Receiving the Gift that Heals: Forgiveness

Brad Stenberg

– Read: Psalm 103:2-4; 8-13; Isaiah 44:22; 1 John 1:9 –

We all wish there was a delete key for dealing with the past so we could forget the hurtful things we’ve done. But our memory gets in the way of forgetting the pain our sin has caused others. The only way this pain can be truly removed is through forgiveness.

Forgiveness is the basis of our life in Christ. The Christian life is a forgiven and forgiving life. Jesus taught us to pray, forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. We cannot give what we do not have, so forgiving is a function of having first received forgiveness. Thus, we live and relate to one another in the forgiveness of our sins.

What does it mean to receive forgiveness? Does it mean what we did is approved of, excused, or denied? Not in the least. Does it mean the hurt we caused is forgotten and not taken seriously? No. Does it mean we’re exempted from any consequences of our behavior? Not at all. Does it mean we’ve fully reinstated into the relationship we damaged as if nothing happened? Usually not.

To be forgiven simply means having our debt canceled. The forgiver, while blaming us for the serious, wounding wrong we did to them, gives up their right for vengeance and extends mercy instead.

Receiving forgiveness is experiencing grace ‘ receiving a gift we don’t deserve.

We all have difficulty receiving forgiveness and feeling it because we have difficulty receiving unmerited favor. We would prefer to have to work at it. Grace goes against who we are because we don’t feel like we deserve love when we’ve messed up. But deserve and love don’t go together. Gift and love go together. If we have to deserve love it’s not a gift; it’s a wage we have to negotiate. Forgiveness is a gift from the forgiver.

Receiving forgiveness is a process that requires several things. First, you have to be guilty of wrong doing. Some of us have difficulty accepting the fact that we did something wrong. We resist being in the ‘I am wrong’ position and owning the fact that what we did caused others to experience serious pain and to suffer the resulting, and often prolonged fallout of this. But you cannot receive forgiveness unless you own up to, take responsibility for, and truly feel remorseful of your wrong doing.

Then you must confess it in specific terms. Proverbs 28:13 says, He who conceals his transgression will not succeed, but He who confesses and gives them up will find mercy. Some guys admit they sinned in global terms, but not in specific, personal terms. They admit they’re weak in sexual sin like every other guy without naming and identifying with the specific wrong they’ve done. We are to be specific. General confessions do very little to convict of sin, convince the one offended of your seriousness, or to bring healing.

We are then to turn away from our sin; remove it from our thoughts, and resolve in our heart that we will not do it again. Isaiah 55:7 says, Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. God knows the difference between those who are sincere and those who are trying to temporarily ease their conscience. He is not mocked or deceived. If you come in sorrow, humility and sincerity, His grace is abundant. However, He has little patience for those who would abuse His mercy. Search your heart for true repentance, and seek the Holy Spirit’s power to make the necessary changes.

We also need a forgiver. Forgiveness is relational. It’s an interpersonal process, not an intellectual thing, mind set, or some meditative state. It’s something that transpires between two people. Someone has to give forgiveness for us to receive it. The forgiver needs to be a good accuser by making the offense direct and specific. Once we’ve admitted to and taken ownership of it, the forgiver’s words should be something like those of Jesus to woman caught in adultery, Neither do I accuse you. Now go and sin no more.

The wrong that we’ve done is serious, but true repentance and the forgiveness received is more serious still. Wounds are healed, self-respect is restored, hope for the future is birthed, light removes the former darkness, positives replace negatives, and newness of life made possible.

When Quiet Times Become Chaotic: Encouragement for Busy Lives

Martin Fierro

Has there ever been a time when a gentle quietness brought a peace to your heart and mind? If you answered the question without going to that memory by moving to this next sentence you have missed the experience at the start. Let’s try it again, entertain me once again. Has there been a moment’ a time’ when a gentle quietness brought a sense of peace to your heart’. and mind’.? Sit here as you reflect to one.

Did you get to re-experience it again by this simple exercise? Rather, did you give yourself permission to experience that peace in the moment?

As an example, it was hoped that you went to a place in your mind which allowed you to experience true peace at the beach, the mountains, a river, a soft breeze on your face, laughing with your wife/children etc’. If you got there and wanted to remain there, then return and come back to this article later. It is that very resting spot that one can experience the peace of God that passes all understanding. It is also the place that the voice of the Holy Spirit comforts and challenges our soul.

It is far too often that we rush and move to the next thought, thing, activity, task, sentence or paragraph, and assignment without pondering the moment or moments. By such active behavior we miss so many opportunities to experience the rest and quiet God desires us to bask in. The possible results in the active behavior is not only missing and experiencing physiological rest but also miss times for spiritual discernment and wisdom. A benefit of resting in a quiet calm for any individual struggling with/maintaining sexual integrity is that it provides a healthy focus point to that of potential/destructive mental images and messages that lead to acting out.

Yes, peace can happen in resting in the creation of this world around us even with the modern man-made distractions.

It is not necessarily a process of creating rest, for in that alone is stressful. Just think about the last time you planned a long vacation to ‘rest.’ Was it truly a restful time? How many times have we come back from a vacation and said we need to rest from the vacation activity. It is maddening! Some rather just keep on the track of doing projects and responsibilities because seeking a quiet reflective experience appears irreverent or impossible. If you attend church regularly it is encouraged to sit and rest in God’s peace through prayer. During those times of prayer if your mind is wondering about the days/weeks events to come, once again the opportunity to have calm in the chaos is missed. Life then controls us. We just let life around us happen like it is a roller coaster ride (one hill after another). In letting life happen we surrender to it, then it takes our life focus and in that we become vague or superficial with ourselves and those around us.

In the process of recovery and staying sober from sexually acting out, our lives can become chaotic with activity as a means of distraction. Thus, a time of calm reflection and contemplation can diminish because we have to have something to tend to (hyper-stimulation in a different form?). Think of the all the time/energy used to maintain the secret of your sexual addiction and now re-using that time for true peace and calm to battle any of the triggers of your addiction. The quietness in the calm of the addiction recovery should not be mistaken as: 1. I’m healed! or, 2. Something must be wrong! Though such times of quiet in the past was the usher for your sexually acting out, perhaps these times can be used to re-focus on God and the relationship He desires with you!

Here are some ideas to consider with regards to regaining or finding some calm in the chaos. Look beyond the sidewalk to the blades of grass. The tree and the way the breeze moves its leaves. Watch a cloud as it moves so gingerly yet steadfast. Observe how the sun creates a consistent change of details through shadows at this time of the year and through out the day/month/year. Reflect on the flow of water as it hits the ground and runs to a common level seeking a resting space (much like we do). This is not being said to run around prance in a tutu as you reconnect with the world around you. Rather, do not miss this rich and free opportunity to walk out your office door, step out the car door or you own home front door to experience the calm in the chaos of the man-made world of activity. Become a child discovering nature again in its detail which is the handprint of God. If you have a young child or grandchild, watch and learn how they experience life, nature, and the world around them.

Maybe to experience some calm in the chaos is a time for each of us to go back to live as a child so we can have peace as an adult. For when we do not have peace as an adult perhaps we behave like an immature child.

For more help see Every Man’s Battle.

Celebrating God’s Attributes: His Strength

Dwayne Collins

“Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound!”

We may all be familiar with this line. It is from the Superman series and is a description of the attributes of the famous caped hero and mild-mannered reporter for the Daily Planet, Clark Kent. It almost sounds like Superman is God. But borrowing from a line by the late Senator Lloyd Bensten during the 1988 Vice-Presidential debate, I know God, and Superman is no God.

His Strength Defined

God is omnipotent or all-powerful. This is one of His attributes. According to the dictionary, it means that God is almighty, having unlimited authority or influence, and unlimited power.

It is hard to imagine All-powerful. Even Superman’s strength was limited, especially if he was exposed to kryptonite. In our finite minds, it is hard to imagine an entity that has no limitations whatsoever. The task of comprehending God’s unlimited power is further hindered with the task of realizing that His power always was and always will be. “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty” (Revelation 1:8).

But it is God who created everything, and it is God that holds it together. He created everything and He maintains everything (Colossians 1).

His Strength Manifested

We see God’s strength manifested in many ways. First we see it in the creation (Genesis 1). And we see that the only power that we, the created, have is the power granted by God (John 19). 

We also see God’s strength manifested in the plagues He placed on Egypt when Moses was asking Pharaoh to free the Israelites (Exodus 5).  It is manifested in the parting of the Red Sea and the manna from heaven (Exodus 14, 16). We see His power manifested in the story of Joseph (Genesis 37), and when Daniel was thrown into the lion’s den (Daniel 6). There are numerous illustrations in the Bible where God’s power is manifested.

We can see God’s power manifested in everyday life. God’s strength has been manifested in the improvements of society and the whole human race through of the introduction of schools, hospitals and charities. We have seen it in the improvement in the status of women and the abolishment of slavery. Proverbs 14:31 says, He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.

But by far the greatest manifestation of God’s power is in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. He not only conquered death, but also assured us of eternal life. Regarding his Son,’who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 1:3-).

His Strength Purposed

God’s power and strength are not without purpose. All of His attributes work in harmony with each other and without His power His other attributes would be limited or voided. His power was purposed to select the Children of Israel as His chosen people (Exodus 19). His power also purposed that all who believed would be His chosen people. John 3:16 reads, ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.’ We are all called to be His chosen people (Romans 9).

His Strength Celebrated

The fact that we as believers tend to forget all too often is that as His children, we share in His unlimited power. Through His power, we are able to do anything. Matthew 19:26 says, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” As His children, even though we experience sufferings, we need not fear the suffering. Daniel 3:17 reads, If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it. If we face danger, we need not fear the danger. We are kept by His mighty power. (1 Peter 1).

God is all-powerful. By His power we are created. By His power we are cared for. By His power we are assured of eternal life with Him. Because of the Power of God, it is time to celebrate. Exodus 9:16 says, But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.

Let us all take time to join in celebrating His attribute: His Strength, His Power.

“You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.” (Revelation. 4:11).