Tag Archives: forgiveness

Open Arms

Genesis 42-45

I love this part of Joseph’s story. He is finally reunited with his brothers. It’s a beautiful reunion. But it could have ended quite differently.

Joseph was looking at the ten men who had wanted him dead, who had thrown him into a pit then sat down to dinner like it was the most normal thing in the world. They sold their brother to evil men, probably hoping Joseph would die at their hands instead of the brothers’. It a heartless betrayal.

Yet when Joseph meets them after thirteen years a slave, he embraces his brothers. There is no mention of the sins they had committed against him. He eventually welcomed them with open arms.

Most of us wouldn’t have blamed him if he had acquired ten slaves that day. Tit for tat. An eye for an eye. Karma, baby! That’s not what happened. And some people scratch their heads and wonder why.

The answer is in the life Joseph had lived those thirteen years in captivity. He walked with God. He trusted God, depended on God, submitted to the will of God. You can’t hold a grudge if you’re holding onto God.

Which got me thinking about the term, “open arms.” When you stretch out your arms to someone you leave your heart unprotected. It’s a gesture of openness, acceptance, trust. vulnerability. You take a chance when you open your arms to someone who has wronged you.

But isn’t that what Jesus did? The ultimate open arms occurred when they stretched His arms out and nailed Him to the cross. Talk about vulnerable! And He opened Himself up like that for those of us who betrayed Him, disrespected Him, hurt Him.

He did that for you.

We know that Joseph is a type of Christ, a picture of who Jesus is. I think it’s a beautiful picture.

What I see in these chapters I read today is an example of how I want my walk with the Lord to look. No grudges. No revenge-seeking. No holding onto hurt or painful memories.

Is there someone who needs your open arms today?

Rash Decisions

Genesis 12-16

Have you ever reacted in the moment, then lived to regret it? I sure have. And so too, I think, did Abram. More than once.

First, when famine hit Canaan, Abram packed up and moved to Egypt. I don’t see him consulting God about that. It appears to be a blatant act of disobedience. But, the grass is greener on the other side of the Nile.

Entering Egypt placed him and his family smack dab in the middle of enemy territory. Abram wasn’t ready for that. Which leads us to rash decision #2.

Abram told his beautiful wife, Sarai, to lie to the King of Egypt. Dangerous move, there, Abe. Again, I don’t see Abram calling on God about the situation. Maybe, like Adam, Abram thought he could hide from God. Maybe he knew he shouldn’t be in Egypt in the first place and thought he’d gotten himself into this mess, he’d get himself out. (been there, done that myself a few times).

Both of these decisions indicate Abram’s lack of faith in God. Hold onto that thought. Because bad choice #3 tells the same tale.

God had promised Abram children. Lots of children. But at this point, Abram hadn’t fathered even one. So when Sarai came up with an idea, Abram went with it. Do you see either of them going to God first? I mean, God was the one who had made the promise. Maybe He would have had a better idea than having Abram sleep with a slave girl. Just saying.

Anyway, Abram went ahead without God, and the world has been paying for it ever since.

Have you found that reacting in the moment turns out to smack you in the face? That has been my experience more often than I care to admit. I would venture to say every life choice I’ve made without including God has ended badly. Some of those choices have minor consequences. Some of those choices have resulted in consequences I still experience decades later. Some choices effected only me. Other choices have caused others to experience pain.

But all is not lost. With all the mistakes Abram made, look at 15:6. And he believed the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness.

When we believe the Lord, when we obey Him, when we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

Which makes us righteous, too, just like Abram! Aren’t you glad God doesn’t write us off when we make those rash decisions? I am. There may be consequences, but there is forgiveness when we ask Him.

In Good News Club this week I was talking to the children about peer pressure. When faced with a hard decision, I encouraged the kids to think first. Is what they are considering right or wrong? If they do that thing, would it please God? That advice isn’t just for kids.

May we all think before we react in the moment. May we ask ourselves if our reaction is right or wrong according to God’s Word. And, maybe most importantly, would my reaction please God?

I think if Abram had thought about what he was doing, if He had prayed first, the world might look a bit differently today. If I had done the same, thought, prayed first, my life might look differently today, too.

I’m thankful for the life of Abram, a flawed individual who loved God, and whom God used in spite of his failures. I’m thankful for the cross, for forgiveness, and for prayer to a God who wants to help me make the right choices, ones that will be the best for me, and will glorify Him.

Equal Shares

Ezekiel 47-48

The land was divided equally among the tribes of Israel. I love how God leveled the playing field. Everyone was given the same.

That’s something I love about God. He sees us, demands of us, treats us, and loves each of the same.

  1. All have sinned. Yes, that means you and me. All. Everyone has sinned. (Romans 3:23)
  2. That sin has earned us a death sentence. (Romans 6:23)
  3. God loved each of us and sent His Son Jesus to pay our death sentence. (John 3:16)
  4. Whoever (rich, poor, young, old, healthy, sickly, black, white, a murderer, a liar, me, you) believes won’t have to experience that death, but live forever with God. (John 3:16)
  5. When we repent, He forgives us completely. (1 John 1:9)
  6. When we repent, we are no longer slaves to sin. (Romans 6:1-7)

The flip side of that coin is also fair and equal. If you reject God, He will reject you (Matthew 10:33) no matter if you are rich, poor, young, old, healthy, sick, black, white, a murderer, a liar, me, or you.

A word of caution: accepting God on your terms is rejecting Him. Jesus said that He is the only way to God. (John 14:6) That is true for all of us.

It rains on the just and the unjust. The sun shines on everyone everywhere, night falls, morning dawns, and we all have 24 hours a day to choose God or reject Him.

I think you know how I am praying for you today.

At Home

Ezekiel 40-46

Reading about the Temple courtyard, the thick walls, the gates, and the little rooms surrounding the Sanctuary, I thought I’d like to have lived there had I been alive at the time. To walk out of my door that overlooked the place where God lived on Earth would have been awesome! I honestly had an “at home,” cozy feeling as I read Ezekiel’s vision this morning.

But then I remembered my heart is where God lives on Earth today. My! Heart! And I am overwhelmed with the same “at home,” and cozy feeling I had while reading.

Oh, the privilege of living in the actual presence of God! What comfort, strength, peace, and love envelope me! I don’t have to walk outside my door, or look toward a building to experience God’s Presence. I don’t have to wait for a priest to enter the Holy of Holies. I live there!

Yet I am reminded that not everyone can say the same. Only we who have humbled ourselves before our Holy God, recognized our sin and repented of them, accepted God’s forgiveness, grace, and mercy through the blood of Jesus, can experience the Presence of God.

Christ in me, my hope for today and eternity.

Be at home in me today, Lord. Fill this temple called Connie with Your Presence. And may others recognize that this is where God lives on Earth! Then my prayer is that they will want You in their lives, too.

Let Your light shine through me today and point others to Your saving grace. For Jesus’ sake, and for Your glory!

Stepping Between God and the People

Psalms 105-106

These psalms recount the Exodus of the Jewish nation out of Egypt in the days of Moses, and reminds us how God moved in dramatic fashion on behalf of His obedient children. I think one amazing thing about Scripture, however, is how often we are also reminded how God moves when His children aren’t so obedient, like in these two psalms. God doesn’t sugar-coat anything. I’m thankful for that.

What stood out to me today was in 106:23,30. The Jews were living in blatant disobedience, even after God had blessed them. So God declared He would destroy them. Their disobedience made Him that angry.

But Moses, his chosen one, stepped between the Lord and the people. He begged God to turn from his anger and not destroy them.

So God did not destroy them.

Later, as punishment for yet more disobedience, a plague broke out among the Jews.

But Phinehas had the courage to intervene, and the plague was stopped. So he has been regarded as a righteous man ever since that time.

This morning I am reminded that Jesus has done the same for me. My disobedience angers God as much as the disobedience of the Old Testament Jews angered Him. What makes me think He hasn’t considered taking me out, too?

But I have a Savior. When I sin and make God angry, Jesus steps between the Lord and me and pleads my case. One day when I stand before the Throne of Heaven, Jesus will intervene for the last time, and I will not be destroyed. He will usher me into Paradise unlike anything I have ever known in this lifetime.

Here is something else that occurs to me. While I am still on this earth, I have the privilege of being a Moses or a Phinehas, one who intervenes for my loved ones, our nation and the whole world, and for you. I can beg God like Moses did, that He would turn from His righteous anger, and give each of us another chance to obey Him.

So today I want you to know that I am praying for you. I am going to step between the Lord and you and beg Him to have mercy. Will you do the same for me?

Praising the Judge

Psalm 98

For the first 9 1/2 verses the psalmist tells us to sing to the Lord, shout to the Lord, break out in praise to the Lord. Our victorious God has revealed His righteousness to every nation! He remembered His promises to love and be faithful to His people. Praise Him!

Living after the cross, we know God revealed Himself to the world when He became a human, and lived on this earth as a physical man. Jesus won the ultimate victory over death, Satan, and sin when he died on the cross and three days later came alive again. He saved the world.

Make a joyful symphony before the Lord, the King! (Vs 6b)

But here is why the psalmist tells all creation that God is worthy of our praise:

For the Lord is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world with justice and the nations with fairness. (Vs 9)

Wait! Praise God for the coming judgment? Aren’t there psalms that tell us to praise Him for His goodness, faithfulness, grace, presence…?

Of course! He is all that and more, and deserves our praise. But these verses tell us to praise Him for the coming judgment as well.

Does standing before a judge in a court of law seem like something to be glad about? I had to stop and consider this for a while.

When I finished my course work in the School Counseling graduate program, I was required to take a comprehensive examination. It was a four or five hour test that would be the deciding factor whether or not I’d receive my graduate degree, and be qualified to be a school counselor. My future depended on my passing that test.

A few of us grad students got together periodically to study, and quiz each other on the different parts of the upcoming exam. We took practice tests, and discussed our answers.

I myself, would spend hours and hours on the Saturdays leading up to the test, pulling out every memorization technique I could think of. I actually started looking forward to the test date.

For one, I knew that I would receive my degree if I passed. That is what I had been working toward for a couple of years. Passing the test would mean no more evening classes to take after teaching school all day, no more papers to write, no more costly graduate fees.

That test marked the end of hard work, and the beginning of enjoying the benefits of the work. I was so ready to have it over.

On the morning of the test I remember standing in the shower and praying that God would help me recall what I had learned. Such a peace came over me I can only explain as from God. In fact, I felt so prepared, I almost dared the test-makers to come up with a question I couldn’t answer. (They actually did come up with one or two. 🙂 )

So I took the test that would judge my preparedness to be a school counselor. After several hours, I turned in my test, and walked away somewhat elated. I was pretty sure I had passed, and I did pass!

So why would God bring that to mind today as I considered the psalmist’s direction to praise God because He will come to earth to judge the world? Here are my thoughts:

The first is that we can know with certainty that God will judge the earth with justice and fairness. The truth is, He has been very upfront with His requirements.

Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again. (John 3:3)

Jesus answered, I am the way and the truth and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

So the requirements the Judge will consider are whether or not we have accepted His grace and forgiveness through the blood of His Son Jesus. We all will be judged by the exact same standard. It will have nothing to do with how good or how bad we’ve been. Only whether or not we’ve received what Jesus died to give us. That’s fair.

The second thing I thought is, Jesus did the work. When my classmates and I were studying for our test, some of us put in the work before our sessions, others not so much. So when we actually took the test, we were judged on what we had put into it. As we should have been.

But if God operated on the same scale, none of us would pass the test. The standard for passing His test is:

For it is written “Be holy, because I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:16)

Are you a good person? Not good enough. Do you go to church? Not good enough. Do you abstain from certain sins? Not good enough. It’s not good enough to simply read your Bible, or stay faithful to your spouse. Holy is holy, without sin. And the Bible tells us:

All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)

You have sinned. And that renders you unholy, falling short of God’s standard. And falling short of God’s standard results in:

The wages of sin is death. (Romans 6:23)

Now I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t make me want to praise God for the upcoming judgment. Who can stand before a holy God and expect to hear, ”Not guilty,” if all of us are guilty? No one!

That’s why Jesus did the work. That’s why He took on our sin and paid the death sentence we earned by telling a lie, taking something that doesn’t belong to us, thinking bad thoughts, or disobeying our parents. You see, because He paid my debt, I have no fear of standing before a Holy Judge who will judge with justice and fairness.

I did what He told me to do. I asked Jesus to forgive me, I repented of the sin that sent Him to the cross. I have been born again, not of flesh but of spirit. I wear His righteousness, His holiness, because I have none of my own.

The rest of Romans 6:23 is:

but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

So yes. I can look forward to judgment day. It marks the end of all the struggles and hardships living in this world affords. It marks the beginning of an eternity, reaping the benefits of having Jesus pass the test on my behalf.

So, dear one, continue to praise God for all His benefits, His blessings, your health, your comfort, your family and friends, and on and on and on. Praise the One who deserves your praise.

And praise Him for the fact that when He judges the world, when He judges you on that day, there will be no surprises. One person won’t be judged more easily or more harshly for the same sin you’ve committed. You won’t fall short because you only did 9,999 good deeds, and someone else will get a free pass because he did 10,000 good deeds. No one will barely make it into heaven while someone else almost makes it there.

God is fair. God is just. God will judge each of us by the standard He has laid out so clearly in His Word. I look forward to judgement day. I hope you can say the same. I hope that because we both have been born again, cleansed and made holy by Jesus, we can praise the Judge together now and for eternity!

Quitting Is Not An Option

Psalm 51; 78

I want to quit. I haven’t felt like I have anything worthwhile to post on my blog these days. I have failed to share Jesus when I’ve had the opportunity. I recognize the fact I’m not doing a good job at my children’s ministry responsibilities. My heart is not in playing the organ at church any more. I’ve sat back and been carried along by popular opinion rather than standing up for what I know is true. I’m a hypocrite.

I guess you could say I’m in a funk. And the lower I go, the easier it is to sin in thought and deed, and the further away from God I am. It’s a downward spiral I’m afraid I don’t have the energy to fight.

And that’s right where I need to be.

I read some psalms this morning and was encouraged to remember God’s faithfulness to me in the past. And He has been faithful! I can look back and recognize the many blessings that have come my way through good times and bad, through open doors and closed doors. I can remember times when He answered my prayers, when He showed up in undeniable ways.

As I re-read what I’ve just written, I am convicted at how often I use the word “I.” I am so focused on me and my failures that it’s no wonder I’m in a funk.

I took a break from writing this just now, and spent some time pouring my heart out to God. The truth is, I love having Him in my life. The truth is, He is patient and gracious and forgiving. The truth is, He delights in me as I submit to Him. I know the truth, so why am I falling for Satan’s lies?

So I confessed my sin, I admitted my helplessness, and asked Him to…

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit in me. Do not cast me from your presence, or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit to sustain me. (Psalm 51:10-11)

Here’s what I notice about those verses:

  1. The need to confess my sin and allow God to cleanse me whenever He reveals sin in me. Even my feelings of failure can be a sin if they are not from God, but from Satan who wants to discourage me. And if I am focused on myself, I’m focusing in the wrong direction. That’s a sin that needs confessed.
  2. The importance of a steadfast spirit. God never promised lollypops and roses. Life is hard. I will succeed and I will fail. But quitting is never an option when I am determined to follow my Lord.
  3. God’s presence is available. I don’t have to go it alone. God, in all His power and awesomeness WANTS to walk with me today. The Holy Spirit is my guide and protector. The question is, am I paying attention?
  4. Joy isn’t a result of good times, but rather in the fact that God has saved me through the precious blood of His Son Jesus. It’s a joy the world doesn’t understand because it’s a gift from God Himself.
  5. I need to be willing to let God do His thing in me. I need to be willing to submit to Him, to trust Him, and to get out of His way and let Him be in control.

No, quitting is not an option. And right now I am thanking Him for hearing and answering my prayer. I sit here with a clean heart, knowing He’s forgiven me, and my resolve is to serve Him with everything He gives me. I’m not alone. I am not defeated because God has and will continue to give me the victory for His sake and His glory.

Please understand, this is not about the power of positive thinking. This is all about the power of God in me as I submit to Him and allow Him to be everything I need in every situation. There is a huge difference.

Again?

Numbers 20

It’s so frustrating how often Israel whined about going back to Egypt. So often when they got uncomfortable, hungry, dissatisfied they would complain to Moses, which in reality was complaining about God. Their act of rebellion was a sin. Yet time and time again, they revisited that same sin.

Before starting my time in God’s Word this morning I had to confess a sin I’ve committed over and over. I can’t count how many times I’ve asked God to forgive me for the same thing. I have victory for a while, then eventually I’m right back to doing the thing I said I wouldn’t do.

Didn’t Paul address that in Romans 7? I, like Paul, delight in God’s Law. But there is another law in me making me a prisoner. How can I ever be free of it?

Romans 7:25. Jesus! Thanks be to God.

So today I confessed my sin once again, and I know God has forgiven me once again. I’ve been cleansed by the blood of the Lamb. Will I stay that way? Probably not. Will I revisit my recurring sin? With the help of the Holy Spirit, I pray not.

Just because I know God forgives me doesn’t make my sin any less serious. It comes with a death sentence like all my sins. That little act of rebellion cost Jesus His life. It grieves my Lord and angers Him. It separates me from Him as much as if I’d murdered someone.

I need to pray today that God will help me fight my enemy and resist temptation. I’ll need to pray the same tomorrow and the next day (maybe later today, too). I just know I don’t ever want to have to go to Him again and ask forgiveness for the sin He forgave today.

Heavenly Father, thank you for creating in me a clean heart this morning when I confessed my sin and asked you to forgive me once again. I pray that you will renew a steadfast spirit in me, determined to obey You in every way. I want to please you, not myself today. I thank you for the cross, for forgiveness, and for You!

Mistaking Grace

Leviticus

Sometimes I think we mistake grace for an eraser. We think it negates the requirements of acceptability to God, or that God’s grace just wipes away our sins…”Just As If I’d Never Sinned.”

What we read in Leviticus are the rules for addressing all kinds of impurity. It’s not a fun read. In fact, it’s tempting to just skip over the whole thing, thinking it doesn’t apply to us in 2022. But did God change the rules? Or are the requirements spelled out in Leviticus still a thing?

God’s law has not changed. The difference is after the cross the fulfillment of those requirements were transferred to Jesus. So, yes, the blood of bulls is still required. Jesus provided His own blood. The doves, the lambs, even the scapegoat are still required. Jesus became all of that to fulfill each requirement.

Now don’t go out and kill some unsuspecting farmer’s livestock. Jesus already did what was required once and for all. That debt has been paid in full by His own precious blood.

But just because the fulfillment of the Law was complete in Jesus, don’t skip over these chapters in Leviticus. I know they don’t apply to you in the material sense. But they do apply to you. It gives you such detail about what Jesus did for you. It’s a lot!

I challenge you to read these chapters carefully and let God reveal Himself to you as you do. There is much more to Jesus’ death on the cross than you might think.

We can, because of grace, stand before God “Just As If We’d Never Sinned.” But the fact is we did sin. And God’s grace cost Jesus a great deal. A great deal. He didn’t simply erase our sin. He painfully fulfilled all the requirements needed for the forgiveness of our sin .

Grace is not an eraser. It’s a gift that cost more than you or I may realize.

It’s Not Enough

Genesis 9

It’s not enough to confess your sins. Simply saying, “I’m guilty,” doesn’t always indicate repentance. Pharaoh said, “This time I have sinned. ” Yet his actions proved his confession didn’t translate into a changed life.

Have you prayed what we refer to as “the Sinners’ Prayer?” I hope so. But don’t believe for a minute saying the words guarantees God’s forgiveness. You must be born again. You must repent of the sins you confess, which means to turn from them, stop doing them, flee them. If saying those words doesn’t come from a changed heart – you are not saved.

We are wrong to guarantee heaven to someone who prays the prayer. You and I can’t guarantee heaven for anyone because we can’t know anyone’s heart but our own. Only God can do that.

Pharaoh confessed his sin but was not saved. His heart was unchanged. I pray the same isn’t true for you.