A Thrill of Hope


“Long lay the world in sin and error pining; ‘Til he appeared and the soul felt its worth.

A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices. For younder breaks a new and glorious morn.

Fall on your knees…”

Adolphe Charles Adam and Placide Cappeau (French composers)

These words to a favorite Christmas hymn, “O Holy Night” keep ringing in my mind this week as we approach this last week before Christmas.

Our world is weary.

It’s weary because it’s been pining away in sin, offenses, mistakes, and brokenness. Lies, disease, natural disasters, violence top the headlines. And that’s only if you can believe the headlines. The media isn’t our friend.

But I love what this song reminds us of. That in the midst of sin, weariness, and despair, Jesus appears. He comes to say “You’re loved, special, worthy.” His appearance, life, and later death and resurrection speak to us of how worthy we are to him. The Bible says it was for the joy set before him that he came and died and rose again.

That joy is me and you. Jesus came so we can be with him forever.

With God, there is always a glorious, new morning breaking through. He doesn’t leave us in weariness and despair. And we can rejoice.

When Jesus first came, the world had been enslaved and God was silent after centuries of speaking, giving the people what they thought they wanted, and offering them life in him. After 400 years, Jesus showed up.

400 years! We’ve been through nine months of a pandemic and feel as if the world as ended.

But regardless of the length of time in waiting expectantly, today as we celebrate, Jesus is still the same. He hasn’t changed. His message of love and hope is still the same. And all we have to do is one thing.

Fall on our knees.

Acknowledge him. Humble ourselves and confess that we don’t have it all together, don’t know everything, and can’t figure life out on our own. When we come to the end of ourselves, he brings the beginning of new life.

A new and glorious morning…

I’m praying for you this Christmas. May we all be falling on our knees and experiencing the thrill of hope.

Merry Christmas. Jesus loves you.

What About Forgiveness?


During a discussion about the events of the recent murders, our love for our friends of all races, and how to navigate in a world where the violence of some escalated into ridiculous destruction, my husband asked a question.

“What about forgiveness? What would Jesus be thinking/doing in this situation?”

I thought he brought up a good point. One that has caused me to contemplate and consider my thoughts, opinions, and actions in regard to the racial injustice now and for hundreds of years previously.

So many thoughts and questions.

We talked about how we can’t fully understand what it feels like for someone of color to have to be careful where they go, what they do, and how they look. We haven’t been in a situation to have to instruct our children how to be careful when driving or being out with friends.

What little experience I have of that type of discrimination is when my younger brother, in our late teens/early twenties, was pulled over more than a couple of times because his long hair stereo-typed him as a drug user.

Or the numerous times I’ve been followed by men in cars trying to lure me, degrade me, or assault me because I’m a woman. Even as recently as a couple of weeks ago, a man in a doctor’s office elevator undressed me with his eyes. Not a pleasant experience.

But still, it only gives me a small taste of the concern and tension my dear black friends feel on a daily basis.

We talked about how people all over the world are discriminated against, persecuted, and maligned because of their skin, beliefs, or cultures. I asked Brendan, who’s from Australia, if he had any friends who were of Aboriginal descent, those who were native to Australia, and if they experienced the same kind of discrimination.

We talked about how we both felt uncomfortable now with people of color because previously we simply saw everyone we met or knew as people. Not white people or black people or Asian people or Latin people. Just as someone might use skin color as a description of us white folks, we might describe others the same way by their color or ethnicity or culture, but we didn’t think of it in a derogatory way. Is it?

But now, would people assume we did? Had we not been interested enough in the past to find out someone’s story because they were of a different color or background? Should we go out of our way to be kinder than usual to let people know we care about their color? Have I discriminated in some unknown way because the majority of the characters in my books have white skin?

I believe that black lives matter.

They absolutely do. I’ve been ignorant in my assumptions that black people aren’t treated badly “any more” as a whole. I’m grateful for the conversations that are opening my eyes, and breaking my heart.

And I also believe that every life matters.

Every single person whether they’re black, of another culture or race, white, young, old, male, female, unborn, or living with some kind of limitation or disability should never be thought of as “less than.” But haven’t we all at some point looked at someone else and thought they were not as good, right, talented, kind, handsome, fit, pretty, etc. as us?

Not to take away from this current crisis of racial injustice.

But the bottom line is our sinful hearts. Wrong motives. Selfish attitudes. Pride. Fear. Lack of compassion.

And what about forgiveness?

I believe there is a place for righteous anger. God has displayed his in numerous occasions in the Bible. And I believe he calls us to speak out against sin; not people, but sin, calling out evil and injustice. He tells us to speak for those who don’t have a voice. To stand up for those who are in captivity.

But I also believe God calls us to forgive. To lay down anger, and not let it make us sin. Not let the sun go down on it. Not let it turn into roots of bitterness. He says our anger will not bring about his righteousness. Even if we’d like to believe it will.

What the officers, as well as so many others we don’t even know about, did in killing innocent people or turning their backs as it happened, was so wrong. Unjust. Evil. It’s righteous anger that calls it out for what it is.

And, as my husband pointed out, Jesus was beaten, tortured, and murdered in a horrific way too, but he chose to forgive those who did not know what they were doing.

Of course, they knew what they were doing. But they had no real concept of how wrong their actions were. They were ignorant of what it meant in a bigger than human understanding way. They were foolish and led by evil, self-centered hearts.

Doesn’t that describe all of us?

Should we forgive? Jesus forgave us. He forgives the officers that killed Mr. Floyd and the others. He forgives the rioters and looters. And he forgives us for any of our opinions and fears and questions because our understanding about all of it is not his understanding.

He tells us that we see through a glass dimly. We can’t grasp all of what this means. We can’t. Even if we think we can and try to. So the best we can do is to spend time with him asking him to give us his eyes to see. His heart to understand and love with true compassion. For everyone.

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photo by Agberto Guimaraes https://unsplash.com/@agb800m

And his grace to forgive.

 

 

Life Choices


dsc_0096Every day we each have hundreds of choices to make. Some minor decisions we make without much thought. What will I wear or eat? Where should I park my car? The blue plastic cup or glass?

Other choices affect us in bigger ways.

Should I spend the extra money for a new phone? Are we going out to eat—Chick-fil-A or Ruth Chris Steakhouse? Vacation this year? Put the kids in private school?

Then there are those choices that are life changing.

Go out with my married co-worker and not tell my spouse? File my taxes? Take another drink or those pills? Click on that site? Tithe? Lie? Cheat? Steal? Forgive? Give or take?

The choices we make determine the life we live.

One minor decision may not alter our entire life. Whether I wear jeans or shorts may make me more, or less comfortable depending on the weather, but otherwise will probably not lead to anything life altering.

However, for example, a small lie makes way for another and another until I begin to live in a pattern of exaggeration or avoidance or blaming which opens a door for more lies to cover my actions, get my own way, or secure something for myself. Eventually, lying can become a lifestyle of stealing, gossip, cheating, hiding secret addictions, or living a secret life.

I think you can see where I’m going with this.

Here’s the thing. I can easily say I’ve never killed anyone. But have I murdered someone with my thoughts of anger? And those murderous thoughts can lead to internal conversations that may erupt in speaking or yelling rudely to the guy who cut me off or the gal who didn’t get my order right. And eventually, harboring enough of them may come out in hitting that accompanies the yelling when my spouse says something I don’t agree with, or my child is annoying, or the dog pees on the carpet.

Let’s be real.

The truth is, God created us to live a blessed life in relationship with him. He gave us everything good and longs to lead us in prosperous ways. Despite man’s choice to defy him and usher sin into the world, God still had a plan to save us from ourselves and our destructive behavior.

We’re all prone to it.

Don’t pretend you wouldn’t rather have a Krispy Kreme donut than a kale tonic. (That may be an easy choice for some. I personally love kale tonic, but when I came downstairs at 3:30 a.m. and saw the box of Krispy Kreme donuts my youngest son left on the counter with a note saying Happy Mother’s Day on them, I could have easily eaten the entire half dozen. Not that a one-time splurge will alter the entire course of my blessed life, or maybe that IS part of my blessed life—but you get the idea. Enough. Said. Where is that box?)

See how easily we can digress?

Fill in the blank with your own diversion into less than positive behavior that leads to eventual destruction. Be honest. We all have those areas of wrong choices. Or, put another way, sin.

There. I said it.

The word we don’t want to acknowledge because there’s something about saying (or writing) SIN that makes us cringe and feel shame.

What if SIN means:

  • Sudden Impulsive Nature
  • Selfish Immaturity Naturally
  • Sometimes Indignant Narcissism
  • Slothful Ignorant Negativity
  • Self Interest Negotiations

God is perfect. He created us to be also. We are made in his image. Anything else is sin.

And we get to choose. Be like him or not.

If we choose to be like him—loving, kind, gentle, patient, humble, joyful, peace-loving, good, trusting, wanting the best for others, giving, hoping, persevering, faithful, and self-controlled—then we will live well.

If not, we’ll live in destructive patterns that will hurt us and others.

The bad news is that none of us can be perfect like God no matter how we try. (Thanks Adam and Eve.) Even if we do good things most of the time, none of us are righteous. And we can’t count on us doing something good enough to make us have a relationship with our perfect heavenly Father.

The good news? God planned for that.

He sent Jesus.

He says he doesn’t take pleasure in the death of anyone. He doesn’t want any of us to die as a result of our sin, so he sacrificed his son, Jesus, to take all our sin on him so we could have a new way of living and be covered even if we still made mistakes. Through Jesus we can have a new heart, a new spirit, a new life. That’s why we say, “born again.”

He wants us to live. Live well. Live abundantly. Live in freedom and peace. Live in love.

If we turn away from the choices we’ve made that bring destruction (repent), we can live.

God wants us to live.

Today, will we choose to live?

 Rid yourself of all the offenses you have committed and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, people of Israel? For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live!”  Ezekiel 18:32

“Why Are You Angry”


DSC_0011God asked Cain.

Cain was the eldest son of Adam and Eve. You probably have heard of them even if you don’t read the Bible or believe in God. I think it’s common knowledge that he committed the first act of murder in history.

But the interesting thing is that God tried to help him before the situation ever got that far. We don’t have all the details of the story, but when God asked Cain why he was angry, Cain clearly had already been in a bad place mentally.

Because God asked BEFORE Cain killed his brother.

A little history: Cain and Abel both brought “sacrifices” to God. From what I can tell from scripture, this was not something God required, but something initiated by the boys. They both brought some of the fruit of their labor to God. Abel brought some of his flock to offer to God. The Bible says God looked on Abel with favor.

Cain also brought some of the grain he had grown, but God wasn’t pleased and Cain was upset. Okay, so what’s the deal? It may seem that God was showing favoritism, but that is contrary to God’s character (throughout the rest of the Bible) so we can deduce that it was something about the offer or the motive of the one offering.

It seems God was pleased with Abel’s attitude not just his action, but something was off with Cain.

Our reasoning is further substantiated by God’s comments to Cain:

“Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door, it desires to have you, but you must master it.”       Genesis 4:6-7

Seems pretty simple and forthright to me.

God saw something in Cain’s heart that wasn’t right, and he warned him to be careful because if he continued in his thoughts and/or actions, it would potentially lead him to do something worse.

So it seems that God was saying to Cain (and we can take a lesson here too) that if we come to him with sincerity of heart and do the right things, life will go well for us. But if we allow Satan, who is waiting to pounce on us, to grab us with wrong motives, thoughts or actions we will become slaves to him.

The good news God gives us is that we CAN master sin and not become trapped in it.

Reading further in the chapter, I discovered some things that can alert us when we’ve given in to sin and have not owned it…

  1. We hide. Adam and Eve did. Cain did. We’re all prone to avoiding, denying or lying to “hide” in our sin.
  2. We become defensive. Cain asked God “Am I my brother’s keeper?” when God asked what happened to Abel. Cain knew the truth so he became defensive in his response.
  3. We complain about the consequences. Cain griped to God that his consequences weren’t fair. They were too hard. Really? He killed his brother! But he was far more concerned about how tough life would be now for him than the fact that he destroyed the life of a family member and hurt God.
  4. We wallow in self-pity. Cain basically said “poor me” to God when he told God “…the punishment is more than I can bear.”
  5. We yield ourselves to divination. Divination is a spirit that tries to tell us what our future will be and it’s usually bad. Cain started proclaiming lies about what would happen to him – he would be hidden from God (his choice when he killed his brother but a choice God would have forgiven if he’d repented), he’d have no purpose in life, and everyone would be out to get/kill him. God refuted Cain’s “prophecies” and marked him for protection.
  6. We open the door to other sin. Cain never had a change of heart. It says he left God’s presence. So basically he destroyed his relationship with God as a result of his choices. And later, his son was the first man to take two wives (at a time), thus beginning a new culture of sin when God intended marriage to be between one man and one woman.

At any point, Cain could have humbled himself, confessed and restored his relationship.

And it’s the same with us. At any point, if we humble ourselves and confess our sinful actions, God forgives us and restores life to us.

But even if we don’t, God is still faithful to us.

I love that God still blessed Cain’s family. Even in spite of Cain’s sin, God didn’t allow him to be killed off, and in his lineage were all who played stringed instruments and those who forged tools of bronze and iron.

But I imagine Cain had a hard life.

God was pretty clear that he didn’t take Abel’s murder lightly. He said that Abel’s blood cried out to him from the dirt so he made Cain live under a curse that caused him to work overly hard without much to show for it. That was the consequences of his attitude and actions.

I’m so glad that God alerts us to sin in our lives, that he offers us warnings to help turn us around, and that he is always loving and forgiving if we do confess and repent. The Bible says that even when we are not faithful, God is always faithful.

All of that is some good news, right?

How Do I Know if I’m Fruitful?


Every day we make mistakes.

We say and do things we know are wrong, hurtful or leading us in a direction away from where we want to end up.dsc_0021

And every day we can decide to change our trajectory.

How do we do that? In the Bible, Luke 3:8 tells us to “produce fruit in keeping with repentance.”

UGH.

Do we hate that word “repentance?” I used to. Until I learned that to repent simply means to turn around.

Like in 180°.

About face.

U-turn.

To see that we are headed the wrong way, catch it and say “I blew it. I’m sorry, God. I want to turn around.”

It’s really not as painful as we seem convinced it is. Well, okay, some things can be – like when we’ve lied to someone, or said something behind their back, or broken a promise. Yes, it is hard to come clean that we’ve been looking at inappropriate material or using the company card for our personal benefit. But when we’re taking our life forward into better, repentance is the way to go. Besides…

God already forgave us.

Done deal. So our acknowledging our sinful ways and receiving his forgiveness is a simple step. And every time we repent, it gets easier. Then we actually sin less.  Some attitudes or action need to be repented of a hundred times in a day at first, but each time creates a new path. Thank goodness.

So what’s this “fruit of repentance?”

The evidence that we’re getting it.

God tells us there are 3 things that show when we are living a repentant lifestyle:

  1. Generosity – A heart that is willing to give to those in need. Things, time, resources.
  2. Honesty -No lying to secure something for ourselves. No accusing others for our gain.
  3. Contentment – Being happy with what we have without trying to take more than our share.

I’m so grateful God forgives us and then gives us a barometer to remind us of how we’re doing. Embracing a repentant life means we’re living a freer life. I’m all for that!

Is there some area where you feel you need to make a U-Turn? I’d love to hear about it.

Our Past Does Not Disqualify Us


Last week we began looking at the story of the woman at the well in Samaria…

Jesus entered an unexpected, undesirable place.

He was tired from his journey and sat down by Jacob’s well. The place was deserted, as the disciples went off in search of something to eat.

I don’t believe this is coincidental.

Jesus could only speak openly with the woman he was about to encounter if she was alone. Her shame would have been too overwhelming. Which is why she probably chose this time, when no one else was around, to go to the most public place in town to draw her water.

She went to draw water, but Jesus was drawing her to Him.

When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, ‘Will you give me a drink?’    John 4:7131 (2)

Okay, I think she might have been a little rattled. I picture her almost defiantly answering Him. In her shame, she felt the need to be on the defensive.

The Samaritan woman said to Him, ‘You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?’” (verse 9)

She asked “How can you ask me for a drink?” Obviously she was surprised that a Jew would speak to her, and the fact that she was a woman was an issue as well. Nice Jewish men didn’t hang out talking to Samaritan women at the local watering place.

I think maybe she wondered how He was allowed by his “laws” to speak to her. Otherwise, she might have asked why He would, but instead she asked how He could.

Jesus was gentle in His response.

He answered,

If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked Him and He would have given you living water.” (verse 10)

We don’t ask for what we aren’t aware of.

She didn’t know that God’s gift was forgiveness for her sins and eternal life. She didn’t recognize Jesus. All she knew was her pain. When we are in pain and shame, we often can’t comprehend that Jesus is reaching out to help us even if we have been calling for him. Sometimes, like the woman, we wonder how He can even speak to us.

Our broken life doesn’t disqualify us from God.

It is the very thing that can drive us to him, if we let it. It is what he longs to restore and make right. If we’ll let him.

Can you feel a glimpse of his love for you?

Religion vs. Relationship – Which Do You Have?


I’ve read a lot about religion lately.IMG_3527

The other day I remembered an orange button that adorned my leather purse when I was about sixteen. It claimed something like this:

Jesus is about relationship, not religion.

I recall when I saw it in a gift shop at youth camp, the concept grabbed my heart. It encompassed what I had been learning as a youth reading my Bible. Primarily the book of John, which I felt portrayed Jesus’ love for me the best because it was written by Jesus’ best friend on earth. I longed to spend time with my new friend and live in a way that made him proud of me. I didn’t get that his life for mine really meant just that. His blood covered over my sin. There was nothing I had do about it except accept it and be grateful.

But I grew up in an age of religion. Big time.

Right and wrong were about being right, and therefore someone else being wrong. Being right meant someone else had to be wrong. Good guys and bad guys. Church goers and “heathens.” Oh, I knew what the Bible said about grace and all that, but it also had plenty to say about not sinning. I took that to mean that the less I sinned, the more right I was. Which naturally meant other people who sinned more than me were wrong. Wasn’t that the standard?

No, that’s just plain dangerous thinking.

Does that mean I learned not to sin? Nope. I was pretty messed up and did a lot of foolish things based on my messed up perspective and my rebellion. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t seem to get it right. Fighting to be right left me frustrated and hurt others as well as myself. Until I learned the simplicity of repentance. That coming clean about my stuff, all of it, with complete honesty to Jesus and those I hurt is the only way to freedom. But that’s not religion.

When God created people, he wasn’t starting a religion.

He wanted a relationship with us. And each other in the same way he, in three persons (Father, Son and Holy Spirit), enjoys relationship in heaven. He is love, therefore he longs for us to love him and others. He even tells us that those are the greatest commandments. Makes sense that if we recognize his love for us and love him in return, he will give us the ability to love everyone he created.

His ultimate showing of his love was to come to us, giving himself up as a sacrifice to make a way for us to still be in relationship with him even when we choose to sin – to cut him and others off. Because let’s be honest; we’ve all had thoughts of wanting to do harm to someone at some point in our lives even if we haven’t actually followed through with it. And at some point, haven’t we all decided that our ways or plans were better than God’s?

On that basis, we need God’s love and forgiveness in order to have a right kind of relationship with him and with others.

The problem with religion, whether it’s Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism or Mormonism (name any you want here), is they are all man’s way of trying to get to God when God already made a way for us to be in a relationship with him through Jesus. Even as Christians or followers of Christ, we can cling to our particular denomination and its traditions rather than the sacrifice Jesus made for us.

But we don’t need to figure out a way to make ourselves right.

God did that for us. So all of our rituals whether they be worshiping a particular way or bowing down the right number of times or wearing a specific outfit do nothing to create a relationship with the creator of us and our world. We miss the point if we focus on those things. We miss loving God and each other. Especially when we insist that our way is the right way. Jesus said that he is the way. He is the truth. He is how we live rightly loving one another. And he is the only one who gave the ultimate example and lived again to prove it.

If we chose a relationship over religion, how would that change the way we live?

 

Homosexuality – How Do We Handle Other’s Choices?


This post is my response comment on Diana Rasmussen’s site.

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk – photo from Google Images

My eleven year old son was on a field trip to a local amusement park with his class this past week. He was disturbed that while he and a friend waited in line for a ride, a male couple in line in front of him was kissing. It really bothered him and his friend. We happen to live in an extremely liberal area where any and all sin is accepted, condoned, and promoted as the best way to live so this situation isn’t the only one to which my children have been subjected.

What should I say to him?

I’m so sorry that you were subjected to the sinfulness of other people’s choices.

I explained that the Bible is very clear on this issue of homosexual relations using the verses you shared here(Romans 1). And that God loves us all. We all choose to sin in various ways every day. That sin affects others too.That is why Jesus died for us.

He understood that and said,

But Mom, it really bothered me. A lot. Why would someone want to choose to do that?

He instinctively knew it was wrong – meaning not the way God created us, even though we haven’t really talked a lot about homosexuality. It has come up in discussion, but we haven’t had an agenda about it. I also explained that it used to be that if people wanted to participate in a sinful lifestyle, it was private. Maybe affecting their life, but not so much the public. By law certain behavior choices were not allowed (and still aren’t in some places) to be exhibited in public. At least others didn’t have to be subjected to the depravity of drunkenness or drug use or cursing or stealing or….name it.

I guess all that is to say that I agree we need to pray and love others.

Can we or should we mandate sin? The Bible does. For God’s chosen people (the Israelites and those of us grafted in who follow Jesus). But as you say, the world lives according to the world standard, not biblical standards. What is our role then? I think of Paul in Greece who acknowledged the gods of the people while pointing out the one true God. (Acts 17:16-32) Many sneered at him, but many were open to hearing him speak. I guess that means that in love and kindness we should be willing to confront as we feel led by God in order to share the gospel-his love and plan for us.

We’ll be laughed at, but we will also be heard.

How does that apply to lawmaking? Maybe the same way – in love and kindness those in authority must stand for what is right and make good laws that will protect all not only cater to a small percentage. Then be willing to be maligned by some for those laws on behalf of those who want to live in the truth. And continue to pray and love and pray again.

Also, remember we are aliens in our world that is dictated by Satan. There will come a point, according to the Bible, in which the Holy Spirit’s influence to hold back sin will become less and less and our world is going down. I think we are in that time or coming quickly to it. So our focus may need to be on loving and sharing with individuals more than legislating sinful behavior. Just a thought 🙂

What are your thoughts?

What is Forgiveness?


Whether we are trapped in addiction or in a relationship with someone who is, God can shed light on the places of darkness and has a DSC_0035plan to rescue us from disaster. It is His delight to do so.

His rescue comes through forgiveness.

Jesus offers it to us. He asks us to extend it to others. But, we have to be willing to give up what we hold onto: our sin and/or the sin of others against us.

Without forgiveness, there can never be restoration for us.

God wants to bestow on us every good thing He can imagine for us. That comes with forgiveness—His forgiveness for us, and ours for others and ourselves.

God’s forgiveness is immediate, but ours can be a process.

Jesus died on the cross to forgive every sin we could ever commit. Because He has already forgiven us, He simply waits for us to acknowledge where we’re off and accept His offer. That forgiveness is immediate, but when it comes to us forgiving others and ourselves, it can take time to work through.

Thank goodness, God is patient and leads us.

First, God makes us aware of what needs forgiving. When Jesus reveals our waywardness, we should feel sorrow (not shame) for what we’ve done to hurt ourselves and others. When we hurt, God is also grieved. The Bible says that

Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.”

2 Corinthians 7:10

This means when we are willing to look at what we have done that is different from what God intended for our good, we’ll be brokenhearted. The full weight of our actions will be a revelation to us in a way that makes us grieve for the pain we’ve caused ourselves, others and God. Our heart fills with a sincere willingness to accept any consequences. We experience gratitude for the forgiveness offered.

That is godly sorrow leading to repentance.

That kind of sorrow brings us to our knees in front of our Lord, who then reaches down and lifts us up in love, saving us from what has trapped us. We are then able to move on in life with no more regret, knowing that Jesus has seen, forgiven and restored us. Then He’s able to lead us into the good things He originally planned for us.

Worldly sorrow, on the other hand, is when we promise to be good to avoid trouble—sorry we’re caught, but more concerned about not getting caught in the future or dodging consequences. That kind of “sorrow” only leads to more destruction and shame, never to a place of freedom.

God is thorough. Forgiveness is specific, not general.

God points out details of situations in order to free us entirely of sin. It is the same if we ask for and accept forgiveness, or when we forgive someone else. Forgiveness doesn’t come with a careless blanket statement of “whatever I’ve ever done.” We must be willing to honestly and specifically admit what we have done.

When God showed me what I did to become stuck in unhealthy relationships, as well as what others had done to me, each denied, ignored, hidden, minimized, or never dealt with incident needed forgiveness. As long as there was denial, minimizing or excuses, I not DSC_0047able to receive or grant the forgiveness that would restore me. But I knew if I asked God to show me the truth about myself and my past, He would free me from the pain that enslaved me.

There were many such situations, and it took a few years to process them, ask for forgiveness and forgive those who had hurt me. It was worth the struggle.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll share more of what that process looked like for me.

What have you experienced regarding forgiveness?

Getting Well Part 5 – How to Turn it Around


Time to make a U-Turn.Summer '12 271

We’ve agreed we want to get well. Even though it seems scary and is uncomfortable, we see our need for healing. The reasons we fall into depression make a little more sense. We’re examining our choices, and are learning to ask others for help.  Much of our unhealthiness of heart may be a result of wrongs done to us by others, but in our learning to cope and our follow up decisions, we’ve also been part of the problem. So how do we turn things around?

Healing often requires confession of sin.

I know. We hate to think of ourselves as sinners. The word holds a connotation of Bible wielding fanatics screaming in judgment,

Repent or die in hell, sinner!

We simply have to re-evaluate how we consider sin.

The Bible says that Jesus didn’t come to condemn us, but to save us (John 3:17; I John 1:9) God wants to make a way for us to be with him in relationship because he loves us. Let that sink in. Now consider that when we break off relationship with God by deciding that we are better at figuring out our lives than he (the one who created the universe and us) is, that is sin. Simply put, God is God and we are not. He knows everything and we do not. He wants our good, but we, like stubborn two year olds, often think we know better and we want our way. Now.

The concept of sin is that simple.

So when God talks about repentance, he’s asking us to reconsider. To turn toward him instead of away from him so that he can take care of us and bless us in every situation. Even the bad ones. It’s really as easy as making a U-Turn. Okay, so some U-Turns require patience and a little bit of a tight turn, but you get the picture.

How does this apply to getting well?

If we are serious about wanting to get well, we have to be willing to see things in our life that are sin; simply, anything that is not the way God intended for it to be. Then we must tell God we are sorry for doing or allowing something that is sinful—that’s repenting. We may also need to repent and apologize to others who have been hurt by our sin.

At first, repenting can feel so hard to do.

I remember a situation that occurred when I first began to understand this concept of repentance. I shared some information about a friend with another friend that I had no business passing on. It wasn’t gossip, I reasoned, since I wasn’t being mean or sharing something bad, but I had this awful feeling in my heart, a conviction that what I had done simply wasn’t right. It didn’t add anything to either of my friends’ lives, nor to mine other than making me feel important for having “news” to share. Apologizing was in order, but I struggled with my fear of being wrong (pride), and that I’d be rejected by my friends.

Finally, I gave in to the Lord’s gentle leading and repented—first to Him and then to my friends. I’d like to say the situation turned out beautifully and wasn’t awkward at all, but the truth is that the friend I gave the information to didn’t understand why I was making such a big deal over it and was a little miffed at me. The friend whose story I told acknowledged and agreed with my feeling convicted by my sin, and graciously forgave me with love and affection.  While the situation was painful, God brought such good out of it. I realized a lack in one friendship, and I grew closer to the other friend. And I walked away feeling a freedom I had not experienced in the past.

Sometimes it’s hard to grasp God’s grace and desire to love us without condemnation.

If we can be honest with ourselves about our sin, make a U-Turn in our thinking, and reach out for God’s grace in faith, we will be positioned for better things in life. Getting well is a process, but each step of repentance releases new freedom and healing.  Let’s turn this thing around!

What has your concept of sin and repentance been? Do you have an experience of healing as a result of confessing your sin?