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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Forgiveness - Repentance - Restoration Part 3

Forgiveness and repentance are choices that you can make as an individual. Nothing is required of another person for you to forgive them or for you to repent of your own wrongdoing. However, restoration is something you cannot do alone. Restoration requires participation of both people in the relationship.

Maybe you have spent years building a relationship. You've laughed with someone, been in their home and they have been in yours, you've cried with them, celebrated and grieved with them. Deep love and trust characterized your relationship. Then something happened - it may have been a small thing that became big or it may have been a big thing, but the relationship was changed, even broken, ended.

How does a person fix a broken relationship?

1. A person cannot fix a broken relationship alone. Relationships are about two people who choose to love and trust one another, who choose to share their life journeys together . . . perhaps for a long time, perhaps only for a season. Both people in the relationship must want to fix what has been broken and both people must be willing to be active in the restoration.

2. Every story has two sides. Each person has a perspective that needs to be heard and understood. Steven Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People advised that people should seek first to understand and then to be understood. Once a person has been heard and understood they are more receptive to hearing the other side of the issue.

3. Repentance and forgiveness must be given and received. When the wrong is owned and forgiveness is given, a foundation is laid to rebuild the relationship. Restoration may not be instantaneous, but rather a process of rebuilding trust, committing to the relationship again, and perhaps even adjusting to a "new normal" (a different, but healthier way of relating).

If you have experienced a broken relationship, one that you have valued and desire to have restored, my prayer for you is that you and the other person will be able to look each other in the eye, hear each others stories, give and receive forgiveness, and experience restoration of what has been lost.

May God bless you with peace on this journey.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Forgiveness - Repentance - Restoration - Part 2

Forgiveness is what Christ calls His followers to when they are wronged. What about when we are the one who has wronged someone else?

Many times our first response when we have wronged another is guilt. We feel a weight, a sense of having failed, a deep inner knowing that we have not been or done who or what we are at our best. We know that we have acted out of the worst in us and that knowledge can be a heavy burden.

How do we commonly respond to this sense of guilt?

1. Sometimes we blame others. The weight of our own failure is too overwhelming, so we seek to blame others, to share the weight of failure or even shift it completely to another. We hope that this will lift the feeling of guilt, but at best it only appeases our guilt for a time.

2. Sometimes we seek to punish ourselves, to lighten the load of guilt by punishing ourselves. By mentally beating up on ourselves, or even sometimes physically harming ourselves we hope that we will pay the debt of our failure and release ourselves from our guilt.

3. We might also do penance to offset our wrongs. We do good things for others, good things that will make a difference in our world to help bring the scales of right and wrong back to a place where the rights outweigh the wrongs.

4. Or, we might anesthetize our guilt through any of a variety of things - food, drugs, alcohol, sex, entertainment - anything that will take the edge off, anything that will give us relief from the pain of knowing we failed, that we hurt someone, that we acted out of the worst in us.

What is Christ's solution to guilt?

The Apostle John wrote: "If we confess our sin, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9)

When we fail, when we act out of the worst in us, we sin. Over and over in His ministry Christ called people to repent and that is still His call today, still His solution to sin, to personal failure. He calls us to recognize our failure, recognize our sin. Rather than wallow in guilt, He asks us to confess our wrong doing, both to Him and to those we have wronged. HE promises to forgive us. HE promises to remove our sin from us as far as the east is from the west. HIS response to our confession is sure and steadfast. HE will always forgive.

The response of those we have wronged is not as sure and it is beyond our control. The best we can do is to do our part, to confess, to go to those we have wronged and tell them what we have done and to apologize and hope for forgiveness . . . but we'll talk more about that in part 3.

Lastly, Jesus asks us to turn away from the behaviors and patterns that brought about our failure, that caused us to hurt others. In the beautiful story of Jesus' encounter with the woman caught in adultery, we often focus on Jesus' response to the woman. Truly His response is powerful when he tells those gathered around her, "He who is without sin, cast the first stone." That is part of the story worth focusing on, but it is not the end of the story. Jesus also tells her to, "Go and sin no more." Part of repentance is turning away from the behaviors and patterns that have led us to our sin. God will forgive us regardless, but He knows that it is for OUR GOOD to not only confess and seek forgiveness, but also to see a new way of living.

Stay tuned for part three . . . restoration.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Forgiveness - Repentance - Restoration - Part 1

Harsh words . . . disrespect . . . betrayal . . . a lie . . . hurt feelings . . . broken promises . . . gossip . . . theft . . . abandonment . . . broken boundaries . . . abuse . . . special events forgotten or ignored . . . silence . . . angry outbursts . . . resentment . . . unfulfilled expectations

What do all of these have in common? 

These are things that can hurt our spirit and damage or even destroy our relationships if left untended. Human relationships are fraught with rough spots and difficult times. Forgiveness can bring healing to our spirits and hope to struggling relationships.

What is forgiveness not?

1. Forgiveness is not saying what the other person did is okay.
2. Forgiveness is not forgetting. The human mind is frequently unable to forget.
3. Forgiveness is not giving the other person a pass to treat us the same way again.

What IS forgiveness?

1. Forgiveness is letting go of our right for personal revenge, our right to get even, our right for "payback."
2. Forgiveness is understanding that no matter what someone has done to us, Jesus paid the penalty for that sin, for that wrong doing. Jesus offers the person forgiveness based on what He did on the cross. No matter how high a price we pay for the effect someone else's sin has on us, we will never pay as high a price as Jesus did. God can empower us to forgive, even when we feel it is impossible.
3. Forgiveness is a choice, not a feeling. Sometimes it is a difficult choice that we must make over and over until the feelings follow. Forgiveness is a choice we make regardless of the actions of the person who has sinned against us. It does not require repentance from the offender or restoration of the relationship. Forgiveness is a choice we make in our own heart and soul.
4. Forgiveness is choosing how we will live with the consequences of another person's sin. We can choose to live in anger, bitterness, and revenge and with all the damage that does to our soul. Or, we can choose to forgive. We can choose to let go and trust God when He promises that vengeance is His and that He will bring about justice. We can choose to let go and live in love and . . . peace.
5. Forgiveness is freeing ourselves from another person's power to hurt or victimize us over and over, even from a distance, even when they are not longer part of our lives. When we choose to forgive and let go, we free ourselves from another person's power to control, manipulate, or victimize us.

Choosing forgiveness is our first step toward healing and health both for our souls and for our relationships.

Tune in for Part 2, Repentance; and then for Part 3, Restoration.

Friday, October 19, 2012


A caterpillar enters the chrysalis and an amazing transformation takes place. A caterpillar enters and a butterfly emerges. Sometimes someone is tempted to speed up the process, to release the butterfly from its chrysalis without allowing it to struggle. When this happens, the butterfly dies. The butterfly needs the struggle to grow strong.

The last four and a half months have been a time of struggle. The central figures in my support system have been stripped away. Chaos, change, and loss have come in wave after wave.

The story of the metamorphosis of the caterpillar to butterfly comforts me. I am reminded that God can bring beauty out of ugliness and pain. I am reminded that sometimes the struggle is crucial to our transformation. As we wrestle to navigate through paths that are unfamiliar and sometimes treacherous, God is at work. He is taking things that the enemy of our soul intends for evil and He is producing good. He is taking what is ugly and destructive and He is transforming it into good. The Lover of our soul is at work to produce fruit, beauty, growth, and strength in the midst of the struggle.

Yet, God does not do this work in a vacuum, He asks for our cooperation. He asks us to obey, to seek Him, to follow His lead. As we surrender ourselves to Him, as we do what He asks of us, as we seek and understand His purposes and cooperate with Him, He transforms us. He changes us not from caterpillars to butterflies, but from humans living in the flesh to His children who are more and more like Christ. Often the good that God is producing is not perfect circumstances, blessings of wealth, or even an easy road, the good that God is producing is the life of the Spirit in us . . . life that is truly life.

And we know that all things work together for good, for those who love God, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! (2 Corinthians 5:17)