How to Believe in Forgiveness

Out of one of the most violent acts that can be done against any person, God provided the simplest way for us to have eternal life with him. However, as seen over and over again, it doesn’t seem to be as easy as it sounds.

God says by grace you will be saved because of your FAITH and not because of the good things you do (Ephesians 2:8-9).  That faith is based on the belief that Jesus was put to death on a cross to take the punishment for our sins so we don’t have to take that punishment ourselves.  But why do we struggle to believe that it is that simple?  And that we need to follow good practices in order to earn our way into heaven?  Since we feel as though we need to do something to earn acceptance with God, the simplest solution – to just believe – is difficult to put into practice.

No matter how hard we try not to, we all do things that are offensive and most of the time we struggle to accept the fact that forgiveness could just wipe away those offenses and still earn us the right to eternal heavenly peace. How do we understand and accept God’s free offer of forgiveness and then release ourselves from feeling as though we still owe a debt? And then, how do we grasp the concept of a gracious God that would save us even though we falter in our behavior every day?

The best analogy is the parent-child relationship. The love that a parent has for a child has to be the deepest love I have ever encountered. There is nothing my daughters could do that would make me stop loving them. This is manifested in the fact that I would lay down my life for them or give anything to take away their pain.

God’s love is so much more than we could ever express through these mortal bodies. So imagine a love greater than our earthly parent-child relationship coming from God who describes Himself as our Heavenly Father. He uses the parent-child analogy by telling us that He would not give us a scorpion if we ask for an egg, or He would not give us a snake if we ask for a fish (Luke 11:11-12). So, as our Father, why wouldn’t He extend grace towards us if we ask for forgiveness?! If that’s not enough, He is a Father who created us and knew us before we were even born! (Psalm 139:13-16). Wouldn’t you take special care of something you created?

Meditate and take hold of the fact that God is your Father and believe that He will love and forgive you — no matter what.  All you truly need to do is believe that He will forgive you because Jesus already paid that debt on the cross!

 

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We Can’t Do It All Ourselves

When your hands are completely full because you are trying to take care of everything yourself, you are not able to reach out for God’s help. And when your heart is so weary that you do not have the energy to lift your hands for help, relax and rest in God’s arms.  He will carry you.

I had to do just that this past year as I spent time watching God:

Protecting the heart of a child,

Providing a job for my husband,

Healing friends,

Providing the information and direction I need to lead a healthier life,

Leading and providing for my children as they mature,

Moving us to a place of worship that is helping us grow,

And the special way He lined-up circumstances and repeated messages to give clear direction,

All to teach me more about His Grace.

To my friends and loved ones who are hurting and overwhelmed, please find a way to close down some of the busyness in your life so you can find God’s hand reaching out to you and so you can hear how He is leading you.  Then test what you feel God is telling you against His words in the Bible so you will know if it is truly from Him.  And don’t forget to respond.

Protection for a Wandering Teen – part 3

My teacher in first grade Sunday school taught me Bible stories, the Catholic church taught me about reverence, the Baptist church showed me the grace and salvation of God, but I still needed someone to teach me who God is and what I needed to do in order to live a good and healthy life (Romans 6:16).

Once I was confirmed, I attended Sunday services by myself but that was still not enough. I was looking for something more (Psalm 119:131-135). Therefore, at the age of 14, I accepted the invitation of a couple school friends to go to a weekly youth group at the local Catholic church. Our leaders were out of the hippy era and taught us relational concepts. Ironically, it was through the kids in this group that I was exposed to some of the typical sins of youth. But yet, they were my “gang.” A few of us did everything together. They were probably looking for the same sense of love and belonging that I was looking for because when I spent time in their homes, I never saw the presence of family.

At this point in my life, my mother’s drinking and the drugs she was taking for her schizophrenia caused her to stay in bed all day; and my father spent all his time watching television. Therefore, I didn’t spend much time at home.

God gave me extra grace and protection during these years as He waited for me to find my way. I was walking the streets of North Minneapolis all by myself in the middle of the night and my friend and I were getting the phone numbers of strangers off the jam line and then meeting these people in random locations (that would be equivalent now days to meeting strangers you talk to on the internet).

Those angels must have also been walking with me through the halls of North High School. When I was just a freshman, I quickly learned that I shouldn’t go into the park across the street or I might get shot, I should blend in so I didn’t get beat up, and I shouldn’t walk the halls by myself between classes. I figured that last one out the hard way when I thought “the nice girls were just opening the door for me.” It was a double set of doors that led outside. They let me through the first set of doors but wouldn’t let me out the second set. Therefore, I was trapped in the entryway with them. But God supplied a way out. Not a minute later, the fearsome hall guard happened to be in that part of the school and came around the corner so the girls quickly backed down and opened the door. After that, I can recall using the bathroom only one time during those four years of high school. Thankfully, band, writing for the school paper, and golf were not cool “sports” so I could find something constructive to do during those high school years.

After a couple years with the Catholic youth group, and at the age of 16, I wasn’t attending church much at all and I moved out from under my parents’ roof to an apartment behind their house. I was still trying to find my way without adult supervision and was searching to fill that longing I had for fulfillment and meaning. I was reading the Bible but this was the era of the New King James Version so I didn’t quite understand it all yet.

Then I ended up in a serious relationship and became a person with divided loyalties (James 4:8). This guy was antagonistic towards God and I was still that 11 year old little girl hoping and praying that one day I could have a healthy Christian home. Without direction and accountability in my life, this relationship and his words continued to entice me and drag me away from my dream (James 1:14).

As I floundered around trying to figure out life, the Holy Spirit was still present and God was drawing me to Himself. No matter what I was involved in, I still felt a strong need to read my Bible every night before I went to bed in order to calm my spirit (John 14:27). The “Cinderella” story of Joseph became my favorite Bible story. As I prayed for wisdom and discernment, I spent years in the Psalms calling out to God and in the Proverbs learning what my parents were never able to teach me themselves. In my next blog, God answers those prayers.

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