Canaans Rest

Canaan’s Rest represents a quiet place “set apart” for the purpose of hearing God's voice, growing in intimacy with the Lord, and being renewed in soul and spirit.

Month: May 2010 (page 1 of 3)

June 1st

Devotions from James Smith book, Embracing the Love of God

The two most difficult people to forgive are those whom we can’t forgive because they are no longer with us and those who don’t care whether we forgive them or not.  We can still obtain complete forgiveness even if the person is no longer alive.  Forgiving those who do not want our forgiveness is hard because something inside of us wants them to desire our forgiveness. We’d rather they receive our forgiveness with gratitude.  We must remember it is not our offenders’ desire to be forgiven that prompts us to forgive, but it is our desire to be free. Their attitude should not dictate our behavior.
It is not always wise to have a face to face meeting with one who has harmed us as sometimes they may react negatively. But often it is the best course of action to meet with them when the person has asked for forgiveness or when we really feel the Lord prompting us to do so.  We can ask the Lord for guidance and discern when it would help.
Often forgiving others takes time. One indication that we have forgiven is when the old angry feelings surrounding the event have dissipated. Another indication is we actually find ourselves wishing the person well.  When we are immersed in God’s love and acceptance and forgiveness, we are drawn to forgive the sins of people around us. We lose our desire for revenge and find ourselves showing mercy. “Forgiveness is a gift God has given us to wipe away the sins of others, not only for their sakes but for our benefit as well. Forgiving one another sets us free form the stifling grip of an unforgiving spirit. The prisoners walk free, the evil is transformed into good, the pain stops, and life is ours to enjoy again.”

May 31st

Devotions from James Smith’s book, Embracing the Love of God

The only way we can be healed of the things that have hurt us is to forgive. When we forgive a person, we set a prisoner free, but we discover that the real prisoner was ourselves. The healing journey involves discovering how much we have been forgiven. When we have a clear sense of God’s forgiveness it will lead us to forgive one another. In Eph. 4:23 Paul says, “forgive one another as Christ has forgiven you.”  If we do not forgive another, we don’t understand how much we have been forgiven. The healing journey also involves releasing a debt that someone has not paid and may not ever pay.  In fact, the payment is inconsequential. When we forgive we release the debt and are saying we are wiping out the deficit.  Forgiveness accepts the offender as they are.  It requires no future reformation of their behavior or it would not be forgiveness.  There are no strings attached to forgiveness.  The final element of forgiveness is allowing God to use what has happened as a means of growth for us. It can help us be more sensitive and sympathetic with people who go through similar struggles. God doesn’t send evil, but he uses our suffering as a means of growth and can make something more beautiful in our lives as he did with Joseph. More tomorrow.

May 29th

Devotions from James Smith’s book, Embracing the Love of God.

Spurgeon said,” Let us go to Calvary to learn how we may be forgiven. And let us linger there to learn how to forgive.”
God invented forgiveness because he knew that we are capable of harming one another and that forgiveness is the only way to heal our broken hearts. We get hurt and the hurt is real. Sometimes it isn’t what someone does but what they don’t do that hurts us.  Forgiving is difficult though because it seems unjust.  We long for justice and fairness but forgiveness is not about that but about healing. It is the way to freedom. When we forgive those we need to forgive we will experience an inner peace that the world does not understand.

There are some misconceptions about forgiveness and we need to hang on to truth. 1. Forgiveness does not mean to condone the behavior.  What someone did may be absolutely unacceptable and we have to separate the offense from the offender. We forgive the person but not excuse their behavior. 2. We don’t forgive someone in order to change them.  The person may remain unrepentant but we forgive as a releasing act not a reforming act. 3.  Time does not heal wounds, only God.  If time healed wounds why do so many hurt from something done in the distant past.  4.Forgiveness does not mean we forget and pretend the offense never happened. If we try to bury the past, it can’t be dealt with.

We need to forgive always because failure to do so damages us. We may think we are holding the person accountable but what we are really doing is continuing to hold on to the pain.  If we don’t forgive we actually increase the pain of the past by letting it accumulate interest.  It saps our strength and prevents us from moving on.  More on this on Monday.

May 28th

Devotions from James Smith book, Embracing the Love of God

It is often easier to accept God’s forgiveness for things we have done than to forgive ourselves. It takes courage to forgive ourselves and to silence the voice that condemns us. In fact we may become comfortable with our pain and failure and actually fear freedom. If we can see ourselves as weak and broken, it will not shock us when we fall. But if we see ourselves as only a righteous person, then failure is hard to admit. God expects more failure from us than we do from ourselves because He knows who we are. “We are not the righteous person who occasionally sins, we are the sinful person who occasionally-by God’s grace- gets it right.”  But God brings our actions to the light, calls them what they are, gently reminds us WHO we are and Whose we are, and helps us believe that we have been forgiven. The six stages the author mentions in the process of forgiveness is 1. honesty-we are to tell the truth and not rationalize our behavior or to look for a scapegoat. 2. Identity. We must admit that we are not perfect and we are more foolish than we would like to admit. 3.Faith-He wants us to trust in His forgiveness and rely on what He has done for us. 4. Reconciliation-we need to make peace with ourselves and see ourselves with His compassionate eyes. 5. Celebration- to acknowledge the goodness of God for His forgiveness. 6. Redemptive Remembering- we can remember an event as a time of pain but also as a testimony of God’s grace and forgiveness.  God forgives us quickly and completely but sometime we do so slowly. Let us define ourselves as God does and not according to the sins we have committed.  The sign that we have actually forgiven ourselves is that we can love freely.

May 27th

Devotions based on Jill Briscoe’s article, Trusting God Through Trouble

There is a difference between resignation and acceptance of difficult situations. Elisabeth Elliot, whose husband died at the hands of the Auca Indians, could have gone home with her daughter . Instead she asked the Lord in what redemptive way could He use this terrible tragedy .  Trusting God in difficulties is really saying all is not lost and there is something redemptive in the most awful situations. “This trust is a tenacious, spiritual insistence that God can be trusted not only to be totally and thoroughly aware of our dilemmas but also to be in control and already taking eternal measures to work out His ultimate purposes.” 
Suffering is like a magnifying glass. When we look at God through the glass panel of pain, He appears bigger than you have noticed before. If we look at ourselves through the other side of the glass, we appear smaller and more inadequate. That directs us to Him and He wants us to cast our cares in His direction. He knows what He is doing, whatever happens to us. I think we will find that in times of trouble God teaches us new things about Himself and new things about ourselves. Let us trust Him in all things!!

May 26th

Devotions from James Smith’s book, Embracing the Love of God

Don’t we all long for a friend who will welcome us, listen to us and receive all that we have in our hearts and not be shocked or bothered by our failures and struggles?  Such people give acceptance with their eyes, with their voice and presence and it frees us to be who we are without pretending. What a gift! The amazing thing about acceptance is that it isn’t something we do but something that is done to us. As we trust in God’s acceptance of us we will notice that it influences the way we treat others with love.  We are able to love because He loved us first. ( I john 4:19) God is so patient with us and never gives up on us, and accepts us where we are at.  In the same way we have only to open our hearts and love will flow in and through us to others. We are simply channels of that love and it is a work of His Spirit that we are able to love and accept one another on the terms that we have been loved. That means letting people be who they are, with all of their uniqueness, all of their beauty, all of their flaws. That doesn’t mean we don’t want the best for them but we accept one another’s negative aspects just like God accepts ours. It’s not that we overlook their faults or excuse their bad behavior or deny their defects. Knowing does not mean condoning.. Fredrick Beuchner said, “It is not until we love a person in all his ugliness that we can make him beautiful, or ourselves either.”  We need people who will hope for us and yearn for us to be whole and complete.  They are true friends when they see good in us or evil, and they still love us.  Let us accept one another for this is a divine gift. It begins with God reaching out to us and accepting us unconditionally, and then as we take possession of this acceptance, it will move out from our hearts into the lives of others.

The Belovedness of the other

One of the discoveries I have made on my journey of following  Jesus is my belovedness in the Father.  Through Jesus I have come to know that I am beloved.  It is my identity as a child of God. What has surprised me is thatin becoming aware of my belovedness, I have been able to see other as the beloved of God.  This has not always been the case with my story.  I have always known I should love other who are different from me.  I have wanted to love others who are different.  But it has not been a reality in my heart.  It was stuck in my head.  I believe that to be true of most men.  We know we should be loving and compassionate, but in reality we know we really are not.  The key, at least for me, has been the ability to claim my “being the beloved of God.”

Listen to these words from Henri Nouwen, which speak to this matter. “When you discover your belovedness by God in solitude, you see the belovedness of other people in community and can call that beauty forth in ministry.  It’s a incredible mystery of God’s love that the more you know you are loved, the more you will see how deeply your sisters and brothers in the human family are loved.  The more you love others without conditions, the more you can love yourself the way God loves you and others.  And the more you are loved by others, the more you realize how much you are the beloved of God.”

I am only beginning to find this true in my life.  At this stage of my journey, God has given me opportunities to be with people who think and live out their understanding of the spiritual journey much different then myself.  Years ago I would be both judgemental and critical of these folks.  But something has happened in my heart.  As I have come to rest in my belovedness, I have a real openness and even compassion for those who are different from myself.  This is truly the work of God’s grace and mercy in my heart.  It has  brought me a kind of joy that I never knew when I was more closed and boxed up in myself

I truly believe that a wild man,  that is a man who has opened his heart to the Lord, will experience the truth of his belovedness and in turn will become a more loving and compassionate man.  To many of us men, have tried to do our loving through our heads.  It becomes a matter of the will and something that we “ought” to do.  Those around us often know that it is not sincere and from the heart.  But the man who know his belovedness in God, has nothing to lose and everything to gain by being a loving man.  God will bless him far beyond his understanding as he walks in the love of God.  Paul prayed that we might. “know this love that surpasses knowledge” (Eph 3:19).  Men don’t try to figure it out.  Learn to live out of your belovedness.

May 25th

Devotions from James Smith book, Embracing the Love of God

We need to discover our true identity from God’s perspective. So often we put on a mask or play a role we think others will like out of fear of rejection or out of shame. We might feel shame if we don’t have enough money, if we don’t have a prestigious job or if we feel we are too short or fat etc.  We may respond by being good or by trying to anesthetize with pills etc But God sees us as we truly are behind our masks. He sees us as valuable and precious but also full of brokenness and tainted by the Fall.  We are really a bundle of paradoxes.  We are capable of doing good to people but we are also capable of lying, cheating, and using others.  St. Francis of Assisi considered himself worst of all sinners even though he was renowned for his works of charity.  Like the publican’s sense of need and imperfection, he prayed, “God be merciful to me, a sinner”.   When we begin the process of self-acceptance we have to acknowledge our true self. Pretending that we are righteous simply keeps God at bay. The truth is we are weak and broken and imperfect but He loves us and sees us as we are.   It is easier to believe in God’s love in a general sense than to believe in His love personally.  God wants us to quit lying to ourselves and to accept our failures and faults, not excusing them but seeing them as part of who we are. He is able to draw near to us when we surrender to Him and in essence say,” Here I am, God. You know I am broken and weak. “  He accepts us and heals our core of shame and rejection. Because He accepts us we can accept ourselves as we are and hear His voice to our hearts, “Your are my beloved child, in whom I am well pleased.”

May 24th

Devotions based on James Smith book, Embracing the Love of God

Julian of Norwich wrote, “The greatest honor we can give to the Almighty God is to live gladly because of the knowledge of his love.” 
So much of our lives we live in alienation because of the years of being exposed to messages of condemnation.  But the good news is that God loved us first many times and everyday our whole life through. His love is constant and never changing. Every moment of every day he is loving us.  He woos us like a lover.

It is our pride that wants to earn God’s acceptance because we feel so unacceptable.  IF we try to work for something it is not a gift but rightful wages. But when we give a gift we are saying, “You did not earn this, and I do not owe you this, but I want to give it to you because I love you. “ God’s love is a gift and not based on our behavior or earning. God’s love is poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit. ( Rom. 5:5)  He whispers how much we are loved. We have heard this message perhaps all our lives but takes so long to go from our heads to our hearts.

Let us go into this day pondering the  amazing fact that He chose us even though we are not perfect but loves us just as we are?

May 22nd

Devotions from James Smith book, Embracing the Love of God

Each of us is uniquely and individually loved. We are known! We are chosen! As we experience this love in the depths of our soul it is healing and radically transforming.

As we receive God’s love and acceptance of us, we can then accept ourselves and others; we can welcome God’s forgiveness so we can forgive ourselves and others; we can embrace God’s care for us so we can care for ourselves and others. When Karl Barth, the great theologian, was asked the most profound thought he had ever had, his reply was, “Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so.”
When we really know God loves us, everything is changed. We aren’t a little speck in the cosmos but an eternal creature of infinite worth.

God looks at us and smiles. We are accepted as we are and valued and cared for by God.  When that love is known it affects how we view ourselves and ultimately how we view one another.
Loving isn’t so difficult. Knowing we are loved is. Learning to live in that confidence of His love is a process. He promises to never leave us and to love us no matter what. May we just bask in His love this day.

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