Monthly Archives: November 2012

No Forgiveness Without Forgiveness

Jesus taught:   “If you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”  (Matthew 6:14-15)  This lesson came back to me recently when two women shared their intersecting stories on different days in my home under the safety of my roof. 

The first woman, young in age and young in faith,  was afraid she had disappointed God.  She has not forgiven someone in her life.  When she has thought about the offense she suffered, she has become so anxious, she abruptly closed the door on the  memories and did not do the work of forgiveness.  What she has wanted to do, she has been unable to do.  I assured her that God knows her heart and he knows her flesh.  I said that he knows she can’t forgive without his power.   I challenged her to cry out for him to supply the power she needs to forgive.   I shared my opinion.  Since then, I have wondered whether I told her God’s truth.   Was my counsel consistent with Scripture?

The second woman, middle in age and old in faith,  said God had done a mighty work of healing in her life.  The healing has resulted in her being able to forgive the mother of her step sister – the woman who took her father away from her mother and broke up her family.   This heartache was a long time ago.  The healing has been a long, arduous journey with Jesus to the destination of an unlikely friendship and collaboration with the woman who hurt her so deeply.

I cherish these women and their stories, and I wonder.   How do we forgive?   How does God’s healing free us to forgive?  How do we appropriate God’s power to forgive?

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Fog, Fear and Faith

Yesterday we awoke to a soft and mysterious thick fog.  By mid morning, when it still hadn’t lifted, we left to drive the 18 miles to town to get our Thanksgiving groceries.  I wondered if our trip in poor visibility was too risky.   This morning I realized yesterday’s adventure had become a metaphor, as I read the last chapter of Luci Shaw’s book, The Crime of Living Cautiously.

In that chapter, Luci Shaw wrote, “The cliff edge of our anxiety about the future may indicate that God is calling us to a new and different level of faith.  When we walk, praying for guidance, to the edge of all the light we have and breathlessly take that first step into the foggy mystery of the unknown, we must believe that one of two things will happen: either God will provide us with something rock-solid to land on and stand on, or he will teach us how to fly.”   In her questions for reflection she asks, “Have you made the choice between living by fear or by faith?  What is you cliff edge of anxiety?”

I want to live by faith, not fear.  How about you?  Today I thank God for the wonderful adventures he has led me on and the courage he gave me to follow.  I want him to know that I am willing to continue the journey, even when the fog is thick and the next step is frightening.  Lead on, Oh God.

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The Word of God

Delbert was in the twilight of his life when God added him to the fabric of our lives.  My husband and I were young and idealistic, eager to serve our first congregation, as we closed the chapter of our lives called seminary.  Delbert was wise;  long life and old in the Lord wise.  We esteemed him and rightly so.  To know him was a rich gift.  One Sunday Delbert testified, ” I don’t know if it is Howard’s preaching or my age, but I have never loved the word of God so dearly.”   My husband was a fine preacher.  I sat under his preaching for 10 years and can attest to that.   At the time of Delbert’s testimony, I told Howard to hold on to that compliment because in a lifetime he might never get one that was as significant.    We knew that Delbert’s love for the word of God had more to do with his love for God than my husband’s preaching.

Delbert has long been one of the cloud of witnesses in heaven, and we are now in the late afternoon of our lives.   We can say that we have never loved the word of God more dearly.   It is the bread we hunger for in the morning as we begin each new day.   It is sweeter than honey and more precious than gold.   The very words spoken by a loving God to the children who love him more with each passing year.

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Marriage As An Apprentice

“‘As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen.  “Come, follow me,” Jesus said,  ” and I will make you fishers of men”   At once they left their nets and followed him.””   (Mark 1:16-18)   According to Luke 4:11, “they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.”

Following Jesus, being his apprentice, comes first.  Being a wife comes second.  Keeping that order keeps my marriage alive.   As I listen to The Teacher and learn to think like he does, it changes how I think about my husband.  As I watch The Master and learn to act like he does, it changes how I act toward my husband.   As I love Jesus most and best, I love my husband better and better.  How do you think your marriage might be enriched or re-born by following Jesus?

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Gratitude and Relationships

In The Good and Beautiful Life, author James Bryan Smith writes:  ” Joy. Gratitude. Thanksgiving.  Grace.  These are kingdom words. When we live with God in his kingdom, we begin to love our life. ”   He continues to make his point by quoting Rob Bell:  “Gratitude is so central to the life God made us for.  Until we can center ourselves on what we do have, on what God has given us, on the life we do get to live, we will constantly be looking for another life.”   Dr.  Smith ends his argument and paragraph by saying, “Lust is really about spiritual hunger for God and his kingdom.  Therefore our sexual problems are resolved when we enroll as Jesus’ apprentices in his glorious kingdom.”

I wonder how enriched my marriage would be, if I determined to be grateful for the strengths my husband has, rather than long for the strengths I think he lacks.   I wonder how all my relationships would be, if I was grateful for who the people in my life are, rather than expecting them to meet my needs.  I think about how happy I would be, if I trusted God to be the one who meets all my needs.   This Thanksgiving season I am determined to quit lusting after another life and praise God for all aspects of this life he has given me.

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Problem with a Knight, part 2

A knight in shining armor.   Could this persona be a kind of god?   Is lusting after such a persona a form of breaking the first commandment to have no other gods before the Lord?  Is this sin in my life hurting not only my relationship with my husband but, more importantly, my relationship with Jesus, my Savior, The King of Kings?   Ironically, this Savior, this King of Kings is a real knight, perfectly loving and just, the power that sustains the universe.   I am baffled about why I fall into the trap of going after an illusion, a persona, when I already have the reality.   I am asking for forgiveness and am turning back to worship the one true God.

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The Problem With A Knight

A knight in shining armor.   I thought I had buried that dream, grieved and got on with life.   I told you I had in my book, Beginning Again.   Indeed I had repented of expecting my husband to be a knight.   I have long been comfortable  living with a real flesh and blood man, rather than an illusion, and extending him the same grace I want him to offer me.   I had repented of reading secular romances that are sexually explicit, and God had given me victory over that addiction.  Instead, I have read Christian romances voraciously.

All was well, or so I thought, until my husband and I sat down together to read another chapter  from The Good and Beautiful Life, subtitled, Putting on the Character of Christ.  It is a thought provoking book, and I was prepared to once again be inspired.  I was not prepared to be convicted of sin.   The author, James Bryan Smith,  explained that the Greek word epithumia, which is translated lust, did not mean ordinary attraction but meant intentionally objectifying another person for one’s own gratification.   He suggested that reading romances can be a form of objectifying a persona.   I gasped.   Understanding dawned.   I did not like what I learned about myself.

I continue to lust over the knight in shining armor.  It is why I always need to be reading a Christian romance.   Could this good addiction be the cause of a subtle discontent in my life?  I don’t expect my husband to be a knight, but I am constantly reading about knights.   Does that focus keep me from being truly and fully grateful for the fine man I live with?  I am not suggesting that this is sin for other women, but I know this is sin for me.  I am fasting from these books.   Perhaps it will need to be a permanent fast.  I want a pure heart.

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Spiritual Conflict

In chapter 13 of Beginning Again*,  I wrote about the spiritual conflict that existed in the heavenly realm over my marriage.  I shared how an intercessor battled in prayer for the preservation and restoration of the relationship between me and my husband.  Yahweh Nissi, The Lord My Banner, answered that prayer and saved my marriage.

In Praying the Names of God,  Ann Spangler said.  “When you pray to Yahweh Nissi you are praying to the God who is powerful enough to overcome any foe.”  She included this prayer: “Lord, I thank you for raising your standard over me.  Today, as I face spiritual battles of many kinds, help me to be confident of your protection, to fight with your power, to prevail in your strength.  Yahweh Nissi, may your victory be total and complete, destroying whatever stands in the way of your plans and purposes. Amen”

If you are praying for your own marriage or the marriage of someone else, be encouraged and keep praying the name of Yahweh Nissi.

*See the book page of this website

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Power to Begin Again

“To all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”  (John 1: 12-13)

Perhaps your marriage is in shambles.  Perhaps your life is falling apart.  Or maybe you feel hopeless and don’t know where to turn or who to turn to.   There is hope.  There is  a Gospel.  Power that saves.  Power to change.  Power to follow Jesus who died to give us the right to become the sons and daughters of God and abundant life in the here and now and forever.  When we receive Jesus, he gives us his indwelling Holy Spirit.   Paul teaches us in Ephesians that this power is like the power that raised Jesus back to life and seated him at God’s right hand in the heavenly realm.  God loves you.  His will is to adopt you, help you, give you wisdom, give you his very life.   Cry out to him

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