Book Review: Forgiveness

Unforgiveness drags joy behind the shed and beats it senseless

Human nature is not inclined to forgive. Instead, it is much more likely to grasp onto grudges and nurse bitterness.

In Forgiveness: Received from God – Extended to Others, author Donna Pyle tells about her own fight with unforgiveness when her husband walked out on their marriage. She responded to her pain by hunting up every passage in Scripture about forgiveness she could find. Now she shares her findings with others, helping all find the freeing path of forgiveness. She walks her readers through the Bible to discover exactly what is forgiveness.

She begins to explain forgiveness by telling what it is not. This dispelling of myths is especially helpful to those struggling to let go of hurt. Forgiveness is not about forgetting and it’s not excusing a sin or a crime. It’s not artificial nonchalance–pretending the actions of others were not painful. Forgiveness is not even about the offender–who may or may not be aware of the offense. Forgiveness is about freeing ourselves from the prison of hate and anger.

The study is laid out in Eight Lessons with each Lesson having five days of readings, questions that lead the reader to Scripture, and opportunities to reflect on the Lesson and apply it personally. I especially appreciated the reflection exercises. The questions help the reader to uncover deeply buried grudges and bitterness. Unearthing them and receiving God’s strength to forgive leads to the freedom only found in grace.

The book could be used for personal study, but would also be useful for groups. Each lesson has suggestions for discussion, corporate prayer, and connecting with group members.

Donna Pyle writes:

Forgiveness is a humanizing, dignifying, redemptive act of God.

Forgiveness frees us from the narrative of hate.

Forgiveness liberates us from our prisons.

Forgiveness moves us toward others to extend the Gospel of grace.

That is why forgiveness is not optional.

Forgiveness: Received from God — Extended to Others is available here and here.

home-donna-pyleA soul-stirring, engaging speaker, author, Bible teacher, and worship leader, Donna Pyle has a passion for studying and teaching God’s Word. Her clear, down-to-earth style encourages women of all ages to wholeheartedly love, serve, and live for Jesus Christ.

Since launching Artesian Ministries in 2007, Donna has scratched out over 20 Bible studies and enjoys the incredible privilege of traveling throughout the U.S. and internationally to speak and teach where the Lord opens doors.

Donna writes regularly on her blog, Hydrated Living, as she seeks to find beauty in the quiet and sacred in the chaos, treasuring that this path is a holy experience planned by God before the beginning of time.

A native, life-long Texan, Donna fuels her incredible journey with the Word, coffee, chocolate, family, friends and worship.

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When You’re Feeling Unsettled, Dissatified

 

When I'm feeling unsettled, dissatisfied, Jesus knows what I need the most.

This month I’m reading through the gospel of Mark. I’m slowly digesting one chapter a day. I’m allowing God’s words to unsettle my soul enough to draw me closer to Him and receive His grace.

It didn’t take long for the unsettling to happen. On the second day of my journey through this short book I read a story that made me uncomfortable. Mark gives the account of four strong men who come to Jesus bringing along a friend who couldn’t walk–a paralytic.

The very first words Jesus said to the man lying helplessly on the stretcher were, “Your sins are forgiven” (Mark 2:5).

Now put yourself in the position of the man on the mat. Were those the words you were hoping to hear? Probably not. Most likely the words you wanted to hear were, “You are healed.”

But Jesus knew what the man needed most. What the paralytic needed more than healing was grace. What he needed more than the ability to walk was the ability to proceed on God’s path of life. What he needed most was forgiveness.

Like the man on the mat I come to Jesus with many pressing needs. I am convinced that if God would just grant this one request I would be happy. Okay, maybe two things. Or three.

But Jesus knows what I need most:

Forgiveness

unsettled soul

And because He died an awful death in my place, because He defeated our most terrible foe, because He rose triumphant, forgiveness is available. Because the Holy Spirit worked faith in my heart and drew me closer to the cross, forgiveness is mine.

If you know the story of the paralytic, you know that Jesus didn’t make the man wait long before He also told him, “Get up and take your mat and go home” (Mark 2:12). The man received what he needed the most and what he probably wanted the most.

But what if Jesus had not healed the lifeless limbs? Would the man have been content? Would he been disappointed but then realize that peace in his soul was worth far more than strength in his legs?

The reason this story unsettled my soul is that I fear I would not have been satisfied with just the gift of forgiveness. I fear this because I often go to Jesus with what some perceived need and forget He has already given me what I require most. The desperate longings in my soul can seem more important than my most desperate need for forgiveness. And so I am not content.

Perhaps you can relate. You are facing loss. Pain. Discouragement. Your spirit is not content.

Maybe together we can pray that we would realize that God has already met our most crucial need. That He has given us grace. Healing for our souls. Life in His love.

Pray for contentment for the greatest gift: Forgiveness.

 

Joy Stealer: Regret

Two summers ago I ended the season with regret.

I always start the short Chicago summer season with great anticipation. Finally, warm weather! We’ll go to outdoor concerts, do some hiking, maybe even go on a picnic or two. I’ll take some time to do some organizing projects and read a few books on my reading list. It’ll be a great summer!

But that summer ended in disappointment. The unusually hot, dry summer kept me indoors. We only went to one outdoor concert because it was just too hot to sit outside. I didn’t get any of the organizing projects done that I wanted to.  And the reading list? Huh!

Fortunately, summer comes around every year and I had a chance for a do-over. Last summer, I created a summer “bucket list.” I got the idea from my writer friend Lara Krupicka. (Read about her summer bucket list idea.) By making a written list of what I wanted to get out of this favorite season, I’m hoped that I would be more likely to actually do these fun and practical activities. I hoped that I wouldn’t have another summer end with regret.

Of course, regret can be much more serious than simply not having enough fun in one summer. We all have words we regret, actions we regret. If only we could go back and have a do-over. We wish we had not hurt others, messed up our lives, or taken a wrong turn from God’s path.

The trouble with regret is that it steals our joy. Living under the cloud of “if only” continually darkens our spirits.

Fortunately, God has a better way. Instead of existing with regret, He wants us to truly live–with repentance.

2 Corinthians 7:10 says:

For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.

What’s the difference between regret and repentance?

Regret is constantly wishing you had done something different, that life had gone another way. The pain of this self-condemnation never goes away. Your inner judge continues to pound the gavel and yell, “Guilty!” This kind of grief can put you under a soul-killing death sentence.

There is also grief in repentance–a sorrow over past mistakes and sins. But repentance takes this grief to the eternal Judge–Jesus. And Jesus is not only our Judge, but the one who took the punishment for those mistakes and sins. Repentance places all that sorrow in a loving Savior’s hands and listens for the words, “Not guilty!”

Some of you may continue to live under the cloud of regret because you think: Forgiveness is too easy. Even though I know Jesus died for my sins, it’s not really enough. It would be wrong if I felt happy after what I’ve done. I need to hang onto this heavy regret in order to pay for my mistakes.

Dear sister, Jesus wants you to let that grief go. 2 Corinthians tells us that godly grief produces no regret. God doesn’t want to live with self-condemnation. If we have repented of our sins, we can live joyfully forgiven.

Every day, listen for Jesus’ words, “Not guilty!”

 Question: What do you do when you are tempted to live under a cloud of regret?

(By the way, the summer bucket list idea really worked! I had a fantastic summer in 2013!)