Soften Our Hearts to Receive Forgiveness

Jim Lepage Art

The story of Joseph is one of my favorites in the Bible mainly because Joseph is clearly a powerful type of Jesus.

In Genesis 50 we read that after Israel (Jacob) died, Joseph’s heart grieved for him and he, along with his brothers, mourned and cried, and buried his father Israel. But not long after that, Joseph’s brothers came to him with great fear.

The past still haunted them. Their past sin’s shadow had not yet departed from them. They had once asked Joseph to forgive them from their sin against him, and Joseph had expressed his forgiveness with words and tears, and actions (Gen. 45). Joseph even called them and brought them near to him, to a safer place where they would lack nothing. But now that their Father was gone, now that their circumstances had changed, the questions came back and the shadows grew darker and bigger as the memories of that day rushed back like cataracts -the Dreamer, the tunic, the well, the merchants, the look on Joseph’s eyes, his cries, his pleas, the blood of the animal, the lies all had to make up, the moment they faced their father, his loud cry, and the way their lives were changed forever- all were tangible memories that made them shiver and sweat.  What if Joseph had changed his mind? What if Joseph’s forgiveness was just a show to make their father happy? What if he had not really forgiven them? So they came and again asked for his forgiveness one more time because, you see, forgiveness and restoration and all-is-forgotten-and-all-is-made-new is too good to be true, and it just can’t be that easy, right? Their nightmares were real, but more real than Joseph’s promise of forgiveness?

However, Joseph didn’t change his mind. He “wept when they spoke to him” and said to them, “Do not fear… ” and then again, “Do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” And the author tells us that with these words “he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.”

If we could only see and understand how Jesus forgives us! How many times we are haunted by our past sins, by memories that out of nowhere spring up and cast a heavy shadow on our hearts. How many times we have asked God to forgive us for the same sins over and over again? We are like Joseph’s brothers, we doubt the character, the goodness, the free gift that Jesus gives us. We can’t possibly believe that God forgives the worst and calls us and brings us close to him to feed us with the best of the land, with bread and wine. “No,” we say, “that can’t be.”

But we must believe and not fear to come when God bids us to come. God’s love for us and His forgiveness are not dependent on anything we do or don’t do; His forgiveness doesn’t rest on the circumstances around us, His forgiveness comes from His immutable character and perfect love. He even leads us, in his kindness, to repentance. We ask for forgiveness because He softens our hearts to be able to do that.

Don’t fear the shadows of past sins. Repent and believe that He delights to forgive His people.

And there is one more layer to unwrap in this story. One more lesson on forgiveness.

How do we extend forgiveness to others? Like Jesus to us? Like Joseph to his brothers? Joseph knew -and never denied- that what their brothers did to him, they did full of malice and meant it for evil. However, he fully forgave them and did all that was possible for him to do to restore that relationship. Why did he do that? How was that even possible? Again, because Joseph knew God and His character. He understood one thing above all else: God is sovereign over all the events of our lives, even over those things that people do and say against us. He even told his brothers, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God?” (50:19)

Let us learn to be like Joseph -and even more like Jesus. Let us welcome those who have hurt us and have meant evil against us, let us start saying more often kind words that can bring comfort, “Do not fear, come…” 

Soften our hearts, Oh Lord, to receive and extend forgiveness. 

Under His sun and by His grace,

Becky

Hands and Feet – and Knees-

This place has been quiet, but not my heart, and not my mind.

Lately I have been thinking about how owning a sound, historical, and biblical theology matters -and it matters a lot!- but also, how we flesh out that theology, that set of beliefs that drive our motives and actions, our responses to the good things and hard things that come our way matters a big deal too.

Studying big books about the Bible like commentaries, systematic theology, and other very important titles like The Institutes of Calvin, etc. is absolutely important; but we should never forget that the ultimate goal of knowing more is to love more. Love God more, love our neighbor more, love our family more, love the Word more, love to meditate on the Word more.

The more we know, the more responsibility we have to apply that knowledge in the life God has given us with the people God has given us. We need hands and feet to flesh out what we have studied in the Word -and in the big books we love to read. If we don’t do that, if the people around us cannot see that the more we study the more compassionate and understanding, and loving and helpful we are, then we are not truly growing in the Lord. We are just deceiving ourselves. People around us will know us because of the fruits we bear, not because of the many books we read- if you know what I mean. Fruits cannot be faked.

And this same principle applies to prayer. If we read a lot of big books, and know every point of our theology and can argue for this or that side of the debate, but we are not praying more, then something is terribly missing. Our study of the big Theology books can never substitute our time with God in prayer. Never.

Becoming women of the Word is not only about reading more and studying more, but about becoming more like Christ and longing to be with Him more.

I want to be known not by what I say I believe, but by what I do with what I say I believe.

Sound theology needs hands and feet and knees to be fleshed out.

Under His Sun and by His grace,

Becky

Words, Words, Words

Shiloh Photography©

Words, words, words. We either use them like healing drops or killing poison. We all try hard to say less words, to keep our mouths shut, to use our words wisely, but we need to realize that we won’t succeed unless we abide in the Word of God.

The prudent woman not only speaks fewer words than the fool, but she knows when to speak wise words that bring healing and joy (Prov.12:18; 15:23). This kind of words, words that edify, words that bring healing and joy, words that tell the truth, can only come out -naturally- from our heart through our mouths, when the Word of the Builder, the Word of the God who heals and brings life, the Word of the God of all joy and perfect peace, the God of all Truth is dwelling in us. Remember that Jesus said that out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks (Luke 6:45) and that His Word must abide in us (Jn.15:7), do you see the connection there?

Reading the Word, memorizing it, meditating on it, listening to it, is really the only way for us to fill our hearts and minds with the kind of words that will build up and encourage others. Only when we make it a habit to have the Word dwelling richly in us, is that we will start winning our fight against the problem of having a loose tongue and foolish talk.

The Word of God dwelling richly in us will sanctify us (Jn.17:17) -including the way we use our words! The Holy Spirit through the Word of God dwelling in us, will remind us when we should keep our mouths shut, when we ought to speak, and what words to say and not to say. The Lord alone can put a guard over our mouths (Ps.141:3), and it is through His Word and the work of the Holy Spirit that He does that.

“Let the Word of God dwell richly in you.” Col.3:16

Under His sun and by His grace,

Becky

2015: Live Looking Up!

©Blue by Annie Pliego

2015 is here and I am ready to live fully under God’s sun and by His grace.

This year is, for me, a year to focus in living with my eyes fixed on Jesus. This meditation by J.R. Miller sums my sentiments perfectly well:

Look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near!” Luke 21:28

We are entering upon a new year, we shall have . . .
new toils,
new trials,
new temptations,
new troubles.

 

 

In whatever state, in whatever place, into whatever condition we may be brought this year — let us seek grace to follow our Lord’s loving advice, and “look up!
Do not look back — as Lot’s wife did.
Do not look within — as too many do.
Do not look around — as David did.
But “look up!” Look up to God — He is your Father, your Friend, your Savior. He can help you. He will help you. He says, “Look unto Me, and be delivered — for I am God!”
Look up for light to guide you — and He will direct your path.
Look up for grace to sanctify you — and the grace of Jesus will be found sufficient for you.
Look up for strength to enable you to do and suffer God’s will — and His strength will be made perfect in your weakness.
Look up for comfort to cheer you — and as one whom his mother comforts, so will the Lord comfort you.
Look up for courage to embolden you — and the Lord will give courage to the faint; and to those who have no might — He will increase strength.
Look up for endurance to keep you — and the God who preserves you will enable you quietly to bear the heaviest burden, and silently to endure the most painful affliction.
Look up for providence to supply you — and the jar of flour will not be used up, and the jug of oil will not run dry; but God shall supply all your needs, according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.
Look up in faith — exercising confidence in the Word of a faithful God.
Look up in prayer — asking for what God has graciously promised.
Look up in hope — expecting what you ask in the name of Jesus.
Look up with adoration — and adore the sovereignty, righteousness, and wisdom of God.
Look up constantly — let nothing daunt or discourage you! Rather say, “Our eyes are on the Lord our God — until He shows us mercy.”
Look up — for this will keep . . .
the head from swimming,
the heart from sinking,
the knees from trembling,
the feet from slipping, and
the hands from hanging down!

It is impossible to say what will happen to us, or what will be required of us this year — but “Look up!” This direction, if properly attended to, will . . .
procure for us all that we need,
secure us against all that we dread, and
make us more than a match for all our foes and fears!

Fellow-Christian, are you fearful? “Look up” and hear Jesus saying to you, “Do not be afraid — I Myself will help you!”

Are you discouraged? “Look up” — and your youth shall be renewed like the eagle’s, and fresh light, comfort, and courage shall be given to you!

Are you desponding? “Look up” for Jesus never breaks the bruised reed, nor quenches the smoking flax.

Do not look too much at your sin — but look at the infinitely meritorious blood of God’s dear Son!Do not look too much at self — but look at Jesus, who ever lives to make intercession for you in Heaven.

Are you stripped of your comforts, your props, and your goods? Then look up! He who stripped you — loves you! He will be more than all these to you! He will . . .
  bind up your broken heart,
  calm your perturbed spirit,
  cheer your drooping mind, and
  fill you with His own peace and happiness.

Look up . . .
  for all that you need;
  from all that you fear;
  through all that would obstruct your way.

Look up every day, saying with David, “In the morning, O Lord, You hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before You — and will look up!” Psalm 5:3

Look up in every trial, saying “I will lift up my eyes unto the hills, from whence comes my help: my help comes from the Lord, who made Heaven and earth!”

Do not look at your sin — it will discourage you!

Do not look at your self — it will distress you!

Do not look at Satan — he will bewilder you!

Do not look to men — they will deceive, or disappoint you!

Do not look at your trials — they will deject you!

“Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us — looking unto Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith!” Hebrews 12:1-2

Look only, look always, look intently — to Jesus!

Run looking, work looking, fight looking, suffer looking, live looking, and die looking — to Jesus, who is at God’s right hand in glory.

Oh, look, look, look to Jesus!



Becky

Throw Yourself Under the Wings of Your Redeemer and Into His Promises

Ruth is a woman who came boldly, and importunate before her redeemer, and she was not rejected but welcomed with steadfast love by him. Ruth is a woman who found safety under the wings of Boaz, because she knew he was a merciful and kind redeemer. There is so much we can learn from her, throwing ourselves under the wings of our Redeemer is one of the most important ones.

This is an excerpt from pastor Ben Merkle’s series on Ruth*. I pray you will find in these words encouragement and that you will fear not come under God’s wings and aim to be, by God’s grace a woman of faith, a Proverbs 31 woman.

“Ruth shows us what it looks like to embody the attributes that are in Proverbs 31. What is the most striking thing about Ruth?

Ruth’s loving-kindness, her faithfulness, her steadfast deep devotion and commitment to the promises of God. She throws herself with complete faith, headlong into the promises of God and in particular, she throws herself into the promises of God with respect to the relationships and trials that God has put her in. So she has this deep confidence in Yahweh. And it is so funny because why would this woman from Moab have this confidence? Why would she have that?

But God gives her this deep faith that she is able to take God’s promises and utterly commit herself to them and live out that commitment through her relationships, through her marriage, through her relationships as a wife, as a daughter in law, ultimately as a mother as well as she has children. She is somebody who looks at her relationships and her covenant commitments around her and sees what faith will look like in those relationships, and she does it after trial after trial gets thrown at her. She does it in the context of those sorts of trials that will make every one around you say, “Why are you still here? Why are you still committed to this? Clearly this is a dead end, just quit and go home. Or as Job’s friend would say “Just curse God and die because this is ridiculous.”  And yet Ruth will continue to throw herself at that.

And if you think about that all of the descriptions in Proverbs 31 start to make sense. This is a woman who is devoted to her husband, to her family, to everybody who is around her and she is spending herself on their behalf because of her deep faith. Ruth shows us what that would look like. Ruth shows you how to do this even when heavy trials come on you and every one is saying quit… Ruth hangs on because of her deep hessed, this loving-kindness that just keeps getting better and better the more the trials come at her. That is the virtuous woman. That is the one who that is described in Proverbs 31. That is a woman of valor who is a fitting wife for a man like Boaz, for this mighty warrior. And then when you see that, when you start seeing it that way, you start seeing that the virtues of the virtuous woman are all the natural implications, the natural result of being a woman of faith. If you are a woman of faith, if you have a deep commitment of God then these are the works that are going to flow from that. Faith without works is dead; if you have a living faith you have living works.”

Maybe today would be a perfect day for us to read Proverbs 31 and the book of Ruth all in one sitting.

Let’s pray that we will learn to throw ourselves under God’s wings, into His promises with deep faith. A faith that will be manifested in living works toward those around us even in the midst of trials.

Blessings,

Becky

*You can listen to the whole series on Ruth entitled, The Lovingkindness of God, by Pastor Merkle here. This particular excerpt comes from part three which you can listen here.

 

Because We Never Stop Being Moms -Book Club- Chapter Four

This is certainly a strong chapter, don’t you agree? In this chapter, Saying Hello to Please God, the author challenges us to see if we are not acting like Eli, “this sad figure in Israel’s history [who] is the quintessential example of a father who chose to please his sons rather than God and lost everything he cherished as a result.”

We are like Eli when we hear that our children are not being faithful to the Covenant, when they are not walking in the Lord and we pretend we are dealing with the matter using words, an infinite number of words that sound hollow in our children’s ears. We are like Eli when we refuse to do what we know God wants us to do, but instead we only keep up having conversations with our children -while fooling ourselves knowing that the reality is that they are not listening to us.

“Eli was fully aware of his sons’ actions, and he knew that they were not only in the wrong but in danger of the Lord’s judgment. He certainly nagged them and criticized them, but he did not restrain them and ultimately both he and his sons paid the price.”

How many times we, parents in the church, have not done everything in our hands to restrain our children from doing evil? May the Lord have mercy on us!

Moms, if you are reading this and have younger children, don’t fall into this trap. The world is telling you that the best thing you can do to make your little one come to her senses is not the rod, but a good conversation. Beware of this philosophy; if you start following this pattern of not doing the hard, biblical thing, of not doing something beyond a good talk with your daughter to restrain her from sin, you won’t be able to find a way out of this terrifying maze when she grows up. Remember, the sin of not restraining our children often starts when they are young.

And as always, there is a heart issue behind our actions -or behind our lack of obedience-. In the text we read that Eli honored his sons more than he honored God.

“Eli’s sin was that he treated his sons as more weighty or important than the Lord. He was so concerned with maintaining the peace that he didn’t have the courage to do what the Lord required him to do.”

The authors give us some good examples on page sixty-one in which we can clearly see when parents are nagging their children and not seeing changes: the sluggard child, the one who parties every Friday, the girl sleeping at her boyfriend’s house, the one who abuses their parents’ provision, the child who gets drunk over and over again and brags about it on Facebook, the one who is disrespectful, the one who is unloving, the one who shouts and wants things done her way. But we can also think of lesser examples that if are not dealt with, will only lead to our children’s destruction. Oh, that the Lord will give us a humble heart that recognizes and admits these struggles. That He will give us grace and courage to deal with the most difficult issues and stop pretending that things are really not that bad.

The key in how to act once our children are adult but are living a sinful life under our roof (or somewhere else with our credit card) is found on page sixty-one:

“While parents cannot be held responsible for the sins of their independent adult children, they are responsible for what goes under their roof. When dad and mom, like Eli, become enablers of a sinful lifestyle, they inadvertently dishonor the Lord and share the sin and guilt of their kids, even though that’s the farthest thing from their minds.” (emphasis mine)

We know that in this life there is no neutrality. We are either building or destroying. We are either enabling sin in our children’s lives or we are restraining it. 

Sisters, we have a God full of grace who not only gives us grace to endure the hard providences in our lives, but One who also gives us grace to obey Him in the most difficult things. His Grace is sufficient.  God can give us the grace to open our eyes and see what we have been trying not to see all along because “we feel entrapped by our love and hope for them.” The questions are real, “What would happen to them if we told them to choose between right and wrong? What if they chose wrong?” But there is no way around, the only way to keep our hope for our children anchored in Christ is to obey our Lord.

And, oh what a great and unshakable hope we can have in Christ! In our Savior! To know that He hears our prayers, to know that His promises are truth, to know that His desire is to save families! What a blessed hope!

On page sixty-four we read some practical things that the Lord might call us to do in order to restrain the sin in our children’s lives, but I like the way the author summarizes it:

“Parents don’t always have to actively chastise their irresponsible children. Often the best thing for us to do is nothing. Sometimes love looks like taking a step back and allowing them to experience the fruit of their choices (Galatians 6:7)… If we continually step in to “protect” our children from the consequences of their wrong choices, we may be guilty of honoring our children above the Lord by standing between them and the chastisement the Lord is bringing upon them… Remember that the Prodigal son only came to his senses when his circumstances were so bad that he longed to eat pig food.”

And I am reminded again of this powerful article in which Abraham Piper and his father John write about the time in which Abraham was excommunicated from his church. It is certainly a powerful testimony of a father who honored God more than his own son and the way God answered his prayers. It is a story that will build up your faith and renew your hope. It is a story like the ones that God loves to write.

This is something that I understand should be dealt with as a couple. I encourage you to talk to your husband about your concerns, read this chapter with him and answer the questions on p.68 together, seek the counsel of wise men in your church, and mostly don’t lose hope.

  Trusting in God with you,

Becky