A Play by Play of Forgiveness

Misty Moring

Forgiveness is not some cosmic brain dump.

Neither is forgiveness an arbitrary scribbling over of the past.

While it’s wonderful to relish in the relief of God’s forgiveness toward us, it makes sense that should know exactly how it works, because God commands us to forgive as we have been forgiven. (Eph. 4:32)

One of my favorite Psalms actually gives us a play by play description of forgiveness. Forgive the simpleness of this short Bible study. I promise it’s nourishment for your soul!

Check out Psalm 103:1-5

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and all that is within me,
bless his holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

Let’s start at the very beginning (a very good place to start). This is a list of the benefits of knowing God. But in truth, none of the benefits of knowing our Creator-Father would exist aside from the forgiveness through Christ that enables us to reconcile with and have a relationship with our majestic God.

Fittingly, David starts with the benefit of forgiveness.

  1. Forgives all your iniquities: Here God pardons sin. Pardon is another word for absolution. As far as God is concerned, sin is gone. (Check out verse 12 of the same Psalm.) We say things casually like “pardon me” and hope that before he’s taken another two steps, the guy we just ran into with our grocery cart has forgotten what we look like. That’s pardon.
  2. Heals all your diseases: Okay, so diseases here is the English word, and it works but doesn’t cover all the ground of the original Hebrew. This word is comparing the effects of sin in our lives with disease. Not only does God forgive and pardon our sin, but he restores favor (or health). He puts us back in good standing, in good health. All his right anger toward us is replaced with favor.
  3. Redeems your life from the pit: This word means to ransom or avenge. To this point, God’s grace toward us has taken place between us and himself. However, the moment we sinned, we signed an agreement with the devil. We chose to do things his way (“all wrong doing is sin” James 5:17, “if you’re not for me your against me” Matt. 12:30) The moment we sinned, Satan had rightful claim to our souls, but God (through Jesus) steps in here. He avenges our wrong and ransoms us from certain death.
  4. Crowns you with steadfast love and faithfulness: Think of a crown of glorious jewels encircling your head. Then, imagine being encircled by a protective wall. This word “crowned” means to surround like a protective wall, with steadfast love and faithfulness. Not only do these wonderful attributes adorn you, they surround and protect you.
  5. Satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s: Within the comfort and protection of God’s steadfast love and faithfulness, ransomed from evil’s vengeance, in perfect health and completely pardoned, all our longings and desires are satisfied. Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” When we realize all that has been done for us, it delights us! It fulfills us. It is enough–more than enough. All of our longings, desires, hopes, dreams and needs have been met in the benefits of God!
Advertisements

It is Well With My Soul, A Hymn to Live By

It is Well With My Soul

Do you know the song, “I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart … ”? Kind of makes you feel like smiling, right?

We often sing because we’re happy. Psalm 100:1 tells us, “Make a joyful noise to the Lord.” Singing is one of the primary ways we worship God. When we’re happy we just feel like singing!

But have you ever not felt like singing? When we’re sad, hurt or angry, it can be really hard to “make a joyful noise”. There’s a story in the Bible about Paul and his friend Silas in prison. That’s obviously not a very happy place, and I doubt they felt like singing. All the same, Acts 16 says they began to sing out loud in their jail cells. Guess what? God did a miracle, broke their chains, set them free and even gave them an opportunity to tell the jailer about Jesus!

Horatio Spafford was the author of a well-known hymn. His life is an example of finding hope and peace in Jesus even when everything is going wrong—he even found the courage to sing.

Mr. Spafford was a successful lawyer in Chicago in the late 1800’s. He and his wife had four children. But their only son died of scarlet fever at the age of four. The very next year, a terrible fire in Chicago destroyed many of Mr. Spafford’s investments. Then, only two years later, the Spafford family planned a holiday to England where they hoped to hear one of Mr. Spafford’s friends preach. A business issue arose last minute, so Mr. Spafford sent his wife and three daughters ahead, planning to join them later.

On November 22, 1873, while crossing the Atlantic on the steamship Ville du Havre, their ship was struck by an iron sailing vessel. Two-hundred and twenty-six people died, including all three of the Spafford’s daughters. Only Horatio’s wife, Anna, was saved. As soon as she could, she sent a message to her husband that simply said, “Saved alone.”

Horatio Spafford left for England to join his wife. As his own ship passed over the area where his daughters had lost their lives, his heart must have ached. I wonder if he thought of Paul and Silas in prison. I wonder if he struggled to find words to pray. With great sadness, he pulled out a pen and wrote the words to a hymn we still sing today, “It is Well With My Soul”.

Sometimes, it’s really hard to believe that God is good. Sometimes we simply don’t feel like praising God. How do you think Horatio Spafford or Paul and Silas found the courage to sing praises even when they were suffering?

Psalm 117:1-2 says, “Praise the Lord, all nations! Extol him, all peoples! For great is his steadfast love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever. Praise the Lord!” (emphasis added)

These men could sing because they understood that even when we hurt and things don’t make sense, God is trustworthy and He will always love us. Because of that, He is worthy of praise.

The next time you’re sad, and singing is the last thing you want to do, try singing Mr. Spafford’s hymn. It will remind you that no matter what, when you trust in Jesus, it is well with your soul.

Check out this article by my friend, Billie Jo, about praying for others in the midst of pain and when it feels like God isn’t listening.

How to Be a Faith Hero

What would it take to be listed in the “Hall of Heroes”, Hebrews chapter 11? What made people like Abraham and Sarah, Barak and Rahab, David and Daniel and the others stand out? Do you think you have heroic faith?

Romans 4:19 says, “And Abraham’s faith did not weaken, even though, at about 100 years of age, he figured his body was as good as dead—and so was Sarah’s womb.”

Maybe that’s what it takes—maybe the kind of faith God wants us to have never doubts, never weakens, struggles or asks questions.

Before you get too discouraged and give up, knowing you’ve already had a few doubts or questioned God a few times, let’s take a close look at Abraham’s life.

In Genesis 17, God told Abraham that He would give him a son and that through Abraham God would make a might nation. But Abraham was already 100 years old and Sarah was really old too! It hardly seemed possible that they could have a child. Abraham reminded God of this fact:

“Then Abraham bowed down to the ground, but he laughed to himself in disbelief. ‘How could I become a father at the age of 100?’ he thought. ‘And how can Sarah have a baby when she is ninety years old?’” (Genesis 17:17)

Abraham laughed at God! At first, he didn’t believe that God could really do what He said.

Later on in Genesis, Abraham was following God on a journey toward a promised land. He came to a city called Gerar. There, he told his wife, Sarah, to lie and say that she was his sister, because he was afraid that the king of that place might kill him in order to marry Sarah himself because she was very beautiful.

God never tells us to lie. But Abraham doubted that God would protect him, so he took matters into his own hands.

If we look through the rest of the Bible and examined the lives of the other faith heroes mentioned in Hebrews 11, we’d find that they sinned, failed and doubted God sometimes, too. Gideon did not believe that God would deliver the nation of Israel through him. David disobeyed God and committed adultery. Jacob deceived his father and stole his brother’s blessing. Rahab was a prostitute, and Samson rebelled against his parents and acted pridefully.

God doesn’t expect us to have perfect faith. Even the men and women that the Bible commends for their strong faith, doubted sometimes.

One of my favorite Bible stories is in Mark 9. A man came to Jesus asking Him to heal his very sick son. Jesus told the man, “‘Anything is possible for the one who believes.’” With great honesty and humility, the man replied, “‘I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!’”

At the end of the story, Jesus did heal the man’s son.

Don’t be ashamed if your faith wavers, if you have questions or difficulty believing. Ask God to help you with your unbelief and to strengthen your faith. The Bible says that God knows our hearts. Tell God about your fears and questions; He is big enough to handle your doubts and to give you answers.

Learn to Love the Skin You’re In … by Amelia

Another thought-provoking article by a wonderful writer, Amelia, at The Bottom Line:

We can’t change our skin like snakes do; so, learning to be comfortable in our own skin is vital. We have to love ourselves, or else others will find it hard to do it for us. The message about “loving our bodies” is worn out. Yet, people aren’t convinced. Maybe it’s because the message about “skinny being the only sexy,” is louder.

Numerous people struggle to love their bodies—a large percentage of them are teenagers. An article on Huffington Post states, “About 40 percent of 10 and 11-year-old girls in the U.K. want to lose weight. That number rises to 54 percent in 12 and 13-year-old girls and to a stunning 63 percent among 14 and 15-year-olds.” While boys are less concerned about body image, they’re not all exempt.

Finish this post here … 

What’s Your Name?

sunrise-invitation-1431868-mAlmost every Christian on the planet can rattle off, “I’m saved by grace through faith.”

Almost every Christian on the planet gets up each day with fresh resolutions—and a better arsenal of excuses.

A familiar Old Testament character can empathize with you. He was full of excuses, little white lies and a few big, old whoppers. Ashamed of who he was, Jacob tried to make himself sound better, feel better, look better than he actually was. Follow his story with me:

Jacob had tried to come out first. As Rachel gave her last anguished push, he thrust forward his tiny pink hand. But just before he could claim the birthright, Esau, big and red, shouldered his way out first. Jacob was shortly behind him, gripping Esau’s heel with all his might.

Their young years were rife with tension. Sure, there were good days when the boys enjoyed camaraderie, but their parents’ divided loyalties kept them both on edge. Ruddy Esau was Isaac’s choice, but Rachel favored Jacob. Maybe she felt sorry for him, the underdog, the sweet little boy who wanted desperately to make his mark on the world.

At birth, Jacob had been labeled, “deceiver,” or, “crafty one,” (the meaning of his Hebrew name) in recollection of his attempt to claim the honor of first born. Living up to his name, twice the Bible tells specific stories of him deceiving his family members in order to claim blessings that were not his. Then, one final, colossal mistake left him running for his life—Jacob lied about his name.

He told his blind father, Isaac, that he was Esau. He convinced Isaac to bless him with the honors of a firstborn. “I am Esau.” Three little words.

There is oh, so much more to the story! But let’s move forward, the privilege of a Bible scholar, to survey the entire landscape of Scripture and consider each story in context and in its minutia.

Years later, Jacob lay restless on the ground trying to sleep. For days, his family had been traveling, a monster caravan of livestock, servants, women and children. As they neared their destination, Jacob’s home in Canaan, word came that Esau had learned of their arrival and was coming to meet them. In fear, Jacob sent gifts ahead of him to pacify his brother. That night, in a fitful sleep, he had a visitor.

Initially, the Bible only tells us that a man wrestled with Jacob all night long. Later, we come to understand that this was a pre-incarnate Christ, a theophany. As day broke, Jacob lost the match but still clung fiercely to the stranger. “I will not let you go until you bless me!” he said.

Then, God asked Jacob a most ordinary, and ironic question: “What is your name?”

Did God not know? Did the Creator who knit this man together in his mother’ womb, not also know his name? Why do you think God asked?

God wanted Jacob to admit who he really was. Long ago, when Jacob claimed to be Esau, he pretended to be someone he was not. He pretended to be worthy of his father’s blessing; he pretended to be the rightful heir. Jacob believed he need to be better, older, more worthy in his father’s eyes to receive the blessing.

The last time Jacob had been asked to give his name, he lied, “I am Esau.” In other words, “Father, I am who you want me to be.”

Now, God asked Jacob not to redeem himself, not to prove his worth for the blessing, but instead to admit who he was—a liar, a cheat, a deceiver.

Humbled, Jacob told the truth, “I am Deceiver.” And in the wake of his truthfulness, God, Himself, redeemed Jacob.

“Then the man said, ‘Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome’ … Then he blessed him there.”
Genesis 32:28-29b

What do you have to do receive the blessing of Christ’s righteousness, the favor of God for salvation?

God does not ask you to become someone you are not. It is vain to cover your flaws, change your name, mask your scars, hide your weaknesses and sins. Your salvation is in admitting who you are—all failures and mistakes included. In the wake of your confession, when you understand your need for the Savior, God Himself will change you, redeem you, clothe you in righteousness and bless you.

Isaiah 61:10
Isaiah 30:15
Isaiah 43:1

Book Review, Farewell Four Waters

My husband grew up in a missionary family. His father was a medical doctor in Guatemala for 10 years of Patrick’s early life. When he was 15, they returned to the states.

Ever since we began dating, I’ve treasured the stories of his family’s experiences outside my little world. From their living conditions to the simple, satisfying food; from the rare but frightening stories of hostility to the warm recollections of friendships forged through the bond of mutual service, compassion and faith. Over the years, I began to detect a different tone when his mother relates the stories. Her voice holds longing, a hint of lost or distant identity.

Screenshot 2015-01-15 18.52.06Longing…that is the tenor of Kate McCord’s, Farewell Four Waters. In this sequel to, In the Land of Blue Burqas, McCord unwinds the painful process of saying goodbye to her Afghan life—in truth, leaving her Afghan self. Deftly, she details the circumstances that led to her final decision to return to America.

In 2008, Marie, the author’s representation of herself, was working to develop a literacy program for women during a uniquely tumultuous time. Afghanistan conflict, she explains in the book, is almost always regional, and for years her beloved city of Shektan was calm and safe. But suddenly, at first with no explanation, violence erupted. Three people were killed within a span of a few days, one a female aid worker—gunned down right out in the open, two others by police.

A quiet tension, a sort of underlying panic ensued. That’s difficult to understand from the North American cultural perspective of non-violent demonstrations that only occasionally devolve into street riots. Aid workers began a slow, steady exodus. Even Marie’s dear friend, roommate and architect of the literacy project, Carolyn, abandoned her post. Marie was left virtually alone.

But that’s what sets Marie’s story apart. Shored by her faith and willingly but warily dependent on the Afghan friends she’d come to love and trust, Marie refused to leave. She would stay until she had no other option.

Farewell Four Waters is a delicious story. The narrative moves slowly, mirroring the progress of Marie’s choices, her endurance, longing and letting go. While the first half of the book is not laden with excitement, it does take an inexplicable grip on the reader, causing them to feel that if they don’t finish the story something in their own lives will remain unfinished.

I highly recommend this book. In addition to the pure joy of exploring a distant world, the reader will walk away with greater knowledge of the Afghan culture, a splinter of understanding of what it’s like to bear the mark of Jesus in a hostile environment and will fertilize the spiritual fruit of long-suffering in their own life.

Shame’s Sneaky Relatives

Shame: “The painful feeling arising from the consciousness of something dishonorable, improper, ridiculous, etc., done by oneself or another:”

That’s what dictionary.com says shame is. And, being the lover of words that I am, I knew that. So, I really didn’t think I had a shame problem. But that was before I knew that Shame has a half-sister and two evil step-daughters.

I first met False Humility, Shame’s sneaky half-sister when I was a young teenager. I’ve always been average—not excellent or super smart. I’m not super athletic, super talented or super funny. I’m just plain-jane average. Cast beneath the spotlight of my brilliant younger sister, I quickly discounted anything positive about myself. She was everything I was and more; everything I did she could do better.

When we were kids, I quit playing softball and became the bat-girl for her team. I quit learning piano and quit the swim team because she did those things better, too. I played the martyr at home, always the one to give in, defer or tap-out.

It kind of looked like humility when I stepped aside and applauded her successes while mumbling something like, “I’m okay, just not awesome.”

Next, I was introduced to Shame’s step-daughter, Pride. She raised her ugly head in the middle of my battle with anorexia. For fourteen years I excelled at starving. No one wanted to compete with me, but I competed with everyone. In my malnourished mind, I “won” every time I was thinner than another girl, every time I turned down food that another person simply couldn’t resist, every time I went for a long run in the rain while others pulled the sheets over their heads and enjoyed the warmth of a cozy bed. I was an excellent anorexic. All the while, shameful thoughts about my body and personal value swam circles in my mind.

Fear arrived shortly after my recovery from anorexia as I began to share my testimony for the glory of God and the encouragement of others. Fear is Shame’s other step-daughter. When I wrote my book, got a publisher and saw it appear on Amazon, Fear started to mock me. No one is going to buy or read this book. You are going to let down your agent, publisher and family. Everyone has had such high expectations of you and believed you could do this—they are going to be so disappointed. 

I felt sluggish and demoralized for several days, muddling through the successive concussions of fear following the publication of my book. But fear forced to me look to the God who loves me, because “perfect love casts out fear.”

One morning, I opened my Bible to Psalm 25. This single chapter has a lot to say about shame in the life of a Christ-follower. As I read, hope and renewed energy flooded through me. Shame has no place in my life and no power over me.

“I trust in thee: let me not be ashamed…no one who hopes in you will ever be put to shame…O keep my soul, and deliver me: let me not be ashamed; for I put my trust in thee.”