Archive for the ‘Forgetting those things which are behind does not mean denial!’ Category

High Country

Have you ever had the experience of realizing that there is a toxic personality within a close circle of friends?  A devastating discovery, and one that you have avoided acknowledging—while blaming yourself and assuming that you are to blame when a relationship is skewed!

What we need to acknowledge here, is the fact of a double minded person—one who seems beyond reproach, yet habitually will backbite or display (what young people call) “attitude”.  If you are a deeply sensitive and naturally self-effacing individual, this attitude will cause you profound agony and even erroneous self-incrimination—if you have been close to this individual for a long time.

We should discern a kink* when a person periodically comes to us with rancorous criticism of someone else.  But we can be so blinded by our mindset of loving acceptance that we believe the individual incapable of the rancor we should have identified.  Perhaps we have consistently prayed for this person, thinking only of her circumstances and need of inner peace—without understanding the harsh reality:  that what we have here is a perverse and wayward attitude, and—at this point— an apparently arrogant spirit.

Meanwhile, “It is what it is”!  And it is awful!  Discord in any personal community may be unthinkable, but it happens.

Among countless other Scriptures, Proverbs 2:10-13 addresses the issue of dealing with toxicity:  “When wisdom enters your heart, and knowledge is pleasant to your soul, discretion will preserve you, understanding will keep you, to deliver you from the way of evil, from the man who speaks perverse things, from those who leave the path of uprightness to walk in the ways of darkness . . . .”  NKJV

Wisdom is knowing the Lord Jesus Christ and living in His light—always guided by His Word, always realizing that apart from Him we are helpless and hopeless sinners.  Wisdom is walking in love, humbly realizing that only God can remedy the kinks in another person’s attitude or style of relating.

Wisdom is absolutely CLINGING to our LORD, and trusting Him to preserve us from devastation when we hurt.  Wisdom is responding with loving truth and a gracious refusal to be a part of the backbiting, while realizing that we are sinners saved by Grace and Grace alone.

According to the above Scripture, wisdom and knowledge of the LORD results in the discretion which preserves us.  I ran the word “discretion” through my STRONG’S CONCORDANCE and found something astoundingly practical concerning the issue at hand.  The Hebrew word for “discretion” means in many cases an ungodly shrewdness and calculated plotting or coping.  But according to the CONCORDANCE, the word sometimes infers mental acuity in a good sense—an enlightened awareness which leads to a righteous response.

Immediately, I thought of the Lord Jesus’s command to be “wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.”  The Matthew 10:16 command follows our Savior’s mission statement of sending His disciples as sheep in the midst of wolves.  If our Savior sent His disciples out into the wolves, doesn’t it follow that we will encounter wolves as well?  Indeed, we are His sheep!

Wise as serpents!  Sagacity and insightfulness.  We are not to be clueless or sentimentally and subjectively unaware of darkness and waywardness.  But we are to respond in love rather than retaliation.  We are to defend those being maligned, without reacting with the rancor of the backbiter.

When we are the target of backbiting, we must respond in a gracious spirit of desiring to grow in Christ while acknowledging that yes we are, like every other human, flawed.  We need to prayerfully, diligently, and consistently avoid the temptation of retaliation and/or self-defense.

But we must never forget that we are sons and daughters of the KING!  We are to walk in His love and His strength!  We can brand Romans 8:1 deeply into heart and mind:  “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”

As we walk in the Spirit of our Risen Lord Jesus Christ, there is no place for false guilt or self-focused self-condemnation.  We are never alone, and we are never devastated as we walk with Discretion and Understanding!  MLB

*The word “kink” makes me think of a kink in my garden hose, something which frequently annoys me as I love to water my gardens.  I can straighten out the garden hose kink, but only God can fix the kinks in a human soul!

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“If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.”  James 1:26

The above passage is so succinct, it makes me shudder!  When I consider the Biblical view of an unruly tongue, I’m thrown upon God’s mercy for any and every time I have failed to keep a “tight rein” on my tongue!  Scriptures are loaded with references to speech.  Words clearly differentiate between a wise person and a fool!   

We often hear someone say, “I was only kidding!”  Or, “But I didn’t mean that!”  However, the words have been spoken.  Words not only say what they have said in plain terms, but they also contain intrinsic messages and meanings—undeniable inferences and innuendoes which a careful listener will grasp. 

The retort, “But I didn’t mean that” is ineffectual against spoken words and the inferences therein!  In Matthew 12:34b we read, “. . . for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” 

Words reflect attitudes—indeed the very essence of mind and heart.  Words can be forgiven, and even forgotten.  But words, once spoken, can never be retrieved!

Margaret L. Been, ©2011

The above graphic is courtesy of Karen’s Whimsy.

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“A reproof enters more into a wise man than a hundred stripes into a fool.” Proverbs 17:10

“Faithful are the wounds of a friend . . . .”  Proverbs 27:6

Like most people, I welcome words of encouragement and affirmation so long as they are devoid of flattery.  Yet looking back over my 40 years as a Christian, I realize I’ve especially thrived on words from older believers—words which were far from “affirming” in an obvious sense, words of correction or downright rebuke! 

I’ve often been tempted to denial, and prone to flirt with self-pity, concerning a rebuke which seemed “unfair”.  But the Spirit of God always manages to catch me and “stop me short”, as the saying goes. 

The Indwelling Lord Jesus speaks to my innermost self in my moments of denial and self pity, saying “Listen!  Contemplate the truth of the rebuke!  It was allowed for a reason—for your good and God’s glory!” 

Whether or not I thought I deserved the rebuke or correction, there was always a concrete reason for it which God has never let me ignore.  I can mature only inasmuch as I heed God’s message through a rebuke.

There have been times when I spoke unwisely, causing pain to another person.  Even if I had no intention of causing pain, misleading words were spoken—possibly reflecting a heart attitude of presumption or invasiveness on my part, which I may not have been sensitive enough to discern at the moment.  Over the years I’ve learned that words are precious, and potentially dangerous.  Those older, wiser souls who loved me enough to rebuke me taught me the infinite value of words. 

I’ve been rebuked for actions as well as words, always involving sins of self-centeredness and self-righteousness on my part.  Again, the “wounds of a friend” have been lifelines to me—and guidelines as well.  I’ve learned that anger is never appropriate in response to a rebuke.  Anger would separate me from communication with our Lord.  Anger is toxic.  It can only serve to harm others, as well as the one who is angry!

Whenever I’ve paused to contemplate the magnitude of my own sins, whether intended or simply unknowing, I’ve been reduced to a jelly.  Remorse and sorrow are the only valid Christian responses to God’s working a deeper life in us through the rebuke of others.  Remorse and sorrow are agents of reconcilliation with God, and with our fellow humans!  Remorse and sorrow throw us upon God’s mercy—and that’s precisely where every believer belongs!

Whether or not we actually intend an offense does not lessen its potential damaging effect.  Even if our heart attitude is innocent and our words or actions have been unfairly misconstrued, the words and actions stand as reminders that we’ve caused confusion and misunderstanding.  The impact of words and actions is not diminished by the motive or lack of motivation behind them.  What matters most is our sorrow for having caused the misunderstanding and pain, along with a desire to forgive and be forgiven.  Forgiveness is the core of the Christian Gospel and life! 

I’m eternally grateful for those faithful friends who have shown me the way of life, even through rebuke and correction! 

“He that covers his sins shall not prosper; but whosoever confesses and forsakes them shall have mercy.”  Proverbs 28:13

“Never allow a truth of God that is brought home to your soul to pass without acting on it, not necessarily physically but in will.  Record it with ink or with blood.  The feeblest saint who transacts business with Jesus Christ is emancipated the second he acts; all the almighty power of God is on his behalf.”  Oswald Chambers, MY UTMOST FOR HIS HIGHEST

Margaret L. Been, ©2011

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“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned, struck down but not destroyed.  We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.”  II Corinthians 4:8-10

Each week I check the stats pages of this blog to see what search words have enabled readers to arrive at Grace with Salt.  The search terms which invariably head the list are “Forgetting those things which are behind” and “Pressing on”.  Paul’s example in Philippians 3:13-14  provides edification for all of us who are in Christ! 

In the process of personally applying the Scriptural admonition to forget those things which are past, I’ve often tended to deny the negatives in my life—as if they had never happened.  I’ve attempted to treat pain (emotional as well as physical) as if it simply didn’t exist.  I have shared mainly positive emotions and experiences—while rarely mentioning the sorrows and strife which God has brought me through.  

In denying reality, I realize that I’ve presented a limited picture of who I am and where I’ve been.  I may appear to some as a two-dimensional person without a serious thought in my head, or as a sheltered individual who has always lived in a fairy-tale tea garden with lots of roses but no thorns.  That is so far from the truth, it makes me laugh as well as cry! 

Not that I will ever want to build a monument to pain and sorrow, or process life’s vicissitudes in detail!  But in refusing to share the realities of hardship and strife in the glorious light of God’s subsequent healing, I may have deprived others of seeing God’s Grace in my life!  I may have projected a misconception that life should be mindlessly easy, when someone in pain desperately needed to know that my life was also occasionally hard—and that God has set me free!  

When overlooking the fact of pain, I’ve failed to communicate the amazing joy and comfort which our Lord has given me–even during horrible times. Conflict and pain throw us on God’s mercy.  During seemingly “hopeless” circumstances, our hope is fortified and sustained by God’s Word.  

When people let us down, God becomes irrevocably all-significant in our lives—for the rest of our lives!  And during that painful-but-sweet process, we are cheered by those faithful people around us who become even more infinitely precious to us!  Suffering is our boot camp, our endurance training, our equipping for the rest of life—and best of all, our College of Intercessory Prayer!   

Paul’s “forgetting” is not denial.  STRONG’S CONCORDANCE defines “forgetting” in the Philippians context as meaning “to lose out of mind”, by implication “to neglect” (to dwell on) or “to be forgetful of”.  Paul had not obliterated those things which lay behind him, in the sense of amnesia.  In fact Paul was ever aware of from whence he’d come.  His history is a vivid illustration of God’s overwhelming Grace, something we must never forget! 

Rather, in pressing on Paul was determined not to be hampered by his past.  As he focused on the glory which lay before him, he refused to let his mind be mired in his former sins or painful experiences.  He didn’t wallow in past guilt or self-pity.  Clearly, Paul’s “forgetting” was a refusal to dwell on the past. 

Yes, while affirming God’s Grace and refusing to dwell on the past, I want to admit that I’m also a part of the human story.  I have sinned, and I have been redeemed.  I’ve stumbled, and I’ve been lifted up.  I’ve mourned, and God has turned my mourning to psalms of praise.  I’ve experienced the potential bondage of pain, and I rejoice in the Lord’s deliverance!

“Struck down, but not destroyed!” 🙂

Margaret L. Been, ©2011

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