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Compelled to Forgive: Forgiveness in Light of Grace

We are compelled to forgive not by our own strength or love for others, but by the staggering love of our Savior and His sacrifice on the cross.



For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

2 Corinthians 5:14-15, NIV

The emotions all collided in that brief moment and the result was an eruption of tears. I sat there with my soon-to-be in-laws trying to contain the turmoil and confusion within me. But to no avail.

With the bitter taste of loss lingering in my heart and mind, I tried to come to some understanding as to why my friend would seemingly erase me from her life in the matter of a week.

Memories of our last time together only confused and our future plans, now vanished, were like salt in an open wound.

In the weeks that have followed, I’ve found myself face-to-face with the matter of forgiveness more than once. From sitting across the table helping another gal forgive a deep hurt, to every verse in the Bible somehow pointing to the discipline of forgiveness. And then to my own personal wrestling with forgiveness in the middle of the night.

Though the situation goes far deeper than the visible consequences and aftermath of my friend’s decision, there is still something that can be said about forgiveness in the midst of personal pain and offense.

We are compelled to forgive not by our own strength or love for others, but by the staggering love of our Savior and His sacrifice on the cross.  Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional #devotional #scripture #TheCross #salvation #forgiveness #grace #mercy

A Slap Across the Face

As I expressed my hurt and confusion to a dear friend, she offered a piece of advice. You know, the kind of advice that will stick with you for the rest of your life…

As much as our hearts are grieved when a friend walks away, think about how much more God’s heart is grieved when we walk away from Him every single day.

My friend’s decision felt like a slap across the face. Dazed and confused, I tried to collect my thoughts and as I sorted through the broken pieces, I was gently reminded that in this hurting, I was not alone; that my Lord and Savior was also slapped across the face.

John 18 tells us the story –

Meanwhile, the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching. ‘I have spoken openly to the world,’ Jesus replied. ‘I always taught in the synagogues or at the temple, where all the Jews come together. I said nothing in secret. Why question me? Ask those who heard me. Surely they know what I said.’ When Jesus said this, one of the officials nearby slapped him in the face. ‘Is this the way you answer the high priest?’ he demanded.

John 18:19-21, NIV

A Choice

Though the circumstances might vary, I’m sure we can all come up with at least one time when we have felt slapped across the face; when we have been wronged, accused, or slandered.

And in every case, we have done one of two things – reacted emotionally or responded gracefully.

If you’re like me, you can look back on the trail of emotional reactions you’ve left behind and regretted the words you’ve said. As we’ve grown and matured in our faith, we recognize how we could have handled certain situations better; how we could have responded with grace rather than with anger.

And in realizing this, I for one have found myself in a self-imposed solitary reprimanding over and over again to be better, to forgive quicker, and to never allow feelings of anger to consume me like that again.

Despite what we may think, this is not where being compelled to forgive comes from. We will never be able to muster up the strength to forgive within ourselves. We must look up from our magnifying glass focused on the molehill of offense, to see the mountain of offense that is our own.

Mountains and Molehills

The slap across the face that Jesus received might as well have been by my own hand.

Even when we feel deeply wronged by a brother or sister, the fact remains that we greatly wrong God every single day; slapping His Son across the face every time we act in sin and rebellion against Him.

This is our mountain of offense.

Our looking upon this mountain is not for the purpose of punishment, guilt-tripping, or shaming us. But it is for the ultimate goal of being consumed and compelled by the cross.

As we are convinced of our great need and that ‘though our sins are many, his mercy is more,’ we realize what marvelous freedom we have in Christ; that because He died for all, we are relentlessly pursued by grace rather than justice; that God’s righteous wrath was satisfied on the cross and therefore, we are daily pardoned of great offense.

Gazing at our mountain brings us not to a place of shame and cowering, but to a place of holy reverence; rejoicing in the great reality that our multitude of sins have been exonerated. We are found blameless before God Almighty and are at perfect peace with Him, in Christ Jesus.

In the past, I’ve believed that feelings of peace and joy are what indicated I had indeed forgiven someone ‘successfully.’ The messages that we receive today leave us with the impression that when we truly forgive someone, all the hurt, confusion, and pain will immediately dissolve. We will feel nothing but peace…

Compelled to Forgive

While I do believe this can happen over time, it puts across the false message that if we have yet to experience those feelings, then we haven’t truly forgiven. We must, therefore, try harder.

However, the reality is that it is not our own strength of motivation moving us towards forgiveness. It is the love of Christ that compels us to forgive. Through Him, we are compelled to forgive.

When the love we receive from Christ (made evident by the cross) and the peace we have with God (as a result of the cross) compels us – and trust me, it will compel us when we diligently and daily focus on the cross – the molehill of offense caused by a brother or sister comes into perspective. It becomes less significant and a lot easier to release into the loving care of our Savior.

We are compelled to forgive not by our own strength or love for others, but by the staggering love of our Savior. Our Savior who died for all so we no longer live for ourselves, but for Him.

So today, as you wrestle with forgiveness, I encourage you to take a moment and consider the cross. Really contemplate its implications, its meaning, and the weight of Christ’s anguish on your behalf.

Allow your heart to be broken by Jesus’ suffering. May you be filled with a love and a peace that compels us to care for and forgive others.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

John 14:27, NIV
We are compelled to forgive not by our own strength or love for others, but by the staggering love of our Savior. Our Savior who died for all so we no longer live for ourselves, but for Him. Click To Tweet

We are compelled to forgive not by our own strength or love for others, but by the staggering love of our Savior and His sacrifice on the cross.  Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional #devotional #scripture #TheCross #salvation #forgiveness #grace #mercy

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Clean, grace, mercy, messy, sin, Oh Lord Help Us, Christian, women, mentor, ministry, nonprofit

Surface: Allowing The Lord to Deep Clean Our Hearts

When it comes to our hearts, a surface cleaning won’t suffice; the Lord is in the business of deep cleaning in order to set us free.



The other morning, in a bit of a rush, I accidentally knocked over a big glass containing a fruit smoothie I’d just made. Thick, dark purple liquid splashed all over the counter, blanketed the stovetop, and promptly drained down into that deep, dark abyss–otherwise known as the small crack between the counter and the stove! Needing to get out the door, I hastily wiped up all of the visible mess on the surface. But I knew that upon my return, the goopy, gelatinous puddle in the abyss would require some serious deep cleaning.

When it comes to our hearts, a surface cleaning won't suffice; the Lord is in the business of deep cleaning in order to set us free. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional #devotional #scripture #clean #messy #mercy #grace #sin

The hidden, nasty mess…

Later that evening, after the kids were in bed, my husband and I settled in on the sofa to watch a movie. It was shaping up to be a nice, relaxing evening…until…dun dun dun… Cue the cheesy horror film music…reent reent reent! I remembered the hidden, nasty mess awaiting me in the kitchen.

For a moment I entertained the notion of postponing my deep cleaning job until the morning. After all, getting all that gunk out would require pulling out the stove, perhaps vacuuming, mopping, and who knew what else.

But I had a sneaking suspicion that by morning, there was a strong possibility my kitchen would reek. So, I got off the couch and got to work. I’ll spare you the dirty details, but suffice it to say, the scene I encountered underneath and behind my kitchen stove was disgusting…borderline disturbing!

To think, at least twice a day I’ve been cooking meals in that room, and all of this filth was lurking there, just below the surface! It’s a wonder my family is still alive! Ok, so perhaps now I’m overexaggerating a hair…

Downright dirty…

As I knelt down and scraped up those nasty globs of who-knows-what off of the floor, I thought about the parallel between my cleaning and the cleansing work God does in our hearts.

When it comes to our hearts, the Lord is not satisfied with a cursory surface wipe. In fact, when He does an important work in us, the process can get downright dirty. As believers, in order to truly be clean, we simply can’t stay on the surface where things feel orderly and comfortable.

Friends, we need to be willing to open up the cluttered cabinets of our minds, pull back the dusty drapes shrouding our dreams, and expose the grimy residue clogging our hearts. This means that sometimes our walk of faith requires getting down on our knees and delving into the muck and mire of deep spiritual cleaning.

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisees, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also.

Matthew 23:25-26
Sometimes our walk of faith requires getting down on our knees and delving into the muck and mire of deep spiritual cleaning. Click To Tweet

Surface cleaning…

But admittedly, too often, surface cleaning is the way I tend to keep my natural house and my spiritual house. I like for there to be order in my home, so I keep clutter to a minimum. I don’t leave things in places where they don’t belong, and I don’t allow messes to accumulate. But I confess that it’s not very often that I really and truly deep clean my house.

Polishing the spiritual side of this coin, we can see that it looks similar. I’d wager to say that, as believers, most of us try to keep a tidy, sanctimonious outward appearance. We attempt to maintain some kind of daily quiet time routine. Perhaps we listen to worship music in the car or post scriptures and uplifting memes on social media. Most of us regularly attend Bible study, small group, or a weekly worship service.

Scratching the surface…

But in a sense, don’t all of these religious routines constitute forms of mere maintenance cleaning? Albeit good practices to be in, taken together, these activities barely scratch the surface of the deeper spiritual walk that’s required of a true believer.

But how often do we turn our hearts and minds over to the Lord to really allow Him to scrub, and cleanse, and purify us? Scripture strongly warns against the danger and hypocrisy of this kind of surface cleaning.

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye are like unto whited sepulchers, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.

Matthew 23:27-28

Skeletons in the closet…

Now, thankfully I didn’t find any dead men’s bones under my stove! But spiritually speaking, when I confess to the anger, hatred, and judgement, that I’ve harbored in my heart, I definitely have hosted some skeletons in my closet.

Had I never spilled my smoothie, I probably would not have thought about cleaning under and behind my stove. Meanwhile, dust, mold, and bacteria, would have continued to fester there, to the detriment of my home’s air quality and our family’s health.

Often, this is the way spiritual problems reach our radar. Maybe our “spilled smoothie” looks like an argument with a loved one where anger and harsh words spill out of our mouths–exposing deeper roots of bitterness that have taken hold inside. Or perhaps we see someone getting praise or recognition for the same kind of thing we would like to do, and thoughts of jealousy and envy rise up in our spirit.

A spiritual makeover…

Friends, I hate to say it, but all of us have an ugly, dark abyss that needs deep cleaning, and this time I’m not talking about the crack between your countertop and your stovetop. I’m referring to the shadowy recesses of our hearts where our unhealed wounds, sin, and shame reside. Those hidden places where we fear that God’s grace can’t, or won’t, reach. But the Lord sees the exact spots on our hearts that need His thorough cleaning and healing.

And no amount of outward adornment–pretty clothes, makeup, half-hearted smiles, or even well-rehearsed Bible verses–can hide our spiritual blemishes. Sisters, we must be willing to ask the Lord to do a full-on deep cleaning in our hearts. Yes, this makeover is likely to hurt our pride, expose our weaknesses, and destroy our false sense of security. But, ultimately letting go of our dirt–jealousy, shame, failure, and fear–allows us to truly be clean. To be beautiful. To be free.

Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

Psalm 139:23-24

Have you resorted to surface cleaning spiritually? Does your heart need a deep clean?

When it comes to our hearts, a surface cleaning won't suffice; the Lord is in the business of deep cleaning in order to set us free. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional #devotional #scripture #clean #messy #mercy #grace #sin

*All scripture references are from The King James Version of The Holy Bible.
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Christian living, controversial, disagreement, fight, fighting, love, mercy, peace, Oh Lord Help Us, Christian, women, mentor, ministry

Fighting: How to Champion Godliness

Fighting godly battles requires us to exercise restraint in the midst of our passion. We must avoid sinning because we are impassioned for God’s will.



Disagreements

Polarized. When we read the news, scroll through social media posts, engage with our relatives — is there a better way to describe how the world seems? There is a “for or against” mentality regarding all hot button issues. The polarization trickles down into less public, more intimate disagreements. “We should agree to disagree” is a hollow statement, not meaning the sum of its parts so much as meaning. “We have to stop talking about this now if we are going to continue liking one another.”

I like to avoid fighting. I find no enjoyment in conflict. Anxiety muzzles me. Inwardly I am impassioned, but outwardly I resist the urge to bark or bite at an offending argument. I justify this through scripture that cautions us to be slow to speak, lest we present ourselves as fools.

Fighting godly battles requires us to exercise restraint in the midst of our passion. We must avoid sinning because we are impassioned for God's will. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional #devotional #scripture #ChristianLiving #controversial #fight #disagreement #love #mercy #peace #fighting

Fighting on Behalf of God

Our faith, though, calls us to action on behalf of the Truth our God instilled in us. Why did He give us the belt of truth, breastplate of righteousness, shield of faith, helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit if He empowered us only to sit on the sidelines quietly? No. We must learn to fight for people and the will of God while answering the call to be peacemakers.

I think a lot of the reason we get into unproductive, vitriol-fueled fighting is because we do not take time to control our impulses. We do not step aside from our emotion.

A man of wrath stirs up strife, and one given to anger causes much transgression.

Proverbs 29:22, ESV

While we are to advocate for that which is right and righteous, God does not call us to sow hatred or to transgress in His name. He asks us to point others toward Him and His kingdom in all that we do and say. When we stand our ground in our arguments, we should have a subconscious self-check going on as we navigate these debates.

-Do the words I speak, show I love God?

-Will the person I am speaking with know that I love them?

-Does the content of my message show mercy, peace, and love to others?

Our Words Matter

At no time does name-calling point others towards the loving-kindness of Jesus. On my way to work, I listen to a podcaster who is well regarded in the Christian community. I respect the message and wisdom he shares. Yet, he frequently calls people idiots.

He does it in a loving aside, or with an endearing chuckle. This lets people know “I’m not really being mean.” But do our choice of words not matter as much as our intent? Words of condemnation can wound. Applied with the proper intent and execution, however, they can restore and empower.

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

Ephesians 4:29, ESV

Understanding

This goes beyond using kind words and a gentle tone. If we are to build up, we have to understand the foundation of a person’s belief. We have to be in relationship with the person we are talking to. If their thinking is not in alignment with God, then we should be fighting God’s fight for their betterment, not our superiority. We have to seek understanding. Why does this person believe what they do? Where does their certainty lie?

Often in arguments, we look for the other person’s fallacies to come to light. We want that aha! moment. It feels good to catch someone in their utter wrongness and juxtapose it with our inherent rightness. But they came to their beliefs through their own life experiences; through a lens of perspective shaped by different upbringings and influences. We have to understand that in most cases, those we are fighting with feel they are on the right side of morality or history. Start with the common ground that we all want to do good.

Jude’s Guidance

Jude is this small one-chapter book of the Bible. I often fixate on it. This brother of James and Jesus sketches a picture of a community of Christ-followers who had unwittingly allowed people in who succumbed to ungodly desires. Jude does not hesitate to call out these actions as sinful, but throughout he guides us in how to approach those who are not in alignment with the Father.

Yet Michael the archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” 

Jude 1:9, NKJV

If a high ranking angel remembered who actually passes judgment while he contended with the devil, then I can speak with a friend who is succumbing to sin without passing my imperfect judgment on her.

It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit. But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.

Jude 1:19-23, ESV

Stand Firm in Love

Jude makes it clear. We are to stand in opposition to those who are divisive. When we see another human stuck in doubt or sin, we do our best to point them towards repentance and show them that they need saving. We are not, however, to do so in a manner that goes against God’s commands. We are to keep ourselves in the love of our Father.

God clearly asks us to have mercy and show mercy. At the same time, we must hate the sin they are trapped in, and we should not fall into the trappings of sin ourselves. And fighting with someone in a way that causes harm, for the purpose of bringing glory to ourselves, or in a spirit of divisiveness is absolutely falling into the trappings of sin.

Fighting With Both Passion and Restraint

It’s hard. Sometimes the people we love falter. It hurts to see them walk toward sin. Other people believe so staunchly in things that we find diametrically opposed to the will of God. Fighting for godly things is good. We should ask God to break our hearts for the things that break His. We need passion.

Equally, we need restraint. We need to use our zeal for God’s will to determine what battles need championing, and we need restraint to keep our hearts focused on the love of God while we are in the thick of the fight.

Whoever has no rule over his own spirit is like a city broken down, without walls.

Proverbs 25:28, NKJV
Fighting for godly things is good. We should ask God to break our hearts for the things that break His. We need passion, but, equally, we need restraint. Click To Tweet

Practical Strategies

I’m a very emotional person. Throughout my life, I have gotten so swept up in feeling that I have made great mistakes. I have hurt people. In light of this, I am now a huge proponent of approaching the things in life that impassion me with an arsenal of practical strategies.

We are so lucky that God hides practical strategies within the most poetic moments in His word. In reading Jude over and over again, I am struck by a line that I can use to help guard my tongue. What if I, before I entered into a debate with someone, opened it up as Jude opened his letter?

“Mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you.”

Jude 1:2, NKJV

What if I said these words, even just in my head, before opening my mouth or before I start typing? Would that change how I approach someone? If I start my conversation with a sentiment of well-wishing, could I continue to portray love while pointing out sin? I think I just might.

Fighting godly battles requires us to exercise restraint in the midst of our passion. We must avoid sinning because we are impassioned for God's will. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional #devotional #scripture #ChristianLiving #controversial #fight #disagreement #love #mercy #peace #fighting

judgment, judging, kindness, mercy, love, Oh Lord Help Us, Christian, women, mentor, ministry

Judging: Taking A Posture of Mercy Toward Our Neighbors

Judgmental attitudes can get in the way of the Lord’s work in our own hearts. Judging others is not our job, we must take on a posture of mercy. 



I was walking in my neighborhood on a beautiful, sunny day. It was a great reprieve from the winter gloom and rain, so naturally, a lot of other people were out as well. As I was passing these walkers or joggers, I said hello and smiled at them. I was a bit taken aback when 8 out of the 10 people, ignored me. Not even a courteous nod to my smile…

Judgmental attitudes can get in the way of the Lord's work in our own hearts. Judging others is not our job, we must take on a posture of mercy. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional #devotional #scripture #judgment #love #mercy #kindness

Judging

I began to get offended and thought to myself, “This world is so selfish. People won’t even say hi to each other on the street anymore.” I continued on my walk and as I turned back toward home, I had to face the way the people passing me had been. The sun was low in the sky and was full force in my eyes. I couldn’t see anything, let alone anyone’s face that was passing me. I had a moment of realization, then of shame…

How quick was I to judge the people passing me? How understanding or merciful had I been? The Lord showed me that I had been judgmental and unmerciful without a moment’s hesitation.

Merciful

There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others. But if you have been merciful, God will be merciful when he judges you.

James 2:13, NLT

In Luke chapter 10, Jesus is having a conversation with one of the teacher’s of the law about inheriting eternal life. The man asked Jesus who his neighbor was and Jesus told him the parable of the Good Samaritan. When he asks the man who was the neighbor to the man who had been attacked, the teacher replies, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus replies, “Yes, now go and do the same.”

This may seem like such an easy concept to grasp to some of you reading, but for me, it’s been a tough one. I have a very high sense of justice, but mercy isn’t on my radar like it should be. This lacking shows itself most intensely in motherhood. 

I homeschool my kids which means I am around them almost all the time. So they hear and see me do some pretty messed up things. I always apologize and they are always quick to forgive. However, when the roles are reversed, I often drag out the sentencing instead of pronouncing mercy over them. I tend to point out not just the current offense, but bring up old ones as well. I feel they need to truly feel the guilt and shame of their wrongs. And, once I’m satisfied in their judgment, I will forgive and be “merciful”. Bless my heart.

What if?

Honestly, I’m not even sure I’m qualified to write this today. What if I’m still struggling? Aren’t we supposed to write about what we’ve conquered so we can pass on our wisdom to others going through it?

What if instead of wondering how I can show kindness to the girl looking uncomfortable in my church row, I’m silently judging her too short skirt and too revealing top? What if instead of loving my foster kids’ biological families, I’m hoping they miss another visit so I don’t have to deal with it that day? Why am I so ugly and unmerciful when God has been ridiculously loving and merciful to me?

Why are we so ugly and unmerciful to our neighbors, when God has been so ridiculously loving and merciful to us? Judging others is not our job! Click To Tweet

Saving Mercy

It’s a heart issue, no doubt. I haven’t truly repented; looked at my sin and despised it. Somewhere inside of me, I still feel justified, qualified, and above reproach. 

Oh, how generous and gracious our Lord was! He filled me with the faith and love that come from Christ Jesus. This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners’ -and I am the worst of them all. But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life.

1 Timothy 1:14-16, NLT

This is what I cling to and what I hope for: that God will continue to convict, mold me and shape me. That others will see even my hot mess can be forgiven. And that He has extended mercy, not judgment, to those who call on His name. Praise Him, my Savior and my God.

Judgmental attitudes can get in the way of the Lord's work in our own hearts. Judging others is not our job, we must take on a posture of mercy. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional #devotional #scripture #judgment #love #mercy #kindness

Xuan Nguyen

forgiveness, grace, mercy, Oh Lord Help Us, Christian, women, mentor, ministry

Mercy: Receiving and Giving Forgiveness For Our Offenses

Not all of our offenses result in punishment. Sometimes we receive mercy instead. When we experience grace and mercy, we can extend it to others. 



It never fails. Something catastrophic always happens when my husband leaves town, and he leaves town kinda frequently. Hmm… Maybe it’s not when he leaves town. Maybe it’s just all the time. Or maybe I’m being a bit dramatic. Nah. That couldn’t possibly be it. This was definitely catastrophic, and it was when my husband was gone. Therefore, one must naturally conclude that this is just how it is.

I wish I could change the names in this story in order to protect the innocent, but that is not possible since it’s about my oldest son and myself. That poor child. Actually, my heart has a special affection for all oldest children. Truly. And this is coming from a youngest child. So, since I cannot hide the characters in this story, I shall hide the offense. It is, after all, his testimony to tell when he is ready to do so.

Not all of our faults result in punishment. Sometimes we receive mercy instead. When we experience grace and mercy, we can extend it to others. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional

The offense…

We were cleaning up dinner on the fifth and final night that my husband was gone. My oldest son, out of the blue, began to make a sound that was a mix between a moan and a squeal. I had no idea what was happening. “Talk to me! What is wrong??” He replies with, “There’ll never be a good time to tell you, so…” And he proceeds to tell me about a sneaky thing he had been doing.

In that moment, the Holy Spirit took over my body. That is the only way to explain my response. My typical response is to express anger, raise my voice, and flail my arms. Honesty here. I’m a yeller. However, in this moment of him confessing, I simply began to weep.

This is not, I believe, the response he was expecting, but it was the response that allowed him the freedom to continue. Oh yes, continue he did. The depth of the offense was revealing itself, and with each new level, more tears were flowing.

The forgiveness…

When we finally came to the bottom of the pit he was in, I told him he needed to ask God for forgiveness. “I did,” he said. Ok, good. Then I say with a shaky voice, “You need to ask for forgiveness from me.”

He sat there, sobbing, breathing hard, for several moments. I could see the battle brewing within him; the struggle of pride versus humility. I did not rush him. This is a battle that is hard to fight through, and no one else can fight it. On this day, humility won out. “I’m so sorry.”

“And I forgive you,” came my immediate reply. But it was his response that will forever be etched in my heart: “But I don’t deserve it.” Reliving it, right now, in this moment, I can just start sobbing all over again. I pulled him into my arms and said, “Oh baby, none of us do. That is the point.”

The need…

My son is a good kid. He mostly does the right thing. He is kind and compassionate. The problem with being a good kid is that: a) they think they are always a good kid and become arrogant, and b) no, wait… “a” pretty much covers it. Arrogance leads to thinking we don’t need forgiveness. And if we don’t need forgiveness, then we don’t need Christ.

Even though my heart was broken that night, I was also rejoicing. Now, he understands his need for forgiveness, and what a gift grace and mercy are. He also knows (because the Holy Spirit took over my body and made me respond calmly – seriously, I take no credit here) that he can come to us and we will love him through whatever mess he is in. We are not accepting the mess, but we are accepting him.

My offense…

Oh, how I wish I could just share this story about my son and wrap it up with a nice little bow. But that wouldn’t be real. That would be me putting pretty packaging on a pile of poo. Sorry, if that’s too graphic, but that is how I felt a few weeks ago. Like a pile of poo.

It was, you got it… when my husband was out of town (I mean seriously, this is starting to become an issue). My neighborhood had just experienced a great tragedy, and I was a little neurotic with wanting to make sure everyone I love was safe. So when I couldn’t find my boys one night, I went berserk. Crazy. Nut-so.

I calmly walked up the street to the house they had been playing at; they weren’t there. Next, I blew the whistle (it’s this super loud one my husband uses to call the boys home – I hate it and only use it if I have to); they didn’t respond. I looked in the backyard, came inside; no sign of them. Then I walked to the other end of the street; not there either. It was officially time to panic.

Breathing deeply, I came in the house preparing to call all my neighbors, only to notice their shoes sitting by the back door. What. The. Heck. I yell their names, and they respond, “Yes ma’am??” Oh no! Don’t you go being all polite and good, I’m about to go ballistic!

My forgiveness…

No sense it airing out the full stink of my poo, so let’s just say I did not handle the fact that my kids were fine after I thought they had been abducted, in a rejoiceful way. We all sat hugging and crying for quite some time. I never have to worry about my kids thinking I’m perfect. Many times I have shown them how to ask for forgiveness with teaching by example. Sigh.

As my boys were getting into bed, I reminded my oldest (that dear dear child) of when he expressed to me that he did not deserve my forgiveness. With puffy red eyes, I said, “I understand how you felt. And I am in awe of God’s forgiveness, and grace, and mercy.”

But you, O Lord, are a God of compassion and mercy,
slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness.

Psalm 86:15, NLT

My need…

I have heard it said that those who receive grace, are able to extend grace to others. This is also true for mercy and forgiveness. I too have been the “good girl” falling into the trap of believing I have my act together and don’t need help from others, or from God.

Oh, but I so do! Moments like this, where I fall so hard on my face that it feels like I’ve busted out all my teeth, are a gut-punch reality check. My need for a Savior is so great. Not so I can get stronger, or have all the answers, but so I can remember that His strength is the only strength I can rely on. And by remembering this I can be the hands and feet of Christ, loving others, lifting them, pointing them to the only One who can truly remove our transgressions poo. And stinky poo it is, indeed.

Our need for a Savior is so great. Not so we can get stronger, or have all the answers, but so we can remember that His strength is the only strength we can rely on. Click To Tweet

Not all of our faults result in punishment. Sometimes we receive mercy instead. When we experience grace and mercy, we can extend it to others. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional

repentance, conviction, condemnation, Oh Lord Help Us , Christian, women, ministry, scripture

Repentance: Understand the Difference Between Condemnation and Conviction

Condemnation leads to guilt and shame. Conviction, however, is God’s loving kindness leading us to repentance and back to His refuge.



There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Romans 8:1, ESV

If that is true, why do so many wrestle with feelings of condemnation? I believe it’s the fine line between condemnation and conviction.

The difference…

Condemnation oozes from the knowledge of laws and rules. When I feel condemned, I seek to soothe the discomfort of guilt and shame. There are plenty of cheerful quotes on Pinterest to set me right. There’s generally glitter and flowers and unicorns on them, too. Or a Chevron pattern. Whatever floats your boat. Frankly, I’ve come to know that condemnation plugs the holes in my boat with a sponge.

When I feel condemned, I seek to soothe the discomfort of guilt and shame. Click To Tweet

Conviction is entirely different because it is borne from the Holy Spirit and leads to repentance. Understanding Almighty God fully loves me means I no longer fear punishment; I know I am His. In response to the sin that separates me from Him, conviction leads me back to His loving arms.

  • I’m not spending enough time with the Lord.
  • I don’t have enough self-control.
  • I’m not good enough for God.

Condemnation screams: “You should be more. You’re not good enough.” Well-meaning friends (and social media) argue “You are enough!” But the guilt perpetuates. Because the reality is—I keep falling off the proverbial wagon and landing face first in the mud. The cycle repeats ad nauseam. Why? Because contrary to popular belief, it’s not the thought that counts. Feeling bad about something and saying I’m sorry is about me. When I feel convicted I have to be vulnerable, repent, and ask forgiveness; because I know what I did caused brokenness.

Conviction says: You’re right. You’re not good enough. “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ.”(Ephesians 2:4, ESV).

Condemnation leads to guilt and shame. Conviction, however, is God's loving kindness leading us to repentance and back to His refuge. #repentance #spiritualgrowth #scripture

From death to life…

This can be a hard pill to swallow initially. It seems to contradict fairness and encouragement. However, when the Bible talks about us being dead in our sin it’s only figurative to the point that we don’t know when our physical bodies will perish. Yet we are literally spiritually dead as a doornail until God breathes life into our dead souls. We cannot ultimately save ourselves from anything.

No one is getting up and walking out of a morgue. You’re dead on a slab. Resuscitation is off the table—you have to be resurrected.

Edward Hunt, Associate Pastor Sojourn Fairfax

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

John 3:17, ESV

How deep the Father’s love for us! He sent Jesus! It is He who makes us good enough through the work of His Spirit. Friends, it is God’s kindness that is meant to lead us to repentance. Not fear of judgement or completing our check-list of self-punishment.

The Lord redeems the life of his servants; none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.

Psalm 34:22, ESV

Refuge…

When the boat is sinking back into condemnation land, or the wagon threatens to throw us off, we must find refuge in Christ. And if we still feel swept out to sea and can’t see any redemption or refuge in sight, let’s do a little backwards planning (as my husband likes to say). The instruction in Psalm 34:22 is to run to the Lord for rescue. Deliverance isn’t found anywhere else.

Those who look to him are radiant with joy; their faces will never be ashamed.

Psalm 34:5, CSB

When sin creeps in, don’t allow condemnation to drown you. Instead, permit conviction to bring you back to the One who loves you with an everlasting love. Take shelter in His arms; and worship your Redeemer.

Condemnation leads to guilt and shame. Conviction, however, is God's loving kindness leading us to repentance and back to His refuge. #repentance #spiritualgrowth #scripture

layers, facade, Oh Lord Help Us, Christian, women, ministry

Layers: Allowing God to Expose and Peel Away Our Facade

There’s nothing wrong with a nice motivational saying to encourage. However, in order to bloom, we must accept reality and allow God to loosen those layers within our sinful selves.



Bloom where you are planted…

It’s spring, and that phrase is everywhere. I have no idea who coined it, but it’s definitely making ripples throughout the whole of womanhood. It’s fun to think of ourselves as flowers. They are beautiful…they smell sweet. In fact, I make sure I have fresh flowers in my home, weekly.

It’s just so hard for me to believe that about myself. Which got me thinking… if I’m not a flower what am I?

I am seeing all these beauties blooming around me, and I’m over here just trying to not be a cabbage.

-Katie Braswell

Yes, a cabbage. Others are budding and spreading their petals, and I’m stubbornly tightening my layers. It’s a horrible habit, but I tend to self-deprecate. So, believing all those around me are beautiful blooming flowers and I’m being made into sauerkraut, isn’t far fetched.

“How in the heck is she going to arch sauerkraut and spirituality?”

It can be done…

There's nothing wrong with a nice motivational saying to encourage. However, in order to bloom, we must accept reality and allow God to loosen those layers within our sinful selves. #layer #facade #spiritualgrowth #spiritualtruth

Protection

I swear, this is probably the first time in history, someone searched the Bible for the word “cabbage”. Well, I did it so let me share my results…

I’m like someone who goes to the garden to pick cabbages and carrots and corn and returns empty-handed, finds nothing for soup or sandwich or salad.

Micah 7:2, MSG

Yep, I really had to dig for that one, but I read the whole chapter and I wasn’t surprised at all to find meaning and a point that will tie in. God is amazing like that. This chapter in Micah talks about not being able to find a decent person in sight. The world was full of evil and sin. Pretty sorrowful and depressing, if you ask me. Probably because the evil then, is the evil now. But, I feel like we’ve become more cunning at hiding our sin.

“Put this media filter on.”

“Don’t let that scratch too close to the core.”

“Look how lovely my life is.”

So… I’m a cabbage. I know what filters I put on. Most of us walk around with our dark green leaves on… hiding our sin, our wretched selves. Protecting ourselves from this reality: we all sin and need Jesus.

Layers

Try peeling a cabbage without ripping a leaf…just try. If you can do it, we need to talk.

I’m a cabbage. So. Many. Layers. When I allow others (including God) to start peeling them back, my leaves tear. I feel damaged, imperfect. Which sucks for a perfectionist. I like my dark leafed exterior. But, what do people do with those dark leaves when they buy cabbage?  Oh right, they peel them off and pay for a beautiful light green bundle.

No one wants to pay for my dark green facade. No one wants to hang around a fake cabbage. The light green parts are easier to relate to. They show humanity, humility, imperfections. No one wants to spend time with someone who seems to have it all together. Yet, here I am, day in and out, protected by those dark leaves.

Loosening

Towards the middle of Micah 7, the tone changes. He accepts his own part in the sinful world. Full acceptance. Not hidden, but recorded forever in the Bible. Now, I say that’s the opposite of layered protection. When we start peeling back the layers and facades, it forces us to come face to face with our sin. To allow others to walk along side of us in support and love. It forces us to allow God to cover over all we have done…

You don’t nurse your anger and don’t stay angry long, for mercy is your specialty. That’s what you love most. And compassion is on its way to us. You’ll stamp out our wrongdoing. You’ll sink our sins to the bottom of the ocean.

Micah 7:19, MSG

God is THE creator. He created cabbages and He created me. However, He did not create me to be a cabbage. All those layers, whether dark or light green, He has asked and even invited me to allow Him to gently peel those away. Those layers of sin I like to hang on to, God loosens them with compassion and mercy. It’s His nature; who He is.

Those layers of sin I like to hang on to, God loosens them with compassion and mercy. It's His nature; who He is. Click To Tweet

Rooting

Micah held fast to hope, in the midst of a despairing world. He knew the prophecies and that God had a plan. Today we can rejoice for Micah…the prophecies came to fruition. We have the redeeming salvation of Jesus Christ. Our “leaves” were nailed to a cross.

This is my hope: that we can root ourselves in the truth of God. Specifically, that last section of Micah chapter 7. I pray we can remember, God sees all our dark and light green leaves and wishes to throw them all in depths of the sea. I hope we can allow Him to peel away at us. Layer by layer, in order for our lives to bloom with HIS glory!

 

There's nothing wrong with a nice motivational saying to encourage. However, in order to bloom, we must accept reality and allow God to loosen those layers within our sinful selves. #layer #facade #spiritualgrowth #spiritualtruth

Scott Webb

forgiveness, grace, Oh Lord Help Us, Christian, women, ministry

Clean: Understanding Hurts and Extending Forgiveness

When we understand the past of people who have hurt us, we are more capable to extend grace. We are able to wipe their slate clean with forgiveness.



When I was in grade school, I loved it when my teacher would choose me to wipe the chalkboard clean at the end of the day. There was something almost magical about that simple physical process. What had been a murky mess—rows of math tables, diagramed sentences, partial erasures, and a lingering cloud of dust—could be wiped completely clean. What remained was literally a new, clean slate for the next day’s instruction.

As believers, we can glean a simple yet profound message here: the Lord’s forgiveness is a complete work, with mercies that are new each day. In Isaiah we read:

I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins.

Isaiah 43:25, KJV

And in the Psalms we’re reminded of just how far away He casts ours sins:

As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.

Psalm 103:12, KJV

When we understand the past of people who have hurt us, we are more capable to extend grace. We are able to wipe their slate clean with our forgiveness. #forgiveness #spiritualgrowth #grace

An Ever-Present Need

Being a mom of two young kids has done wonders in teaching me about the need for mercy and forgiveness. From meltdowns, to accidents, to intentional misbehavior (and those are just on my end!), to sibling rivalry, and the list goes on… We have an ever-present need for grace, mercy, and forgiveness in our home. Many days I feel as if I’m working at a deficit in my parenting bank. But if I’m operating in the red, that is precisely the time to turn back to the blood of Jesus. To let His strength perfect me in my weakness; to allow His forgiveness to flood my soul; and to let Him father me as I mother my children.

Misuse of The Rod

It has been hard for me to wrap my head and heart around the notion that God is a loving dad who gently guides me and forgives me when I make mistakes. My slowness to internalize this truth stems from the lies I learned and the wounds I sustained when I was very young. I was raised in a strict, legalistic, and abusive home. Repentance and chastisement were heavily emphasized, but somehow forgiveness seemed to be forgotten. If it’s the Lord’s goodness that draws us to repentance (Rom. 2:4), it was my mom’s misuse of the rod that drove me further from her, and for many years, further from God.

I remember one day when I was probably four years old. I had dropped a jar of cream that shattered and spilled all over the kitchen floor. Positive parenting classes I’ve taken would likely recommend a patient response to this kind of scenario. Consider whether a task is age appropriate for the child; acknowledge when something is an accident; enlist the little one’s help to clean up the parts of the mess that are safe for her to tackle. Patience, mercy, kindness. A Christ-like response.

But my mom had torn a page from a different kind of book and claimed that it was from the Good Book. She began shouting at me; dragging me out to the dark mudroom where she would whip me repeatedly on my backside with a leather strap. She slammed the door behind her, leaving me alone, scared, and wounded in the dark.

Tiptoeing on Eggshells

This was the typical pattern. I would misbehave somehow or accidentally break or spill something, and the hammer would come down. Hard. I would be “disciplined”, which usually meant abused, and a silent treatment would ensue. The painful welts on my body or missed meals were nothing compared to the punishment inflicted by Mom’s cold shoulder of emotional isolation.

I would then have to tip toe on eggshells and placate my mom until her storm of anger passed. Rarely, if ever, was there a loving conversation about how my misbehavior could be changed or what a reasonable consequence would be if I committed the same offense in the future. Instead, I would be forced to say sorry and accept the blame for whatever had happened. I can’t ever remember a time in those early years when Mom asked me to forgive her for how she had treated me.

On Pins and Needles

My mom died nearly three years ago. I recall a conversation I had with her a few years before she died. In the past, she had told me that she was raised in an orphanage from age seven until she graduated high school. But she had never gone into detail about what she had suffered there.

During her years at the orphanage, Mom found herself in the unfortunate position of being under the tutelage of a strict and abusive house mom named Ms. Hupp. Mom had harbored a deep fear of and hatred for this woman. She said Hupp would wake up all the girls before dawn, barking orders at them to get dressed, make their beds, straighten their belongings, and report for duty. Duty entailed meticulously hand scrubbing floors, washing walls, helping prepare meals, and various and sundry other tasks that she seemed to create just for the sake of keeping all the girls busy. Mom said Hupp’s constant scrutiny and criticism kept her on pins and needles.

Connecting the Dots

As she described Hupp’s mistreatment, I began to connect the dots to my own experience of how Mom had treated me when I was little. Young women sometimes joke that one day they will probably become their moms. Well, Mom had grown up and become like Hupp. Without her own mom in the picture, she had learned from the only mother figure she knew. As Mom spoke about her hard heart toward Hupp, I could identify with her anger, but in a way, my own heart was softening toward my mom. Mom told me how the Lord had helped her to finally forgive Ms. Hupp. She said He had let her see Hupp’s wounded heart so that she could forgive her. As I write this, I can say that I have forgiven my own “Hupp” too.

Wiping the Slate Clean

After many years, my mom asked me if I could ever forgive her for all the ways she had mistreated me. When I told her that I had already forgiven her, I could almost see a weight lift off her. For so many years, she had borne the heavy shame and regret of her abusive behavior. Her abuse drove my dad to divorce her and fight for full custody of me and my siblings. Her abuse made it impossible for us to return to live with her when my dad died. But the pain Mom inflicted also drove her to her knees, to sincerely repent to the Lord and seek His forgiveness.

Although she knew she had been forgiven, she still struggling with the shame of the hurt she had caused. Somehow, she still needed to hear that I had forgiven her. Although we can seek the Lord’s forgiveness, we also need to humble ourselves to ask forgiveness of the people we have wronged; and we need to extend forgiveness to those who have wronged us. When we do so, we are free to fully love and be loved.

And when you pray, make sure you forgive the faults of others so that your Father in heaven will also forgive you. But if you withhold forgiveness from others, your Father withholds forgiveness from you.

Matthew 6:14-15, TPT

Is there someone in your life whose slate you need to clean with your forgiveness? Is there someone whose forgiveness you need to seek?

Although we can seek the Lord’s forgiveness, we also need to humble ourselves to ask forgiveness of the people we have wronged; and we need to extend forgiveness to those who have wronged us. Click To Tweet

When we understand the past of people who have hurt us, we are more capable to extend grace. We are able to wipe their slate clean with our forgiveness. #forgiveness #spiritualgrowth #grace

Keilidh Ewan