Giving Away “Unpacking Forgiveness”

Just a friendly reminder that we’re giving away the book Unpacking Forgiveness on Monday as part of the 2009 Great American Book Giveaway.

It’s not too late to enter the contest!

Here’s the down-low on the book:

“True or false: most Christian pastors and counselors agree on what forgiveness is and how it should take place.” This question is part of Chris Brauns’s Forgiveness Quiz that draws readers into his book and gets them thinking about the subject of forgiveness. The truth is, pastors and counselors disagree profoundly on this subject. Unpacking Forgiveness combines sound theological thinking and honesty about the complicated questions many face to provide readers with a solid understanding of biblical forgiveness.

Only God’s Word can unpack forgiveness. The wounds are too deep for us to find healing on our own, and the questions are too complex to be unraveled by anything but the wisdom of God. This book goes beyond a feel-good doctrine of automatic forgiveness, balancing the beauty of God’s grace and the necessity of forgiveness with the teaching that forgiveness must take place in a way that is consistent with justice.

When God Applies Bandages

In Psalm 147:3-4 we read, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names.”

I have to admit, when I read these verses I was astonished. This was a picture of God I hadn’t encountered before. The stark contrast between the two verses astonished me. Think about these verses for a moment with me.

Verse 4 tells us that God determines the number of the stars. There are billions of galaxies spread across the universe and within each of these galaxies there are billions of stars. Each of these stars is blazing with brilliant light and blazing heat. We are tiny and weak compared to a star. And there are billions upon billions of stars.

Yet God knows the exact number of stars, and He gives to each star a name. Ponder this truth. God knows each star individually, and He gives a name to each star. How great is our God! Most studies show that humans can only hold between five and seven things in their mind at one time. God holds all the stars in His mind, and He gives each one a name. Do you feel the greatness of God? When you look at the night sky, do you feel the immensity of God?

But we don’t just serve a great God, we serve a tender God. The Psalmist tells us that God heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. God cares about those who are brokenhearted. Our great, infinite, awesome God, cares about our sadness. This is astonishing. The God who keeps the planets in orbit is the one who binds up our wounds. God is infinitely great, and God is infinitely tender.

Let us worship God for his greatness and love him for his tenderness. He is the one who heals our sadness and repairs our broken hearts. Our almighty God is the one who gently binds our wounds. How can we not love such a God? How can we not find all our joy in such a God? Today let us worship our great and tender God.

Originally published January 29, 2008

A Cosmic Mr. Rogers?

We should be nice to people, right?  I mean, like, do random acts of kindness.  Do something good every day.  Pay it forward.  But why?

One website reports “A rush of euphoria, followed by a longer period of calm, after performing a kind act is often referred to as a “helper’s high,” involving physical sensations and the release of the body’s natural painkillers, the endorphins.” (actsofkindness.org)

I haven’t felt that good since the 70’s.

God commands Christians to do deliberate and at times painful “acts of kindness.”  But not because it feels good.  God’s not a cosmic Mr. Rogers, zipping up his infinitely large sweater, saying, “It’s nice to share.” It truly is nice to share, but it’s also really hard to share at times, as selfish as I can be. God tells me to “just do it”:

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other…And above all these put on love…CO 3.12-14

Why should we “put on” kindness?  Because of God’s prior costly kindness to us that has made us new creations in Christ.  We love because he first loved us, giving Jesus to be slaughtered in our place.  We put on sympathy, forgiveness, and patience because in his kindness, God chose us, sanctified us and loved us.

Chosen

Before God created the universe, he chose us for himself, knowing we’d crucify his beloved Son, knowing every sin we’d ever commit.  In light of our new identity as chosen ones, how can we not be gracious toward others?

Holy

God has made us holy – set us apart in Christ.  He’s called us who are vile, repeat sinners his holy ones.  Shouldn’t we then be patient with our teenager’s struggles?  Shouldn’t we be gentle with weak believers?

Beloved

Our heavenly Father has loved us eternally.  He loves us today, weak and worthless as we are.  He calls us his “beloved”, the same term he uses for Jesus.  Since we’re so loved by God, shouldn’t we love others?

Chosen, holy, beloved.  That’s who God has made us in Christ.  So do deliberate, costly acts of kindness.

photo by dogwelder

Fresh Hope For Pathetic Prayers

Sometimes hearing other people pray makes me feel like a snake-handling pagan. See if you can relate.

I’m praying with my church peeps on a Wednesday night. One of them in particular is in a prayer fury (and I mean that in a good way): “Lord let your kingdom come to Asia. We want to see souls won for the gospel. We ask you to raise up men and women who will proclaim your name.” Those around me are loudly adding “Yes” and “Amen” into the mix. If things continue at this level of intensity heaven itself might burst open and shower blessings on us.

Meanwhile I’m bobbing my head in agreement, trying to toss in a “Yes, Amen” every now and then, but my heart is a million miles away. I’m thinking about lunch, or football, or how sweet my new shoes look (gold and blue in case you were wondering). There’s a serious disconnect between what we’re praying about and how I feel (or don’t feel) about it.

And to be honest, I hate it when this happens. I hate it when the intensity of my heart doesn’t match the weightiness of the prayer. It’s discouraging to say the least.

But recently I heard Mike Bullmore give some very simple and encouraging advice regarding pathetic prayers like mine. He said that he often asks God to help him feel the weight of what someone is praying. He asks God to stir his affections so that he too would desire what is being prayed.

That’s it. Nothing mystical. No magical amulets or prayer labryinths involved. Just a simple prayer to God that acknowledges weakness and asks for grace. God loves to answer prayers like this.

So rather than giving myself a spiritual beatdown every time my heart feels cold, I offer up this simple request to God: “Lord, please help me also desire what is being prayed.”

It’s given me fresh hope for my pathetic prayers.

+photo by victoria0805