Monday, January 14, 2019

Forgiveness Means Freedom

Dear Friends,
Paul tells us that love “keeps no record of wrongs” (1 Cor. 13:5).  Love doesn’t pick fights, but it also doesn’t keep a running record of someone else’s wrongs.

When someone has hurt us, perhaps verbally, and those cruel words have been said and have lodged in our thinking, it is hard not to keep a running record on the one who caused us so much pain.  Now here is a chance to really see ourselves as others see us.  Do kids remember the evil said or done to them on the school playground – or worse, said by a parent who tells them they are no good and they never should have been born?  Yes.  Do adults remember hurtful words?  Yes!  But Paul said we need to mature past this.  As we grow up in Christ, we should be able to learn the art of forgiving those who hurt and harm us, not keeping them accountable forever.  This is certainly easier preached than practiced.  It is awfully hard not to harbor a grudge, yet love lets go of the wrongs done to it.  Forgiveness relinquishes the right to vengeance.  Vengeance belongs to God, and He will repay.  Justice needs to be done, and we can expect people to be accountable for crimes and wrongs done, but vengeance is not our business.

The Bible says, “If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them” (Lk. 17:3).  But what if he doesn’t repent?  Then I hold myself ready to say, “I forgive you” if the time ever comes; but in the meantime, I refuse to harbor anger, bitterness, or resentment.

I was teaching in a Bible college not too long ago, and a young girl was assigned to look after me.  She was beautiful, godly, and bright.  She was a chartered accountant and was putting herself through college while keeping her career going.  At the end of my week, I was eating dinner with her and teased her about not being married.  “How did you escape?” I kidded her.

She didn’t reply for a moment; then she said hesitantly, “I was married.”

“I’m so sorry,” I said.  “I didn’t know.”

“That’s all right,” she said.  And I could see that it was.  It wasn’t all right that her husband had walked out on her in a particularly cruel way, but it was “all right” in her heart.  It was well with her soul.  Peace like a river flowed there.  She had been able to let go of the terrible wrong done to her.  What was more, the Lord had helped her to look at the future as God’s future for her, and she insisted on seeing a better day ahead.  True love from God keeps you from being discouraged.

This young woman at Bible college shared very few of the salient points of her story with me.  She gave me the bare bones and spared me, and herself, the details.  I knew she had left a multitude of information out of her brief account, but she refused to wallow in self-pity, and she had not kept an account of every sin.  She had forgiven him.  Not that he had sought her forgiveness, but she stood ready to say, if he ever did get around to asking her, “I forgive you fully and freely as Christ has forgiven me!”

Forgiveness is truly freeing!

Jill Briscoe
Founder
Just Between Us Magazine


Monday, January 7, 2019

Having a Servant Heart


Dear Friends,

Jenny, the girl who led me to Christ, told me to wake up every morning and go out into a new day looking for people to bless.  I didn't know what she meant as I had been somewhat of a curse before my conversion!  "how do you 'be a blessing' instead of a curse?" I asked her.

"Just go out into each day, and every time you meet someone ask, 'What can I do for you?'" she answered. 

Now this was pretty radical for me as I was used to asking people, “What can you do for me?” not “What can I do for you?”  But I found out that it worked!  And that was the way I learned to be a blessing and cultivate a servant spirit.

One of the first times I asked the question was in a church I joined when I was a student teacher.  There was a sad-looking girl sitting in the pew in front of me.  One day I introduced myself to her, and after talking to her for a bit, I asked “the question.”

“What can I do for you?”  I inquired with a bright but somewhat false smile.

Immediately she brightened up and said, “Oh, do you really mean you want to do something for me?”

“Yes,” I answered, feeling a bit apprehensive at her eager response.

“Well,” she said, “I am my mother’s caregiver.  She is an invalid, and though I care for her, I have to work as well.  Could you come and do some housecleaning for us?  I never have time to do any of the extra things that need doing around the house.”

My heart sank.  I had never liked housecleaning.  I didn’t want to do my own, never mind hers!  I had expected her to say, “Will you come and read the Bible to my mother and tell her about the Lord?”  That would have been fine, but not this!

She didn’t seem to notice my apprehension as by now she was so excited and saying, “Tomorrow?  I’ll tell you how to get there, and I’ll leave you a list.”  And she was gone.

The next day I apprehensively approached the house.  What would she ask me to do?  I had thought a lot about the list she had promised me, and I wasn’t at all sure I wanted to go inside and read it.  The list was long, the lady was not particularly appreciative of my efforts, and I left feeling decidedly dejected.  I determined to have a word with Jenny as soon as possible and tell her what I thought about her great idea of asking “the question.”  I also decided to stay out of the girl’s way at church.

Jenny merely laughed when I told her the story, remarking that God would use the effort even if my spirit had been less than sweet!  Sure enough, the girl found me again, happily gave me another list, and said she would expect me every Tuesday from then on!

Struggling with the whole thing, I turned up the next Tuesday, and then the next and the next. One day, long after I had given up expecting it, someone thanked me.  It was the old lady’s brother.  “Why should a young lady like yourself make yourself a servant to strangers?” he asked me.

I told him, “Because I am a Christian and Jesus said we should be servants of all.”  I must admit I felt like a huge hypocrite.  But from then on, all sorts of relatives appeared when I was working through my list, and the Lord began a ministry through me that spilled out beyond the walls of the old lady’s room.

Then I understood that what was happening in me as the Spirit of God began creating a servant spirit, was just as important as what was happening through me–the witnessing to the family.  He was making me like Him.  It was a little time before I dared ask “the question” again!  But through the years I have never been out of work for the Lord by using that very simple question.

In His Love,


Jill Briscoe 
Founder

Monday, November 12, 2018

Tone of God's Voice

Dear Friends,

In the discipleship group I’m in we’ve been learning about identity. If my identity was based in being Christ’s fully-known, fully-loved daughter, I wouldn’t have snapped at my husband last week when he thoughtfully brought me my phone. I usually identify myself by my failures. Instead of hearing Chris say, “I found your phone,” I heard, “Here’s your phone you poor, unorganized, and fragmented mess.”
Thank you. Here’s your head back.
I’m painfully aware I’m good at believing God’s Word and truths for others, but not for myself. Ironically, I often remind other women that they need to give themselves the same grace they give others. If your BFF made a mistake you wouldn’t chastise her, call her names, or deem her a complete failure, but that’s what we do to ourselves. I believe my advice is helpful and I want women to put it into practice, but there’s one problem. 
It doesn’t work.
I’ve tried telling myself there’s no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. I love the verse about God rejoicing over us with singing. I want that, but the voices in my head that tell me I’m not enough are louder, more persistent, and much more convincing.
In my discipleship group we’re learning to do, ask, and pray about areas where we struggle. When we get to the root of our struggle (for me – attacking my husband like I’m a grizzly and he’s a rabbit when he tries to do nice things for me), we form a short sentence God would say to us about our false belief  (I’m unorganized, incompetent or useless). Our group leader told one of the women to pray about God’s truth from Scripture, what He is saying about the lie she’s been telling herself – and then to say it tenderly like she was saying it to her daughter. In that moment, I realized why giving myself the grace I give others has never worked for me.
I don’t love me like God does.
God doesn’t want me to merely read about or tell myself He loves me. He wants me to feel, see, and taste his love for me. He wants us to consider His encouraging tone of His voice and realize that how we hear him can profoundly impact the depth of our belief of that love.

In Him,

Laura Sandretti

Laura Sandretti is an active speaker and blogger. She is currently pursuing her master's degree in Theological Studies at Trinity International University. Laura and her husband, Chris, have three teenagers, and live in Sussex, Wis. Visit her blog at www.laurasandretti.com/blogger