Samuel Day 30: Confronting Sin

2-samuelRead 2 Samuel 11 and 12

Chapter eleven tells the story of David’s sin. Be sure to listen to my message on this chapter if you missed it.

Chapter twelve starts out by saying, “The LORD sent Nathan to David.” You can always count on God exposing your sin. Not because he wants to shame you, but because he loves you and he knows that your sin will rob your joy.

When I was a kid, my dad used to pay me a dollar for every wheelbarrow of firewood that I cut. One time my blade was dull and the work was going slow. I realized that if I carefully placed each log in the wheelbarrow in a strategic way, I could “fill” the wheelbarrow with much less wood. I felt pretty smart.

A few days later my dad told me that he was at a candy store where they charged him full price for a bag of candy but when he got home he found it was only half full. I was disgusted to hear that we only got half the candy…until I realized it was just a story. My dad made his point and I remember it well today.

Regret & Consequences

God told David that his sin showed “utter contempt” (NLT) for God. Another version said he blasphemed God’s name (NASB) before other people. I’m sure David didn’t get out of bed that night with the intent of trashing God’s name. But it can easily happen if you just move with your desires.

Sometimes sin leaves you with regret. But sometimes, like David, it leaves you with consequences, and the consequences can impact those you love more than they do you. That makes it especially hard.

You might ask, “Why did the child have to die?” There are some things in scripture that aren’t explained and I find it useless to speculate. In God’s wisdom, there was a good reason. But be careful…don’t assume that every death or tragedy is orchestrated by God. This is ONE story. In THIS story God took David’s child. It doesn’t mean that every death is God’s way of punishing someone. Sometimes bad things just happen.

Forgiveness Allows You to Move On

I like David’s response. He didn’t wallow in grief. He moved through it and moved on with his life. You see, he really believed that God forgave him, and when you really believe that, you don’t have to keep beating yourself up.

What’s amazing to me in this story is that, even though David’s relationship with Bathsheba was illicit, God still loved their next child. God’s forgiveness allowed God to move on as well. David had a clean slate with God. God didn’t put David under a life long curse for his sin. Solomon was loved by God and became a great king.

There are some important lessons for you here as you reflect on your own sin. As terrible as was David’s sin, he admitted it, repented from it, was forgiven for it, and moved on from it. I hope you can do the same.

Prayer: Father, help me to see my sin and admit it fully. Help me to grasp how my sin shows you contempt and diminishes you in the eyes of others. And help me to receive the fullness of your forgiveness so I can live with gratitude and serve you more fully.

Samuel, Day 14: Do You Need a Do-Over?

1samuelDay Fourteen

Read 1 Samuel 12

Samuel’s ministry is drawing to a close. You can tell that he’s still pretty mad that the people asked for a king. I can appreciate that. No leader likes to pour out their life only to be ignored.

Imagine being Samuel. You literally grew up serving God because your mom dedicated you from birth. You knew God’s hand was on you. As just a boy God used you to confront the corruption in the priesthood around you. But you were steadfast. You held true to God even though everyone else strayed.

Then you led one of the greatest revivals in the history of Israel. You got people to tear down their idols and bring the Ark of the Covenant back to Shiloh. God even gave you victory over the more technologically advanced Philistines. There was peace in the land.

You are now in your golden years, feeling good about your legacy, and your people decide to ask for a king. Geez people…really? After all that Samuel and God had done to get them on the right track, they want a king to be like the other nations?

So, in this dramatic speech, Samuel compares the people to their forefathers who also rejected God and bore the consequences. Their lives became so miserable from their bad choice that they cried out to God. Samuel is implying that they will do the same thing. The only way things won’t go bad is if both the people AND the king serve God 100% of the time, and he knew that would never happen.

God Gives You a Do-Over

But the surprising thing in this speech is how his tone softens towards the end. He basically says, “You guys really screwed up. But what’s done is done. There’s no going back on this king idea. But if you serve God, I will still bless you.”

“Do not be afraid,” Samuel replied. “You have done all this evil; yet do not turn away from the LORD, but serve the LORD with all your heart. For the sake of his great name the LORD will not reject his people, because the LORD was pleased to make you his own.

As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by failing to pray for you. And I will teach you the way that is good and right. But be sure to fear the LORD and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you. 1 Samuel 12:20,22-24

The good news here is that the same offer extends to you today as well. There is a good chance that you made some decisions that you regret. You can’t “unscramble the egg,” as they say. You can’t go back and undo your mistakes. And maybe you’ve wondered if God can still love you after a mistake with a permanent consequence. Since you can’t  hit “rewind,” does that mean you are living in sin and God will never forgive you?

Samuel’s words imply that God will absorb your wrongdoing and give you a “do-over.” Don’t beat yourself up about the past. Learn from it to make sure you do a better job of serving God in the days ahead. Thank God every day for his grace to you. And offer that same kind of grace to others.

Prayer: Father, your grace is truly amazing. You continually bear with our turning away and invite us to begin again. Help me to start fresh with you today. Show me how to make amends for my past sin, but if there is nothing left to do, help me to move on without constantly living in regret. Help me to accept your forgiveness and live the new life you have for me. Amen.

6 Things That Forgiveness is Not

In today's blog post from Cedarbrook Church in Menomonie, Wisconsin, Pastor F. Remy Diederich looks at the 6 things that forgiveness is not.As I concluded my last post (which you can read here), I gave you a simple definition of forgiveness. As a reminder, here it is:

Forgiveness is giving up the right to get even. It’s giving up the right to pay someone back either directly or indirectly – for what they did to you.

Now, if that’s what forgiveness is: let me tell you six things that forgiveness is NOT. I want to strip away all the excess from our understanding to make it more doable for us.

Forgiveness is not Forgetting

We always hear people say, “Forgive and forget,” right? Well, how do you forget abuse? How do you forget betrayal? How do you forget injustice? You don’t. So a lot of people think that since they can’t forget, they can’t forgive. That’s not true.

Forgiveness is for the hurts you can’t forget. We can forget the small hurts, but the big hurts need something more: forgiveness.

Forgiveness is not Excusing

People are often afraid to forgive because they don’t want to send their offender the wrong message, like, what you did is really no big deal. But the truth is: forgiveness requires blaming someone, not excusing them. This quote will hopefully explain what I mean:

We do not excuse the person we forgive, we blame the person we forgive… we do not forgive people for things we do not blame them for…we cannot forgive a wrong unless we first blame the person who wronged us.  – Lewis Smedes

If someone does something wrong they deserve to be blamed for it. Forgiveness doesn’t excuse or diminish a wrong, and it doesn’t necessarily eliminate the consequences for a wrong. Just for example, God has forgiven everyone of us here for the bad we have done, but many of us are still experiencing the consequences of what we’ve done, right?

Or, here’s another example: Parents, if your teenager says, Mom/Dad, do you forgive me for coming home an hour late last week with the car? Your answer should be yes, I forgive you; meaning, you won’t stay mad at them or punish them with a silent treatment or denigrate them in any way. You’ll continue to feed and cloth them.

So they might say, “Great! Can I take the care out on Friday night?” The wise parent will say, “No,” to which the teenager will complain, “But you just said you forgave me!” And the wise parent will say, “Yes, I did forgive you. But there are still consequences for your actions and the house rule is: you come home late, you lose care privileges for a week.”

Forgiveness is not Trusting

Just because I forgive you doesn’t mean I trust you. If you broke my trust, I am a fool to trust you until you rebuild your trust with me. Forgiveness and trust operate on two separate timelines. I can forgive you immediately, but trusting you again may take days, months, or even years.

Forgiveness is not Reuniting

Trust and reunion go hand in hand. If I can’t trust you I may not be able to get back together with you. This is especially true in marriage in the case of abuse or maybe an affair. The offender often assumes that if they are forgiven that means they can continue with the person they hurt, just as before the offense. Sometimes they intimidate their spouse into getting back together but I would caution against that, unless the offender has shown true sorrow and has at least started the process of rebuilding trust.

Lewis Smedes put it well when he said:

Forgiveness has no strings attached…with reunion, there are several strings attached.

Forgiveness is not a Feeling

Forgiveness is a choice… a choice to not retaliate. So actually, you can forgive and still feel anger. Does that surprise you? Paul told the Ephesian church to:

Go ahead and be angry…but don’t use your anger as fuel for revenge. And don’t stay angry.  – Ephesians 4:26

So, for example, if you hurt me, I might say, “I’m really hurt by this. I’m really mad. What you did to me was wrong. But… I’m not going to retaliate. I’m not going to spite you, or slander you, or ignore you. I forgive you, but I need some time to work through my anger.”

Forgiveness is not Conditional

Forgiveness is not based on the behavior on your offender. They don’t have to do anything to earn forgiveness. They don’t have to jump through any hoops to be granted forgiveness. Forgiveness is free. Trust is earned, but forgiveness is free.

Now, a lot of people think that’s not fair. But think about it. If forgiveness is conditional, then that means I can’t forgive you unless you behave in a certain way. But what if you don’t meet my conditions? That means I can’t forgive you. Do you see what I’m saying here?

If my forgiveness is based on your behavior…YOU are in control of me. You control my emotions, my story and my relationship to God. You are forcing me to stay angry with you, so…Not only did you hurt me in the past but I am also allowing you to infect my future. That’s not smart.

Don’t infect your future with the pain of your past. The smart thing for me to do is forgive you and take back control of my life and story. Let’s go back to what Jesus said to Peter about forgiveness. The word Jesus used here, that we translate as forgiveness, is the same word that is translated as divorce. The word means to separate.

Jesus is saying – bring a separation between you and your offender. Quit obsessing about what they did. Quit trashing them in front of your friends. Quit losing sleeping over them at night and rehearsing conversations that you will probably never have with them. Don’t get stuck in the past. Let it go and move on with your life.

I’ll use Dennis Allen as an example. I’m sure he has a long list of people that he feels let him down. Maybe the General Manager didn’t hire the players he needed. His coaches didn’t train the players well enough. Or the players didn’t play their hardest. He might be mad at God for sending him to the Raiders instead of the Packers. Or maybe he’s mad at himself for not studying enough game tape, or instructing his coaches better.

But do you see where that kind of thinking leads?

Nowhere.

If he brings all that baggage and regrets with him into his next job, he’s doomed to fail again. He will sabotage his start over by not forgiving. The next time won’t be better than the last time. He needs to “divorce” himself from his past. That’s what forgiveness is.

He needs to release his past before he starts his life over.

Now, be careful with the word divorce. Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not talking about divorcing yourself from the person. I’m talking about divorcing yourself from the consequences of your loss. If you want to start your life over you need to believe that God can help you start over no matter how much you lost. You see, this is where people get stuck. They are in awe of their loss more than they are in awe of what God can do to help them recover from their loss. So here’s an exercise that might help you.

Write out what was done to you. You might put, “I was abused,” or “I was betrayed,” “I was lied to,” “I was taken advantage of.” This is what I call the primary loss. This is the obvious loss you experienced. But after you write down the primary loss, then write down the secondary losses.

Secondary losses are all the things that you lost as a result of the primary loss. For example, let’s say someone swindled you out of $10,000. That’s the primary loss. But that money represents many other losses we don’t see.

There is the loss of what you wanted to do with that money. Let’s say you wanted to start a business. So you lost your business. You lost your dream of becoming financially independent. Because you lost the money you had to take a second job. Now you’ve lost time away from your family and church. Or maybe your spouse had to take on a second job and that put stress on your marriage. Maybe it prevented your kids from going to college or it caused you to have to move.

There is a whole domino effect that flows from the primary loss. The list can be very long. Write it all down. When you get all done THAT is what you need to forgive. You aren’t just forgiving the person for stealing your money. You are forgiving them for all the secondary losses as well.

Most people don’t understand this, so they offer a shallow forgiveness for the primary loss and then wonder why they are still so mad. It’s because they didn’t forgive the person for everything. Other people misunderstand it too, that’s why they say things like, “Come on, it’s been ten years. They should be over it by now!” They say that out of ignorance. They have no idea what the secondary losses were in relation to the primary loss.

So, take your list and bring it to God. If you are full of faith you can say: God, you are bigger than my losses and so I will forgive them right now! But not everyone has that much faith. If you aren’t so full of faith you might say: God, are you bigger than my losses? Can you cover my losses? Can you cover what’s been done to me or what I’ve done to myself or am I stuck for life with “Can’t Win” written over my name? Then go about your daily life and see what God does.

I think God wants to show you that he will help you start over. I’m confident of that because years ago, God spoke to his people through the prophet Jeremiah about starting over:

“I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”  – Jeremiah 29:11-14

What’s God telling them? He’s saying: I’m going to help you start over. You see, God is a god of resurrection. He’s a God of do-overs. So if you want to start your life over, call on God for help.

He said here that he will listen to you and bring you back from your captivity.

I taught on this subject in a series titled: Starting Over. If you would like to hear this message in podcast form, you can listen to it here and also download it from iTunes.

Don’t Let Your Failures Define You – Let God Define You

In today's message, Pastor F. Remy Diederich talks about letting God define us and not letting our past define us.Not long ago, as I stepped on the treadmill at the Stout gym, ESPN was on the TV. They announced that Dennis Allen was fired as the head coach of the Oakland Raiders. Then they posted Allen’s three year coaching record:

2012: 4-12

2013: 4-12

2014: 0- 4

Overall: 8- 28

Over the record in bold letters it said: CAN’T WIN

Can you imagine getting up in the morning, turning on the news, seeing your picture, and having that splashed in the headlines on national news?

Can’t win. Can’t succeed. LOSER. How do you start over after that?

Maybe you had to start over in marriage, or a relationship. Maybe you got laid off and had to start your career over. Or maybe some addiction got a hold of you, took you down a rabbit hole, and now you are trying to climb your way out. Or maybe you made some bad financial decisions…ran up some debt…and you are trying to get your life back on track. Or you walked away from God and now you want to start over.

Starting over isn’t so easy, especially if you feel like you can never win. If you are starting over in some area of life I know there is a struggle going on in your mind. There is a battle raging. There is a voice in your head that is mocking you: “Who do you think you are? What do you think you are doing? Do you really think you are fooling anyone by going to church? Those people have real faith. You are a phony. And besides, even if you were serious, you won’t ever change. You know your track record. You never follow through. You never succeed. So why try? Just give in. You will save everyone a lot of pain and trouble.”

When your life runs off the tracks, you are in a vulnerable place. You can make all kinds of bad decisions: often hurtful and self-destructive decisions. So how can you make sure the next time is better than the last time?” Let’s see if I can help us with this today.

The First Bad Decision: Giving Up On Yourself

There are two bad decisions you can make when you fail. The first bad decision is to give up on yourself.

You assume the worst about your future. You assume that life will never get better so you start to settle for a very basic existence. You stop trying. And you handle the pain of your existence with a variety of pain killers and cheap entertainment.

You know, I like country music, but the lyrics leave something to be desired. That’s a gross understatement! I’ve noticed lately how many songs are just about the joy of getting drunk; getting drunk in a bar, getting drunk during the day, getting drunk in a field…the latest song is about getting drunk on a plane.

It’s like, really? The highlight of your week is getting drunk? That’s as good as it gets? That’s a really sad statement…but then I thought…Remy, that’s all some people have to live for. They’ve given up on themselves. They’ve given up on starting over. They don’t know God and so, they just want to kill the pain and feel a little better…even if it’s for just a few hours.

You see, when people give up like this, it’s because they’ve lost their identity. They don’t know who they are. If you want to start over, you need to know your identity. You can’t let yourself think that you are a loser. Don’t ever let anyone stamp “Can’t Win” or “Loser” across your forehead. That’s not fair to yourself.

The Bible is very clear about your identity: You are God’s child.

A leader in the early church wrote to followers of Jesus saying that when they chose to follow Jesus something took place in their lives:

The Spirit we received does not make us slaves again to fear; it makes us children of God.   – Romans 8:15

He’s telling us that the minute you decide to follow Jesus you become God’s child. You don’t have to live in fear of your past mistakes anymore. Why? Because you have a new identity. You are God’s child and all the resources of God are working for you.

When we suffer a setback in life, too often we let the setback define us. Our failure becomes our identity. For example: Some people view themselves through the lens of divorce. That’s what’s stamped on their forehead. That’s their identity. No, you are a child of God who has been divorced.

Some people claim the identity of an alcoholic or an addict it. In AA they teach you to introduce yourself by saying, “My name is Remy and I’m an alcoholic.” Be careful with that. I appreciate the idea. They want you to own your addiction. That’s good. But you need to own your relationship to God too. You are a child of God… who has an addiction.

Do you see what I’m saying? Don’t let your failures define you. Let God define you.

If God is your father, anything is possible. You can start your life over with confidence.

The Second Bad Decision: Revenge

The second bad decision people make after a setback is they feel the need to get back at whomever they think is to blame for their failure. It might be another person, it might be God, or it might be themselves.

Trust me: you don’t want to go down that road. Payback is a dead end.

Now, to be fair, I can appreciate the need for payback. If you’ve been hurt in some significant way – by abuse, or a betrayal of some kind, if you’ve been hurt in some kind of life-altering way – payback feels very empowering, like you are standing up for yourself. But listen to what Jesus had to say about payback.

Jesus had twelve followers who didn’t always get along with each other. They heard Jesus teach about forgiveness but it proved to be harder than it sounded. So one day Peter came to Jesus, thinking that Jesus might cut him some slack:

“Lord, when my fellow believer sins against me, how many times must I forgive him? Should I forgive him as many as seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, you must forgive him more than seven times. You must forgive him even if he does wrong to you seventy-seven times.”   – Matthew 18:21,22

Seventy seven times was Jesus’ way of saying, you need to always forgive. There are no exceptions Peter. That’s who we are. That’s what we do. In God’s kingdom, there is no room for retaliation.

Now, the interesting thing about Jesus’ teaching on forgiveness is he never tells us how to do it. As a result, Christians always talk about forgiveness but I don’t think we do it that much. And here is our dirty little secret: if we are honest, forgiveness seems like a pretty stupid thing to do. Forgiveness seems like it lets our offender off the hook for their behavior. And that’s not right.

I mean, where’s the justice in that? We are willing to let God forgive but we are often unwilling to fully forgive those who hurt us. But I think we’d be quicker and more willing to forgive if we understand forgiveness. Unfortunately, we’ve rolled too much into it. We’ve made forgiveness so complicated It feels impossible to do.

So let me sort it out for us here by telling you what forgiveness is and what it isn’t. Here’s a simple definition for forgiveness:

Forgiveness is giving up the right to get even. That’s all it is. It’s giving up the right to pay someone back either directly or indirectly – for what they did to you.

So if that is what forgiveness is, then we should have a talk about what forgiveness is NOT.

In my next post I will be giving you six examples of what is not forgiveness. If you can’t wait for the next post, I did teach this same message and it is available to listen to in podcast form through iTunes or by visiting this page on our website.

Something to think about before my next posting, and feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below…  How does it help my ability to forgive and start over to have my identity come from God?