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I wrote this post months ago, but it continues to draw many readers.  It seems that we often need to forgive.  I know I do.  And I think the grace extended in forgiving expands into gratitude–especially appropriate at Thanksgiving, but needed all year long.

Steve and I had the privilege of teaching at our church—Antioch21—on Sunday.  Over the summer the theme is Relationships, and we are teaching on two of the Sundays.  This Sunday we talked about forgiveness.

One of our main points:  Relationships require forgiveness.

We focused on the importance of forgiving—in big things and in the little every day irritations—for all relationships, but especially in marriage.  We are flawed people who hurt others—even those we love.

Scripture is abundantly clear that God wants us to learn to forgive, even though people have wronged us and don’t deserve forgiveness.  Paul sums it up with this instruction:  “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Colossians 3:13)

And of course, our model is Jesus Himself, who said from the cross:  “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)

We spent a lot of time talking (conversation is always part of the sermon time at Antioch21) about forgiving—the big, seemingly impossible to forgive things, and the little hurts that happen every day.

Then we provided a prayer to help us to take the step to forgive someone who has hurt us or offended us.  (I first shared a similar prayer in my recent post “Grace Forgives.”)

Perhaps there is someone you will want to forgive.

A PRAYER FOR FORGIVING

Father, thank You for Your mercy and grace toward me, and for forgiving my sins through Your Son’s death on the cross.  Thank You that You forgive me over and over, for repeated sins and for new sins, big or small.  I am so grateful for your grace.

Lord, I need to forgive ___________, who has wronged me, hurt me, betrayed me, offended me, sinned against me.  It is hard for me to do this—I am still hurt, angry, confused.  So I come asking You for the power to forgive ____________.  Fill me with Your Spirit and remind me of Your love and mercy to me—and to _______________.

By Your Spirit, I choose to forgive ________________.  I choose to extend grace and mercy to him/her, even as You have done for me.  I choose, as You enable me, to live at peace with this person.  I ask that You bless ____________ in Your love.  Please may we be reconciled and our relationship healed.  And if that does not happen, may I continue to love and forgive.

Thank You that this is possible in the power of Your Spirit.  In Jesus’ name.

 

What about you?  Is there someone you need to forgive?

C2012 Judy Douglass

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This is the fourth in a weekly series of mini-devotionals on GRACE, which is the theme of the 2012 June 2 Worldwide Day of Prayer for Prodigals.

Grace stoops.

God’s grace has stooped to reach us.

“We can understand someone dying for a person worth dying for, and we can understand how someone good and noble could inspire us to selfless sacrifice. But God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to him.” (Romans 5:7-8,MSG)

Do you realize how far God had to stoop to pour out His grace on us?

…from heaven to earth

…from deity to humanity,

…from holiness to depravity.

Chuck Swindoll reminds us:

Don’t miss the absence of conditions in the Romans passage above. God didn’t  look down and say, “When those scoundrels show the least bit of interest in  cleaning up their act, then I’ll meet them more than half way.” No, while we were  sinning and loving it, the Father stooped and extended supreme grace in the person of His Son.

 He didn’t ignore our sin. He didn’t excuse our sin. He looked past our sin and accepted us in spite of it. And so? Let’s go there on behalf of others. Embrace others in spite of how unworthy or how unlovely they are to you. (From “It’s Time to  Embrace Grace by Embracing the Unlovely”)

When do we say “Stop!”

Of course, we can feel that our prodigals are unworthy, and their behavior is surely unlovely.   After all, we have endured, waited, encouraged, helped, pleaded, wept.  At some point do we say, “Stop.  No more grace.”?

Not unless we are better than God.  He extends unending grace. He loves us and accepts us and keeps His welcoming arms open to our return.

But what about consequences?  What about standards in our home?  What about safety for our family?  What about requiring responsibility.  Yes, all needful and appropriate. But grace is still possible.

Swindoll adds:  No one expects you to excuse the sin of the unlovely, nor should you become their doormat. Extending grace doesn’t send the message that you approve of their behavior. And don’t fall into the trap of fearing that grace enables people in their sin. In fact, grace brings conviction to the heart of the sinner much more quickly than a rebuke.

How do you extend grace to a rebellious prodigal?

So how do you extend grace to a rebellious, unappreciative prodigal?  Perhaps there will be a major opportunity—like a repentant request to return home.  But most often it will be in little things—doing the unexpected favor, returning a curse with a blessing, taking them out to dinner, sending a note….

When Josh was still a minor living at home and would do something aggravating, I would do his laundry for him.  That was his responsibility, but I would say, as I put each piece in the washing machine, “I choose to bless you, not curse you.”  I don’t know if he was grateful for that grace, but it did wonders for me.

Bill Bright provided an amazing model for me in giving grace.  When a Christian leader would fall because of some immorality, most of the body of Christ would criticize, judge, reject, condemn.  But Dr. Bright would always be one of the first to call, to pray for, to listen to…to extend grace.

Can we stoop to give grace to our loved ones?

What about you?  What one act of grace could you do for your prodigal?

c2012 Judy Douglass

If you would like more information, to request prayer for a prodigal, or to join our full-of-grace community, please write to prayerforprodigalsatgmaildotcom with your questions or names, or for an invitation.

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Blessed Lord Jesus,

Before thy cross I kneel and see

the heinousness of my sin,

my iniquity that caused thee to be ‘made a curse’,

the evil that excites the severity of divine wrath.

Show me the enormity of my guilt by

the crown of thorns,

the pierced hands and feet,

the bruised body,

the dying cries.

Thy blood is the blood of incarnate God,

its worth infinite, its value beyond all thought.

Infinite must be the evil and guilt

that demands such a price.

Sin is my malady, my monster, my foe, my viper,

born in my birth,

alive in my life,

strong in my character, dominating my faculties,

following me as a shadow,

intermingling with my every thought,

my chain that holds me captive in the empire of my soul.

Sinner that I am, why should the sun give me light,

the air supply breath,

the earth bear my tread,

its fruit nourish me,

its creatures subserve my ends?

Yet thy compassions yearn over me,

thy heart hastens to my rescue,

thy love endured my curse,

thy mercy bore my deserved stripes.

Let me walk humbly in the lowest depths of humiliation,

bathed in thy blood,

tender of conscience,

triumphing gloriously as an heir of salvation

Taken from The Valley of Vision, a Collection of Puritan Prayers

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Lenten Mercy

I grew up in a church tradition that focused on Lent.  We were not consistent church attenders, and our family did not particularly practice anything at home in honor of Lent, but the concept of Lent was real and recognized.  We always chose something to give up during Lent.  Then we always went to church on Easter Sunday in new dresses our mother had made for my sisters and me.

As I came to Christ in my teen years and later attended a less liturgical church, I mostly forgot about Lent.  But in recent years I have been reminded of what a treasure it is for my spiritual life.

Yes, it is a time to “give up” something.  Sometimes it is food, like sweets, or something like TV, or crossword puzzles.  These are not bad things, but the denying myself is a helpful spiritual practice.  I’ve also found it is good to “add to” my life with a practice that also reminds me of all that Christ has added to my life.  So I might do a daily devotional, or give to a charity, or pray for particular people.  I always ask God to guide me.

So what is the real meaning of Lent?  It is a time to express our repentance for our sins in preparation for recognizing the truth of Bad Friday/Good Friday.  It was certainly a difficult day for our Savior as He took on Himself all our sins—the sins of the whole world—and was separated from His Father in paying the penalty for those sins.  And Good Friday—it represents great good news for us—our sins are washed away, forgiven, buried, paid for!!

And then we celebrate.  Easter is the holiest day of all—Jesus overcame death and rose again to live forever—and to make the same available to us!

Lent represents for me one of the most wonderful truths about our God—His mercy.  He hates our sin, and exacts a great penalty for it—death, separation from Him.  But His mercy drove Him to provide a way for forgiveness, reconciliation, restoration!

His mercy flows through the entire Bible.  My focus this Lenten season will be on that mercy so generously extended to me—and to you.  So each day during Lent I will post a reminder of His mercy on Facebook and Twitter.

Please join me in gratefully acknowledging and walking in His abundant mercy.

“…to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.”  ( prophecy about Jesus in Luke 1:77-79)

What about you?  What does God’s mercy mean to you?

c2012 Judy Douglass

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Picture by CCC

Of course you know Jesus.  That’s what the day is about—Good Friday.  He died on the cross for our sins.  So grateful.

But there was the other Jesus—Jesus Barabbas.  The criminal.  The one they let go.

Imagine Jesus Barabbas back in his prison cell, listening to the crowd chanting Jesus, Jesus!  Followed shortly by Crucify him!  Crucify him.  Surely his end was near.  Then imagine his amazement and joy when he was released.

Here’s an amazing thing:  His Jewish name would really be Jesus Bar Abba.  Which means Jesus, Son of Father.

Of course, in reality that was really the name of the other Jesus—the one we love and worship.  Officially his name would have been Jesus Bar Joseph.  But we know Jesus wasn’t the son of Joseph—he was the Son of God—or Jesus Bar Abba.

So the names are the same, but the fathers are different.

Jesus Barabbas was the son of his father the devil.

And Jesus Bar Abba was the son of his father, God.

Jesus Barabbas, the guilty one, was set free.

Jesus, the pure, holy, innocent one, was crucified.  For you, for me, for Jesus Barabbas.

We can hope that Jesus Barabbas recognized the gift he was given, and received the one who paid for that gift.

We, of course, have the same father as Jesus Barabbas, that is the devil, until we receive that incredible gift of the price Jesus (the Christ) paid.  And then we are adopted into the family of God Himself.  He becomes our Father.

Do you marvel at such a transaction?  That you get a new father and a new freedom.

Don’t ever get over it!

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This is another in a series of letters to those who have prodigals in their lives.  This is part 3 of the REST theme for this year’s Worldwide Day of Prayer for Prodigals on June 2.

Dear Lover of Prodigals,

Sin is exhausting.

Yes, your prodigal is probably exhausted from all his/her sinning.  But I’m talking about my sin, your sin.

As we struggle through this journey, almost anyone would grant us grace for occasionally raising our voices, responding in anger, saying stupid things, making wussy decisions or coming down too hard.

Sometimes we sin in those responses, and that can weary us. And yes, God gives grace.

Other potential sins go deeper:

Fear.  Fear for the safety, future, life of our loved one.  Fear that nothing will work, he will never change.  Fear that we will have to live with this pain for the rest of our lives.

Anger. Anger at her for making these terrible choices and not thinking.  Anger at ourselves for not doing a better of job of influencing, teaching, loving (at least, that’s what we think).  Anger at God for letting this happen to us.

Not trusting God. How can I believe He is in control.  That He loves me and my prodigal when He allows all this pain.  That He can bring good from this mess.

God says it is sin when we continue to live this way day after day, and this sin will truly exhaust us.  It will drain the energy right out of us.

But God also says we don’t have to live this way.  He offers mercy, grace and REST.

David wrote in Psalm 32 some wonderful words of hope and rest:

Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin the LORD does not count against them and in whose spirit is no   deceit. When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy on me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD.” And you forgave the guilt of my sin.

And God tells us that there is rest in repentance:“In repentance and rest is your salvation; in quietness and trust is your strength… (Isaiah 30:15)

I strongly encourage each of us to spend some time meditating on all of Psalms 32 and 51.  We can let God speak to our hearts, point out any sin we need to deal with, repent and receive, not only mercy and forgiveness, but REST. Then we can enter with strength into the prayer battle ahead of us.

And our loved prodigals.  Pray the same things for them.  Their sins may be different—more blatant–but they are equally exhausting.  The possibilities of their returning to their senses, to you and most of all to God are much better when they find rest.

__________

Already new people are coming into our community, seeking prayer for their loved ones as we prepare for the June 2 Worldwide Day of Prayer for Prodigals.  Come to Prayer for Prodigals and pray for them, and let us know how God is working in your situation.

If you know of others who would want to join us, please have them write to us at Prayer for Prodigals for an invitation into our community and to participate in the June 2 Day of Prayer for Prodigals.

Peace and rest,  Judy

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This is another in a series of letters to members of the Prayer for Prodigals community.

 

Dear Lover of Prodigals,

 

Lent began today.  For some of you it has spiritual and family significance.  For others it has little meaning now or in the past.

 

The 40 days of Lent represent the 40 days Jesus spent in the desert, being tested and tempted and surviving without food and water.  It was His time of preparation for the ministry that would begin when he returned.

 

We do something similar during Lent:  Most of us choose a discipline—giving up something we enjoy or doing something we don’t particularly enjoy.  This denying of self helps to strengthen and prepare us for the depth of pain in the crucifixion on Good Friday and the ecstasy of joy in the resurrection on Easter morning.

 

It seems that this might be a good time for us—those of us who love prodigals—to take some time to refocus.  For most of us our lives—or at least our emotions–revolve around our wanderer and the pain he brings us and our hopes for a different future.

 

Good Friday and Easter are about that exactly—great pain and great hope.  Though we don’t when our loved one will come to her senses and return to the fold, we all believe it will happen.  But perhaps part of the progress, the desired transformation, is waiting on work God is doing in us.

 

So perhaps we should turn our eyes from the rebel in our midst and shine a light on our own hearts/attitudes/sins.  We can ask God to reveal where He wants to work in us:  actions and attitudes to change, sin to confess and abandon, new ways to demonstrate love, pursuing God as our first love.

 

The following links will take you to prayers in the Prayer for Prodigals community that might be perfect Lenten meditations:

 

Know the Father’s Heart

 

Hindrances to Answered Prayer

 

Forgiveness for the Family

 

Declaration of Release

 

May God do a beautiful work in each of us that will reflect Him and woo our very loved prodigals.

 

In a few weeks I will begin our preparations for the June 2 Worldwiide Day of Prayer for Prodigals.  I know it will be a special time together, as it always is.

 

Grace and peace to you,

 

Judy

 

If you would like to visit the links in this letter, you will need to be a member of this wonderful praying community–Prayer for Prodigals.  You can write to prayerforprodigalsatgmaildotcom for an invitation to the community.

 

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I love the Puritan Prayers from The Valley of Vision. This one is a profound call to grasp my sinfulness and God’s grace.

 
O God of Grace,

 

Thou hast imputed my sin to my substitute,
and hast imputed his righteousness to my soul,
clothing me with a bridegroom’s robe,
decking me with jewels of holiness.

 

But in my Christian walk I am still in rags;
my best prayers are stained with sin;
my penitential tears are so much impurity;
my confessions of wrong are so many aggravations of sin;
my receiving the Spirit is tinctured with selfishness.

 

I need to repent of my repentance;
I need my tears to be washed;
I have no robe to bring to cover my sins,
no loom to weave my own righteousness;

 

I am always standing clothed in filthy garments,
and by grace am always receiving change of raiment,
for thou dost always justify the ungodly;

 

I am always going into the far country,
and always returning home as a prodigal,
always say, Father, forgive me,
and thou art always bringing forth the best robe.

 

Every morning let me wear it,
every evening return it in,
go out to the day’s work in it,
be married in it,
be wound in death in it,
stand before the great white throne in it,
enter heaven in it shining as the sun.

 

Grant me to never lose sight of
the exceeding sinfulness of sin,
the exceeding righteousness of salvation,
the exceeding glory of Christ,
the exceeding beauty of holiness,
the exceeding wonder of grace.

 

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