustifiable. They are to blame for our pain, and there is a part of us that hates them for it. Forgiveness requires the courage to confront our hatred.

4. Bearing the pain. When others have wronged us, there is a demanding voice within us that cries out, “What they did isn’t right. They ought to pay for what they’ve done.” This is a God-given voice. The desire to see justice in our own – and all – relationships has been planted in our hearts by God. So, when we forgive, do we ignore the divinely implanted desire for justice and set it aside? No. The sin, the injustice, must be taken seriously. But instead of achieving justice by insisting the guilty party pay for the wrong, we choose to pay ourselves. Though innocent, we choose to bear the pain of the injustice. In forgiveness, as the Scripture says, “mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2:13). It triumphs, however, not by ignoring judgment, but by bearing it. Whenever we forgive, we bear pain. That’s why forgiveness is always costly.

The ultimate example of the costliness of forgiveness is the cross of Christ. The Scripture says, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross” (I Peter 2:24). He took on Himself the guilt, punishment and shame of our sins. We deserved to suffer for them but instead, God in Christ carried them in His own being. God did not overlook our sins or pretend they didn’t matter but bore the pain and the judgment Himself. Christ, the Judge, allowed Himself to be judged in our place. To a much lesser degree, whenever we forgive others, we do the same thing: we take the punishment they deserve, absorbing it ourselves. We bear the pain.

5. Releasing those who have wronged us. Although forgiveness does not set aside the demands of justice, it still seems to run cross-grain to our natural sense of fair play. In part, our anger and resentment is our way of regaining control of an unfair situation and getting back at the persons who have wronged us. It’s our attempt to even the score. But forgiving means releasing our offenders and turning them over to God. It’s saying, “I know what they’ve done and I feel the pain of it, but I choose not to be the one who determines what is justice for them.” When we forgive we relinquish the roles of judge, jury and executioner and turn them over to God. When we forgive, we relinquish control of the persons who have wronged us. We quit playing God in their lives. No longer will we determine what is just for them or make sure they get what they deserve. Thus, forgiveness is an act of faith. We turn the ones who have wronged us over to God. We entrust them to God, saying, “Vengeance is not mine, but Thine alone.” And like all faith acts, forgiveness contains an element of risk. What if God doesn’t get even with those who have wronged us? What if God chooses to extend mercy to them?

By giving the people who have wronged us over to God, we also give ourselves to God. Parts of ourselves we have been holding are now entrusted to Him. No wonder there is such healing power in forgiveness. When we release others and ourselves to God, we give up control, and then His Presence and Power are released to us. Bearing the pain and releasing those who have wronged us constitute the heart of forgiveness. But I want to emphasize that forgiveness doesn’t ignore or set aside the demands of justice. One might conclude that when we forgive, we refrain from any effort to hold those who have wronged us accountable for their behavior, leaving that totally up to God and to others. However, that simply is not true. Forgiveness doesn’t mean tolerating injustice. “Unfruitful works of darkness” should be exposed (Ephesians 5:11). Actions have consequences that evildoers must be forced to accept. When crimes have been committed, offenders should be turned over to the judicial system.

Bearing the pain and releasing those who have wronged us have to do with our attitudes toward those who have wronged us; seeking justice has to do with our actions toward them. These attitudes and actions are not opposed to each other. In fact, practicing forgiveness and promoting justice go hand in hand. Having made a decision to forgive, our concern in promoting justice is not to avenge ourselves or destroy our offenders but to protect ourselves and others in the community from future injury at the offender’s hands. Furthermore, by insisting that offenders be held accountable for their actions, we are actually extending grace to them by offering them an opportunity to face the truth about themselves, admit their wrongdoing and turn from their wicked ways.

6. Assuming responsibility for ourselves. As long as we blame others for our problems, we don’t have to take responsibility for ourselves; they’re on the hook. By releasing them, however, we let them off the hook. Now, we’re on the hook. We must take responsibility and can no longer make excuses for ourselves. Often people hesitate when challenged to forgive because instinctively they know that if they do, they will have no one to blame for their predicament. Unfortunately, we live in a culture of victimization that encourages us to play the blame game. For many of us, portraying oneself as a victim has become an attractive pastime. Forgiveness strikes a blow at the root of one’s victim status. We may have been a victim, but we’re not stuck there. By taking responsibility for ourselves, we declare that what happened doesn’t define who we are. We have an identity apart from our pain. That can be risky and frightening, of course. We may have grown to depend on our excuses and become comfortable with our victim identity. Losing an enemy whom we can resent and blame may disturb us more than losing a friend. We may be meeting needs by our holding on to our pain and resentment.

Yet how liberating it is when, by forgiving, we do accept responsibility for ourselves. The persons who have hurt us no longer exercise control over our lives. When we forgive we not only release them, we also release ourselves from them and set ourselves free to determine our destiny apart from our wounds.

7. Longing for reconciliation. The ultimate goal and purpose of forgiveness is reconciliation, or the restoration and renewal of broken relationships. Thus, forgiveness is not only about letting go of bitterness and revoking revenge. It is about the coming together of persons who have been alienated from each other. From a Christian perspective, forgiving simply so I can get my hurts healed and get on with my life doesn’t go far enough.

Of course, the nature and extent of reconciliation depend on a number of factors, the most important of which is the offender’s willingness to be reconciled with us and to take the costly action necessary for its accomplishment. In many instances we won’t be able to achieve the measure of reconciliation we desire. What do we do, for instance, when the offender refuses to be reconciled with us or persists in offensive behavior? On occasion we will have to settle for less than the best. Still, forgiveness ought to put within us a longing for reconciliation. At first we may grudgingly say, “I’ll forgive them, but I don’t want to have anything to do with them ever again.” And that may be a sufficient place to start. But as forgiveness does its work, it will change our attitude. We will begin to see our offenders through eyes of compassion. One day we will even find ourselves wishing good for them. Our longing for a reconciled relationship may so intensify that we grieve when it fails to work out.

The process of forgiving someone who has wronged us brings us once again to the Cross of Christ. As we stand at the cross, we must remember that initially forgiveness is more about a decision than an emotion. First and foremost, it is a matter of the will. We come to a place where we choose to forgive. We might be struggling with negative feelings toward those who have hurt us, and we may continue to do so for a considerable time. What is most important at first is our willingness. In forgiving, we send our will ahead by express; our emotions generally come later by slow freight.

But what if we are unwilling to forgive? The hurt is so great, the anger and resentment so intense that nothing within us wants to let go of it. Then we should pray, “Lord, make me willing to be made willing.” As a Puritan preacher once advised, “If you can’t come to God with a broken heart, come to God for one.” So if you can’t come to the cross with a willing heart to forgive, come there for one.

On the cross, if Jesus bore both the wrongs done to Him and the wrongs done to us, then when He cried, “Father, forgive them,” could it be he was offering forgiveness not only to those who had wronged Him but also to those who have wronged us? If that is true, then in effect, Jesus has already extended forgiveness to the persons for what they did to us. So if we can’t will to forgive them, we can pray, “Jesus, You live in me. Therefore speak the words in me and through me. Help me to join you in saying, ‘Father, forgive them.’ Even though I can’t speak them myself, I can at least allow You to speak them in me.

We obtain grace in His Presence to release resentment and revenge. As we wait at the cross, Jesus will speak the forgiving words in us. The healing of our hurts and the transformation of our feelings toward those who have wounded us can then really begin. But often this part of the forgiveness process happens slowly – layer by layer. Sometimes after making the decision to forgive, our negative feelings toward the person actually intensify. Repressed emotions surface. Anger may burn more hotly than ever. Or we find ourselves overwhelmed with sadness. Choosing to forgive may cause the pain to intensify. Now that the lid is off, we begin remembering hurtful incidents. Agonizing pictures flood our minds. Old wounds open up all over again. We seem to be going backward, getting worse rather than better.

At this point, we may be tempted to think, I haven’t really forgiven so-and-so. If I had, I wouldn’t be experiencing such intense pain and resentment. The truth is, forgiveness is both a crisis (a definite decision) and a process (releasing hurt and resentment and receiving healing at ever-deepening levels). We have made the decision to forgive, but we are still engaged in the process where many emotional twists and turns lurk along the way. So we don’t need to start over. We simply need to reaffirm our will to forgive, asking the Lord to deepen it. We must also continue to offer our hurtful and hateful feelings to God, praying, “Lord, heal the hurt and cleanse the hate.” As we do, we discover that God, who has begun this good work in us, is faithful to complete it (Philippians 1:6). But the healing and cleansing of our hearts is not a one-shot deal. In the crisis of a moment we can will to forgive, but working through our hurt and bitterness happens slowly. We may even find Jesus’ charge to forgive “not seven times, but, seventy-seven times” (Matthew 18:22) applying to the same offense. At the cross, however, grace awaits to see it through, to finish the good work of forgiveness begun in us.

Do you need grace to begin the process of forgiving someone who has wronged and wounded you? Do you need grace to continue as you struggle with feelings of hurt and bitterness? Come to the Cross. It is the Place to remember how we have been forgiven. It is the Place to forgive. Listen to Jesus as He says, “Father, forgive them.” He not only is asking the Father for forgiveness for those who have wronged and hurt us, but He is also asking for forgiveness for you and me.

Impossible Marriage Situation

(Question/Answer re “Impossible Marriage” Situation by Michelle Wiener-Davis, Author of Divorce Busting.)

I’VE TRIED EVERYTHING, BUT NOTHING WORKS !!!

QUESTION —
Dear Michele:
“I’m working on my marriage, but it still isn’t working.” Michele, after reading your books (Divorce Remedy, Divorce Busting and Getting Through to the Man You Love), I have one question: The underlying assumption of all three books is that you DO love your spouse. I am in a situation in which I don’t really love my spouse, and actually often don’t like or respect him. Yet he is a good father, and our children are incredibly devoted to our little family. I definitely believe that a divorce would be the best thing for ME (and probably for him), but the worst thing for my children. It’s been hard for me to try to divorce bust because I can’t seem to get over the hump of feeling I’m knocking myself out to work on something I don’t really want, namely, staying married to my husband. Does this mean mine is just one of the marriages that can’t be saved? Most of the posts I read on the boards seem to be from people who WANT their spouses. Any comments would be appreciated, and I’m sure would be enlightening to many on the board, because I’ve heard from many about to be Walkaway Wife’s who feel the same way I do — little, if any, love or respect for our spouses, and little, if any, desire to be married to them. Thank you. Jenny

ANSWER —
Dear Jenny,
You ask an interesting question and I hope my response will be helpful.

First, I want you to know that your assumption that my books presuppose love for one’s spouse is completely incorrect. My books presuppose a commitment to working on one’s marriage. It is absolutely true that when you love your spouse, it makes going through the hard times more palatable and sharing the good times more enjoyable. No question about it. But I don’t assume people reading the books love their spouses.

I know you won’t like what I’m about to say, but I can tell from your post that you have never really committed to working on your marriage. Yes, I know you’ve had a telephone consultation and some counseling. But that doth not commitment make. Too many people say they’re working on their marriages when they drag their bodies to therapy or talk to some sort of expert. That’s not even scratching the surface. Working on your marriage means making the decision to be there in spirit, not necessarily to be head over heels in love when you start, but to invest yourself fully.

Working on your marriage means giving of yourself completely, putting your spouse’s needs before your own- and vise versa. It means quitting the game of keeping score. It means forgiving and letting go. Working on your marriage means focusing on people’s strengths and downplaying their shortcomings. It means not expecting to have all or even the majority of your needs satisfied by one person. It means vowing to have a full and satisfying life of your own so that you don’t blame your spouse unfairly about your unhappiness. It means appreciating the little things and overlooking life’s annoyances. It means recognizing that no one, not even you or me, is perfect.

I’m not sure why I think this, but I have a distinct feeling that you are holding on to resentments from the past. (I don’t even know you but the feeling is there nonetheless). It seems to me, that your current willingness to stay is built on guilt and self-sacrifice rather than any pleasure derived from the gift you would be giving your children and “your little family” and as a result, yourself. As long as you look at staying through the eyes of resentment, you will not be able to fully immerse yourself in what you need to do to make your family truly work.

Unfortunately, no one, not your parents, friends, family, therapist, clergy or me, can make the decision to have a good, healthy family for you. Only you can make that choice. You have been sitting on the fence- staying but holding back. (Maybe that’s why you chose Paradox as your username.) This won’t get you where you need to go. I can promise you that. Make a decision. Own your decision. Stop fooling yourself into thinking you’re working on things when you’re not. If you feel you can’t forgive and start fresh, take ownership of that. Go. However, you know my first choice. But in the end, that doesn’t really matter. Yours is the choice that matters. If you choose marriage, the rest is relatively easy. You decide. Love is a decision.
Michele

As We Forgive Those

SOURCE:  Joe Dallas

“… and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespassed against us.” (Luke 11:4)

Jesus loves me, this I know. But this I also know: He demands certain things of me, none of them small. I can’t call Him Lord if I don’t take those demands seriously.

So I’ve been working on meeting them for 48 years, making some progress while enduring my share of setbacks. The lion’s share of those setbacks has concerned three particular demands He makes: that I not worry (Matthew 6:34); that when I’m struck I turn the other cheek (Matthew 5:39); and that I forgive as I’ve been forgiven. (Matthew 6:15).

Strike three.

I’ve never thought of myself as an unforgiving, grudge-holding kind of guy. But for whatever reason, I’m now seeing many things I just haven’t let go of. Old things, ancient history from childhood, or junior high days, or very young adulthood.

Which is interesting, because candidly, I’ve been messed with pretty badly in recent years. Some of the worst betrayals I’ve ever experienced happened within the last decade or so, years when I was well into middle age. So you’d think those not-long-ago hurts would still be throbbing, but no. I’ve pretty much shrugged them off, and they rarely cross my mind.

The same can’t be said for conversations and events occurring forty-plus years ago. They intrude into my thinking, and before I catch myself, I’m replaying them, often re-writing the script so that instead of being victimized the way I was, I don my cape and deliver well-deserved sucker punches to the bad guys, coming out heroic rather than wounded.

Yes, I know, fantasizing a revised personal history to make ourselves feel better is awfully childish. But it’s also a more commonly practiced mind-game than many of us would care to admit. At any rate, I’ve reached a season when long-ago traumas are playing through my head like old movies you discover while channel surfing, squinting at the tv with vague recognition, then saying, “Oh, yeah, I’ve seen that one.”

All of which raises the obvious question of forgiveness. Have I forgiven? If so, why are the old hurts resurfacing? And if I haven’t forgiven, then why not? It’s not as if I haven’t been forgiven plenty myself, and we all know what the master had to say the servant he forgave when that same servant turned around and refused mercy to another. (Matthew 18:33)

So here’s what I’ve come up with so far.

1. Forgiving isn’t forgetting.

God alone can say He remembers our sins no more; (Hebrews 10:17) We simply don’t have the capacity to delete our memory banks. I am therefore not required to literally forget old hurts. I can certainly choose whether or not to dwell on them, but I can’t make them vanish.

2. Forgiveness isn’t indifference.

I may well forgive someone for a deeply inflicted wound, but if the memory of that wounding crosses my mind, it will still hurt. How can you think of something traumatic without an emotional response? That alone doesn’t constitute unforgiveness.

3. Forgiveness isn’t isolated.

That is, I may genuinely forgive, then, in my sinful human state, I may later in life re-hash what I’ve forgiven, dredge up the old hurts, re-experience the pain, then ignore the law against double jeopardy by re-trying the perpetrator, finding him guilty, and mentally executing him.

None of which means I didn’t forgive him in the first place. Rather, it means I sinfully chose to revisit the sin I had no right revisiting. Sometimes it’s not just forgiveness that’s required of us. It’s re-forgiveness as well.

4. Forgiveness can become harder with time and perspective.

What seemed hurtful to a 12 year old can appear downright monstrous to an adult, because with time and perspective we better realize how horrendous things like bullying, abuse, or other violations really are.

An abused kid often thinks, “Perhaps I deserved this”, but the adult of later years screams, “No, you didn’t, and that never should have happened!” That’s why I often find that women and men I work with who are well into their middle years are angrier or sadder over their old hurts than they were when the hurts were first inflicted.

We pay a high price for growing up, one of which is the awareness of just how wrong the wrongdoers of our lives really were.

Finally, forgiveness is sometimes humanly impossible.

Corrie Ten Boom,  a Dutch Holocaust survivor whose sister died at the notorious Ravensbruck women’s camp, recalled meeting a former Ravensburck guard at a church in Germany where she was speaking after the war.

He approached her, extending his hand while asking forgiveness, and she froze. All the camp horrors flashed through her mind, and she realized she couldn’t, in her own strength, forgive the man who was part of
those horrors.

She quietly prayed. Miraculously, as God gave her strength to take his hand, she felt a rush of love flow from her arm right into his. She realized she couldn’t forgive, then by God’s grace she did what she couldn’t do.

Proof yet again that Jesus was speaking quite literally when He said, “Without Me, you can do nothing.”

When I try forgiving things which never should have happened, I often find myself in Peter’s position when he saw the Lord walking on water and, in his distress and desperation, he said, “Bid me come walk with you.” (Matthew 14:28) Only by keeping his eyes fixed on Jesus in constant reliance could he do what was otherwise impossible.

Big amen to that. I cannot in my own strength forgive, not really. The way of Joe Dallas is to mouth forgiveness then quietly mutter, “But I’ll get back at you someday.”

But the way of the One who Joe Dallas follows is that of an unqualified “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” His love never fails, He remains aware of the human frailty behind the worst of sins, and His desire is always for reconciliation rather than revenge.

So today I’m getting an eyeful of how far I’m falling short of His ways, and a heart full of desire to be the strong and forgiving man only He can fashion. He tells me today, as He told others centuries ago, that if I don’t forgive others, I’ll not be forgiven.

Then I, struggling to obey while fearing that I can’t, offer him the prayer of that father I so relate to in the Gospels who, when told in Mark 9:24 that his faith could make the impossible attainable if only he’d believe,

“Lord, I believe. Help Thou my unbelief.”

Your Family Voyage: Discarding Resentment

SOURCE:  Adapted from Your Family Voyage by P. Roger Hillerstrom

Some of the heaviest weight to unload is that of resentment.

The object of animosity may be a parent, sibling, authority figure, or some other significant person from your past.  You attempt to “get them back” by withholding love or approval, withdrawing, being uncooperative, ruminating on your anger, or severing the relationship altogether.  You may have denied or buried your anger so long that you aren’t even aware of your bitterness, but the emotion is expressed in a variety of ways:

Unmerited explosions of anger.

Avoidance of certain individuals.

A strong desire for vengeance or retaliation.

A pessimistic or critical outlook on life.

Sarcasm, cynicism, or critical attitudes toward individuals or situations.

Over-reactions or under-reactions out of proportion to the current situation.

In harboring resentment you suffer more than anyone else – anxiety, tension, regret, and isolation as well as physical effects such as headaches, high blood pressure, and digestive problems.  The offending individual may not even be aware of or affected by your indignation.

The resolution of resentment is forgiveness.

When we choose to forgive another person, we receive the primary benefit – the freedom to choose our responses and commitments to others, to ourselves and to God.

Our model of forgiveness is God.

Each one of us has broken God’s laws and erected barriers in our relationship with him.  The offenses are ours, not Gods.  God’s forgiveness is not based on his denial of our sin; he is very aware of our offenses against him.  God’s forgiveness is not the result of his ability to pretend that we never committed any wrong.  The forgiveness our heavenly Father offers is based on his willingness to bear the cost of our sin.  Christ’s death on the cross was the payment for our sin.  Because of that payment, God is free to respond to us as a gracious loving Father rather than as a righteous judge.

When we decide to forgive someone who has offended us, we must choose to bear the cost of the wrong committed against us.  Once we forgive, we no longer require a payment for the offenses we experienced.  We cancel the debt by accepting the offense.  In essence, we pay the debt owed us.  We no longer punish the offending person through anger, silence, avoidance or criticism.  This process frees us from the burden of resentment and allows us to let go of troublesome patterns from the past.

If we are going to unload baggage from our past, it will be necessary to relinquish any bitterness we may harbor.  Forgiveness is necessary.  Without letting go of our desire for vengeance, we trap ourselves into the patterns of the past.

Does forgiveness mean I’ll forget the offense?  No.  Forgiveness isn’t a matter of blocking memories or denying the past.  You will probably always carry a memory of the offense, but your emotional response to that memory can change as you forgive.

How long does forgiveness take?  This varies a great deal.  Forgiveness is a process and seldom occurs instantly.  The process of forgiveness begins with a conscious decision.  Once you have decided to forgive, God can begin to work in you to heal your wounds and change your perspective.

How will I know when I’ve forgiven this person?  While the memory will remain, the experience of that memory will become a recalling of history rather than a current experience of anxiety, anger, or hurt.

How do I start forgiving?  Forgiveness begins with a decision.  Once you’ve decided to forgive, prayerfully ask God to soften your heart and broaden your understanding of this experience from your past.  As you sincerely look to him, he will be faithful to shape you into his image in this area.  Once you have confronted those painful memories, they lose their power.  When they “feel” real, you react emotionally.

Your painful memories may cause incredible and unpleasant discomfort the first few times you mentally walk through them.  But once you’ve confronted them, they lose their immediacy.  Conversely, as long as you expend effort trying to avoid a memory it will retain its vivid reality and negative power, even if in your dreams or in the far corner of the haunting attic you try to pretend doesn’t exist.

Forgiveness Doesn’t Mean You Have to Trust Someone Again

SOURCE:  Dr. Henry Cloud

“I know I’m supposed to forgive,” a woman said to me at a recent seminar. “But, I just can’t open myself up to that kind of hurt anymore. I know I should forgive him and trust him, but if I let him back in, the same thing will happen, and I can’t go through that again.”

“Who said anything about ‘trusting’ him?” I asked. “I don’t think you should trust him either.”

“But you said I was supposed to forgive him, and if I do that, doesn’t that mean giving him another chance? Don’t I have to open up to him again?”

“No, you don’t,” I replied. “Forgiveness and trust are two totally different things. In fact, that’s part of your problem. Every time he’s done this, he’s come back and apologized, and you have just accepted him right back into your life, and nothing has changed. You trusted him, nothing was different, and he did it again. I don’t think that’s wise.”

“Well,” she asked, “How can I forgive him without opening myself up to being hurt again?”

Good question. We hear this problem over and over again. People have been hurt, and they do one of two things. Either they confront the other person about something that has happened, the other person says he’s sorry, and they forgive, open themselves up again, and blindly trust. Or, in fear of opening themselves up again, they avoid the conversation altogether and hold onto the hurt, fearing that forgiveness will make them vulnerable once again.

How do you resolve this dilemma?

The simplest way to help you to organize your thoughts as you confront this problem is to remember three points:

1. Forgiveness has to do with the past. Forgiveness is not holding something someone has done against you. It is letting it go. It only takes one to offer forgiveness.

2. Reconciliation has to do with the present. It occurs when the other person apologizes and accepts forgiveness. It takes two to reconcile.

3. Trust has to do with the future. It deals with both what you will risk happening again and what you will open yourself up to. A person must show through his actions that he is trustworthy before you trust him again.

You could have a conversation that deals with two of these issues, or all three. In some good boundary conversations, you forgive the other person for the past, reconcile in the present, and then discuss what the limits of trust will be in the future. The main point is this: Keep the future clearly differentiated from the past.

As you discuss the future, you clearly delineate what your expectations are, what limits you will set, what the conditions will be, or what the consequences (good or bad) of various actions will be.

Differentiating between forgiveness and trust does a number of things:

First, you prevent the other person from being able to say that not opening up again means you are “holding it against me.”

Second, you draw a clear line from the past to the possibility of a good future with a new beginning point of today, with a new plan and new expectations. If you have had flimsy boundaries in the past, you are sending a clear message that you are going to do things differently in the future.

Third, you give the relationship a new opportunity to go forward. You can make a new plan, with the other person potentially feeling cleansed and feeling as though the past will not be used to shame or hurt him. As a forgiven person, he can become an enthusiastic partner in the future of the relationship instead of a guilty convict trying to work his way out of relational purgatory. And you can feel free, not burdened, by bitterness and punitive feelings, while at the same time being wise about the future.

 

Healing From Infidelity

Vector image of two human figures with hands i...

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SOURCE:  Michele Weiner-Davis, M.S.W

Life certainly has its challenges, but little compares to the monumental task of healing from infidelity.

As a marriage therapist for two decades, I’ve heard countless clients confess that the discovery of an affair was the lowest, darkest moment of their entire lives. And because affairs shatter trust, many seriously contemplate ending their marriages.

However, it’s important to know that, no matter bleak things might seem, it’s possible to revitalize a marriage wounded by infidelity. It’s not easy- there are no quick-fix, one-size-fits-all solutions- but years of experience has taught me that there are definite patterns to what people in loving relationships do to bring their marriages back from the brink of disaster.

Healing from infidelity involves teamwork; both spouses must be fully committed to the hard work of getting their marriages back on track. The unfaithful partner must be willing to end the affair and do whatever it takes to win back the trust of his or her spouse. The betrayed spouse must be willing to find ways to manage overwhelming emotions so, as a couple, they can begin to sort out how the affair happened, and more importantly, what needs to change so that it never happens again. Although no two people, marriages or paths to recovery are identical, it’s helpful to know that healing typically happens in stages.

If you recently discovered that your spouse has been unfaithful, you will undoubtedly feel a whole range of emotions- shock, rage, hurt, devastation, disillusionment, and intense sadness. You may have difficulty sleeping or eating, or feel completely obsessed with the affair. If you are an emotional person, you may cry a lot. You may want to be alone, or conversely, feel at your worst when you are. While unpleasant, these reactions are perfectly normal.

Although you might be telling yourself that your marriage will never improve, it will, but not immediately. Healing from infidelity takes a long time. Just when you think things are looking up, something reminds you of the affair and you go downhill rapidly. It’s easy to feel discouraged unless you both keep in mind that intense ups and downs are the norm. Eventually, the setbacks will be fewer and far between.

Although some people are more curious than others, it’s very common to have lots of questions about the affair, especially initially. If you have little interest in the facts, so be it. However, if you need to know what happened, ask. Although the details may be uncomfortable to hear, just knowing your spouse is willing to “come clean” helps people recover. As the unfaithful spouse, you might feel tremendous remorse and guilt, and prefer avoiding the details entirely, but experience shows that this is a formula for disaster. Sweeping negative feelings and lingering questions under the carpet makes genuine healing unlikely.

Once there is closure on what actually happened, there is typically a need to know why it happened. Betrayed spouses often believe that unless they get to the bottom of things, it could happen again. Unfortunately, since the reasons people stray can be quite complex, the “whys” aren’t always crystal clear.

No one “forces” anyone to be unfaithful. Infidelity is a decision, even if doesn’t feel that way. If you were unfaithful, it’s important to examine why you allowed yourself to do something that could threaten your marriage. Were you satisfying a need to feel attractive? Are you having a mid-life crisis? Did you grow up in a family where infidelity was a way of life? Do you have a sexual addiction?

It’s equally important to explore whether your marriage is significantly lacking. Although no marriage is perfect, sometimes people feel so unhappy, they look to others for a stronger emotional or physical connection. They complain of feeling taken for granted, unloved, resentful, or ignored. Sometimes there is a lack of intimacy or sexuality in the marriage.

If unhappiness with your spouse contributed to your decision to have an affair, you need to address your feelings openly and honestly so that together you can make some changes. If open communication is a problem, consider seeking help from a qualified marital therapist or taking a communication skill-building class. There are many available through religious organizations, community colleges and mental health settings.

Another necessary ingredient for rebuilding a marriage involves the willingness of unfaithful spouses to demonstrate sincere regret and remorse. You can’t apologize often enough. You need to tell your spouse that you will never commit adultery again. Although, since you are working diligently to repair your relationship, you might think your intentions to be monogamous are obvious, they aren’t. Tell your spouse of your plans to take your commitment to your marriage to heart. This will be particularly important during the early stages of recovery when mistrust is rampant.

Conversely, talking about the affair can’t be the only thing you do. Couples who successfully rebuild their marriages recognize the importance of both talking about their difficulties and spending time together without discussing painful topics. They intentionally create opportunities to reconnect and nurture their friendship. They take walks, go out to eat or to a movie, develop new mutual interests and so on. Betrayed spouses will be more interested in spending discussion-free time after the initial shock of the affair has dissipated.

Ultimately, the key to healing from infidelity involves forgiveness, which is frequently the last step in the healing process. The unfaithful spouse can do everything right- be forthcoming, express remorse, listen lovingly and act trustworthy, and still, the marriage won’t mend unless the betrayed person forgives his or her spouse and the unfaithful spouse forgives him or herself. Forgiveness opens the door to real intimacy and connection.

But forgiveness doesn’t just happen. It is a conscious decision to stop blaming, make peace, and start tomorrow with a clean slate. If the past has had you in its clutches, why not take the next step to having more love in your life?

Decide to forgive today.

You Don’t Have to Forget

SOURCE:  Rick Warren

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose”

(Romans 8:28 NIV).

You’ve heard this phrase over and over: “Forgive and forget.”

There’s only one problem with it: You can’t do it. It’s impossible!

You really can’t forget a hurt in your life. In fact, you can’t even try to forget it. Because when you’re trying to forget, you are actually focusing on the very thing you want to forget.

Forgetting is not what God wants you to do. Instead, he wants you to trust him and see how he can bring good out of it. That’s more important than forgetting, because then you can thank God for the good that he brought out of it. You can’t thank God for things you forget.

Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (NIV).

It doesn’t say that all things are good, because all things are not good. Cancer is not good. Disease is not good. Death is not good. Divorce is not good. War is not good. Rape and abuse are not good. There are a lot of things in life that are evil. Not everything that happens in this world is God’s will.

But God says he will work good out of the bad things in life if you will trust him. When you come to him and say, “God, I give you all the pieces of my life,” he will return peace for your pieces. He gives you peace in your heart that comes from knowing that even if you don’t understand the hurt in your life, you can still forgive, knowing that God will use that pain for good.

You don’t have to forget the wrong thing that someone did to you. You can’t do it even if you tried! But God says you don’t have to forget it. You just have to forgive and then see how he will bring good out of it.

Does Forgiveness Mean Instant Trust?

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

Can I Trust You?

Sometimes the burden to trust again has been unfairly placed upon the shoulders of the betrayed person and linked with forgiveness. The thinking goes like this: if you forgive me, then what happened between us is in the past. We don’t need to discuss this anymore and trust should be automatically restored.

But that’s not true.

We can genuinely forgive someone and still not trust him (or her).

Forgiveness is something we do because God calls us to do it, not necessarily because someone is sorry, repentant, or is genuinely interested in rebuilding trust. However, reconciliation of the relationship, including trusting again, requires forgiveness but not just forgiveness. It also requires the one who broke trust to show genuine repentance as well as make efforts to rebuild broken trust.

Typically we think of broken trust, especially in marriage, only in the sexual realm. However below are three additional areas where trust can be broken and must be rebuilt if a relationship is to be restored.

1.  Authenticity: People immediately mistrust someone who feels false. When you are married to someone, work with someone, or are close to someone who has one persona in public and another in private, you intuitively do not trust him, even when you have no specific reason not to. You don’t trust his public persona (i.e. great guy), because you also bear witness to his or her hypocrisy elsewhere. This person’s core self is not authentic and therefore he cannot or should not be trusted.

To rebuild trust with someone who has been inauthentic requires him or her to acknowledge his or her false image and learn to be more real. In most instances a person who has a double self will not acknowledge it nor do they typically change. When confronted, they just get more devious.

2. Reliability: When we are in relationship with someone, personal or professional, we want to know whether we can count on that person to do what he says he will do. Or, likewise, can I trust that he will stop doing the things that he says he will stop doing?

In rebuilding broken trust with someone who has a track record of unreliability, we must look at what the person does, not what the person says that he or she will do. For example, does he say he will put filters on his computer but never does? Does she say she will stop drinking, or spending money on the credit card but does nothing? Does he say he wants restoration of the marriage but won’t go to counseling or do any work towards that end? Does she tell you she will make more efforts to call you and reach out to you in order to have a more mutual relationship but her promises don’t turn into real phone calls?

Proverbs 25:19 says, “Putting confidence in an unreliable person in times of trouble is like chewing with a broken tooth or walking on a lame foot.” It’s foolish.

John Mark was someone who was not reliable and as a result, lost the apostle Paul’s trust (See Acts 15). Later on we see that trust was restored, not because Paul gave him trust, but because John Mark proved he was reliable and Paul’s trust was restored (2 Timothy 4). In the same way, building consistent reliability into our character rebuilds broken trust, not empty promises.

3. Care: In our closest relationships we ask ourselves: can I trust that you care for my good? My well-being?  When I share my thoughts and feelings do you hear me? Value me? Protect me? Or is there mocking, contempt, avoidance, or indifference? Proverbs 31:11,12 says, “The heart of her husband trusts in her.” Why?  Because, “He trusts her to do him good not harm all the days of his life.”

One of the foundations of relational trust is that love does not intentionally harm the other (Romans 13:10).  And, if in weakness and sin there is harm, every effort is made to make amends and not repeat that harm.

A destructive person does not want to hear the other person’s grievances against him. It’s true; it does hurt our feelings (and pride) to hear how we have hurt someone. It takes effort to listen and care about the other person’s feelings when you have broken her trust. Yet without consistent compassion, empathy, and care for the other, rebuilding trust is not possible. And if we don’t trust that someone cares for our well being, a close relationship with that person is not possible.

Rebuilding broken trust takes time and specific evidence of change, not merely words or promises of change.  

You Don’t Have to Live with Guilt

SOURCE:  Rick Warren

“A man who refuses to admit his mistakes can never be successful. But if he confesses and forsakes them, he gets another chance.”(Proverbs 28:13 TLB)

God is always ready to give you another chance. That’s a bedrock piece of Christianity. We’ve all been irresponsible. We’ve all screwed up. The Bible tells us,“Not a single person on earth is always good and never sins” (Ecclesiastes 7:20 NLT, second edition).

God doesn’t want you living with a heavy guilt trip about all the irresponsibility in your life. Guilt destroys your confidence, damages your relationships, keeps you stuck in the past, and even hurts your health. I read a report a few years back that said 70 percent of people in the hospital could leave if they knew how to resolve their guilt.

God wants far better for your life than that. You don’t want to live with guilt. And here’s an important truth to always hang on to: You don’t have to.

God wants you to live with a sense of promise and hope. God can even bring good out of the stupid decisions that you’ve made in your life if you’ll give those failures to him.

How do you do that?

Admit to God you’ve made a mistake. It doesn’t surprise him. And it won’t change his perception of you. I hope you’ll take this step today. When you do, here’s what you can expect from God:

  1. God forgives instantly. The very moment you admit your sin to God, he forgives you.
  2. God forgives freely. You don’t need to earn it, and you’ll never deserve it.
  3. God forgives completely. He wipes your sin absolutely clean.

If you’re mired in guilt and shame, you’ll likely perpetuate whatever problem you have. You’ll tell yourself that you blew it, so you’re bad. Since you’re bad, you believe you’ll blow it again. It’s a nasty cycle from which we often can’t seem to escape — at least not on our own.

You need a power beyond yourself. You need a Savior. You need Jesus.

3 Characteristics of a Repentant Spouse

SOURCE:  Family Life/Eric Mason

Would you like to revolutionize your marriage?

Then try starting with a little repentance.

It’s amazing how much healing can occur between a husband and a wife when 10 little words are said: “I am so sorry for what I did. I repent!”

As we grow as believers in Jesus Christ and become surrounded by more and more Christians, it’s easy to put on a facade. Often we aren’t willing to admit where we are spiritually because we’ve become skilled at hiding our weaknesses.

But for Christian husbands and wives who want a strong marriage, there comes a time when we have to own up and be honest about ourselves. Will we live our lives bare before the Lord? Will we open ourselves up to our spouses? If so, then we need to learn how to be repentant.

Face-to-face with sin

If you are looking for an example of repentance, go no further than 2 Samuel 12. You probably know the story. The prophet Nathan came to King David to confront him about committing adultery and murder. Nathan told David about two men who lived in the same city. One was rich and had a large number of sheep and cattle. The other had only one little female lamb that he treated as a member of his family. The rich man took the poor man’s lamb to use as a meal.

“As surely as God lives,” David said to Nathan, “the man who did this ought to be lynched! He must repay for the lamb four times over for his crime and his stinginess!”

Then Nathan stunned David with his reply: “You’re the man!” (2 Samuel 12:5-7,The Message).

It’s interesting that David had a lot of self-righteousness when it came to somebody else’s sin. But when he realized that he was the man who had sinned, he begged for mercy.

After finally coming face-to-face with his sin of adultery, David penned Psalm 51. It begins, “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love, according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. … cleanse me from my sin! … Against you, you only, have I sinned …”

David was far more than sorrowful for his sin. He was repentant.

Psalm 51 gives us a picture of what genuine repentance looks like. Applying it to marriage, here are three characteristics of a repentant spouse:

1. A repentant spouse trusts the character of God. In Psalm 51 David says, in essence, “God, I know I’ve messed up beyond the worst level of messing up. What I need is the God who will deal with me based on His commitment to covenant, not my failure of the covenant.” Twice he mentions God’s merciful character. “Have mercy on me, O God,” he pleads.

It’s important to trust the character of God before you focus on your sin. If you focus on your sin first, you’ll get depressed. You’ll get frustrated. You’ll feel locked in. But if you put your mind on the character of God, then you’ll have encouragement to deal with your sin.

We need the gospel, not self-righteousness. We need to submit ourselves to the beauty of the character of God so that Christ’s righteousness can cover our sin and deal with it.

How does this look in marriage? If you and your spouse mention your sin to each other all the time, then all you’re going to do is argue. “Well, you sinned against me!” … “No, you sinned against me!” But if you focus on God’s mercy, looking at all God has done for you, then the situation seems very different.

A deeply-repentant spouse first sees the attributes of God: His mercy, love, grace, long-suffering, spirituality, omniscience, omnipresence. When God’s attributes permeate your relationship with your spouse, your mind will be more on the Lord and your marriage. You won’t just be focusing on the faults of your spouse, and you’ll be better equipped to deal with your sin.

2. A repentant spouse owns the extent of his or her sin. David says, “I know my transgressions.” Now, the word here for “know” means to be acquainted with something intimately. When he says, “I know my sin,” that means he is able to absolutely, unadulteratedly acknowledge what he did. One of the most authentic and powerful things Christians can do is own their sin. You can’t even get saved until you do that.

If you want a godly marriage, you better get used to learning how to repent. I fight with it every day myself. I have to fight self-righteousness! I have to fight not wanting to acknowledge stuff. I have to fight unforgiveness and anger.

In Psalm 51, David not only talked about knowing his sin, but also said that God would be justified in saying to him whatever He wanted to. “Against You, and You only, have I sinned and have done what is evil in Your sight, so that You may be justified in Your words.”

David didn’t waste a lot of words when he admitted that he had sinned against the Lord. How often have you presented a paragraph of information to your spouse explaining why you have sinned? David didn’t do that. He owned his sin. Likewise, in marriage we need to face up to our individual offenses.

3. A repentant spouse yearns for long-term transformation. Just look at what David says in Psalm 51:6, “Behold, You delight in truth in the inward being…and teach me wisdom in the secret heart.”

When David says “delight,” he is talking about what God likes inside of His people. He is saying to God, “You desire the places that I’ve closed off from You to be reopened in my life, for You to deal with.” In this passage David is getting beyond the sin of adultery and getting to the heart that led to adultery.

Jesus Christ did not die on the cross so that we would have the same old, nasty, funky, trifling, hard heart in our marriages. He says in Ezekiel 36:24-28 (The Message): “… I’ll give you a new heart, put a new spirit in you. I’ll remove the stone heart from your body and replace it with a heart that’s God-willed, not self-willed. I’ll put my Spirit in you and make it possible for you to do what I tell you and live by my commands. …”

Whiter than snow

No matter where we are in life, each of us is in desperate need of the cross of Christ. And that’s what David expresses in Psalm 51:7, “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean. Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.”

The gospel gives freedom to our lives and to our marriages. Jesus has already paid for our sins. He gives us the ability to look into our spouse’s eyes and say, “I am so sorry for what I did. I repent!”

5 Christian Clichés That Aren’t True

SOURCE:  ALLISON DUNCAN/Relevant Magazine

Examining Christian truisms that might not actually be true.

Christians culture has fostered a lot of cutesy sayings, but just because something sounds good doesn’t mean it’s accurate.

You’ve probably heard at least some of these truisms in church before, but let’s take a second look at them. Because as catchy as they sound, they may be misleading, simplistic or only partly true.

All sins are the same. No sin is worse than any other.

All sins are the same in that they all separate us from God, but not all sins are equally damaging to ourselves and others.

It should be obvious that murdering someone is far worse than gossiping about your co-worker. Though Romans does say “For the wages of sin is death” (in the context of showing how our human nature is in need of salvation through Christ, “but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord”), throughout Scripture, particularly the Old Testament, different penalties and consequences are assigned to different kinds of transgressions.

Forgive and forget.

Good luck with forgetting! We can’t realistically obliterate certain things from our memories. And fortunately, that’s not a necessary part of forgiving someone. Forgiveness means being fully aware of how someone hurt you, but choosing not to take revenge and loving her anyway.

Depending on the situation, we can figuratively “forget” the wrongs people have done to us by choosing to treat them as if those things never happened. But this doesn’t mean we have to trust untrustworthy people or make ourselves vulnerable to them again.

In his somewhat ironically titled book Forgive and Forget, Lewis B. Smedes writes, “The test of forgiving lies with healing the lingering pain of the past, not with forgetting that the past ever happened … You do not have to forget after you forgive; you may, but your forgiving can be sincere even if you remember.”

God isn’t interested in making you happy; He’s interested in making you holy.

This implies that holiness and happiness are mutually exclusive. What if holiness and happiness, as defined by God, are two sides of the same coin? Sure, it’s not exactly accurate to say “God wants us to be happy” if we define happiness by worldly standards or base it on temporal emotions, but He does want us to have fellowship with Him, which makes us both eternally happy and holy.

The Psalms are full of references to the happiness God gives us: “In your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11), “Delight yourself in the Lord” (Psalm 37:4), and “My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food” (Psalm 63:5).

Christian tradition also emphasizes the happiness we can find in God, though it’s not based on earthly standards of “happiness” through getting everything we want. Augustine said that our hearts are restless until they find their rest in God. The Westminster Shorter Catechism says, “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” Our enjoyment of Him is a testament to His glory. He above all is worthy to be enjoyed.

True happiness is not about us. It’s about God. It’s about being united with Him, which leads to wisdom and righteousness. We won’t have perfect happiness until we are perfectly united with God. But we can look forward to this as our destination, as the end for which we were created, says Thomas Aquinas.

During times of suffering, you’ll be closer to God because you have to depend on Him more.

You may feel closer to God when you’re suffering. When Paul was suffering from the thorn in his flesh, he learned to depend on God’s strength in his weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). He could even rejoice in his weaknesses and was content with hardships, because they revealed God’s power.

But Job’s experience was different from Paul’s. He longed for God, but couldn’t find Him (Job 23:3), and he vacillated between hope and despair throughout his time of suffering. So it’s OK if you don’t feel closer to God during hardships either.

If God feels distant, guess who moved?

Read Job, and don’t always blame the sufferer. Jesus Himself felt forsaken by God on the cross, but He wasn’t at fault. Sometimes we drift from God, yes. But other times, God withdraws for reasons that remain mysterious to us. It may be hard to tell who is moving away from whom. Don’t add to people’s pain by automatically declaring them guilty.

It’s easy to oversimplify complex issues. But we do ourselves a favor by seeking the truth instead of unthinkingly accepting truisms.

The Scientific Case for Forgiveness

SOURCE:  MIKE MCHARGUE/Relevant Magazine

Holding a grudge hurts us physically and psychologically.

The Bible makes me think Jesus was obsessed with forgiveness. He never stopped talking about the need to forgive others. His parables spoke of a God who was forgiving, and expected His creations to be forgiving as well.

Jesus portrayed forgiving others as essential to living life abundantly.

Jesus and science are in complete agreement on that matter, as studies have given scientific evidence for many of the things the Bible tells us about forgiving others.

When You Forgive, You Heal Faster

Scientists have found that victims of severe abuse who forgive their abuser receive measurable improvements in psychological and physical health. When compared to control groups, the forgivers healed faster and more completely.

But there’s a catch—forgiveness isn’t a one-time, leave-it-all-behind moment. It’s a continual process.

Specific techniques vary across practitioners, but the basic model is the same. Scientists shows us that our brains can’t forgive people who’ve hurt us until we grieve the pain we’ve experienced, work to understand the perspective of our abuser, decide to forgive them and then work toward some level of acceptance or compassion toward the one who wounded us.

You can’t forgive and forget—our brains don’t work that way. You can only learn to move on without wishing harm on the one who harmed you.

Unforgiveness Physically Limits You

Have you ever been hurt so badly by someone who you can’t stop thinking about them? People who’ve hurt us live in our heads rent-free, showing up in our mind’s eye when we have coffee with friends, enjoy nature or spend time with our family.

Sadly, research suggests that holding a grudge against one who wounded us doesn’t affect them, but instead impairs us. This impairment can manifest itself in surprising ways.

Ruminating over the one who hurt us takes cognitive energy, and affects our brains and bodies. It raises the levels of stress hormones in our bloodstream, and can elevate our blood pressure and contribute to weight gain. It even affects our ability to focus and form new memories.

Holding onto hurt creates a fog around your mind and a weight on your body. This is less of a metaphor than you’d think, because in one study scientists found that people could actually jump higher after consciously forgiving someone. Another study showed that people who thought about a grudge viewed physical tasks are more demanding.

When we don’t forgive others, we put ourselves in mental, emotional and physical bondage. The person who hurt us may have put us in a cage, but we’re the only ones who can set ourselves free.

Forgiving Doesn’t Mean You Accept Further Harm

Studies have shown that forgiveness is effective and beneficial even in the most severe cases of abuse, trauma, oppression and neglect. Both our faith and modern science emphasize the importance of forgiving others for transgressions—no matter how badly we were hurt.

But, it’s important to define forgiveness well. Forgiveness is accepting what happened and moving on without wishing harm on the one who hurt you. It is not placing yourself in situations where you will continue to be hurt or abused. You can forgive someone and still maintain necessary boundaries in a relationship. In cases of severe abuse, that boundary may need to be no further contact.

When Jesus spoke of “turning the other cheek” to an “evil one,” those words weren’t just an admonishment to non-violence. Jesus quoted the law, and then described radical submission to possible legal interpretations. This approach revealed personal and systemic brutality for what it was, be it physical, economic or legal.

“Turning the other cheek” is not an admonishment to stay in an abusive situation.

As science shows, it’s good for you to forgive an abusive parent or spouse. It’s freeing to let go of resentment toward an unhealthy friendship, but there’s no nobility in allowing those patterns to continue. In cases of persistent abuse, the best way to forgive someone is to walk away.

 

Forgiveness, Grief, & Healing

SOURCE:  Living Free/Raymond T. Brock, Ed.D

“Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.

Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”Colossians 3:13 NIV

Forgiveness is one of the most difficult tasks to be accomplished in the process of working through grief.

If we are honest with God about our hurts and disappointments, he will lead us into the freedom of forgiveness.

Sometimes it will be another person you need to forgive: the deceased for dying and leaving you, the medical personnel for not saving your loved one’s life, or someone you think may have contributed to your loved one’s death. You might even be struggling with forgiving yourself for those last words you did; or didn’t; say.

Forgiveness is never easy, but we remain prisoners of those we fail to forgive. Forgiveness allows us to be released from the hold another person, living or dead, has on us.

Are you struggling with unforgiveness?

Consider taking these thoughts and feelings to God today. Be honest with him and allow him to help you. With the help of his strength and his love, you can overcome. Only then can you move on to complete healing and a future filled with hope.

Father, thank you for forgiving me for every failure, every sin. I’ve let you down so many times, and yet you continue to forgive; and to love. Help me be more like you. Help me to forgive those I’ve held things against. Help me to forgive myself. In Jesus’ name …

———————————————————————————————————————————

These thoughts were drawn from …

Handling Loss and Grief: How to Face Losses in Life and Grieve Christianly by Raymond T. Brock, Ed.D.

Marriage Q&A: Choosing To Live With A Very Difficult Spouse

SOURCE:  Taken from an article by Leslie Vernick

How Do I Live With A Basically Good Man Who Is A Tyrant?

QuestionMy husband is basically a good man.   He is a school teacher and the music director/organist of our Church.  He can be patient, kind, loving and always deeply spiritual.  He can also be demanding, tyrannical and irrational.

He blames everyone and anyone for any problems that arise. It is a knee-jerk reaction to even the slightest, most inconsequential of events. If one of our children falls down, his first reaction is to scream an “I told you so” at them- never is his first reaction one of concern for their well-being or safety.  He expects our older children- living away from our home with lives of their own- to always be at his beck and call.  If he wants them to do something for him, it does not matter that they have jobs, plans, etc.  He refuses to be told no.  And, everyone cow-tows to him just to keep him on an even keel and avoid the rants and literal rages that he has demonstrated.

While he is a school teacher, his passion is the piano and he is an accomplished pianist and composer- just not as revered and accomplished as he would like to be.  Whose fault is that?  His parents. His father for having a health crisis when he was younger or his mother for not knowing or doing enough to promote his career.  The children and I are also to blame because he has to work a “meaningless” job to put food on the table.

He takes no responsibility for any failure, real or imagined, in his life.  He doesn’t seem to have any concept that not everyone’s life revolves around him and that people are allowed their own lives and opinions.  He is negative in all aspects of his life- except, of course, if it relates to music.   While I could write pages about this aspect of his personality, suffice it to say that he will always see the dark cloud around the silver lining.   He is also very vocal about his negative thoughts and when he’s challenged, he plays the victim and accuses the challenger of attacking him.  It’s to the point where conversation with him is seldom initiated because we all know what his reaction will be.  Want his opinion?  Just think of the most irrational response, and go with that.

He is like a petulant two-year-old who demands his own way and nothing is ever right for him.  Even if you do something considerate to try and make life easier for him or take care of something that he hadn’t time to do, his reaction is never one of gratitude- there is always, always, always a negative reaction.  Things are still done or taken care of for him, but it’s never brought up to him and, if he does notice, it’s never mentioned.

While we all love him, he is driving a wide and very deep wedge between himself and the rest of our family.  It is very difficult to live with someone when you are walking on eggshells at all times.  I am not looking to leave him or my marriage.  I am looking for help in how to live with him and how to help my children live with him.  I do not want my children to grow up like their father.

Answer:  I feel a little confused. You say that your husband is basically a good man, patient, kind, loving and always deeply spiritual.  Then you go on for several paragraphs listing all the ways he is not patient, loving, good or spiritual.  Perhaps what you mean is that your husband can be charming and act loving when everything is going his way and everyone meets his needs and expectations in exactly the way he wants.  When that doesn’t happen, (which is real life) watch out!

Now your question, how do you live with someone like that and how do you help your children live with someone like that?  The best answer I can offer you is you can only live with this (if you choose to) with a good support system and lots of grace and truth, with no expectations of a meaningful relationship or mutual give and take.

I am reluctant to put a label on anyone but your description of your husband’s behavior is typical of someone with Narcissistic Personality Disorder.  A craving for admiration, an attitude of entitlement and lack of empathy for anyone else’s needs are usually the big red flags.   You can google it and read more information on it if you want to see if it fits.

Let’s start with grace. In order to live with someone like this you will need to learn to lean hard into God’s loving grace, knowing that when your husband doesn’t treat you well or love you like you wished he did, you are still deeply loved and valued by God.  You will need God’s grace to continually forgive your husband and keep a clean slate of the wrongs he does against you so that you don’t become hardened by bitterness and resentment. Your husband will never apologize or take responsibility for the wrong’s he’s done which makes it that much harder to forgive and let things go so your strength must come from outside yourself. It can only be from God.

You will need God’s grace to biblically love your husband when you feel like screaming at him and grace to not repay evil for evil. Jesus calls us to love our enemies but we rarely have to live with our enemies day in and day out.  To live in a relatively conflict-free relationship with your husband you will need to accept that you will always be more the giver. God sees how much you give whether or not your husband notices or appreciates it.  You will need His eternal perspective on your marital loneliness and suffering because you will feel unheard, unloved and unvalued much of the time, which may tempt you to seek other male companionship.

You will need grace to not judge your husband and have contempt for him as a man or as a person, even though truth tells you his attitudes and actions are sinful.  Grace keeps us humble, reminding us that we too are sinful and have our own brokenness.  Grace keeps us mindful of the logs in our own eyes before trying to remove the speck in our spouse’s.

You will also need to stay focused on God’s truth to stay healthy emotionally, spiritually and mentally.  Your husband blames and shames everyone around him and it’s tempting to believe his harsh words.  Don’t do it. Listen to what God says about who you are and not your husband’s words.  You will need God’s truth to explain to yourself and even your children that sometimes their father acts selfishly and it’s not wrong of them to say “no” or to ask him to consider their needs, and not just think of his own (Philippians 2:4).

Truth will help you know when boundaries are important and how to set them. For example, when he begins his angry tirade you might stop talking, turn around and walk away. If he continues, leave the house.  When you return you can say something like, “I can’t listen to you when you scream at me. You would do the same if I talked to you that way”  Keep it short and simple.  Or “I don’t want to feel angry and hateful toward you so I’m leaving until you can cool down.”  Then do it.

You will also need truth to guide you when to confront your husband’s sinful behavior and how.  There may be a strategic or teachable moment where you could say something that may cause him to press pause and think about his actions and you want to look for those moments and ask God to give you an anointed tongue.

We are to speak the truth in love to one another but it’s tempting to either to placate this kind of person or eventually get sick of it and blow up, only to later feel guilty, regretting your reaction which only adds more fuel to his fire.  Wear truth as a necklace and she will teach you when the time is right to speak. Hard words need not be harsh words.

For example, when he’s inconsiderate of your needs or your schedule, you could say, “I know this is important to you, but this is important to me so I have to do this first.”  Your goal in this kind of statement is to remind him that you are a separate PERSON with your own needs, feelings and thoughts.  You are not just a slave or a robot or a “wife” but a person and even if he doesn’t value you, you are going to value yourself.

You said you don’t’ want your children growing up to be like their father.  Children do learn a lot from their parents, but their father isn’t their only influencer.  You have a huge impact on your children and the way you interact with their father will say a lot to them about not only who he is, but who you are.  If you act as if he’s right and he’s entitled to act this way, they get the picture that men (fathers, husbands) get to have their way all the time that’s “normal”.  Therefore it’s important to speak truthfully to your children about things such as, “I think sometimes your father can be self-absorbed and not realize that you have your own plans. It’s okay to remind him that you can’t always accommodate him and stick to what you need to do for yourself.”

You say your husband is deeply spiritual. Galatians 5:16-26 speaks about the person who lives in the spirit and one who lives in the flesh.  Perhaps in a moment when your husband seems open or more in tune with God, you could ask him which one he inhabits most often?  Or when he is most negative or critical say, “You don’t seem to experience God’s joy or peace very much.  Why do you think that is?”  Your words will have little impact on him but God tells us that His words are powerful and don’t return void. They have the power to cut right to the heart (Hebrews 4:12). Ask God to use His Word, even those in the lyrics of the music he plays each week at church, to cause him to see the truth about why he is so critical, so miserable and so unhappy.

Lastly, don’t forget you do need good relationships, even if it’s not in your marriage. Seek out healthy girlfriends that can encourage you, love on you, pray for you and hold you accountable to be the kind of person you want to be while living in this difficult marriage.

Reconciliation: Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late

SOURCE:  Ken Sande

“You warned me. You warned me. And I didn’t listen. Now it’s too late. She’s dead and I’ll never be able to say I’m sorry.”

The woman was sobbing so hard on the other end of the telephone line that I could hardly understand her words. But as she calmed down, I finally learned what she was talking about.

I had spoken at her church three days earlier. When teaching about Jesus’ command to go and be reconciled to anyone who has something against us (Matt. 5:23-24), I urged the class not to delay, because we never know how long we’ll have the opportunity to make things right.

The woman on the phone had been in my class. When she heard my teaching, she immediately thought of her sister. They had quarreled four years earlier and hadn’t spoken to each other since. She knew my warning applied to her, but she dragged her feet.

Two days after the class, her sister was killed in a car accident. They would never experience restoration in this life.

I did my best to console her with the promise of eternal reconciliation in Christ, but that did not remove the intense, present grief she felt because of her failure to be restored to her sister in this life.

Don’t make the same mistake yourself.

Is there someone out there who might something against you? Jesus commands you to go and be reconciled. Now. Today.

“If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Matt. 5:23-24).

Notice that he doesn’t say “if your brother has something big and justifiable against you.” His command applies to offenses that you might view as being trivial or unjustified. He does not give you the option of dismissing it. If an offense might still weigh on another, Jesus says “go.”

Now. Today. Before it’s too late.

Five Steps that Will Help You Put the Past in the Past

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

There are times in our lives when we can’t let go of our past.

Every past mistake, sinful action, wrong word, and poor choice is rehearsed again and again.  Or, when our painful childhood or hurtful and/or abusive marriage is long over, we still continue to feel angry, hurt and stuck in the memories and negative emotions about what happened to us.  We don’t know how to move on.

 If that’s where you are today, take some time to walk through these five steps.  They will help you move the past into the past and keep it there.

1.     Acknowledge the truth of what happened.

You can never move beyond something until you first honestly face it. Whether it is your own past failures or the sins of someone else, you can’t fix or forgive something that “didn’t’ happen,” is “no big deal,” “not really a problem,” or “someone else’s fault.”

Sometimes we don’t want to face the truth about what others or we have done because we don’t want to face the strong emotions that accompany admitting that reality.  It feels easier to shut down and turn off or blame.

Write down the facts of what happened as best you can recall them.  Don’t whitewash it or make it pretty.  Commit to telling yourself the truth.

2.     Allow yourself to feel your feelings.

Some people are afraid to feel their feelings because they’re afraid of what will happen. Your feelings are powerful and important, but you do not have to act on them, you just need to respect them and acknowledge their presence.

Sometimes the wisest thing to do is to not to act on your feelings especially if they are destructive to yourself or to others.

Instead process your strong emotions in a journal, give yourself permission to feel your feelings, express them with paint or sculpture, share them with a counselor, coach or trusted friend.  Look at them and ask yourself what they are trying to tell you?

3.     Release the things you are not responsible for.

Sometimes we take responsibility for things that are not our fault.  For example, if you were abused as a child, you may have believed the lie that you deserved it. If only you were a better kid, your parents would have loved you more or taken better care of you.

But the truth is, there is no perfect kid and good parents love their children unconditionally. No child deserves abuse even when he or she misbehaves.  A parent loves, nurtures, instructs, and disciplines their child but not in cruel and abusive ways. When parents (spouse or others) abuse, there is something wrong with them, not you.

4.     Take responsibility for what you can change.

In our journey to break free from our past, we must learn to take responsibility for our present, our future, and ourselves.  Ask yourself if you use the excuse of your past to not grow up or handle yourselves now in a mature and/or godly way?

For example, we may continue to act helpless, refuse to try new things or avoid owning the problems we now create in our present relationships (such as being passive, being an enabler, allowing ourselves to be a repeat victim, or even justifying our own abusive behavior towards others).

You can’t alter what happened to you, and you can’t change other people into what you want (or wish) them to be. The only person you can change is yourself. Here are a few things you can work on changing:

You can change the way you see yourself:

The truest thing about you is what God says about you, not what you have been told, or even what you think.  Don’t give the past the power to determine your present worth.

You can change the way you think about your past and the meaning you give it.

Joseph is a man who had every reason to allow past events to destroy his present and future life.  (Read Genesis 37 to 50 for the story).

Joseph squarely faced the truth of what happened to him and vented his powerful emotions. He didn’t blame himself for what his brothers did to him, but he did take responsibility for his own thoughts about it.  He continuously submitted his life to God, and we hear him explain this to his brothers when he said, “don’t you see, you planned evil against me but God used those same plans for my good.”

Look for strengths that have developed in you inspite of, not because of what happened to you.  Don’t allow Satan to warp your thoughts about how to think about yourself or what’s happened to you.  Satan tried to ruin your life in the past.  Don’t give him ground in the present to rob you of your future.

You can change the way you respond to what happened in your past and what happens in the present.

It’s true that people provoke or hurt us, and this tempts us to sin, but how we respond to what they do or don’t do is our choice.  Choose wisely.

Our lifestyle patterns and interpersonal styles are influenced by what happens to us, but more than that, they are shaped by what we do with what happens to us.  Determine that you are going to grow and get healthy so that you are not disabled or destroyed by your past.

5.  Work toward forgiveness

Forgiveness is NOT excusing the offender or minimizing the offense.  Forgiveness is your decision to cancel the debt this person rightfully owes you.  Don’t’ stay stuck in your past because the other person refuses to make amends, say their sorry, or change their destructive ways.  Don’t give this person in your past one more ounce of control over you than he or she has already had thus far.

Understand that it is not the sin from your past that wields the fatal blow to you. It’s your unresolved anger, self-pity, bitterness, shame, and resentment that continue to poison your body and soul.

A person finds healing through the process of forgiveness, both receiving forgiveness and extending forgiveness.That is why God is so insistent that we forgive.  He doesn’t want past sin to ruin our present and future lives.

Forgiveness takes time, but it never starts with a feeling. It requires a decision.  Decide to forgive even when you don’t feel forgiving.

Faithfully walking through these five steps will help you live more fully and freely now.   God wants that for you my friend.

I’m Wrong — BUT — What About Him (or Her)?

SOURCE:  Taken from The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 120.


Going the Wrong Way Down a One-Way Street

Because most of us do not like to admit that we have sinned, we tend to conceal, deny, or rationalize our wrongs.

If we cannot completely cover up what we have done, we try to minimize our wrongdoing by saying that we simply made a “mistake” or an “error in judgment.”

Another way to avoid responsibility for our sins is to shift the blame to others or to say that they made us act the way we did.

When our wrongs are too obvious to ignore, we practice what I call the 40/60 Rule. It goes something like this: “Well, I know I’m not perfect, and I admit I am partially to blame for this problem. I’d say that about 40% of the fault is mine. That means 60% of the fault is hers. Since she is 20% more to blame than I am, she should be the one to ask for forgiveness.” I never actually say or think these exact words, but I often catch myself resorting to this tactic in subtle ways. By believing that my sins have been more than canceled by another’s sins, I can divert attention from myself and avoid repentance and confession.

“It’s two-way street, you know … I did stuff, but he did stuff, too! Why aren’t we talking about HIS stuff?” These words, which were spoken in the midst of an actual conflict, reflect another variation of the 40/60 rule. We say it’s a two-way street, but the problem is that in reality we still treat it like a one-way street. “When the other person is willing to ‘drive’ to me, only then will I think about confessing my part of the conflict.”

But that’s not the way Jesus spells things out in Luke 6:41-42. There he gives his famous words on “getting the log out” of your own eye first, before you ever get around to removing the splinter from your brother’s or sister’s eye. And just a few verses earlier, Jesus tells us to love our enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. (Luke 6:35)

What about the confessions we make?

Do we withhold our confession until we have assurance that the other person will confess his or her part? Or are we willing to confess “expecting nothing in return”?

It is a two-way street, but the responsibility that God calls each of us to is all one-way.

Forgiveness isn’t easy, but it’s always necessary

SOURCE:  American Association of Christian Counselors [AACC]

The Deep Oil of Forgiveness

“Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.” -Mark Twain

“Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” -Jesus Christ

In his book “Unconditional” Brian Zahnd asks this question, “So what is your story? Who has been cruel to you? Perhaps bitterly cruel. What injustice have you suffered? How have you been mistreated? Perhaps miserably so. Who has cheated you? Abused you? Lied to you? Lied about you? Maybe it was last week. Maybe it was a lifetime ago.” i

It is interesting to look at Jesus’ words in Mark 11 concerning interpersonal forgiveness, “And, whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive your trespasses.” (Mark 11:25 ESV) Christ is in effect saying that our vertical relationship with God is much more related to our horizontal relationships with those around us, than we would like to admit.

As our personal creator, Jesus understands how we are made. Not just spiritually, but physiologically as well. Our bodies simply are not fashioned to carry the burden and weight of unforgiveness.

Psychiatrist Loren Olson recently noted that “those more inclined to pardon the transgressions of others have been found to have lower blood pressure, fewer depressive symptoms and, once they hit late middle age, better overall mental and physical health than those who do not forgive easily.” ii

Forgive easily? Is that even possible? We all have heard someone say (or maybe even said it ourselves), “I will forgive, but I will never forget!”

Ev Worthington, whose elderly mother was brutally beaten, raped, and left alone to slowly bleed to death by an enraged burglar, gives personal insight into this. “Sometimes people have a hard time admitting that they aren’t forgiving a person who hurt them. They think that forgiving is a matter of saying certain words — ‘I forgive you’, but there is a heart by-pass. Being able to say the words is a step, but the Lord really wants our hearts touched.”

At the core, forgiveness is releasing a debt. Choosing not to harbor the hurt and anger anymore. Opening the door for healing — maybe even reconciliation.

Forgiveness isn’t easy, but it’s always necessary. And it only takes one to forgive. When you get to the heart of the matter, our ability to forgive is rooted in the fact that we have been forgiven by Christ, in God. (2 Corinthians 5:18-20)

All relationships demand the deep oil of forgiveness.

When we forgive it breaks the poisonous cycle of revenge, and allows the broken to walk in peace. The Jesus way is always the way of forgiveness. We forgive to free ourselves and to get our lives back. His way is the way that gives the future hope… a hope that can turn your life around.

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i Zahnd, B., (2010). Unconditional? The Call of Jesus to Radical Forgiveness. Orlando, FL: Charisma House.

ii Olson, L. A., (2011, March/April). Forgiveness: You Life Depends Upon It. Family Therapy Magazine, 10(2), 28-31.

Understanding The Bitter Heart

SOURCE:  Julie Ganschow/Biblical Counseling Coalition

Bitterness is unresolved, unforgiven anger and resentment. It is the result of anger changing from an experience to a belief. Bitterness is seething and constant. Bitter people carry the same burdens as angry people, but to a greater extent.

Watch out that no bitter root of unbelief rises up among you, for whenever it springs up, many are corrupted by its poison.  Hebrews 12:15 (NLT)

Bitterness does not affect only you, dear counselee; it affects everyone with whom you come into contact.

In the book of Ruth we read about Naomi (which means pleasant), the wife of Elimelech. Elimelech took his wife and two sons down from Bethlehem to the country of Moab because there was a famine in the land. While living in Moab, the sons took wives named Ruth and Orpah from among the native people. Elimelech and his two sons died in Moab and left Naomi, Ruth, and Orpah to fend for themselves.

When news came that the famine in the land of Judah had lifted, Naomi decided to return home to her own people. The three women set out together, but on the way, Naomi gave the young women the freedom to return home to their own people.

“No,” they said. “We want to go with you to your people.” But Naomi replied, “Why should you go on with me? Can I still give birth to other sons who could grow up to be your husbands? No, my daughters, return to your parents’ homes, for I am too old to marry again. And even if it were possible, and I were to get married tonight and bear sons, then what? Would you wait for them to grow up and refuse to marry someone else? No, of course not, my daughters! Things are far more bitter for me than for you, because the LORD himself has caused me to suffer.”  Ruth 1:10-14 (NLT)

Orpah did turn back, but Ruth was committed to Naomi and to her God.

So the two of them continued on their journey. When they came to Bethlehem, the entire town was stirred by their arrival. “Is it really Naomi?” the women asked. “Don’t call me Naomi,” she told them. “Instead, call me Mara, [meaning bitter] for the Almighty has made life very bitter for me. I went away full, but the LORD has brought me home empty. Why should you call me Naomi when the  LORD has caused me to suffer and the Almighty has sent such tragedy?”  Ruth 1:19-21 (NLT) 

What do you suppose it was that caused the whole town to stir? Could it have been Naomi’s appearance? Do you wonder if they could see the changes that had taken place inside her heart or on her face? Note the things Naomi says in verses 19-21:

“Things are far more bitter for me than for you, because the LORD himself has caused me to suffer.” And “. . . call me Mara, for the Almighty has made life very bitter for me. I went away full, but the LORD has brought me home empty. Why should you call me Naomi when the LORD has caused me to suffer and the Almighty has sent such tragedy?”

Naomi blamed God for making her life bitter and empty. All she could see was that she no longer had what she loved. Her bitterness reflected a heart of unbelief in the justice and sovereignty of God. She held on to the anger for what had been done to her and stood in judgment over God. In the entire text, we see nothing of Naomi’s quest to understand the purpose of God in her suffering. We only read that she was angry and bitter for what she had lost.

Perhaps you struggle with the same type of bitterness. Sometimes women and men who have lost children to illness or accident blame God for their loss. “God, how could you take my beloved child  from me? Don’t You know how much I loved him? How could You do this to  me?” An abandoned spouse may become bitter as they wonder: “God, don’t You see how much I am struggling to raise these kids while he is out living the high life?How can you let him get away with this? I am the one who was faithful, and now I am  he one who is miserable while he has it made! Don’t you care about me? Why aren’t you punishing him?”

The honest businessman sees a crooked businessman prospering while he flounders. “God, how can You stand by and let this happen? I am an honest businessman, and  my business is failing! How can You let him get way with such thievery? I have a wife and kids to feed, God; why are you doing this to me?”

The childless couple is bitter when they see families with several children and they cannot seem to have even one. “God, why don’t You let us have even one child when these other people have so many! It isn’t fair that we can’t have even one child to love while so many are being aborted and abandoned! God, why are You doing this to us?”

You become bitter out of a belief that God will not punish the people who hurt you, that God does not hear your plea, or that He does not care about your plight. Since God is apparently not going to intervene in your circumstances,  you stand in as judge, jury, and executioner in the lives of other people.

It becomes a circular pattern. The more you dwell on what has been done to you, the injustice you have suffered, or the loss you have incurred, the deeper goes the root of bitterness. You already know that carrying around a load of bitterness is exhausting.

Bitterness hardens your heart on the inside and your features on the outside. It also defiles those around you because it is contagious.

Curing The Bitter Heart

Do you want the cure for bitterness? You must understand that the only cure for bitterness and anger is forgiveness.

Bitterness is focused on what has been done to you. To break up bitterness, you must also be willing to look at what you have done to others. Your task is to admit what your responsibility is in the matter and go to those you have hurt, confess your sin, and first seek their forgiveness. You must be willing to get the log out of your own eye prior to examining your neighbor’s eye.

And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log from your own eye; then perhaps you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.  Matthew 7:3-5 (NLT) 

The examination process begins right here at home. Start with yourself and seek God’s help in revealing the contents of your heart in relation to how you have sinned against others.

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.  Psalm 139:23-24 (NLT) 

There needs to be a willingness on your part to forsake your sin of bitterness.

Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of malicious behavior. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another,  even as God in Christ forgave you.  Ephesians 4:31-32 (NLT) 

Confession of your own sin and repentance for that sin must take place in your heart first. Then you must seek for other relationships to be healed and restored. You may want to pray a prayer similar to this one:

Gracious Heavenly Father, I realize now that I have a root of bitterness in my heart. Thank You that You have chosen this time in my life to reveal it to me. I ask for Your help, dear Lord, to see the areas of my heart and life where bitterness has grown. I trust the Holy Spirit will reveal to me my sin and I confess to you the sin of bitterness regarding the following circumstances in my life : __________

Thank You, dear Lord, for revealing to me the areas of my life over which I am bitter. Please help me to overcome this sin that defiles many and begin to put on the fruit of forgiveness in my life. Please help me to restore and repair the relationships that I have wounded and destroyed by my bitterness. Thank You for Your great gift of grace to me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Forgiving others is not an option for the Christian; it’s required, and it is step number one in removing bitterness.

Since God chose you to be the holy people whom he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. You must make allowance for each other’s faults and forgive the person who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Colossians 3:12-13 (NLT)

In forgiving others, it is important to remember a few important rules: When I forgive, I resolve never to bring this circumstance or situation up again to the one I forgave, to anyone else, or even to myself. It is a closed book. If you are going to pattern your forgiveness after that of the Lord, then you will choose to remember no more the sin committed against you.

But what if you are bitter toward God? What if it is God who has hurt you and caused you pain? My dear friend, please take hold of this truth: God is the sovereign God of the entire universe. It is His, and He does with it what He wishes, and it is always good. In fact, it is always very good!

To believe you must forgive God for what you perceive He has done against you insinuates that God has sinned, and this cannot be. God is a loving, holy, and perfect, sinless God who does not make mistakes.

Naomi, as recorded in the book of Ruth, may have believed for a time that God somehow made a mistake in taking her husband and sons from her, for she said He “brought me back empty.” It was no mistake, however. God was purposely unfolding His divine plan for humanity in Naomi’s life and in the death of her loved ones. Take note, dear one, that if Naomi’s son would have lived, Ruth would have remained his wife. Without the death of her husband, Ruth would not have been free to meet and marry Boaz, who became her kinsman redeemer. Ruth would not have given birth to their son, Obed, who became the father of Jesse, who is the father of David, from whose lineage comes the Christ.

Acceptance of hard things at the hand of a loving God is not easy. I encourage you to seek God in your circumstances and to trust that He is unfolding a divine plan that you cannot see right now, just as He did in the case of Naomi and Ruth. God’s sovereignty is always balanced by His love, and He promises to bring good out of every tragedy and heartache.

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn, with many brothers and sisters.  Romans 8:28-29 (NLT) 

Reconciliation: Making It At Least As Good As It Was Before

SOURCE: Taken from The Peacemaker/Ken Sande

Being reconciled does not mean that the person who offended you must now become your closest friend.

What it means is that your relationship will be at least as good as it was before the offense occurred.

Once that happens, an even better relationship may develop. As God helps you and the other person work through your differences, you may discover a growing respect and appreciation for each other. Moreover, you may uncover common interests and goals that will add a deeper and richer dimension to your friendship.

When a relationship has been seriously damaged because one person violated another’s trust or deeply hurt the other person, how can that relationship be made “at least as good as it was before?” 

The first step is to note that biblical reconciliation is not an effort by both parties to “make things exactly as they were before.” Clearly, things can never be the same again. However, for Christians, while the relationship will indeed be different on the other side of the offense, it can, by God’s grace, be “at least as good”–if not better.

While the repentance of the offending party is key in the reconciliation process, much of the “difference that makes better” does not come from the offending party’s repentance at all; in fact, it cannot. To look to the offending party for the fullness of reconciliation can only lead to grossly failed expectations at best and idolatry at worst (as we look for a person to do something that only God can do). Arguably, the most important move in reconciliation is when the offended party moves more deeply toward God and the cross of Christ.

When we, as offended parties, move toward the cross, our view of ourselves changes. Instead of seeing ourselves primarily as offended parties, we come to see ourselves as ones who have offended infinitely but been forgiven infinitely. Out of this identity, we find the resources to imitate God by offering rich and lavish forgiveness to those whose repentance (like ours to God) is weak, feeble, and woefully inadequate.

Lord, Loosen My Addiction — Tightly Grip Me

SOURCE: Taken from an article by  Karl Benzio/Lighthouse Network/Stepping Stones

Untie from Your Addiction — Be Tied Together to God  

According to the latest statistics, compulsive addictions torment tens of millions of people in the USA. Taking into account caffeine addiction and overeating, 40-50% of the U.S. struggles with compulsive behaviors that are harmful.

An addict’s primary relationship is with a drug or a behavior, not with himself or any other person. That drug or behavior is the path to the supposed relief they deeply desire. To a large degree, our society denies the addiction problem. Many of you might even scoff at the numbers. The walking wounded are usually on their own to get help for themselves or their loved ones as treatment centers and state hospitals close, program funds diminish, and insurance reimbursements for treatment decrease.

Physical, spiritual, emotional, and psychological disabilities brought on by addictions are rampant. Addictions are the number one killer in the U.S. High blood pressure, heart disease, lung cancer, headaches, sleep problems, liver disease, impaired immunity, infections, irritability, anxiety, depression, impulsivity, poor frustration tolerance, loneliness, poor motivation, disconnected from God, lack of purpose, no passion, and no peace are all common consequences of various addictions (and this was just the start of the list!)

Regardless of the type of addiction, an addictive lifestyle causes a person to be only a shadow of what God intended.

There. That’s the bad news. Now here’s the good news.

Have you ever noticed what a bad rap the word ”religion” receives? It’s no longer regarded as the original word suggests. The Latin root of the word is “ligio,” meaning to tie or bind together. An example is a woman having her tubes tied, or a tubal ligation. To “re-ligio” means that something that was once tied became untied, and it is now re-tied or bound together again. There is no better example than the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve were in perfect union with God. Then they disobeyed God, causing the original tie of perfect fellowship with God to become untied. God’s plan of salvation, through Christ’s sacrifice once and for all, re-tied us back together into relationship with God for eternity, by His grace alone. He does all the work. We just need to accept His payment for our debt.

Addiction is synonymous with idolatry.

When we strongly desire something as much as or more than we desire God, we have given ourselves to a false god, a weak imitation. We become untied from God because of our addiction. Where we invest our time, money, and energy becomes our god. Then, like the object we worship, we become a cheap imitation of what we were really meant to be. I am always amazed when I consider the things I used to pursue, and sometimes continue to pursue, to soothe my discomfort instead of going to God first. Sadly, I have endured dire spiritual consequences for the sake of momentary thrills or escapes.

Today, God stands ready and willing to forgive and restore those who have been carried away by addictions. If you have an overt addiction, let Him in and trust His ways, not yours.  Becoming untied causes us to disintegrate. But receiving God’s gift of healing allows us to re-integrate, and be restored to what God intended in the first place! If you don’t have an overt addiction, examine what you go to when you are uncomfortable. If it is God’s word and prayer, awesome. If it is anything else, then you have an addiction and need to wrestle with that. Start to look at why you turn to those other items before God. Don’t be embarrassed, just be honest. Your journey closer to God and the Mind of Christ is your decision, so choose well!

Father God, You are our source and our strength, and a very present help in time of trouble. Deliver us out of the claws of addictions and addictive behaviors. We need Your supernatural strength to overcome the self-destructive effects of mood-altering chemicals and mind injuring behaviors. Heal and restore us in body, mind, and spirit to what You intended us to be. We ask this in the powerful, comforting, and re-tying name of Jesus;  – AMEN!

The Truth
“Let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.”

2 Corinthians 7:1

“So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of a sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature.”

Galatians 5:16-17

Once Saved, Why Do I Still Have To Ask For Forgiveness?

SOURCE:  John MacArthur

As long as we live in a sinful world, with our own sinful tendencies, there is a sense in which Christians, though eternally cleansed by the washing of regeneration (Titus 3:5), still need daily cleansing from the effects of their sins.

The perfect illustration of these two kinds of cleansing is found in the apostle John’s account of the Last Supper, when Jesus wanted to wash Peter’s feet. At first Peter was reluctant to have Christ serve him in such a humiliating fashion. He told the Lord, “Never shall You wash my feet!” (John 13:8).

Jesus replied, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.”

Peter, always brash, decided that a foot-washing would therefore not be sufficient for him: “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head” (v. 9).

Jesus’ reply draws a clear distinction between two kinds of cleansing: “He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you” (v. 10).

Bathing illustrates the forgiveness of justification. Those who are justified are forgiven the penalty of sin forever. They do not need to be justified again. The day-to-day effects of their sin still need to be dealt with, however. Sin needs to be confessed and forsaken regularly, and the pardon of a loving but displeased Father must be sought.

The verb tenses in 1 John 1 also demonstrate this. A literal rendering of verse 7 reads, “The blood of Jesus His Son keeps cleansing us from all sin.” And the verb tense in verse 9 also denotes continuous action: “If we are continually confessing our sins.”

So neither the confession nor the cleansing spoken of in 1 John 1 is a one-time, finished event. These verses simply do not support the idea that God pays no heed to the believer’s daily transgressions, as if our justification once and for all made sin an utterly moot point for the Christian.

Yet the question nonetheless seems to trouble many Christians. Why must we seek God’s forgiveness if He has already granted forgiveness in justification?

The answer is that divine forgiveness has two aspects. One is the judicial forgiveness God grants as Judge.

This is the forgiveness that was purchased by the atonement Christ rendered on our behalf. This kind of forgiveness frees us from any threat of eternal condemnation. It is the forgiveness of justification. Such pardon is immediately complete and never needs to be sought again.

The other is a parental forgiveness God grants as our Father. He is grieved when His children sin. The forgiveness of justification takes care of judicial guilt, but it does not nullify His fatherly displeasure over our sin. He chastens those whom He loves, for their temporal good (Heb. 12:5–10).

So the forgiveness Christians are supposed to seek in their daily walk is not pardon from an angry Judge, but mercy from a grieved Father. This is the forgiveness Christ taught us to pray for in the Lord’s Prayer. The opening words of the prayer, “Our Father,” demonstrate that a parental rather than a judicial relationship is in view. (This is also true in 1 John 1, where “fellowship … with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ” is the subject matter, again suggesting that the forgiveness in verse 9 is a parental rather than a judicial forgiveness.)

Judicial forgiveness deals with the penalty of our sins. Parental forgiveness deals with sin’s consequences.

Judicial forgiveness frees us from the condemnation of an aggrieved, omnipotent Judge.

Parental forgiveness sets things right with a grieving and displeased but loving Father.

Judicial forgiveness gives us an unshakable standing before the throne of divine judgment.

Parental forgiveness deals with the state of our sanctification at any given moment and is dispensed from a throne of divine grace (Heb. 4:16).

As Judge, God is eager to forgive sinners; but as a Father He is equally eager to keep on forgiving and cleansing His children from the defilement of their sin.

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MacArthur, J. F. (1998). The freedom and power of forgiveness (electronic ed.) (57–58). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

Forgiveness: At Holiday Events or Special Family Gatherings

SOURCE:  Anna McCarthy/American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC)

Heartache During the Holidays: A Look at Biblical Forgiveness

Many can say that they have “forgiven” a past offense with a family member or friend, yet once confronted with that person at a holiday event or family gathering, all of their past hurt begins to quickly make its way to the surface. And, instantly, it’s as though they are re-living the hurt all over again.

So, what does real biblical forgiveness look like?

Does it mean we are “fine” so long as we don’t have to see the one who hurt us?

Although, in some cases, distance may be needed in order to fully heal, I have seen time and time again where even the smallest of grievances can cripple someone from remaining healthy while in the presence of someone who has hurt them. Deep-rooted bitterness and a lack of ability to function around certain people this time of year may be a sign of unforgiveness.

I’ve come to the conclusion, having personally experienced abuse, that biblical forgiveness is part of God’s perfect plan for healing, even when restoration of the relationship is not possible. God, in his gracious wisdom, biblically designed the format to wholeness, no matter how deep the wound. God never planned for us to only function in certain places or specific situations. He desires our freedom—freedom to be exactly who he made us to be no matter where we are and no matter what has happened to us.

So often, especially within churches, our desire to please God and please others leads us to dismiss any pain or heartache we are experiencing. We must validate and give the heartache we experienced a place of importance. This simple first step quickly exposes any disconnection we are experiencing with God. Because, if we truly believe that God is for us and that he came to heal the broken hearted and bind their wounds, then we would not be ashamed to admit we are wounded. We do not need to hide our brokenness from God in order to please him.

This quickly reveals how much (or how little) we trust God.

Biblical forgiveness cannot begin until trust in who God is, has been restored. In any area where forgiveness is needed, somewhere in the midst of that event, trust was broken. As humans, we quickly engage protective measures to ensure that disappointment and pain does not happen again. This is where, almost simultaneously, distrust in God takes place as well.

Once trust in God’s full desire to heal has been restored, the door can open to trust him with forgiveness. Choosing to fully put God’s Word into practice in forgiveness requires a tremendous amount of faith. Webster’s defines forgiveness as: to cease to feel resentment against, on account of wrong committed. To give up resentment or claim to requital on account of (an offense or wrong).

God states in his word that his plan is to heal and restore us (Isaiah 61:1-3Jeremiah 30:17). In this plan, he includes forgiveness. We must trust him enough to relinquish our rights to what has been wrongly done, in order to walk out his divine healing.

I’ve often been asked the question, “I prayed and told the Lord that I had forgiven them. But, I don’t feel any different. Now what?” Often times, we overlook the portions of Scripture that follow the decision to forgive.

The choice to forgive is one of many steps on the road to biblical healing. The step following the decision to forgive is one that again, requires a tremendous amount of trust in God. “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt. 5:44). “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you” (Luke 6:27).

These verses defy our nature.

You will not find in anyone who has been hurt a natural desire to want to love that person, which is exactly why we need Jesus. This kind of love doesn’t just happen overnight and it doesn’t just magically appear. This love comes from obedience to a God who you recognize that you desperately need and who you begin to fully trust.

On our own, it’s impossible to love this way. But God didn’t provide commands in Scripture to frustrate us; he gave them out of his mercy to protect and heal us. This supernatural love comes from a choice to obey and trust. And, this kind of love exposes God’s divine healing on a platform louder than any other. But, most importantly, this part of biblical forgiveness ultimately grants freedom; freedom to be exactly who God made you to be, no matter who you are with over the holidays.

Note: This [article] is not intended to encourage those who are being abused to remain in that situation. Safety is of upmost importanceIf you are struggling with forgiveness, seek help from a pastor or Christian counselor.

 

GOD DESIRES FOR YOU TO EXPERIENCE COMPLETE FORGIVENESS

SOURCE:  Charles Stanley

Forgive me? How could God ever forgive me? You don’t know what I’ve done.”

“Forgive that person after what she did to me? You’ve got to be kidding!”

“I can’t believe I’ve done such an awful thing. I can never forgive myself for doing that.”

These are confessions I have heard often as a pastor. They are the confessions of people who have godly parents, who have grown up in church, and who have heard sermons about forgiveness all their lives. And yet, they persist in believing that there is something unique about their situation that puts them beyond the realm of God’s forgiveness.

The result is bondage.

The bondage of living in guilt and unforgiveness stifles a person’s ability to love and to receive love. It stunts the growth of a marriage and friendships. It keeps a person from entering into all that the Lord might have for him in the way of ministry or outreach. It keeps a person from enjoying the full abundant life that Christ promised to those who believe in Him (John 10:10). And bondage, my friend, is never the desire of God for His children.

God’s desire for you today is that you be free in your spirit—free to embrace all the blessings, challenges, and joys that the Lord has for you now and in your future. God’s desire is for you to experience complete forgiveness, which is forgiveness of your sins and a full restoration in your relationship to the Lord God, forgiveness of others who have wronged you, and forgiveness of yourself.

Limited forgiveness will never do. Complete forgiveness is required if you are to know personally and fully that God is your loving heavenly Father, and if you are ever to reach your personal destiny in this life.

 A Definition of Forgiveness

Forgiveness does not mean, “It didn’t matter.”

If you have been hurt by someone, or if you have committed a sin, it does matter.

There is no justification for sin that stands up in God’s presence. If you have sinned, you need to recognize that your sin is a blot on your soul, one that you can’t and therefore shouldn’t attempt to sweep under the rug or ignore. Sin matters. Hurt, pain, bondage, and guilt come in the aftermath of sin, and you are unwise to try to deny their reality.

Forgiveness does not mean, “I’ll get over it in time.”

The memory of a particular incident or action may fade with time, but it never disappears.

If you have committed a sin before God, the effects of that sin remain in your life until you receive God’s forgiveness for it. You may not immediately feel the consequences of your sin—which can cause you to think that God has overlooked your sin or that it has been resolved in some way—but the consequences of sin will manifest themselves. They lie as dormant “bad seeds” in your life.

The same holds true for a wrong that another person commits against you.

You may think that time will heal. Time by itself doesn’t heal anything. Only the Lord Jesus Christ and His forgiveness working in and through you can heal the hurt you have felt. A wrong that you attempt to bury will only rot in your heart and very easily can turn into bitterness, anger, and hatred—all of which are not only destructive emotions to the person who harbors them, but the root of destructive behavior that may affect others.

Forgiveness does not mean, “There will be no penalty.”

Some people believe that God skips over certain sins when He surveys the hearts of people. This is usually the response of people who hope that God will make a detour around their sin and that they’ll get away with their sin.

There are other times, however, when we are fearful that God will forget to punish those who have wronged us. They may even seem to be prospering, and we feel a need to hold on to our unforgiveness until we are certain that the other people are punished in some way. We hold on to the prerogative of vengeance just in case God has forgotten about the incident or in case He intends to do nothing about it.

At still other times, we know we deserve to be punished, but God doesn’t seem to be taking any negative action against us, so we refuse to forgive ourselves as a form of self–punishment.

These definitions don’t hold water when they are subjected to the truth of God’s Word.

Sin matters. It always matters.

Sin and the effects of sin don’t disappear over time of their own natural accord. Sin must be forgiven, or it remains unforgiven.

Sin always has consequences. It always bears with it the ultimate penalty of death.

What, then, is forgiveness?

Forgiveness is “the act of setting someone free from an obligation to you that is a result of a wrong done against you.”

Forgiveness involves three elements:

1. An injury. A wrong is committed. Pain, hurt, suffering, or guilt is experienced (consciously or subconsciously).
2. A debt resulting from the injury. There is a consequence that is always detrimental and puts someone into a deficit state of some kind.
3. A cancellation of the debt.

——————————————————————————————————————————————————————–

Stanley, C. F. (1996). Experiencing forgiveness. Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

Remembering Our Place When Wronged

SOURCE:   John Henderson/Association of Biblical Counselors

Then his brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants. ”

But Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in God’s place?” (Genesis 50:18-19)

We find in Joseph a kind of humble grace that deserves our thought and appreciation. His brothers had wronged him severely.

They had sold him into slavery and death. Years later, as second in power to Pharaoh in Egypt, Joseph is given an opportunity for retribution. It would be easy to assume that God was providing a chance for him to even the score. What would you do if you were in Joseph’s place?

I am amazed by how he responded. The posture Joseph takes is contrary to our sinful nature and wholly divine.

Clearly the Spirit of God abides in him. Mankind tends not to act in this way. None of us tend to act this way. When hurt and abused, we tend to be quicker to punish and revile. We need help. We need God abiding in us. We need to believe and practice what Joseph believed and practiced.

Remember the place of God– to assume the seat of judge upon the souls of others is to forget the Lord has already filled the seat. It is like a pardoned convict demanding the judge step aside so that he may evaluate and sentence a fellow criminal. The Father has given the position of Judge to His Son.[1] Not one of us can bear the burden, nor would we exercise the chair with wisdom that is fitting. We can take comfort, however, that God is Judge enough. He dispenses mercy and wrath in perfect seasons and proportions.

Remember the place of Self– a recipient of grace. Perhaps we are offended in the present situation, but we have often assumed the other spot. Whether we recall the incidents or not, the Lord remembers countless moments when His grace was extended to us, undeserved. Our grit and savvy did not secure our pardon, but God’s grace in Jesus Christ. “Who can say, ‘I have cleansed my heart, I am pure from my sin’?”[2]

Remember the ways of God– they are righteous and pure. They have always been righteous and pure. “For I proclaim the name of the LORD; ascribe greatness to our God! The Rock! His work is perfect, for all His ways are just; A God of faithfulness and without injustice, righteous and upright is He. ”[3]

We can trust our God. We can trust His works. Since the foundation of the world, He has proved Himself holy beyond measure. His law is perfect. His wrath upon sinners is perfect. His wrath was so perfect that the sacrifice of His Son was necessary to satisfy it. Indeed, His grace is perfect too.

Remember the ways of Self– they are prideful and distorted. Whatever true justice we perceive and dispense is a gift from God anyway. It is not of us or from us. If we had our way, then true grace and mercy wouldn’t happen.

Justice wouldn’t either. We cannot trust ourselves. We cannot trust our works. It is not our instinct to redeem, or absorb transgression, or overlook a fault in love. The Spirit must train our hearts to believe and apply the gospel in these forms.

Next time we are offended, let us pray for the Lord to bring these verses and truths to our minds. Let us pray to give the same mercy we have received. Then we will better understand what it means to be children of God.

“But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. ”[4]

[1]John 5:22

[2]Proverbs 20:9

[3]Deuteronomy 32:3-4

[4]Matthew 5:44-45

Jesus doesn’t condemn us when we sin

SOURCE:  Discipleship Journal/Roy Borges

Go, and Sin No More

As I lie in my bunk listening to my radio, Rebecca St. James croons, “Go, and sin no more.” The words vibrate off the four walls of my cell. If only I could erase the past and begin again.

The Bible tells a story of a nameless woman whom the scribes and Pharisees dragged before Jesus (Jn. 8:1–11). Like me, she was accused, convicted, and judged. They brought her to Jesus as He sat teaching in the temple.

In a huddled heap, prostrate before Christ, she sobs bitterly. Alone, shivering at His feet, she listens to their indictment. The charge: adultery. The verdict: guilty. The penalty: stoning.

But the undaunted eyes of the omniscient Christ see the religious leaders’ intent with a glance. They came to trap Him.

Seeming to ignore them He stoops and writes something on the ground. The circle of bearded men impatiently watches and waits. Stones are ready in their hands. Suddenly He declares: “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her” (Jn. 8:7).

Again He stoops to write on the ground. One by one the accusers creep away into the crowded street to hide their shame.

Alone now, Jesus looks at the weeping woman at His feet.

“Woman, where are your accusers? Has no one condemned you?”

Incredulous, she lifts her head for the first time and looks into the eyes of the one who will pay the price for her acquittal.

“No one, Lord.”

“Then neither do I condemn you. Go, and sin no more” (Jn. 8:10–11, paraphrased).

Jesus knows everything about me. I cannot hide anything from Him. But He’s not there to judge, accuse, or condemn me. Man has already done that. Jesus is there to offer forgiveness and to bid me not to sin again.

The past can’t be erased. I have to live with my mistakes. But God can use them for good when I have a contrite heart. God’s grace not only completely forgives; it tells me I can begin again.

When I asked Christ into my heart and felt His forgiveness, like the woman in the story, I saw the greatest miracle of all. It’s more marvelous than creation, more mysterious than the stars, more melodious than a symphony, more fabulous than life itself.

God forgives a sinner like me and sets me on the path of righteousness. “Go now and leave your life of sin,” He beckons. Can I do it?

Not in my own strength. Even though in my heart I desire to please God and I don’t want to sin again, I know I will.

The Apostle Paul put it this way: “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out” (Ro. 7:18).

The devil wants me to focus on the disease so I’ll forget the power of the Physician. But God is able to deliver those He has saved. No, I am not free from sin. It will always be present in my flesh. But my sin cannot condemn me because the blood of Christ satisfies God’s justice.

When I’m overpowered by temptation, I cry out to the Lord. My cry will keep me guiltless. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn. 1:9).

“Go, and sin no more” is a command and a challenge. It means I can begin again wherever I am because I am trusting Him. When I rely on His strength, He will help me. That’s why He came. His love and mercy see me through whenever I pray, “Lord, forgive me for my sins and give me the strength to ‘go, and sin no more.'”

How To Forgive And Why It’s Good For You

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

Sheila said, “I know I’m supposed to forgive my husband for hurting me, but how exactly do I do it? I try but I still feel angry and bad thoughts come into my head. How do I know when I’ve let his offense go?”

I find many believers struggle with the practical application of biblical truths. We know where we want to go, we’re just not sure how to get there. Here’s a roadmap that will help you navigate through the process of forgiving someone.

First, forgiveness is a decision not a feeling. It’s a choice we make. You must decide to work toward forgiving those who have hurt you or sinned against you.

I find that people either forgive too quickly, before doing the emotional work they need to in order to process and get rid of their hurt and anger, or they don’t forgive at all because they have erected large, thick walls of bitterness and resentment.

Jesus tells us to forgive one another, and that alone is a good enough reason to do it, but forgiveness is a good thing to do even for those who don’t know Jesus or believe in him. Long before modern medicine studied the physiological effects of chronic anger, resentment, and bitterness on the body, God knew that harboring these toxic emotions could not only damage our health but also ruin our lives. He warns us to get rid of them promptly.

God knows sin destroys us. It is not the sin that is committed against us that wields the fatal blow. Rather, it is our own sinful reaction to the things that have happened to us. Unresolved anger often turns to depression, self-pity, bitterness and resentment, and these things poison our body and our soul. A person finds healing through the process of forgiveness–both receiving forgiveness and extending forgiveness. That is why God is so insistent that we forgive. He doesn’t want sin to ruin our lives.

Please don’t misunderstand what forgiveness is. Forgiveness isn’t excusing the offender or minimizing their offense. Forgiveness is your decision to cancel the debt they rightfully owe you. Many protest here and become stuck because they are rightly deserving of justice or an apology or some restitution for the offenses done to them. They don’t want to cancel the debt owed because it feels so unfair to them. Yet if they are waiting for the person to repent, apologize or show remorse, they may wait a very long time.

In the Old Testament story, Joseph forgave his brothers for selling him into slavery. Joseph’s obedience freed him to be used by God in Egypt. But Joseph never initiated reconciliation with his betrayers—nor did he expose himself to them when he first saw them again. Why? He did not trust them. He was kind and gracious to them because he forgave them, but he tested them to see if they had repented and changed their jealous and self-centered ways. Joseph invited them back into relationship with him after they passed the test (see Genesis 42–46). Joseph’s forgiveness and his brothers’ repentance were both necessary to bring reconciliation andrestoration to their relationship.

Some of you may never see repentance from the person who hurt you. Sandy lived stuck in her past, angry that her father abused her. She refused to give up her anger until “he admits what he did and says he’s sorry.” When she confronted him and asked for an apology, he told her she was crazy and denied everything she accused him of doing. That left her waiting for something that may never happen. She allowed her father to continue to ruin her present and her future because he would not do what she longed for him to do. Sandy’s anger and lack of forgiveness wasn’t hurting Sandy’s father. He lived selfishly just as he always did. It was Sandy’s life that was hurt by her angry and bitter heart. Finally forgiving her father released Sandy from those toxic emotions. Her father will still have to give an account for what he did to Sandy, only it will be God, not Sandy who will judge him.

In my own life, forgiveness usually comes in steps and cycles. It is not a one-time, over-and-done-with event. First, I decide to forgive, exercising my will. Then I begin the process of letting go, releasing the anger, the hurt and my desire to retaliate. I appeal to God for justice and turn the situation over to him. I also ask him to help me see my offender and myself differently. This is very helpful. When God shows me my own sinful nature and the things I am capable of doing, then I can have some genuine compassion for my offender because, but for God’s grace, I may have done the same thing. I no longer want to see my offender only as someone who did something wrong, but also as someone who has done some things right. I no longer want to see him or her as a victimizer, but as a person with weaknesses of character and a sinful heart, just like me.

When hurtful memories surface and I’m tempted to dwell on the wrongs done to me, I continue this process and keep at it until the negative emotions and thoughts are no longer in the front of my mind. They are fading and moving to the past, right where they belong.

To practice forgiveness, walk regularly through these four steps: Decide—Begin—Continue—Keep at it.

As we do this, we are changing. We are no longer defining ourselves by what has happened to us, but we are instead seeing ourselves by what God is doing in us. Our healing becomes a powerful conduit for God’s love and grace to flow to others, and we can honestly say what Satan meant for evil, God is using for good.

Who Me, A Wretch?

SOURCE: Adapted from an article by  Joe Stowell/Strength for the Journey

“While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

There are a few hymns that I really like, and “Amazing Grace” is one of them. But somehow, like so many other familiar tunes, the weight of the words soon gets lost in our familiarity with the song. From bagpipe bands, to presidential events, to state funerals, to gospel songfests, to nearly every church in America, “Amazing Grace” has been performed so many times that we easily become numbed to its profoundly disturbing message.

You know the first line by heart: “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me . . .”

Hold on. Me—a wretch?!

None of us like to think about how wretched we are.

We’d rather live in the self-delusion that compared to others we aren’t all that bad after all. We go to great lengths to look and feel good about ourselves. We exercise and diet to lose weight so we look good at the beach. We put makeup on in the morning so that we look good when we get to work. I ask my wife to help me pick out clothes so that I look good when I speak in church. And when someone says, “Hey, you’re lookin’ good!” we feel we have arrived.

But here’s the sobering news.

If we were to look at ourselves the way God sees us even when we have it all together, we would see something totally different.

He sees through all of our efforts to be “lookin’ good.” His vision probes far deeper than the all-too-cool clothes we wear, our makeup, our rippling abs and our great tan. He strips away the layers of self-delusion and penetrates deep into our hearts where each of us is a desperately lost sinner. And, no matter how good you think you are, it’s not until we know that we are like condemned criminals before Him that we can begin to understand how amazing His grace really is.

When you can honestly say that His grace saved a wretch like you, you can begin to stand in amazement at the greatness of His grace. In fact, His grace is only a “sweet sound” when you know how deep it had to go to clean you up!

What is God’s amazing grace?

It’s the outstretched love of Jesus whose agonizing death and victorious resurrection saves us from who we really are—not from who we think we are. Romans 5:8 says: “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” He died the worst kind of death imaginable, because it needed to cover the wretchedness of our desperately lost souls. We weren’t lookin’ good when He died for us. If we were as cool as we think we are, He could have stayed in heaven. But like hopeless beggars trapped in the sludge of sin, we needed Him. And so He came and died in our place. Now that’s what I call amazing!

Getting over our self-deluded sense of coolness is step one toward reveling in the stunning grace of God. Every once in a long while someone will come up to me and say: “Hey, Stowell, you’re a really good man.” And while I like the sound of that, I know in my heart that I am not a good man. I’m a fallen man in desperate need of help. But by His grace I am a forgiven man.

I thank God every day that there was a Really Good Man who lived on the earth 2,000 years ago who hung on a cross to save a wretch like me!

When There Seems To Be No Solution To A Conflict

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

There are times when you do all you can, but there seems to be no resolution to a conflict. This often puts a strain on the relationship, but it doesn’t have to.

For example, Dana and her mother often disagree on what’s best for Dana’s children.  So far, there is no resolution or compromise and it looks like they may permanently disagree on certain issues (like television and snack foods), but as long as Dana is able to say no and her mother respects Dana’s no, even if she disagrees with it, they can still have a good relationship. It’s when Dana can’t say no and inwardly resents her mother for taking charge or her mother refuses to accept Dana’s no and does what she pleases regardless of Dana’s feelings that their disagreements will ruin their relationship.

Like Dana and her mom, there are many times we can agree to disagree and leave the conflict alone yet still get along with one another. However, there are times when the other person won’t listen, talk, compromise, respect your boundaries or even agree that there is a problem and you feel stuck. What should we do then?

The first thing we can always do is pray. Prayer doesn’t always change a situation, but it can change the way we look at it. Let it go and trust God to work in the other person’s heart (Matthew 5:44).

Second, work on being willing to forgive the other person if they have offended you or hurt you in any way. Let go of unresolved anger or bitterness so you don’t allow Satan to get a foothold in your heart (Ephesians 4:27). The devil may have influenced the other person. Don’t allow him to influence you, too (Romans 12:19-21).

Third, achieving peace is not up to you alone. The Bible tells us that as much as it depends on us, we should be at peace (Romans 12:18), and we are to work toward preserving unity (Ephesians 4:3). However, sometimes the other person is unwilling. In those instances, we must recognize and accept our limitations.

Fourth, commit to do no harm. We have already learned that our words are powerful and they can be used to help and heal or to hurt and attack another person. Commit to God that you will not use your tongue as a weapon to harm someone else (Matthew 5:22). If you are unable to restrain your words because you are too angry or hurt, take some time out until you can. Make a plan to return to the issue when you are in a better frame of mind or can emotionally handle the discussion. Do return to it. Don’t ignore it, hoping it will go away (Ephesians 4:25-26; Matthew 5:23-24). My pastor once said, “You can sweep broken glass under the rug but it will always work its way back up and eventually cut your foot.”

Last, we are to overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21). That does not mean that we can overpower another person’s will or choices, but it does mean that we must guard our own heart so that the evil that has been done to us does not change us into someone who responds with more evil. When this happens, Satan wins and both individuals in the conflict lose. When we surrender not only the outcome of conflict to God but also accept that God sometimes uses difficult things (including people) to mature us, then we can look for the good and respond with godly love, even when someone sins against us or we are in a difficult relationship.

If married couples, families and friends would practice these basic interpersonal skills, ugly conflict would significantly decrease from their relationships.

Keep in mind that when someone refuses to accept responsibility for the way they damage the relationship or the way they hurt us, we can love them, but a close, mutually caring relationship with them is impossible.

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