Christian Living

Abundant Redemption

Today I had a fairly lengthy conversation with one of my daughters about treating each time someone wrongs us as if it were the first time. It’s ironic because we’ve been talking about being complete on our podcast this week, Epic Every Day. Part of being a complete person is living in the present instead of hanging onto things from the past or sending your mind into the future.

Obviously, if you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, you know that I am a passionate believer in the difference between forgiveness and reconciliation–forgiveness is a heart issue and something between you and God; reconciliation requires both parties to acknowledge their wrongs and work to make sure the problem doesn’t occur again.

The only way we can treat someone’s wrongs as though it were the first time they’ve wronged us is if we are steeped in the Gospel. See, the Gospel says that God redeems all the sins that affect us–both those we commit and those that are done to us. Sometimes it’s easy to get so focused on His future redemption (in the new heaven and new earth) that we forget about the now. I love in Psalm 27 where David* says “I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” Redemption isn’t just a future thing.

It’s amazing how much freedom has come into my life via that one concept. I love that I can stop beating myself up for things I’ve done in the past. It allows me to let go of my past baggage and press into the now. It wasn’t until I started Tapping/EFT on some of my past mistakes that I really felt how much of myself was trapped in the past. I really felt that I deserved to be punished–which is true, we do deserve death for our sin. Fortunately, that’s not the whole truth. Redemption means God has removed our sins as far as the east is from the west (Ps. 103). Basically, they’re an infinity away from us. And He’s given us Jesus’ clean record. So, punishing myself is actually contrary to the Gospel of grace. In essence, it’s saying that Jesus’ sacrifice wasn’t enough.

I don’t know if you have anything like that in your past, but I can tell you that it’s exhausting to never let yourself off the hook for something you did in the past. I was constantly weighed down by shame and regret. Mental energy went towards either avoiding thinking about it or wishing I’d done something different/figuring out what I should have done. Time went into running away from my past. Carrying that maelstrom around took a lot of work!

Redemption also means we can let go of what other people have done to us. We can trust God to heal us and to work out their sin for our benefit. It’s a mind-boggling idea. I will freely admit that there are things that don’t feel like they can be turned to good, and I think it’s worth noting that God only promises this for believers. People who don’t know Jesus don’t have the same promise, and I know I struggle with watching the evil in their lives apparently consuming them. The world is broken. God will definitely bring glory to Himself through every person, but He only promises “to work all things out for the good of those who love Him” (NIV, emphasis mine).

So, if you are someone who loves Jesus, no matter what has happened in your life, God can work it out for your good. Which means you can forgive people, no matter what they’ve done to you. It’s not easy, but it is freeing and better in the long run.

Psalm 130: 7 ~ O Israel, hope in the LORD; For with the LORD there is lovingkindness, And with Him is abundant redemption (NASB).

Blog_ Abundant Redemption

Christian Living

Leaving the Baggage Behind

So, how’s everyone’s new year going? Recovered from the holidays yet? I hope you had a lovely New Year’s! I did. We sat down as a family and wrote down the things we loved about 2016 and six goals for each of us in 2017. I am really liking this read-your-goals-out-loud-every-day thing. 

In case you couldn’t tell, I’m a huge fan of writing down what you want to add to your life in the upcoming year. If we don’t plant it, we can’t reap it. I have lots of things I want to carry into 2017 or to add to my life in 2017. Lately though, I’ve been thinking about what I need to let go of this year. Kinda like the difference between sins of omission vs. commission—it’s easy to forget the omission ones. I make goals but rarely do I make let-go’s.

A friend and I were talking about shame recently and how we both struggle with hanging onto shame. That’s something I’m working on letting go of. I’m passionate about mistakes not defining who I am. It’s amazing how many things I’ve moved from the category of “power” to “thing” this year—for example, money. Mistakes are like that. They’re just a thing. They don’t have the power to define who you are—especially if you accept that you’re human and make mistakes and go through the process of asking for and accepting God’s forgiveness and then learn from them.

God’s forgiveness is amazing when you really think about it. If it’s been a while since you first became a believer, take a minute and just remember what it was like to carry your sins all by yourself. Then meditate on God’s forgiveness: God says He takes our sins away as far as the east is from the west (Ps. 103:12). He gives full redemption (Ps. 130:7)–I LOVE this concept. It means that any mistake or sin I’ve ever committed can be filled up with God’s redemption and turned into something that’s actually beneficial for me AND for the person I sinned against.

A lot of us had a less than perfect 2016. It’d be easy to carry our mistakes with us into 2017. But we don’t have to—and, in fact, carrying them will weigh us down and make us less able to do well in 2017. We can choose to fix them—to admit our mistakes, ask God for forgiveness and redemption and then do our best to address the issue/broken relationship and to learn what we need to learn—forgive (others or, more often in my case, myself), and then focus on 2017.

What are you hanging onto from 2016 that you can let go of?

Christian Living

Loving Peace

So as I’ve mentioned I’m working my way through Beth Moore’s James study—I really can’t believe it’s been five years since I last did it! Time seriously flies. Anyway, recently I found myself wrestling/praying through these verses:

James 3:17-18 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness. (NIV)

I want this kind of wisdom. Far too often, I feel like I have no clue how to handle various things in my life. I want God to tell me what the best thing to do is. The bit that hit me was the peace-loving section. Recently, I’ve had a couple people question the distance I have in one of my relationships in particular. Frankly, it’s not a popular decision to cut contact with someone. And, obviously, I’m not recommending anyone do that unless you’re in an abusive situation or you’ve spent a bunch of time praying about it and God gives you some clear direction. And if you haven’t tried to fix the relationship via the Matthew 18 stuff, I’d be hesitant to jump to cutting contact.

So as I’ve been praying about it, I’ve wondered if I’m not being peace-loving. It’s interesting how tempting it is to define peace as an absence of conflict. The advice I’ve been given (and that I think is given far too often in the Church) is to forget what that person did so that the conflict will be over.

One of the things I’m really passionate about is the difference between forgiveness and reconciliation. Forgiveness is when you let go of what the other person did. You trust that God will take care of the offense and you move on with life. It only involves you and God. It’s about your heart. Reconciliation is when both parties work to fix the relationship by each identifying and acknowledging the wrong they’ve done and working to not do it again.

If someone is not trustworthy, forgiveness doesn’t mean that you trust them. It means that you don’t hang onto the wrong anymore—praise God that through the power of the Holy Spirit we can do this! I love that we have a God who is faithful to right wrongs. I love that we can forgive people and move on with our lives instead of being stuck in the past by our bitterness. God’s way of doing relationships is just so amazing to me.

Anyway, as I was praying about what it means to be peace-loving in this context, something struck me: peace-loving equals loving true peace—not giving into denial or sweeping things under the rug. Peace-loving doesn’t mean an absence of conflict. Real healthy relationships require dealing with the things that actually happen. See, reconciliation is a process that requires both parties to own up to their mistakes and then to become better people—it’s a huge growth process. Being peace-loving means being willing to actually go through that process. Being peace-loving means acknowledging your problems—after all, wisdom from above is first of all pure. Like Jesus says, you can’t help someone with the speck in their eye unless you take the log out of your own first.

I’ve been told that holding out for true reconciliation is actually holding onto bitterness but, after studying this passage (and some others like Matt. 18, 1 Cor. 5 & 2 Cor. 2:5-11), I disagree. In my experience, if you “resolve” the conflict by pretending the problem wasn’t there or by taking all the blame for it, nothing actually gets solved and the conflict comes back up the next time a similar situation happens—probably because neither person is dealing with how they need to change.

Real reconciliation takes two. You can’t reconcile with someone who’s unwilling to deal with the problems. And real reconciliation is the kind of true peace that forces us to grow and leads to righteousness.

Uncategorized

Joseph’s Forgiveness

Forgiveness. It’s a beautiful thing. It sets you free from bitterness. Forgiving your enemies can be a lot like love: for your good, rather than theirs. They may never know that you forgave them, but it’s still medicine for your soul.

This year we’ve been in the position of watching relationships end, or at least be put on hold. It’s not a fun place to be in. And as I’ve sought wise counsel and tried to live in peace as far as it was up to me, I’ve had several discussions about forgiveness and reconciliation. Several years ago, I learned that there was a distinct difference between the two. Christians are so apt to mush them together, but they’re not the same thing. This year I’ve found myself fighting that battle all over again. I’ve been counseled by a couple people that forgiveness necessitates reconciliation even if the person in question is abusive, and that it’s my Christian duty to trust them again (“love always trusts”) and to give them full access to my life. And after hearing it from more than one source, I started wondering if I was in the wrong by keeping my fences up. It’s so easy to slide back into the mindset that love means being a doormat (at least for me).

Fortunately, Joseph has recently come up in my Bible study. He’s one of the heroes of forgiveness in Christianity. We talk about how he forgave his brothers even after they plotted to kill him and sold him into slavery. That’s a lot to forgive. But as I was reading the text, I was struck by his method of reconciliation:

 [Gen 42:6-9, 15 NIV] Now Joseph was the governor of the land, the person who sold grain to all its people. So when Joseph’s brothers arrived, they bowed down to him with their faces to the ground. As soon as Joseph saw his brothers, he recognized them, but he pretended to be a stranger and spoke harshly to them. “Where do you come from?” he asked. “From the land of Canaan,” they replied, “to buy food.” Although Joseph recognized his brothers, they did not recognize him. Then he remembered his dreams about them and said to them, “You are spies! You have come to see where our land is unprotected.” … And this is how you will be tested: As surely as Pharaoh lives, you will not leave this place unless your youngest brother comes here.

Notice that Joseph recognizes them right away, but what does he do? Does he run to them and hug them? No, he pretends to be a stranger and then he gives them a test. I think, as Christians, it’s easy to think about Jesus’ parable of the prodigal sons and assume that we’re supposed to be like the father in that parable–we’re supposed to welcome our hurters/enemies back with open arms. But we forget that we’re not God: we can’t see people’s hearts. We don’t know if they’ve changed or not, if we’re walking back into a war zone or not. I think that, like Joseph, it’s appropriate for us to test people–to see if they’ve changed. Joseph isn’t holding a grudge against his brothers. I think it’s obvious from his relationship with God that he forgave his brothers years before he reconciles with them. Jump forward in the story:

[Gen 44:33-34; 45:1-5 NIV] [Judah said] “Now then, please let your servant remain here as my lord’s slave in place of the boy, and let the boy return with his brothers. How can I go back to my father if the boy is not with me? No! Do not let me see the misery that would come on my father.” Then Joseph could no longer control himself before all his attendants, and he cried out, “Have everyone leave my presence!” So there was no one with Joseph when he made himself known to his brothers. And he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard him, and Pharaoh’s household heard about it. Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph! Is my father still living?” But his brothers were not able to answer him, because they were terrified at his presence. Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come close to me.” When they had done so, he said, “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.”

Notice that the instant Joseph knew his brothers had changed–that they weren’t going to repeat their sin by getting rid of the now favored brother, Benjamin–he reveals himself to them and works to reconcile with them. There’s no holding back on his part, which speaks to the importance of making sure my heart is in the right place. But relationship takes two parties and even if I work to get my stuff together, the other party might not be ready for true reconciliation. If I want to have a God-honoring relationship with them, I will work to forgive, work to love, and reconcile the instant I know they’re ready/changed.

I don’t know about you, but when I reconcile with someone, I don’t want to have the same relationship I had before with them. I want something better and I’m willing to wait for that better. So that means I keep dipping my toe in to test the waters before I jump in. Forgiving like Joseph does not mean putting myself back into an unhealthy relationship. It means forgiving right away, but then waiting and testing before I reconcile.