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

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.

 

Proverbs 2: Three Ifs

Shiloh Photography

Proverbs 2 is without any doubt one of my favorite proverbs and this morning as I was reading it I noticed three important ifs (v.1-4)  that lead us to understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God (v.5-8). Three ifs that will help us understand righteousness and justice (v.9).

“My son, if you receive my words
and treasure up my commandments with you,
making your ear attentive to wisdom
and inclining your heart to
understanding;
yes, if you call out for insight
and raise your voice for understanding,
if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures…”
Proverbs 2:1-4 (emphasis mine)

If you receive my words…

The only way to receive God’s Word is with a humble and quiet heart. A proud heart, an unteachable heart will never have an attitude of inclining his heart and ear to attentively listen to what God is saying.  We need a quiet heart, a quiet spirit to listen humbly to what the Lord is saying in His Word.  I have many times sinned by trying to quench God’s voice and choosing instead to listen to my own heart’s desires or anxieties. I have sinned when I have not taken heed of the warnings that God gives us in His Word, when I have been stubborn and have embraced my own thinking as the correct one. And you know what? Those times I have sinned in this area is because I did not come to the Word with a humble and a quiet heart that is always ready to listen both the encouragement in God’s Word as well as His warnings and admonitions.

If you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you…

Again and again, we see this principle all over. How can I possible treasure up God’s Word within me if  don’t purposely do something about it? Memorizing the Word is the only way to meditate on it day and night. And if you think you can’t memorize it, well, read it all day long. Carry the Word with you, have it open on your kitchen counter, on your coffee table in your living-room, download Apps on your mobile that will help you treasure it all day long. As John Piper said, “Let the Bible bring you back to reality over and over during the day.”

If you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding…

James told us the same thing: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” The key word in both passages is “call.” We must call, we must ask God for it, knowing that He is the source of all Wisdom. There is no wisdom apart from Him. Let us not deceive ourselves, sisters, we know no better than God. Before calling your friend asking her for an advice, first search the Scriptures and go to your Heavenly Father in prayer. He has promised to generously give us the wisdom we need to live in this beautiful, crazy, and at times confusing world when we call for it, when we diligently seek it in prayer. The more wisdom I need the more prayer and the more reading of the Bible I need.

If you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures…

So we need a humble heart to receive and treasure God’s Word, we also need to call out to God for wisdom. Now how are we going to do this? Diligently, putting all effort in our quest for wisdom. It doesn’t just happen. It is not like our justification in which we don’t have to do anything to become children of God, no here we are called to action. We must seek it and search it as for silver and hidden treasures. It is a life long pursue, it a day to day endeavor. It is hard work. It means that we might have to wake up earlier to make time for reading the Scriptures and praying. It means that we must purposely bring our heart and thoughts in submission to what God says throughout the day. There are no shortcuts. If we want to grow in wisdom we must strive for it and seek it with all diligence.

Then you will understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God…

Please read verses 5-8. See? Isn’t it amazing that the Lord does give wisdom? He has stored  sound wisdom for simple women like me!  When we listen attentively, when we call for it, when we search for it as for hidden treasures we come to understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.

Then you will understand righteousness and justice…

Now read verses 9-22. Look at these promises: wisdom will sure come to our heart and knowledge will be pleasant to our soul as a result of God answering our prayers. Discretion will watch over us and understanding will guard us (and watch and guard are strong verbs, they are definitely not passive ones!)

In verses 12-29 we see that when wisdom comes we will be able to discern and be delivered from the way of the evil and of men of perverted speech that deceive with their many words.  We will be delivered from the forbidden women (who always leads to idolatry and foolishness that drives men -and women alike- away from the covenant).

The last three verses give us a glimpse of the end of both the wise and the fool. And I know I want live and end my days walking in the way of the good, keeping to the path of the righteous. I long to live uprightly and in all integrity before my God. I want to live a wise life, so I will remember to listen humbly, to search the Scriptures, and to pray.

May God help us,

Becky

Mid-Week Links -On False Teachers-

Because being obedient to God’s Word concerning the many warnings against false teachers is not an option, I am sharing three links to help you remember the great importance of this issue.

J.C. Ryle Quotes

J.C. Ryle’s Eight Symptoms of False Teachers*

1.  There is an undeniable zeal in some teachers of error–their “earnestness” makes many people think they must be right.

2. There is a great appearance of learning and theological knowledge–many think that such clever and intellectual men must surely be safe to listen to.

3. There is a general tendency to completely free and independent thinking today–many like to prove their independence of judgment by believing the newest ideas, which are nothing but novelties.

4. There is a wide-spread desire to appear kind, loving, and open-minded–many seem half-ashamed to say that anybody can be wrong or is a false teacher.

How would you recognize counterfeit Christianity? Seven Traits of False Teachers

In 2 Peter 1 we read about genuine believers. And in 2 Peter 2 we read about counterfeit believers. If you put these chapters side by side you will see the difference between authentic and counterfeit believers.

And also from J.C. Ryle, The Best Safeguard Against False Teaching.

“What is the best safe-guard against false teaching? Beyond all doubt the regular study of the word of God, with prayer for the teaching of the Holy Spirit.”

May God have mercy on us, lest we may fall into deception.

Becky

*Via Tim Challies