The diligence of our own scrutiny

“This [self-] examination, however, should be peaceful and tranquil, and we should depend on God for the discovery and knowledge of our sins, rather than on the diligence of our own scrutiny.”- John Ortberg

“He [Sampson] awoke from his sleep and thought, ‘I’ll go out as before and shake myself free.’  But he did not know that the LORD had left him.”- Judges 16:20

John Ortberg concludes Chapter 14 of The Me I Want to Be as he talks about recognizing the “Ministry of Conviction.”  First, Pastor Ortberg stresses that conviction is not (a) simply the same thing as ‘getting caught’ or (b) the same thing as fear of punishment.  Both a and b result from external pressure.

Rather, John defines conviction as “getting a glimpse of what I’m capable of.”  In other words, your source of pain is internal- over who you are.

Therefore, we need repentance to cleanse us of our sin.  In the section “Indispensable Hope,” Pastor Ortberg states that repenting of our sins is:

  • never despairing of our sin
  • always done in hope
  • a gift God gives us for our own sake, not His
  • increasing our capacity to be with God (rather than God’s desire to be with us)
  • not an indicator of low self-esteem
  • understanding that our worth to God underscores the importance of our response
  • always done in the gracious promise of forgiveness

In conclusion, John names the big debts we labor under- and what forgiveness brings.  He writes:

“We give it [the debt] labels such as regret, guilt, shame, or brokenness –sin.  But God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself.  We know what is coming, yet we need to hear the words just the same: Forgiven.  Forgiven.  Forgiven.”

Today’s question: Do you depend on God or the diligence of your own scrutiny?  Please share.

Coming Monday: the new Short Meditation, “A vivid point of light from Scripture”

Tomorrow’s blog: “Being alone with God – fully yourself”

Worship language – or the living God?

“We do not worship language; we worship the living God, who assures us that his word to us is life (emphasis author’s).”- John Eldredge

“The words I [Jesus] have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.”- John 6:63

As John Eldredge continues the Winter section of Walking with God, he advises that he finds it richly rewarding to ask Jesus what He’s saying to us.  Because Jesus:

  • knows the very words we need to hear
  • uses the very words that best convey His meaning to our hearts with greatest precision
  • wants us to understand not just what He says but what He means- and the spirit of His meaning

However, it’s very helpful to realize certain words and phrases open our hearts to the meaning God intended.  In contrast, other words and phrases close our hearts to the meaning God wants to convey.

Therefore, Mr. Eldredge cites John 6:68 as a good test of what we believe God’s said to us.  The author encourages us to ask, Does what I’ve heard in fact bring life? 

Yet, John observes, we’re not always going to like what Jesus says to us.  Sometimes, the author adds, Jesus’ words bring conviction and cut to the quick.  When our sin’s exposed it’s, in some sense, a great relief.  For God constantly offers a way out through repentance and forgiveness.  Most importantly, John reminds us, “we don’t worship language, we worship the living God.  Jesus assures us His words to us are life.

Today’s question: What prevents you from choosing to worship the living God rather than choosing to worship language?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Realign yourself with Christ”

The grace effect we experience

“God’s unconditional love is so transformative that the grace effect we experience will lead us to forgive even the worst of our worst enemies.”- Kyle Idleman

In Chapter 7 (“More Reconciling Than Your Resentment”) of Grace Is Greater, Kyle Idleman reminds us the Bile says it’s possible to rid ourselves of bitterness, rage, and anger.  Grace flows to us through Jesus.  Consequently, His grace flows from us to others.

A pastor friend of Kyle’s, Pete Wilson, recently explained this flow of the love and grace of Jesus to others.  In a sermon, he stated:

“What you inhale is what you will exhale.”

Put another way, if you’re intentional to inhale God’s grace and forgiveness, you’ll exhale that grace and forgiveness in your relationships.  Therefore, Pastor Idleman urges you to being every day thinking about this image if you struggle with anger and bitterness.

Next, Kyle discusses the three levels of forgiveness.  The first two levels Kyle presented in previous chapters.  He reviews them here.  However, the third level of forgiveness proves the most difficult.  The author reviews the first two levels today.

1.  Level One Forgiveness – Kyle defines this level as “getting rid of bitterness, anger, and rage.”  As a result, when those feelings come, refuse to put them on and wear them around.  Get rid of them.  Make a conscious decision to stop resurrecting the offense.  Rather, focus on what God’s done for you.

2.  Level Two Forgiveness – releasing the person who hurt you; choosing to write off the debt.  Even if your offender refuses to acknowledge his/her guilt, that doesn’t change what God asks you to do.

Today’s question: Describe how the grace effect you’ve experience flows to others.  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Level Three Forgiveness – unrealistic, offensive?”

Pray for those who mistreat you

“Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, pray for those who mistreat you.”- Luke 6:27-28

“I wasn’t talking to them [the protestors], I was praying for them.”- Ruby Bridges

Today, Pastor Kyle Idleman concludes Chapter 6 of Grace Is Greater with the final two steps on the journey of grace.

3.  Pray for your enemies.  In 2 Timothy 4:16 (NLT), the apostle Paul writes: “The first time I was brought before the judge, no one came with me.  Everyone abandoned me.”  In this passage, Paul references a trial where his life hung in the balance.  In this extreme moment of need, no one showed up.  Thus, this hurt came from people Paul trusted.

Yet, even though the people Paul loved and sacrificed for deserted him, he prays that it “might not be held against them (v. 16).”  Thus, Paul reflects what Jesus told all of us to do in Luke 6:27-28.

Perhaps, Pastor Idleman notes, when you read that passage and attach the name and face of the person who mistreated you, Jesus’ command seems impossible.  But, Kyle encourages, pray for the person who hurt you.  It “will do more to get you down the path of forgiveness and grace than anything else.”

4.  Lean on Him.  Paul states that even though people let him down, “The Lord stood with me and gave me strength (v. 17).”  When people seem absent, God seems most present.  As you lean on God, you’re able to forgive.  When your forgive, you:

  • choose to release it
  • pray for your enemy
  • (most importantly) recognize God stands with you- He’ll have the final word

Today’s question: What Bible verses help you pray for those who mistreat you?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “The grace effect we experience”

When we live in grace – releasing

“When we live in grace, releasing doesn’t mean giving up, it means giving it up to God. . . . You loosen your grip from the pain of what was done to you and you place it in God’s hands.”- Kyle Idleman

As Kyle Idleman concludes Chapter 5 of Grace Is Greater, he presents the final two ways we deal with our hurts and anger.

2.  Rehearsal.  Pastor Idleman notes we all love to watch our favorite movies again and again.  However, we often unintentionally rehash out least favorite memories.  Kyle explains:

“We keep the moment of betrayal or the hateful words or the unfair treatment cued up and ready to play.  You don’t repress what happened, you rehearse it.  Rehash it.  Replay it.  Again and again.  And it turns your heart into resentment.”

As a result, the devil gets a foothold, or staging ground.  Consequently, the devil walks through the open door of our anger and resentment.  Thus, he gains access to the rest of the rooms in  our house.  Allowing the weeds of bitterness and rage to grow chokes out the fruit that the Holy Spirit desires to produce in our lives.

3.  Release.  In Ephesians 4:26-27, Pastor Idleman believes, Paul isn’t trying to be simplistic or dismissive in regards to getting rid of anger.  Rather, Paul wants us to understand that getting rid of anger represents the only option.

Furthermore, releasing anger is far from simplistic.  In fact, it’s extremely difficult- perhaps even impossible- on your own.

Citing Luke’s account of the death of Stephen in the Book of Acts (Chapter 7), Kyle notes Stephen prayed that God would forgive his murderers.  Ultimately, Kyle adds, God’s forgiveness matters most, not ours.

In conclusion, Kyle recommended this first step in forgiveness- “ask God to do what you haven’t been able to do.”  Prayer makes forgiveness possible, as it functions as the release valve for your negative feelings.  Finally, forgiveness involves you and God.

Today’s question: What Bible verses support you in releasing or loosening your grip from the pain of what was done to you?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: the new Short Meditation, “God made you to flourish”

The grace you have received

“The grace you have received is greater than the grace you are being asked to give.”- Kyle Idleman

Then the master called the servant in.  ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I cancelled all that debt of yours because you begged me to.  Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ “- Matthew 18:32-33

As Kyle Idleman concludes Chapter 4 of Grace Is Greater, he wonders if we, like Peter (Matthew 18:21) want to question Jesus about forgiveness.  For example, at what point does the hurt done to me exceed the grace you want me to give?  When does grace run out?

The answer?  Never.  Grace is greater.  Perhaps we accept this fact on an intellectual level, although the equation doesn’t seem to work.  Yet, even though forgiveness doesn’t feel possible, we must agree to try.

Jesus, Pastor Idleman stresses, made it clear that if you receive God’s grace you can’t then refuse to give it to others.  Yes, Kyle knows, it’s not a simple or fair process.  Simply show the willingness  to take the first step.  And although you’d at least like an explanation, you feel it’s not fair to let the offense go.  As Kyle explains, “it’s not fair, it’s grace (emphasis Kyle’s).”

Next, Kyle describes the effects of conditional grace:

“When you make grace dependent on the actions of the person who hurt you, you need to find a different word because it’s not grace.  With grace, the person doesn’t fix the consequences of their sin, you take the consequences of their sin.  That’s not fair.  That’s not right.  But it is exactly what Jesus did for you.”

In conclusion, Kyle states the more you understand the holiness of God- as well as understanding yourself- the more you realize this truth.  You realize “the grace you have received is greater than the grace you are being asked to give.”

Today’s question: As you reflect on the grace Christ’s extended to you,  how does that change your equation?  Please share.

Coming Monday:  the new Short Meditation, “God made you to flourish”

Tomorrow’s blog: “Choking our resolve to forgive”

Grace is only grace if . . .

“Grace is only grace if it goes both ways . . . a two-way street.  Receiving it from God but refusing to give it to others isn’t an option.  Grace flows.”- Kyle Idleman

“Get rid of all bitterness, rage, and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.”- Ephesians 4:31

In Chapter 4 (“More Healing Than Your Wounds”) of Grace Is Greater, Kyle Idleman notes we become attached to emotions like anger and resentment.  Kyle adds that these emotions don’t bring us joy and rob us of peace.  Yet, we store them in the closet of our hearts.

Also, it’s painful to rid ourselves of bitterness and anger.  We find it easier to shut the closet door and pretend everything’s fine.  As a result, we only open the door when absolutely necessary.  Hence, Kyle shares his discovery that “extending grace  and forgiveness to someone who doesn’t deserve it and can’t make it right is more than a decision we make, it’s a journey we take.”

Thus, the first step consists of deciding you want to make that journey to forgiveness.  Or at least be willing to try.  No magic button exists to erase our painful memories or heal our festering wounds.  In addition, when someone’s deeply hurt you giving grace doesn’t feel like an option.  Yet, you’re comfortable living with your wounds or carrying the weight of your bitterness.  Perhaps, Kyle observes, you’ve done the math and concluded the hurt done to you exceeds the grace you’re able to give.

Finally, Kyle describes the grace litmus test:

“The litmus test for the reality of grace you have received from God is the extent to which you give grace and offer forgiveness to the person who’s hurt you the most and deserves it the least.”

Today’s question: Complete Pastor Idleman’s statement that “grace is only grace if . . .”  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “The grace you have received”

The biggest sinner you know

“If the biggest sinner you know isn’t you, then you don’t know yourself very well.”- Pastor Jean Larroux

“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners — of whom I am the worst.”- 1 Timothy 1:15

As Kyle Idleman concludes Chapter 1 of Grace Is Greater, he first presents the second way we conclude we’re not that bad.

2.  We weigh the bad against the good.   From an “I’ve earned my place in heaven” perspective, one neither needs nor wants grace.  In contrast, Pastor Idleman explains the danger when we minimize our sin:

“Our default is to cover up our sin or at the very least minimize it.  But in covering up our sin, we are covering up grace.  In minimizing sin we are diminishing the joy that comes with forgiveness.”

However, it’s hard to admit that the biggest sinner you know is you.  Yet, Kyle observes, in 1 Timothy 1:15 Paul uses the present tense verb am.  Also, Pastor Idleman admits, the more he learns about God’s righteousness and the more he examines his own life and motives, he gets closer to one inescapable conclusion.  He’s the worst sinner he knows.

In conclusion, Kyle cites Augustine.  Almost 1,600 years ago, Augustine wrote this in his Confessions: “My sin was all the more incurable because I did not think myself a sinner.”

Denying the reality of your sinful condition negates the antidote of grace.  Thus, Pastor Idleman closes with these words of encouragement:

“The truth is I am worse that I ever wanted to admit, but God’s grace is greater than I ever could have imagined.”

Today’s question: What convinces you that you’re the biggest sinner you know?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “A surprising characteristic about grace”

When we minimize pain, we minimize forgiveness

“When we minimize pain, we also minimize forgiveness.  And when we minimize forgiveness, we minimize healing.”- Esther Fleece

“The blood of Jesus doesn’t give you amnesia.  My past happened.  But Jesus gives you a life beyond your past.”- Christine Caine, author

As Esther Fleece concludes Chapter 9 of No More Faking Fine, she asserts there’s no way to achieve the end result of forgiveness without lament.  In fact, Esther observes, the suffering necessary to fully forgive might very well hurt more than the original abuse.

Therefore, Ms. Fleece describes forgiveness in the context of lament.  Forgiveness is:

  • a process of releasing our laments to God
  • feeling the weight of what someone did to cause you harm
  • taking this offense directly to God
  • telling Him exactly how you feel
  • lamenting it, not forgetting it, in order to move forward
  • a practice and process that unfolds in layers over time

Furthermore, in the practice and process of forgiveness we call out the offense to God, rather than using gossip and slander to harm our offenders.  Ms. Fleece reminds us:

“There is not an offense we have experiences that Jesus has not felt Himself.  Yet if He was able to fully forgive while He hung on the cross, His Spirit can help us also to forgive.”

As you pass through lament rather than skipping over it, God lifts your burden of resentment.  You begin to birth something new- something that feels like freedom.

In conclusion, Esther notes, the Hebrew word for “repent”- nacham– is interchangeable with the Hebrew word for “comfort.”  Thus, when we’re moved to repent, God moves with compassion.  Thus, Esther writes, “lamenting ‘forgive me, Lord’ changes our hearts and puts the emphasis back on Him, where it belongs.”

Today’s question: During your desert, land between time, how have you tried to minimize pain?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Our old coping mechanisms”

Forgiveness- our invitation to process the pain

“But forgiveness is our invitation to process the pain so we can be authentically freed from it.”- Esther Fleece

“For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.”- Matthew 6:14

In Chapter 9 (“Forgive Me”) of No More Faking Fine, Esther Fleece discusses the topic of forgiveness.  The author observes that at times we mire ourselves in emotions like resentment and jealousy.  Furthermore, some days we stubbornly refuse a change of heart.  However, Esther believes, one prayer frees us when we’re dragged down by our emotions, unable to move- the prayer for forgiveness.

Ms. Fleece posits that we need the ability to fully lament in order to fully forgive.  Thus, without forgiveness, we live within our own vicious cycle of pain and bitterness.  Esther explains:

“And I am fully convinced that we cannot forgive offenses without first lamenting these offenses appropriately.  We need the grace of God, the example of Christ, and the power of the Holy Spirit to help us look favorably upon a person who has wronged us.  And we first need to lament the wrong that has been done to us.”

Consequently, Esther points out, you must fight for forgiveness.  However, it’s even harder to carry around a backpack of lies you’ve believed.  Just because you’ve failed to utilize lament.

In conclusion, Ms. Fleece notes that one meaning of the Greek word for forgiveness used in Matthew 6:14 (aphiemi) =”to send.”  Therefore, forgiveness means “to send away,” “to release,” or “to permit to depart.”

Lament allow us to release these hurts through forgiveness.  As a result, those hurts stop harming us.

Today’s question:  How have you used forgiveness to process the pain of your ministry downsizing or vocation loss?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “When we minimize pain, we minimize forgiveness”