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Posts Tagged ‘Repentance’

Healing a Broken Relationship

Scripture: Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord. Acts 3:19 (NKJV)

Observation: Today’s text comes from Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost. The people gathered there from many nations around the world heard the disciples speak in the languages of these nations, but instead of attributing this miracle to God they said the disciples were drunk. Peter defended or explained what was happening and went on to preach the Good News of salvation to those gathered there.

Application: When mistakes, hurts, or sins enter a marital relationship, the spouses can allow them to fester and infect the entire relationship until an amputation – divorce – seems to be the only way to save them individually. They see no way out, no way to fix it, no way to restore intimacy to their relationship.
Peter’s message is that as much as our relationship with God can be restored when there is repentance, in the same way when there is genuine repentance in our marital relationship there can be forgiveness and full restoration to the intimacy God desires for us to enjoy. This repentance must include full confession and a true recognition that what was done was wrong. There should be no excusing the event, rationalization, or blaming of the other party, but a sincere recognition of what happened and of the pain it caused the other.
The promise from Peter, to those that repent, is that “the times of refreshing” will come. Often I am asked if it is possible to restore a relationship where adultery has taken place. Peter’s words offer encouragement that it is indeed possible. If God can restore our broken relationship with Him, though we fail Him sometimes on a daily basis, He surely can restore our relationship with our spouse. And while the hurt feelings may take a long time to heal, if there is genuine repentance, it will take place and the relationship can be as good, maybe even better than it was before. It was not the adultery which causes the relationship to be better but rather the recognition of wrongdoing and a new appreciation of the spouse and of the relationship they have before God which will turn what could have been a disastrous end into a new beginning with God at the center of the relationship.

Prayer: Father, thank You for restoring our relationship with You and making it even better than before. May that experience be the same in our relationship as spouses and as parents so that when we hurt or fail each other You will restore us and bring us back to the “times of refreshing” You promise.

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Scripture: The beginning of strife is like releasing water; Therefore stop contention before a quarrel starts. (Proverbs 17:14)

Observation: Another one of the many wise saying from Solomon contained in this book.

Application: How many times we wished we had not said something?  How many times we wished we had not had an argument with our spouse, particularly when we know we started it, when we know we know we were wrong to begin with and now we don’t know how to fix it?
Solomon’s advice is so good and practical and one we should keep in mind.  One strife, or an argument, or a fight begins, it is so hard to stop it before it cause harm to one, both, or to the relationship.  Words fly, feelings are hurt, resentment sets in, forgiveness is hard to come, peace and harmony take a while to return.  It is so much easier to stem the flow before it is too late.  Instead, PRACTICE THE PREVENTION RULE.  Benjamin Franklin was on target when he stated, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”  We must learn to resolve conflict before it starts. God’s instruction on this point is clear: “The beginning of strife is like the letting of water. Stop the flow before it starts. Quit before the quarrel breaks out.”  – Proverb 17:14
Here are some suggestions:
1. LOOK FOR AREAS WHERE YOU ARE TO BLAME.  When you look for your responsibility in the conflict, it causes the other party to soften and often come to your defense.
2. ASK YOURSELF THESE QUESTIONS.
• Is it a Worthy Battle? Proverb 19:11 – PICK YOUR BATTLES. Those with good sense are slow to anger, and it is their glory to overlook an offense.    (Proverbs 19:11 NRSV)  Is this really a big deal? Do you want to have conflict over this? Is it really worth the anxiety and agony? Anyone who has ever played basketball knows that during a game there is going to be what is called “incidental contact.”
• Am I Wrong?  Be quick to say “I was wrong.” If you say that simple phrase to your family members, it will open a highway of opportunity for real discussion. If you are wrong, admit it. It isn’t a big deal. Sometimes we’re wrong. By admitting it, we will stop the flow of conflict. . . . immediately.
• Should I React or Respond? To React – Instinct, Impulse, or To Respond – Takes Thought.  When we react, we don’t think, we just act! There is a huge difference between reacting and responding. To react requires no intelligence, only instinct. But to respond, you have to get that three-pound chunk of gray matter in your head involved. Responding requires time; it takes the facts. Only when you respond will you have a chance to resolve conflict.  In conflict, too many of us react when we should respond. Be certain you respond; don’t just react with a knee-jerk, thoughtless reply.
• What Difference Is this Going to Make in My Life in Three Days? What Impact Will it Have in Five Years?   Many times, if you will ask these two questions, you’ll find that what might have been a ridiculous conflict is simply not worth the battle in the scheme of the big picture.  In his classic book,  Brave New World, Aldous Huxley made a very intriguing observation: “When two parties argue for an extended period of time, both are wrong.”  Philippians 2:14 admonishes us to do all things without   complaining   and disputing.  When you say the right thing in the wrong way, it becomes the wrong thing to say even though it might be right!

Here are a few suggestions as to how to say things more effectively to one another.

• Use the Still, Small Voice.  If we got down close to the ear of our child and whispered, the power of those words was amazing. The spirit in your heart affect’s the tone of your voice. If you’re filled with unresolved bitterness and resentment, it will come out in your voice.  Lower your voice. Take a deep breath and speak in measured tones. If you’re in a rage, step away and calm down. No one listens when you’re shouting, but everyone does when you whisper.  Watch your body language and eye contact. A certain demeaning toss of the head or look in the eye can make the hearer angry and defensive.
• Maintain Your Sense of Humor.  We can resolve many conflicts by simply allowing ourselves to laugh at the circumstance and at ourselves.
• Don’t Get Personal.  Don’t say irresponsible things about each other with the intent to hurt and
demean. That’s attacking the person, not the issue at hand.  Address the issue, not the individual.
• Don’t Bring up the Past.  Don’t bring up issues from the past and attempt to use them in the current conflict to win the verbal battle and bolster your position.
• Don’t Get off the Subject.  Don’t get off the subject by widening your argument to issues unrelated to the current conflict and discussion.  * Remember, he who angers you controls you.  Anyone can take away your freedom, but remember, the most important human freedom is your freedom to choose your attitude in any circumstance.
• Avoid Statements That Are Impossible to Defend.  One person may say, “I asked you to pick me up at school.” The other may reply, “No, you didn’t!” The first person responds, “Yes, I did!” This interaction is endless and fruitless. Make sure your statements are the truth.
• Avoid Six Fatal Phrases:
1. “You always. . . .”  No one always does anything.
2. “You never. . . .”  Again, you cannot accurately use the word “never” about another person’s behavior or choices.
3. “You should/could have. . . .”  Stay out of the past. How can you rationally discuss something someone “should” have  done? You can’t go back. Operate in the present.
4. “Why didn’t you. . . .”  – You can’t rewind the clock. . . .  This statement is certainly not part of a good, healthy conversation.  If you ask a person, “Why didn’t-you. . . .?” there is no way they can “rewind” the experience and fix what they have already done. It is a waste of breath.
5. “I would have. . . .”  Now you’re getting arrogant. “I” would have done it this way or that way. “I” wouldn’t have made that mistake. This remark only separates you and your listener even more and breaks down any chance for productive interaction.
6. “You make me. . . .” – No one makes you!  This one’s a real dandy. Talk about taking away all responsibility for personal behavior.  This statement is the king of them all! No one makes anyone else do anything. We choose. We are in control of our own actions and choices. Instead of saying, “You make me…,” say to the other person, “I feel…,” and explain your emotions from your perspective.

Replace Those Six Phrases with These.
1. “In the future…”  This is a proactive statement. It gives both of you a positive position for a beneficial conversation and takes the defensiveness and sting of accusation out of your interaction. For example say: “In the future, would you please leave my keys on my desk and not in the car?”
2. “Next time…”  You cannot change what has already happened. There are no magic wands in families which will unspill the milk or magically erase a word or deed. For a more positive approach to how you say things, try this. For example, say: “The next time you find out you will be late picking me up after work, I would really appreciate it if you would call and let me know.”
3. “What would have to happen…” – Open-Ended Gives the other person a chance to respond.
A person who is given the opportunity to think about their ideas, thoughts, position, or interest in a matter will be much more open to what you have to say. This phrase is one of our most important suggestions related to how you talk to someone. For example say:  “What would have to happen for you to be more helpful around the house with the children?”

Prayer: Father, help us to stop fights and arguments before they begin and thus maintain the peace in our homes we all long for so that they will be a haven of rest for all who dwell within.

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Repentance to All

Scripture: (Neh 1:5-11 NKJV)  And I said: “I pray, LORD God of heaven, O great and awesome God, You who keep Your covenant and mercy with those who love You and observe Your commandments, {6} “please let Your ear be attentive and Your eyes open, that You may hear the prayer of Your servant which I pray before You now, day and night, for the children of Israel Your servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel which we have sinned against You. Both my father’s house and I have sinned. {7} “We have acted very corruptly against You, and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, nor the ordinances which You commanded Your servant Moses. {8} “Remember, I pray, the word that You commanded Your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations; {9} ‘but if you return to Me, and keep My commandments and do them, though some of you were cast out to the farthest part of the heavens, yet I will gather them from there, and bring them to the place which I have chosen as a dwelling for My name.’ {10} “Now these are Your servants and Your people, whom You have redeemed by Your great power, and by Your strong hand. {11} “O Lord, I pray, please let Your ear be attentive to the prayer of Your servant, and to the prayer of Your servants who desire to fear Your name; and let Your servant prosper this day, I pray, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.” For I was the king’s cupbearer.

Observation: Nehemiah was saddened to know the ruined condition of Jerusalem and Judah, and he recognized that it was the result of the people’s rebelliousness against God.  So he prays the prayer in our text for today.

Application:
Nehemiah could have prayed for deliverance for himself and his family, but instead, he recognized all of them needed to repent.  At the same time, he could have prayed for forgiveness only for the people, but he was humble enough to pray for the people but also for himself.
It is interesting how at times we pray for our loved ones, which we should do, and ask God to lead them closer to Him, and to bring them to repentance and to the place where they will be ready for His soon return.  But somehow we don’t always come humbly before the Lord in recognition of our own need for repentance, knowledge of God, and preparation for His return.  Nehemiah prayed for his people, but humbly also prayed and confessed his own sin.  And the wonderful thing is that God heard his plea and granted his prayer and Nehemiah was able to go back and lead in the rebuilding of the city and the reestablishment of the worship of God.  Maybe our prayers will be the catalyst for a complete revival in our lives and in our homes, maybe even beyond to our churches and to the area where we live. . . and it all begins with being humble enough to recognize our own need for repentance and forgiveness.

Prayer: Father, we too have sinned and have turned our backs to you.  Forgive our sin, cleanse us and make us new, and may the experience of conversion be ours and that of our loved ones.

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Scripture: (Lev 14:8-9 NKJV)  “He who is to be cleansed shall wash his clothes, shave off all his hair, and wash himself in water, that he may be clean. After that he shall come into the camp, and shall stay outside his tent seven days. {9} “But on the seventh day he shall shave all the hair off his head and his beard and his eyebrows; all his hair he shall shave off. He shall wash his clothes and wash his body in water, and he shall be clean.

Observation: For the people of Israel, having just left their captivity in Egypt, and on the way to establish their new home as an independent nation, the laws and regulations concerning health issues were very specific and very important for their well-being and survival.  An example is all the laws concerning lepers – how to decide whether the person had leprosy and what to do with the person, hot to tell if they had been cured from leprosy and what cleansing rituals as well as sin-atonement rituals needed to be performed before the person would be allowed in camp and before they would be allowed to rejoin the people.  The diagnosis, treatment, and steps to rejoin were long, maybe tedious, but they ensured the safety of the people and a recognition that health, healing, forgiveness, and salvation come from the Lord.
Leprosy is primarily a disease of the peripheral nerves and mucosa of the upper respiratory tract; skin lesions are the primary external symptom.  Left untreated, leprosy can be progressive, causing permanent damage to the skin, nerves, limbs and eyes. Contrary to popular belief, leprosy does not actually cause body parts to simply fall off.  There are two principal forms of the disease. In tuberculoid leprosy, few bacilli are present, and the symptoms are pale, patchy spots on the face, hands and feet. In the more contagious, lepromatous form, many microorganisms are present in the skin and in nasal secretions; patches and lumps can occur all over the body, and the facial lines tend to deepen. Leprosy does not usually cause gross mutilations. But it can cause a numbness of the hands and feet that leads to accidental burning or mutilation of extremities. This is a source of the myth that leprosy causes parts of the body to drop off.

Application: In marriage, even the healthiest and happiest one, there are times when one or the other makes a mistake, hurts the other person, and causes a wound in their relationship.  It may be something small and therefore easy to heal.  But there are times and situations where the guilty party does something to hurt their spouse, and their relationship, but instead of confessing and making restitution (as we mentioned in a previous entry), they let it fester.  Like a wound that is not properly cleaned, the wound in this relationship gets infected, festers, creates a bigger injury, and ends up poisoning the entire system.
In marriage, these problems that are not dealt with, are like leprosy.  At first, they are infected, but not obviously noticed.  If left untreated, however, they begin to affect the nervous system of the relationship so that eventually the emotions are not felt, and eventually other wounds are not felt anymore but yet cause the loss of the relationship.
Leprosy does not have to kill as medication can treat it so that it doesn’t progress or kills the person.  In marriage, confession and repentance are the best medicine.  As we confess our sins to God and to one another, the diseases that kill healthy marriages can be eradicated and the relationship restored.

Prayer: Father, forgive us for the times when we have hurt our spouse, and help us to be more sensitive to their needs in the future.  And Father, help us to confess to them our sins toward them so that there may be total healing in our relationship.

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