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0801064953
Trade Paperback
352 pages
Jul 2005
Baker Books

Peacemaking Women: Biblical Hope for Resolving Conflict

by Tara Klena Barthel & Judy Dabler

Review  |   Author Bio  |  Read an Excerpt

Excerpt:

1

THINKING ABOUT GOD

            The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.

Exodus 34:6–7

What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.

A. W. Tozer1

 

A young Christian woman named Elizabeth struggled in her relationship with God. At times she feared God and exhausted herself with Christian activities meant to please him. During these frenetic seasons, she felt “like a good Christian” and envisioned that God ranked her performance as “acceptable.” At other times she gave in to habitual lust or pride, and her behavior and thought life looked like that of a nonbeliever. When she failed in her performance, she thought God stopped loving her. She had a vague notion that when she was ready “to be good,” God might “take her back.” Elizabeth’s relationship with God was a seesaw of legalistic performance and licentious indulgence. She “felt” God’s love and approval when she lived up to her self-imposed standard of “goodness,” and she “felt” God’s rejection when she failed to measure up.

All too often Christian women relate to God as Elizabeth did. What are we to do? How can we have peace with God, lay a foundation for peace-filled relationships with others, and enjoy genuine peace within? To have peace with God, we first must have a personal relationship with him. In order to have a relationship with him, we must understand who he is, not who we mistakenly think he is or want him to be. Inasmuch as our finite minds can wrap themselves around infinite mysteries, we seek to grow in our knowledge of God.2 In the words of D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, “The Christian faith begins and ends with a knowledge of the Lord.”3 We will focus on four biblical truths to help counter our unbiblical thinking about God. These truths are essential to developing the comprehensive shalom we all long for.4

God Is Holy and Merciful

We will lack deep peace if we fail to understand that God is both completely holy and wonderfully merciful.

God is holy. He is completely free from all impurity and imperfection (Lev. 11:44). God is great and glorious. He is above all things and yet intimately associated with all things (Isa. 40:12–26; Ps. 145:3). Because God is holy, we ought to experience a sense of awe when we think of God. If our attitude toward God is that he is only our “buddy,” then we probably have little motivation to obey him when the going gets tough. If we have no fear of God or sense of his majesty, why would we ever follow the difficult and seemingly foolish command to love our enemies (Luke 6:27)? But if we truly know God, we will describe him just as Mr. Beaver in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe describes the Christ-figure, Aslan: “Safe? ’Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”5 As the holy King, God is to be honored and obeyed.

We are glorious ruins. We simply cannot revere God as we ought. Compared to his holiness, even our best is filth (Isa. 64:6). We are “glorious ruins” created in God’s image and likeness but damaged by the Fall (Genesis 1–3).6 Apart from the Spirit of Christ dwelling within us, we are totally without the ability to do good or to choose what is right. All of us share in Adam’s sinful state of rebellion against God (Ps. 51:4). We are deceived and enslaved by sin (Ps. 19:12–13). Our thoughts, emotions, and actions flow out of our sinful hearts. Our sin traps us in a miry pit so deep that we cannot dig ourselves out. We are hopelessly lost in sin, unable to save ourselves (Rom. 1:18–3:20). The result of our sin is death (Rom. 6:23).

God is merciful. When the radiance of God reveals our sin, one temptation is to condemn ourselves and pull away from God. Like Elizabeth from the beginning of this chapter, we can easily enter into seasons of intense activity trying to “do all the right things” to earn God’s love and approval. But since we can never be good enough to compel God to accept or love us, we are in desperate need of his mercy (Ps. 40:2). God demonstrates mercy by not giving us what we deserve. Our sin requires punishment, but the mercy of God withholds it and even lavishes life upon us!

Praise God! His mercy to us is vast and new every day (Lam. 3:22–24). God saves us from our sin and gives us new life. He does this not because we deserve or earn his mercy but because it brings him pleasure and demonstrates his great love for us (Eph. 1:3–5; John 3:16).

Jesus satisfies both the holiness and the mercy of God. The holiness and mercy of God meet in the crucifixion of Christ. Jesus’s life and substitutionary death on the cross fulfill the righteous requirements of a holy God and provide a way for God, through Jesus Christ, to save those who are his. Jesus voluntarily gave his life to ransom us from our captivity to sin—and eventual eternal death (Matt. 20:28). He put himself in our place, became our substitute, and took on himself the penalty of our sins. Through the cross of Christ, both the justice and mercy of God are fully satisfied. In the words of John Piper, “The death of Christ is the wisdom of God by which the love of God saves sinners from the wrath of God, and all the while upholds and demonstrates the righteousness of God.”7

Even children can embrace this truth with confidence. When my (Judy’s) daughter, Robyn, was only ten years old, she gave her testimony at our church. As she proclaimed her faith publicly, I was moved to tears. Tears soon became laughter as Robyn surprised the congregation by saying, “I am grateful for Christ’s double imputation.” She explained how the righteousness of Jesus Christ had been imputed (credited) to her and how her sin was imputed (credited) to Jesus, which is why he died on the cross. I was amused to hear Robyn use this twenty-dollar phrase. Yet we are all called to remind ourselves of this truth whenever we are tempted to doubt God’s love for us. Jesus took our place of punishment that we might stand in his place of perfection. When God looks at us, he sees Christ’s own righteousness because he has made a judicial declaration that the righteousness of Christ is imputed to all who trust in him. We have done nothing to deserve God’s gracious gift, but we are the grateful recipients of the blessings of a holy and merciful God. In this we delight like a bride on her wedding day: “I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels” (Isa. 61:10).

We must remember both God’s holiness and God’s mercy. We face a dual danger when considering both the holiness and mercy of God: when tempted to sin, we may want to focus on “grace”; when tempted to self-condemnation, we may want to focus on “law.” When we give in to these dangers, we lose our peace. God’s holiness and mercy together provide the way for us to be women of shalom. When our tendency is to focus on grace, we must never presume on God’s mercy and use it as an excuse to sin. Instead we must remember his holy love. When our tendency is to focus on law, we must not condemn ourselves with our failures. Instead, when we are convicted of sin and repent, we must remember the merciful gospel. God calls us to believe on the promises of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Marie’s life beautifully demonstrates the blessings of God’s holiness and mercy. Marie was a woman struggling with adultery. God’s holiness convicted her that she needed to end the affair. But she had given her heart and soul to the man in an intimacy that went far beyond a mere sexual relationship. Marie did not want to end the relationship. Her rebellion rightfully deserved God’s wrath, but in his kindness, God ministered mercy to her even as she struggled. He did not withhold his love from her. He did not cast her away as rejected and abandoned. Instead, he lovingly called Marie to himself as his precious daughter. God’s grace gave her the strength to trust him to care for her, and she ended the affair. Years later, she looks back on that difficult time with peace. She knows that her sin offended the holiness of God, but she also rests in the comfort of knowing that the mercy of God both paid the penalty for her sin and led her to repentance.

At a recent prayer group, my (Tara’s) dear friend was burdened by a heavy sense of her unworthiness and her failures. She saw her sin and was disgusted by it. For days she had been reading God’s Word and hearing only the law—all of the things she ought to do. She was discouraged and despondent because she saw only the ways she failed. I lovingly told her, “Susan, you need to remember God’s lavish love for you! He delights in you, cherishes you, and forgives you because of Christ. Remember the gospel!” Susan’s hope and joy were renewed as together we thanked God for his mercies in Christ.

But at that same prayer group, I was struggling with bitterness toward a family member. In my sin, I was trying to justify my attitude by claiming that the other person acted like an “enemy” and was “not to be trusted.” My friends gently helped me to remember God’s standard for how enemies are to be treated (Luke 6 and Romans 12) because I needed to be reminded of God’s law. As I reflected on how I was called to be as a Christian, I saw my failures and knew that my only hope was to run to Christ. I was desperately in need of his mercy! Even God’s good law brings us to the gospel, for only God’s grace can enable us to obey his commands.

God Forgives His Adopted Children

We will lack deep peace if we fail to understand that God adopts forgiven sinners as his children forever.

God forgives us. Theresa was a ministry leader who struggled with experiencing God’s forgiveness. She led Bible studies on God’s forgiveness and communicated his grace to others with great clarity. But Theresa had a secret: as a teenager, she had an abortion and briefly married an abusive man. When he left her, she came to know Christ and began a new life far away from her former home. While she loved God and encouraged others to trust in his forgiveness, deep down, she was miserable. How could God forgive her? What hope was there for her? Plenty! As Theresa prayed for the grace to believe the gospel, she cried out to God, “Please help me to say good-bye forever to my past and trust that it is covered by the blood of Jesus. Please, Lord, help me experience your forgiveness.” Theresa learned to speak God’s truth to herself, “I am righteous by faith in Jesus Christ. Through God’s gracious gift of Jesus, I have been purchased by the blood of Christ, and I belong to him (Rom. 3:22, 24). Nothing can ever snatch me out of God’s hand (Rom. 8:35). I am blessed! My sins are forgiven and will never be counted against me (Rom. 4:7–8).” This is the gospel that brings peace to God’s adopted children.

God adopts us. According to many theologians, God’s adopting grace is the utmost expression of the benefits of salvation and the highest privilege that the gospel offers.8 “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1). As adopted children, we are fully accepted, brought out of bondage and destitution into the “safety, certainty and enjoyment” of the family of God.9 If your family of origin reflected the steadfastness and delight of heavenly adoption, rejoice! Your ability to rest in the doctrine of adoption may come easily. But if your earthly home was not a safe refuge, you might struggle with the idea of God as your faithful, loving Father. The truth in Scripture, however, is that our position as children of God is even now permanently assured (Gal. 4:7). One day, your heavenly Father will “quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing” (Zeph. 3:17).

God delights in us. When you have placed your faith in the work of Jesus Christ for your salvation, you are the beloved child of the King of Kings! Because of his steadfast, passionate love, you will never be deserted or rejected. As a believer in Jesus, you are a member of the sought-after Bride of Christ, and your Groom gives you a new name. Just as adoptive parents seek out and delight in their children, your God seeks you out and delights in you: “No longer will they call you Deserted, or name your land Desolate. But you will be called Hephzibah [which means the Lord’s delight is in her] . . . for the LORD will take delight in you” (Isa. 62:4, explanation added).

Through Christ, God looks on you with the gaze of a bridegroom who loves his bride fervently—even to the point of death. It reminds me (Tara) of a wedding that I attended years ago. On a normal day, the bride was absolutely gorgeous—not just physically but spiritually and emotionally too. She radiated Christ. But on her wedding day? She was the most stunning bride I had ever seen. As she entered the church, the eyes of the entire congregation were fixed on her—not just because it was tradition but because we were entranced by the purity of her gown, the radiance of her face, and the love cascading from her entire being for her groom. When she reached the front of the chapel, the pastor had a twinkle in his eye as he asked the congregation, “Isn’t Melanie beautiful?” We all said a loud, “Yes!” And then this pastor ministered the gospel to us all when he said, “That is how God looks at you through Christ.” Just as a bridegroom delights in his bride, God delights in you.

We are God’s beloved daughters. Do you see yourself as beautiful and precious in God’s eyes? Or do you (like us) sometimes think, “Yes, I’m saved, but I sneaked in the back door. If I stay pressed against the back wall, maybe God won’t notice what a terrible mistake he has made.” One of the most common counseling issues we address with women is that because they believe that they cannot be good enough to merit God’s love, when they sin and repent they need a few days to feel they can approach God with boldness and confidence. They wrongly feel as though they have to earn their way back “up” to God before he will love them again.

Reject those lies. They come from your fallenness and sin. Believe the truth as revealed in God’s Word: God passionately desires that fallen, imperfect people be reconciled to him through belief in Jesus Christ. He is the “hound of heaven” who pursues lost and condemned people to adopt and save them.10 You are the beloved daughter of the King. God throws a party with you as the guest of honor when you return home. It makes God happy to adopt you into his family forever. He doesn’t forgive you because you earn his forgiveness by being good. He forgives you because he is a forgiving God! He doesn’t save you because he has to. He saves you because he wants to save you. You are his precious child, forever.

God’s Love for Us Does Not Depend on Our Performance

We will lack deep peace if we believe that God’s love for us is based on our performance. God saved us not because of what we do but because it was his delight to do so. God loves us because he is a loving God, not because we earn his love or merit his kindness. In fact, before the foundation of the world was even laid, God chose us to be his beloved children. “In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will” (Eph. 1:5). Before we ever had a kind or selfish thought, blessed or hurt another, or even praised or blasphemed the God of glory, God chose us. God’s love is not about us—what we think, feel, do, or say—it is about him.

God loves us particularly. Even though God’s love for us is not based on our performance, his love for us in Christ is a particular love. He does not have some vague, generic love for mankind. God loves specific individuals. God loves me. God loves you. If God has breathed new life into your dry bones; if he has given you a heart of flesh for a heart of stone; if he has granted you the gift of repentance and you have transferred your trust for eternal life from your own performance to the finished work of Christ, then your name is forever engraved on his hands (Isa. 49:16). You could never merit such grace! Right now, in the throne room of heaven, God’s hands are scarred with your name. Nothing can separate you from him or him from you.

God loves us because we are his. In response to this great truth, we rest secure knowing that we are wanted. There is a place for us in this world. We are safe in the arms of our loving Savior not because of what we do but because of what he has done for us. By God’s grace we have been released from the covenant of our works (that leads to death) and brought into a covenant of grace (that leads to life and peace). This gospel of grace shows us the extent to which God loves us.

I (Tara) love to play a game with my husband, Fred, where one of us asks, “How much do you love me?” and the other responds with an extremely large number based on whatever we’re doing at the time. When hiking in the Beartooth Mountains near our home in Montana, I might respond, “I love you more than the number of pine needles on all of the trees on all of the mountains in all of Montana.” Or at a baseball game Fred might respond, “I love you more than the number of stitches on all of the baseballs that have ever been thrown in this ballpark.” “Do you really love me that much?” “I do! I do!” It’s a fun game and we enjoy it. But it’s not my favorite.

My favorite game is when I ask Fred, “Why do you love me?” He always responds, “Because you’re mine.” This is God’s response to you too: “I love you because you are mine.” Not because of what you do or don’t do. Not because of what you say or know, but simply because you are mine. Rest in this truth. Delight in it. Find yourself wholly defined by it. This is Christianity 101, the gospel in a nutshell. We are the blessed recipients of eternal love. God loves us more than the number of stars in the sky and grains of sand on the beach (or stitches on a million baseballs!).

In Christ We Are Perfect and Growing in Perfection

We will lack deep peace if we fail to understand that we live in tension between what theologians have called the “already” and the “not yet.” We are already perfect by virtue of our union with Jesus Christ, and yet we look forward to the day in glory when our lives and thoughts will match this present reality. We are already perfect, yet we are growing in perfection. As Martin Luther reminded us, “This life, therefore, is not righteousness but growth in righteousness, not health but healing, not being but becoming, not rest but exercise. We are not yet what we shall be, but we are growing toward it; the process is not yet finished but it is going on. This is not the end but it is the road; all does not yet gleam in glory but all is being purified.”11

We struggle and fail. For many Christian women, doubts and fears enter into our relationship with God when we continue to struggle with habitual sins and see areas of our lives that are not God-honoring. We may look at our struggles with the same sins and wonder if we are even saved at all. At times we can feel as though we are complete frauds. Am I “Tara the good Christian woman who loves God, loves her family, and serves faithfully in Christian ministry?” or am I “Tara the lazy glutton who would rather watch old movies on TV, eat cookie dough, and avoid any and all work”?

And yet we are perfect in Christ. While it is true that we must take sin seriously because it affects our fellowship with God and our testimony of his grace in our lives, we must also remember that we are not “either/or” (either a “saint” or a “sinner”) but “both/and” (both “totally righteous in Christ” and “yet growing in righteousness”). We are both sinner and saint. We are sinners as a result of the fall and indwelling sin yet saints as a result of Christ’s saving grace.

We are fully justified and we are being sanctified. We live in a state of tension, suspended between these two truths: we are already perfect and holy, yet we are growing in perfection and holiness. Theologians refer to these truths as justification and sanctification. When we are born again by the Holy Spirit (regeneration), we are fully justified—declared righteous—by our holy God. The doctrine of justification means that Christ’s record has been imputed12 to us once and for all. We are already perfect because Christ’s perfect record is now ours. In other words, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21). If you have put your faith in the finished work of Christ on the cross, when God looks on you he always sees perfection because he sees Christ. You are already perfect.

On the other hand, the doctrine of sanctification means that we are being conformed more and more to the likeness of Jesus. Throughout our Christian life, we are growing in sanctification. We are not made perfect by our own strength or effort. God himself does this work in us. “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6). We are growing in perfection (Rom. 8:29). We “are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord” (2 Cor. 3:18). As we live each day, we see evidence of indwelling sin and fallenness. This is because we are not yet perfect. But we have great hope because God is growing us to be more like Jesus.

I (Judy) have often thought that the more any of us grow in spiritual maturity, the more of our own sin we are able to see. I am far more aware of my pride today than when I became a believer in 1989. I have often joked that I used to be blissfully ignorant of how rotten I really am, but now I see it much more clearly. This increasing awareness of my own sin can be very discouraging until I remember that it is the evidence of God’s sanctifying work in my life. We are being made perfect by him, and nothing can thwart his accomplishing our sanctification.

We learn to give grace to others and ourselves. As we begin to understand the doctrines of justification and sanctification and to trust in God’s grace toward us, we experience shalom as we extend that same grace to others and ourselves. Consider a lovely example of giving grace to ourselves in C. S. Lewis’s little book Letters to Children. In this compilation of letters to his fans, Lewis gives grace to himself when he responds to nine-year-old Laurence, a little boy who worried that he loved Aslan more than Jesus. Mr. Lewis comforted the child by explaining, “the things Laurence loves Aslan for doing or saying are simply the things Jesus really did and said.” He then goes on to demonstrate his confidence in God’s justification and sanctification when he writes to Laurence’s mother:

    If I were Laurence I’d just say in my prayers something like this: “Dear God, if the things I’ve been thinking and feeling about those books are things You don’t like and are bad for me, please take away those feelings and thoughts. But if they are not bad, then please stop me from worrying about them” . . . That is the sort of thing I think Laurence should say for himself; but it would be kind and Christian-like if he then added, “And if Mr. Lewis has worried any other children by his books or done them any harm, then please forgive him and help him never to do it again.”13

In day-to-day living, a genuine grasp of justification and sanctification results in grace—to others and to oneself. How remarkable that Lewis could be this gracious to himself! Wouldn’t many of us condemn ourselves if our writings had frightened a little boy? But not C. S. Lewis. He knew his theology and doctrine too well. He knew that all we can do is our best in this life. Then we simply pray that the Lord will cover our feeble efforts with his grace. Lewis’s words to Laurence reflect the truth that “nothing matters in the kingdom but the grace of God.”14

From Unbiblical Thinking to Biblical Thinking

We have been talking about theology all throughout this chapter. To now demonstrate how biblical theology applies to real life, consider one of my (Tara’s) journal entries from many years ago:

    Everywhere I go, I fail. When you see my selfishness, coldness, hardness of heart, and pride—what are your thoughts toward me, God? Is there any part of me that doesn’t disgust you?

I’m sure I got up from that quiet time with very little peace, because that was the end of the journal entry. Not very hopeful, was it? Compare that with a more recent journal entry, one that reflects the changes in me as I have grown in my understanding of the doctrines of God, man, sin, redemption, and the glorious gospel of grace.

    Why is there no place for me in the world? I am such a failure! God, is there even anything in me that doesn’t repulse you? Yes. You love Christ in me. “Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God” (2 Cor. 3:5). Father, please do not allow me to resist your hand in my life. Please forgive my anger at this great loss. Shall I accept good from you and not trouble? (Job 1 and 2). It was not the other person that caused this but you, Lord (Joseph in Genesis 45). My circumstance is difficult and humiliating, but I humble myself under your mighty hand because I know you are conforming my character to yours because you love me (Heb. 12:10).

I remember ending that quiet time with hope and joy even though my circumstances had not changed. What is the difference in the two journal entries? A deepening understanding of God in accordance with scriptural truth leads to more biblical thinking. The more we know who God is, the better we are able to understand the gospel. The better we are able to understand the gospel, the deeper is the relationship we have with God. The deeper our relationship with him, the deeper our sense of peace. Peace in the deepest level of our hearts is impossible without intimate knowledge of the Prince of Peace.

As we grow in a biblical theology, we put our hope in God (Ps. 119:147) and are enabled to experience deep peace with God, others, and ourselves. Through faith in God, shalom can abound in our lives as we rest in his love: “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” (Eph. 3:16–19).

Personal Reflection

    Questions for Reflection

            1.      How did you first become acquainted with the gospel? What are some of your favorite passages in Scripture that remind you of the riches of your salvation? Why are they precious to you?

            2.      Identify one problem that you have faced in the last year. Summarize in a paragraph what you think God intended for you in this situation. What was he doing? How was he at work? How does God fit into your story? Can you identify any of your beliefs about God and his purposes that are unbiblical?

            3.      Read Matthew 7:24–27. Biblical hope comes from knowing Scripture. We learn Scripture through attending church, reading the Bible, listening to audio teachings, watching videos, reading books, and attending Bible studies. What steps can you take this week to better know and understand the Bible? Pray through Psalm 119:33–40.

            4.      Read Romans 8:15 and Galatians 4:4–6. Based on these passages, what is the nature of your relationship with God? How does God view you? What impact does this have on your life? Would you say that you live more like a hungry and cold orphan or a wealthy child of the King? Why do you think this is so?

            5.      Do you feel closer to God when you are doing good things? Do you feel that God loves you more when you do righteous acts? If so, why do you think you try to earn God’s love and approval instead of relying solely on Christ? Write out a paragraph on what it means to trust in Christ alone rather than on your own performance.

            6.      On a typical day, how do you deal with your sin? Do you try harder, give up and run away, or turn in faith to Christ? Read Psalm 51. What does this psalm teach us about repentance? How does Psalm 51 speak to the way you typically deal with your sin?

            7.      How would you define sanctification in your own words? In what ways have your heart and life changed since you were “redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers” (1 Peter 1:18)? Write out five examples of sanctification in your life.

            8.      As you consider the theological truths we talked about in this chapter, how do you think about God? Read Isaiah 6:1–7. As you consider God’s holiness, what feelings come to mind? Do you have confidence to approach him with your needs and desires? Why or why not?

            9.      In what areas of your life are you convicted of the need to repent? Are you afraid that God may be punishing you for your sins? Which sins? Read Psalm 103:12, Isaiah 1:18, and Micah 7:19. In the form of a letter to God, summarize what these passages teach about how God treats your sin. How do the truths in your letter to God affect your inner peace?

            10.     Have you ever said, “I just can’t forgive myself”? Meditate on the forgiveness God offers in Psalm 103:2–4; 1 Corinthians 6:9–11; Ephesians 1:4–8; 1 Timothy 1:15–16; and 1 John 1:9–10. What does it mean if you refuse to believe God’s Word that you are forgiven for your sins? Are you sitting in judgment on God? If so, write out a prayer of repentance for your unbelief based on Mark 2:5. Substitute your own name for “Son.”

Praying Scripture to God

Dear God, I thank you that you have given me everything I need for life and godliness through my relationship with you because of all you have done for me in Christ. I thank you that you have removed my old heart of stone and given me a new heart of flesh. I thank you, God, that my past is covered by the blood of Jesus and I belong to you. You are my firm and steady rock, and nothing can snatch me out of your hand. I thank you that your Word is eternal. Your Word stands forever. Father God, please bring me word of your unfailing love, for I put my trust in you. By faith I turn away from my sinful, unbelieving heart, and I turn toward you. Father God, my hope is in you alone. Thank you for delighting in me because of Christ. Please help me to love in deeds and in truth. Please encourage me from your Word, for I put my trust in you.

(Prayer based on 2 Peter 1:3; Ezek. 36:26–27; Rom. 3:22, 24; Ps. 40:2; Rom. 8:35; Ps. 119:89; Matt. 24:35; Ps. 143:8; Heb. 3:12–13; Ps. 62:5; 1 John 3:18; Isa. 62:4; Ps. 119:65; Ps. 40:3.)

Recommended Resources for Further Study and Consideration

Carolyn Custis James, When Life and Beliefs Collide: How Knowing God Makes a Difference (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001).

Robert D. Jones, Forgiveness: I Just Can’t Forgive Myself (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2000).

W. Phillip Keller, What Is the Father Like? (Minneapolis: Bethany, 1996).

C. J. Mahaney, The Cross Centered Life: Keeping the Gospel the Main Thing (Sisters, OR: Multnomah, 2002).

J. I. Packer, Knowing God (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1973).

Eugene Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1980).

John Piper, Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist (Sisters, OR: Multnomah, 1986).

John Piper, Future Grace (Sisters, OR: Multnomah, 1995).

R. C. Sproul, The Holiness of God (Wheaton: Tyndale, 1988).

R. C. Sproul, Knowing Scripture (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1977).

R. C. Sproul and Robert Wolgemuth, What’s in the Bible (Nashville: Word, 2000).

John R. W. Stott, Basic Christianity (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1958).

Joni Eareckson Tada, Holiness in Hidden Places (Nashville: J. Countryman, 1999).