post

Finding Forgiveness in Leviticus

I’ve been reading Leviticus this week. Not an easy book to read, but full of meaning once we come to understand that its theme is holiness. Our holy God had just pulled His newly chosen people out of Egypt, setting them apart for Himself, and now He was beginning the process of making them holy, too.

Finding ForgivenessThe word holy, as I understand it, has three meanings: set apart for a particular purpose, pure, and unique. When reading the story of God’s people, by the time we get to Leviticus, God has already set them apart for the purpose of revealing Him to the world. He plans for them to be unique, so the rest of the world will take notice and want to get to know Him, too. He also provides for their purity, though this won’t be complete until the death and resurrection of Christ. Leviticus is God’s Word to His people about the unique lives they are to live and the means He’s provided for their purity, a way for them to receive forgiveness for their sins.

Thus Leviticus opens with seven morbid chapters on how to offer sacrifices followed by an account of the ordination of Israel’s first priests, Moses’ brother—Aaron, and Aaron’s sons.

In the Bible I’m currently reading, Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend, share insights scattered through the text. Regarding these chapters in Leviticus, they say, “The sacrificial system prepared people for understanding the meaning of the death of Jesus (see 1 Peter 3:18) and showed that people have a great need to be forgiven.”

This caught my attention. People have a great need to be forgiven. This is absolutely true. It’s built right into us—which may be why so many of the ancient cultures had sacrificial systems of one kind or another. People knew—they just knew!— that they were doing things that were wrong. And they were desperate to clear their consciences in the name of appeasing their gods. Even today in our modern world, people who don’t know Christ (and even some who do but don’t understand what He’s done for them) find ways to offer sacrifices of a sort to make things right when they do wrong. A guilty conscience is a heavy burden. People want to get rid of it!

Without hope of forgiveness, people respond to guilty consciences in one of two ways: depression (not clinical; that’s something else entirely) or denial. The first response is one of hopelessness: “I’ve done this bad thing. I’ve ruined my life. There is no hope for me.” Taken to an extreme, this kind of depression can lead to withdrawal, cutting, or suicide—all three, in this case, a misguided attempt to punish the self, in a sense to offer a sacrifice.

The second is one of rebellion and defensiveness: “I haven’t done anything wrong. How dare you judge me? I’ll show you. I’m going to keep on living my life my way, and I’ll be perfectly happy.” Methinks, perhaps, some of these people doth protest too much. If they are so happy, why do they spew so much anger? Why does what other people think matter so much to them? Why must the rest of the world affirm their decisions?

I’m not sharing these thoughts in order to define what is sin or what is not. My point, rather, is that deep down inside of us, regardless of how we act or what we say, we know the truth. If we are doing something sinful, God’s Spirit is working inside of us to help us face the truth—not so God can punish us or demand a sacrifice (The sacrifice has already been made! See 1 Peter 3:18.); but so we can confess, so we can receive forgiveness, so He can make us pure. 1 John 1:9 proclaims this most clearly: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

Our job is to be open to the truth, to pray with the Psalmist, “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” –Psalm 139:23-24. Choosing depression or denial leaves us carrying a load of guilt whether we acknowledge its presence or not. Choosing forgiveness through Christ sets us free to be the people God designed us to be, to find the purpose we were made for, to enjoy life abundantly.

If you haven’t already, I pray you will choose forgiveness. Talk to God (just like you’d talk to a friend). Agree with Him that you have sinned. Tell Him you’re sorry and that, with His help, you won’t do it again (no matter what you’ve done, no matter how many times you’ve failed and had to confess this sin again). Receive His forgiveness and walk with His Spirit in righteousness, peace, and joy. (See Romans 14:17.) You are forgiven. You are free!

Father, thank You for this lesson from Leviticus. Thank You for setting us apart, for giving us purpose, and for making forgiveness available through Your Son’s sacrifice. Help us to live for You; Your way is best—always! Amen.

This post is linked to Grace & Truth: A Weekly Christian Link-Up. Visit that site to find devotional posts by other Christian writers.

post

Exploring Other Blessings of Parachute Prayer

Parachute PrayerIn my new book, Parachute Prayer, I discuss four of the blessings that come from practicing these simple prayers. These are the primary blessings but not the only ones. Today I’d like to explore another one:

Parachute Prayers make us more aware of the trials other people face, giving us a stronger sense of compassion and empathy.

Here’s how this works:

Several of the prayer prompts in my book come from considering our own struggles. We identify the problem and pray about it, for ourselves, but we don’t stop there. Instead, we take a little time to think of others who may be going through the same thing and pray for them. If we don’t know anyone else who is suffering in the same way, we realize that, even so, our problem is not unique. God knows others who are challenged by it. So we pray for them. It doesn’t matter that we can’t pray for them by name. God knows who we are praying for. He knows it breaks our hearts that others are feeling the same pain we feel. He cares about us all.

Today’s new Parachute Prayer is one of these:

Fraud VictimsWhen someone treats you unfairly, pray for victims of fraud – people who’ve been conned, scammed, hacked, or just plain lied to. God sees it all and hates it. Ask Him to make things right, as only He can.

Then ask Him to help you and other victims to trust His ways. He doesn’t always work the way we want or expect Him to. He is working on behalf of everyone. He will make everything right in His time, delivering justice or offering grace. Our job is to talk to Him about the situation, forgive the offender, then trust God to work in the offender’s life.

And if forgiveness doesn’t come easily – I suppose it rarely does, ask God for help with this. Decide to enter the process of forgiving, be willing to forgive as God works on your heart, make forgiving the offender your goal. This process will help you draw closer to God while keeping bitterness out of your heart.

Father, thank You for all of the blessings of prayer. To think You hear us when we talk to You! You hear and You respond. Please help us to remember to bring all of our concerns to You. Help us to bring the similar concerns of others to You, too. Make us compassionate and forgiving, trusting You to see what’s wrong and make it right in Your perfect time. Amen.

To learn more about Parachute Prayer and its blessings, order your copy of my book here.

post

A Parachute Prayer for Groundhog’s Day

Parachute PrayerHappy Groundhog’s Day!

I feel so sorry for that rodent. Punxatawny Phil must be the world’s most famous scapegoat. According to the calendar, Winter doesn’t officially end until March 19. That’s six and half weeks from today. Yet when February rolls around, many of us start longing for Spring—especially if we happen to live in a snowy climate. We become dissatisfied with Winter and look for someone to blame. I just learned that Phil isn’t even the one who decides whether he will see his shadow or not. The outcome is predetermined by an elite group of groundhog handlers known as The Inner Circle on Gobbler’s Knob.

Poor Phil doesn’t stand a chance! . . . except that he’s probably the most pampered and prized rodent on the planet, so I can’t feel too sorry for him.

Genesis 3 shows us that since the Fall, it’s been in our nature to blame. Adam blamed Eve. Eve blamed the serpent. God saw the truth and disciplined them all. Which was a good thing because if He’d let Adam or Eve off without consequences, they’d have stayed in Eden, eaten from the Tree of Life, and been stuck living in a fallen world for all eternity. God loved them too much for that. God loves us too much for that. His “curse” was an act of grace.

Groundhog Day ParachuteSo in honor of Groundhog’s Day, let’s practice a new Parachute Prayer. Whenever you’re reminded what day it is, pray that hurting (or hurtful) people will stop looking for someone or something to blame, even if that blame is deserved, and take responsibility for their own choices and actions. Pray they’ll learn to offer forgiveness where it’s needed, to ask for it when they should. Pray that they’ll move forward to make things that have gone wrong right (as far as they are able) and that they’ll look toward a better future while letting go of any resentment toward what’s past. This is where healing begins. Let’s pray this for them.

The groundhog doesn’t determine how long Winter will last. Neither does The Inner Circle of Gobbler’s Knob. Blaming them won’t make the snow go away, so let’s be thankful for each season’s gifts and rest assured that Spring will come someday.

Father, when people use their energy to find scapegoats to blame, they get stuck in bitterness and pain. Please help them to move forward. Help them to forgive or ask forgiveness. Help them look for ways to make things right no matter who made things wrong. Please bless their lives with peace. Amen.

post

Book Review: “Motherless”

MotherlessErin Healy’s newest book, Motherless, is one of her best yet—one wide-eyed revelation after another to the end. But how do I review it without giving too much away? It’s a story of parents protecting their children. It’s a story of choosing to forgive, to be forgiven, to live in grace. It’s a story of secrets and lies and temptation and sin and misunderstandings and choices that demand to be revealed and redeemed. It’s the story of serious mental illness and its lingering effects on one challenged Central California family.

MotherlessIt’s also the story of an unusual chocolate shop! (Though I’ll have to take Healy’s word for it that some of those concoctions are edible. Alas, I’m as skeptical as some of her characters—without the opportunity to taste for myself. I may need to go out and hunt for such a chocolate shop.)

Motherless is an emotional, supernatural suspense story that changes direction with each revelation until it coasts to a beautiful stop. The setting is one people dream of, yet the characters whom readers can’t help but care for dwell in mild peril and complete confusion. The compassionate message is one all people live to hear. I thank Thomas Nelson Publishers for sending a complimentary copy of this book for my honest review. It’s one I’m telling people to read.

post

The Ugly Cactus and 1 Peter 4:8


Photobucket
 

This cactus captured my imagination a few summers ago. It was so big and so ugly, yet the Showy Primroses chose to decorate it well. Then I found 1 Peter 4:8, and it seemed to go with the picture, too.

Only Jesus can remove sin from our lives, yet when our transgressions wound others, we must ask their forgiveness then show them much love to help them cover the memory they may bear. Better yet, if we have already loved them deeply, our careless transgressions might not hurt so much, for they’ll know our hearts and know pain wasn’t our intent. The memory won’t be so severe.

Either way, as we love each other deeply and live with forgiveness and grace, life is more beautiful.

post

Living Our Belief

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.”Romans 8:1-2

When I read these verses today, I stopped to wonder how many people actually believe them. I had to stop and search my heart to be sure that I truly believe them. I say I believe them. I believe I believe them. But do my actions prove I do?

DSC01706eAs I prayed about this, asking God, “Do I really believe that there is now no condemnation for me? Or am I still trying to earn Your grace, so I can be certain there’s no condemnation for me?” the parable of the unmerciful servant came to mind. (If you are unfamiliar with this story, click here to read the NIV version at BibleGateway.com.)

In this parable told by Jesus, a man owes the king so much money that he will never in his lifetime be able to repay it all. The king, wanting to settle accounts, declares that the man and his entire family be sold into slavery to pay the debt. But the man falls at the king’s feet and begs for mercy, promising to somehow find a way to pay the debt. The king, feeling great compassion for the man and his family, chooses to do more than the man asked; he cancels the entire debt and sets the man free.

But the man response is puzzling. He immediately goes out, finds someone who owes him money, and throws that man in jail until the debt can be paid. Naturally, witnesses are upset about this. They tell the king, who becomes angry with the man. The king tells the man that, out of gratitude for his own forgiveness, he should have shown mercy to the man he needed to forgive. Then the king throws the man in jail to be tortured until he can pay his impossible debt in full.

I’ve never understood why someone who was forgiven such a huge debt would go out and treat someone who owed them just a little bit that way. After today’s reflections, however, I’m pretty sure these actions have something to do with whether or not that someone truly believes Romans 8:1-2.

You see, if the servant had truly believed that his entire debt was forgiven, he would have, I think, forgiven the one who owed him. I don’t think he believed this, though. He had asked for time. He wanted to pay his debt. He wanted to prove to the king that he was worthy of forgiveness, that he was able to repay in full without anyone’s grace. And so, as soon as the king set him free, he went out to collect funds to repay the debt. There was no gratitude in his heart because, though the king had indeed forgiven him, his pride had kept him from forgiving himself and convinced him that the king hadn’t really forgiven him either. This pride made him a prisoner who longed to be set free. It wrongly told him that collecting funds from others with debts would open the door of his cell.

The Pharisees were a lot like this unmerciful servant, imposing impossible-to-keep rules and regulations on others. By enforcing the law, they thought themselves worthy of the Kingdom of God. In their minds, they were proving themselves to God.

But the Bible is clear that we can never do enough to prove ourselves worthy of God’s Kingdom. We can’t do enough righteous deeds. We can’t keep the Law perfectly. Like the unmerciful servant, we can only throw ourselves at the feet of our King and beg for His mercy. And thanks to Jesus Christ, we have it! Praise His name!

All we have to do is believe. There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus! There’s nothing to earn. Nothing to prove. Nothing to demand or collect from our fellow servants. The King has set us free, and we are free indeed.

Once we truly believe this, our actions will show it. Instead of rushing out to throw our debtors in prison until they pay what they owe, we’ll tell them what the King did for us and point them toward freedom, too. Having freely received, we will want to freely give. We’ll live lives of grace and gratitude. We will love as the Spirit leads.

  • Do you believe?
  • What would help you to believe?
  • How must this belief impact your life?

Father, thank You for forgiveness, for freedom from condemnation. Thank You for new life in Christ. We believe! Help us live our belief. We love You, Lord. Amen.

post

Words Aptly Spoken to Help Us Forgive

Words Aptly Spoken“I release you from my hurt feelings. I free you from my reading of your motives. I withdraw my ‘justified’ outrage and leave you clean and happy in my mind. In place of censure, I offer you all of God’s deep contentment and peace. I will perceive you singing, with a soft smile of freedom and a glow of rich satisfaction. I bless you my brother [or sister]. You are a shining member of the Family of God, and I will wait patiently for this truthful vision to come honestly to my mind.” –From The Quiet Answer by Hugh Prather

I found this meditation in the devotional book I am reading this year: A Guide to Prayer for All God’s People by Rueben P. Job and Norman Shawchuck. I wanted to share it with you because it’s one of the most beautiful tools I’ve ever seen to help us through the often challenging process of forgiving an offense.

I don’t think I’d ever speak these exact words to someone, though that could be healing for both parties if one came to another seeking forgiveness for something especially hurtful. Rather, if I were praying about a need to forgive someone and found myself struggling to do so, asking God to help me with each element of this quote, daily if necessary, could really help me. Prather even ends the quote by saying, “I will wait patiently for this truthful vision to come honestly to my mind,” which leads me to believe this was his intent in writing it. (I’m adding his book, The Quiet Answer, to my TBR list, so that I can find out!)

The next time someone hurts your feelings or offends you in a way that requires forgiveness, place this meditation where you can see it daily, asking God to help you phrase by phrase so that your heart and, hopefully, the other’s will eventually be blessed with peace.

Father, when we cling to our hurt feelings, we build walls that entrap us. Please help us through the hard work of forgiveness, so we can be set free. Thank You, Lord. Amen.

Note: I’m linking this post to the Hearts for Home Blog Hop.

post

Book Review: All Right Here

All Right Here is a story that caught me by surprise–I love it when books do that! What I mean is that the story is unique, yet charming–and full of hope. I really enjoyed reading it.

All Right Here is the story of Ivy Darling and her family. She’s married to Nick, who has a mother who dotes on him and three sisters who refuse to accept Ivy as part of their family. Ivy also has three sisters. She also has an older brother. I believe we’ll be learning more about these siblings in future books about the Darling Family.

Ivy and Nick can’t have children of their own and are considering adoption. When Ivy discovers that the three children next door have been abandoned by their mother, however, she takes them into her home and convinces Nick to let them stay until the situation is resolved. Nick is willing to let them stay, but he refuses to even consider the possibility of accepting them into his family permanently. The situation forces first Ivy, and then Nick, to face truths about their marriage and within their own hearts that must be resolved for the existence of their love.

Personally, I loved the way that Ivy related to everyone in her world. She’s a character of patience, love, and grace. When circumstances tempt her to harden her heart, God confronts her and she responds in a beautiful way. Her insights in that climactic passage alone make the book worth reading, though the whole story is beautifully done. I’m looking forward to reading future books by Carre Armstrong Gardner and recommend this one to anyone who enjoys ordinary stories about ordinary people just learning to get along. I thank Tyndale House Publishers for sending me a free copy of All Right Here in exchange for this review.

post

Book Review: A Broken Kind of Beautiful

I think A Broken Kind of Beautiful may be the best kind of beautiful to be. Katie Ganshert has written yet another simple story full of profound messages relevant to every life.

A Broken Kind of Beautiful is Ivy Clark’s story. A model in her mid-twenties, Ivy is fighting to convince the industry that she is still competitive. For Ivy it’s personal. With a father who rejected her and a mother who didn’t fight for her, Ivy believes her beauty is all that gives her worth.

This book is also about Davis Knight, a once-promising photographer who vowed to sacrifice his career as a penance of sorts. Both characters, and their related careers, are drawn together by one determined woman who cares deeply for them both: Davis’s Aunt Marilyn, wife to Ivy’s late father.Ganshert Quote

Of all the characters in this book, Marilyn was my favorite. In fact, I think she’s one of the most amazing fictional characters I’ve had the privilege to meet. Her unconditional love for the people God has placed in her life–no matter how they treat her–is a gracious example, worthy of note. I highlighted several passages in this book, and many of these were Marilyn’s words. Others belonged to Davis’s sister, Sara, another character worth getting to know. I’m thankful that Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers sent a complimentary copy of this book for my honest review. I wouldn’t have wanted to miss A Broken Kind of Beautiful.

post

Praying for Victims of Abuse

Parachute PrayerWhile out running errands a few days ago, I noticed a car stopped across the intersection that had some truly unusual dents. It didn’t look like it had been hit by a car. The paint wasn’t damaged. But both driver’s side doors had people-sized indentations–like two people had literally thrown themselves up against the car with all the force they had. I can’t imagine anything else that would have made dents like that. Knowing that people don’t throw themselves up against cars just for fun, I’m pretty certain that the situation which resulted in the damage to that car also resulted in some damage to people. It probably wasn’t a pleasant sight, and people may still be recovering both physically and emotionally.

These thoughts prompted a new Parachute Prayer. When we see dents in cars, let’s pray for damaged people–people who suffer from physical, verbal, and/or emotional abuse. Except in the case of extreme physical abuse, we may never see the wounds these people have received. The bruises are real, however, and these people are hurting.

If you have time, add prayers for those who self-inflict such pain. Pray that people who care will notice and gently steer them toward the help they need–or that they’ll recognize the need for such help themselves.

Finally, don’t forget to pray for those who abuse. Those who hurt others usually do so because they are hurting or because they have been hurt. Pray they’ll recognize their own suffering in the eyes of those they abuse. Pray they’ll choose to stop hurting others and seek healing. Pray they’ll seek forgiveness, too, from God and from those they’ve caused pain.

Father, this world is full of pain and sometimes people are cruel. Please bring an end to such suffering! Protect those who are being abused. Lead them to shelter. Help them to recognize their value in Your eyes and to seek refuge in You and with people who can help them escape. Stand up for those who are helpless by helping others to see what they are suffering. Bring hidden pain to light that victims can be saved. And please cause those who inflict pain to realize that what they are doing is wrong. Prompt them to do what they must to stop. We thank You for seeing what we don’t. We thank You for caring always! We pray that You’ll act to bring relief in all situations. Thank You, Lord. Amen.