Grace Not Passivity

by Leigh-Ann Brisbin, Women’s Director

When my husband and I were dating he asked me what I thought was the most important thing in a relationship. I said, “love and respect for one another and healthy communication”.  I asked him what he thought was, and he said, “I also think it’s forgiveness because what Christ did on the cross for us is like he gave us a clean slate forever. He keeps no record of wrongs and neither should we.” He took my hand in his and moved it as if he was erasing a chalkboard and said, “when we hurt, wrong, and offend each other it will have its own consequences, but I want us to be able to address what’s really going on, clean slate one another and keep no record of wrongs that may fuel future fires we will face.” This has been a foundational part of our marriage for the last 22 years.  Christ’s love and forgiveness for us exemplifies mercy and grace, but never passivity. His death on the cross, was itself, a willing act of love and not a passive victimization.  One of the most defining moments in our marriage was a time when my husband’s love looked most like Christ’s in this way and he stood firm in boundaries that were necessary for our marriage and our family.

It is true that God calls us to forgive as he has first forgiven us. If not, we end up being prisoners in our own resentment and cause a wedge in our relationship with Christ because of our disobedience.  Part of forgiving is recognizing we are all human and imperfect and we will fail one another.  Part of it is recognizing that we act in self-preserving behaviors and learned unhealthy coping mechanisms and that usually underneath hurtful, harmful acts is a hurting person.  Forgiveness requires that I don’t retaliate with my own forms of self-preservation or passivity, but that I let the Holy Spirit lead me to a place of wisdom in my responses, neither shaming nor condoning. While God calls us to be like him and forgive, he does not call us to inflate or magnify minor offenses or to minimize situations that must be addressed. Louis B. Smeades the author of Forgive and Forget, and also, The Art of Forgiving, helps bring clarity on when our flesh gets entangled or we have a skewed perspective of forgiveness. In his book Forgive and Forget he says, “Forgiving is love’s toughest work, and love’s biggest risk. If you twist it into something it was never meant to be it can make you into a doormat or an insufferable manipulator.”

“Forgiving is love’s toughest work, and love’s biggest risk. If you twist it into something it was never meant to be it can make you into a doormat or an insufferable manipulator.”

Smeades sheds light on situations that he calls minor offenses and reunions/restoring in relationships. Minor offenses are acts that are done innocently or with pure motives. He states, “Not every hurt calls for repentance or in need of forgiveness, any more than every cut needs stitching. In the cross-town traffic of human relationships, we have limitless chances to rub people the wrong way, thoughtlessly, carelessly and stupidly.  Mini wrongs can be soothed with a modest gesture that falls well short of repentance and in need of forgiveness.”

He also makes note that it is not always healthy to reconcile or reunite right away, or even at all, in every act of forgiveness by stating, “Forgiveness is something that is done within a person’s heart and mind and does not obligate us to go back. Forgiving happens inside the wounded person while reunion happens in a relationship between two people. Forgiving has no strings attached and reunion has several strings attached.”  I advise the people that I work with that those strings include boundaries that send the message “I will not let you hurt me (or our family)” and “trust is something that must be rebuilt”.

“Forgiveness is something that is done within a person’s heart and mind and does not obligate us to go back. Forgiving happens inside the wounded person while reunion happens in a relationship between two people. Forgiving has no strings attached and reunion has several strings attached.”

When I counsel couples and families I will often put out three plastic bowls and let them represent areas within the family system that need addressing. The first bowl represents the minor offenses, in other words, the things we need to let go of. The second bowl represents the things we need to compromise and work through to a healthier place for all parties. The third represents non-negotiables. These are rules or boundaries that keep everyone safe. Boundaries will vary within each unique situation but there are times when separation for safety, counseling and healthy restoration are necessary.

The non-negotiable boundaries that include situations where someone is being abused, neglected, a threat of harm, or is no longer safe within his/her environment, require a physical separation for as long as the offender remains a threat to safety. In situations involving substance abuse/addiction, situations that put the family financially at risk, or cause serious emotional distress, the variance of boundaries is not as cut and dry. They vary from areas that clearly fall within the non-negotiable to ones that lend themselves to working through the underlying hurt to a place of possible healing, reunion and restoration. Here is where wisdom must lead.  Meeting with a counselor or pastor can help you navigate so your neither abandoning your spouse in a time of great need nor enabling their behavior. Forgiveness is given, but boundaries must be set.  Consider what it looks like for trust to be rebuilt and at what level of restoration is healthy for all involved. Is the one who has offended showing evidence of humility, taking responsibility for their offense? Repented? Willing, committed and following through with counseling and/or treatment for their own healing? Meeting with a pastor or mentor regularly? Being honest and meeting with an accountability group or partner? Taking initiative or agreeing to the removal of opportunities to repeat the offense? Making a plan of action together? Respecting other boundaries you have set?   Trust can begin to be restored at a gradual level when there is a pattern of progression and commitment to healing and change.

In his book,The Art of Forgiving, Smeades states, “If we keep forgiving, judgment and good sense in their right places, we can let the miracle of forgiving do its own proper work of healing and leave the restoration of the offender to other practical considerations.”

 

 

Marriage Resources

There is no shortage of books and resources on marriage. However, there are few that deal directly with the ultimate purpose of marriage and how that purpose fuels every other area of marriage. Below are a few books and sermons that will help you dig deeper into the biblical view of marriage and gain tools for long-term covenant-keeping.

Also, this story illustrates well what I spoke about in my sermon  – that marriage is ultimately about showing the world what God’s love is like. It is worth your time and attention.

Inclusive exclusivity

by Rick Duncan, Founding Pastor

Yes, Christianity is exclusive. Unapologetically exclusive. Jesus claims to be The Way.

Some oppose Christians because of this exclusive claim. But they are invited to also recognize that Christianity among world religions is uniquely inclusive.

Christianity is not only exclusive, but also inclusive. Very much so. How so?

“Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13, KJV).

Who can be saved? Red. Yellow. Black. White.

“Jesus loves the little children. All the children of the world. Red, yellow, black, and white. They are precious in His sight. Jesus loves the children of the world.”

Anybody can come. Everybody can come. Whosoever will may come. We are all welcome. We are all invited.

Back in college, as I studied the religions of the world, it became very apparent to me that they all developed some kind of system for humans to be good enough to escape from the cycle of reincarnation or to get to paradise or nirvana or whatever their idea was of heaven.

Be good. Do more. Give your works to God. Then God will owe you.

Christianity says just the opposite. Jesus was good for us. God already did His more for us. He gives His works to us. Now, we owe God.

Trying to work your way to God is really exclusive. Only the good people dare apply. What about those of us who have been sinful, materialistic, ugly, greedy, selfish, mean-spirited? If you could work your way to God through all of the religions of the world, good people would be in and the bad people would be left out. That’s exclusive.

So, you see, both approaches to God are exclusive. But there’s more inclusivity in the gospel of Christ. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you’ve done. You will be welcomed and embraced fully and instantly through Christ. Whosoever will – Jew, Methodist, Muslim, Baptist, Buddhist, Catholic, Hindu, Presbyterian, Atheist, agnostic, humanist, Republican, Democrat – can come!

One day, around the throne of God in heaven, there will be people from every nation, every language, every color, every tongue.

That’s inclusive.

The gospel, to be sure, is exclusive, but it is the most inclusive exclusive truth in all the world. It’s inclusive exclusivity. Or, if you prefer, exclusive inclusivity.

BIG Questions Resources

Go on a journey to investigate whether what we have communicated in our Big Questions series is true or not. Here are some resources we would suggest for you.

Introductory…

More than a Carpenter, by Josh McDowell

The Case for Faith, by Lee Strobel

Intermediate…

The Reason for God, by Tim Keller

Mere Christianity, by C.S. Lewis

Intensive…

Jesus Among Other Gods, by Ravi Zacharias

Orthodoxy, by G.K. Chesterton 

UNLEASH – Update

We couldn’t be happier to share we’ve received $1,389,215 (69%) of our $2,000,000 goal towards UNLEASH! Here’s the latest updates on UNLEASH.

Neighbors:

  • We now have money set aside for our first campus.
  • That’s $237,000 toward our goal of $350,000.
  • We’re doing our homework to prepare for campus.
    • Talking with local and national leaders who are multisite experts.
  • We’re looking at a relatively close area (10-15 miles away) where we have an existing base of attenders and LifeGroups.
  • Continuing to seek the Lord for guidance!
  • Please pray with us that the Lord will show us WHERE to launch, WHEN to launch, and WHO will be our first campus pastor. 

Nations:

  • Earlier this year, we found out that a couple from Texas (who is not connected to Cuyahoga Valley Church) decided to make a donation of their own.  So now, between what we as a church have committed and this very generous couple, the entire cost of the translation project is covered. 
  • As of March 31, we have paid $169,259 towards our $250,000 commitment.
  • Books of the Bible:
    • Team One—
      • Genesis is complete.
      • Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Ruth, and Ezra are well under way.
      • Deuteronomy, Joshua, and Judges are in the beginning stages.
    • Team Two—
      • Matthew and Mark are complete.
      • 1 & 2 Thessalonians and 1, 2, & 3 John are being completed.
      • Luke and Romans are in the beginning stages.
  • “This is the very first time I have read the Word of God with a clear understanding because it is written in my language! I do not really understand the Scripture in the national language.”
  • Several Bible study groups in the main town have been using pieces of brand-new translated Scriptures and they can’t wait for more of God’s Word in the language they understand best!
  • Please continue to pray for the translation teams!

Next Generation:

  • All that remains on our mortgage note is $201,874!
  • We’ve been able to do this through the UNLEASH contributions and through additional payments out of our cash reserves. The plan is to pay off the loan completely by July 1, 2018, which is when the mortgage note is due. Obviously, we do not want to refinance, especially with such a small balance, so we are essentially reducing our cash reserves to pay off the loan quicker. Once the note is paid off in July, we will replenish our cash reserves with the UNLEASH contributions. Better to pay Cuyahoga Valley Church back, rather than giving it to the bank.
  • Please pray for our leadership as they pray through and plan for how to re-channel that money into reaching the next generation for Christ!

Stay tuned! We’re planning to have a membership meeting in July to give additional updates everyone on UNLEASH.

What We Still Need TO DO.

We’ve made a lot of great progress towards our UNLEASH goal. THANK YOU!

Don’t forget, we still have a ways to go, about $611,000, so please continue to follow through with making your UNLEASH contributions so we can finish strong.

5 Reasons to Believe the Bible is Trustworthy – Part 5

This post continues the series we began earlier this week. Why do we believe that an ancient book has real relevance for today? Last time, we took a look at the witness of fulfilled prophecy. Today…

The witness of personal transformation

The British pastor C.H. Spurgeon said that a Bible which is falling apart usually belongs to someone who isn’t. The Spirit of God uses the Word of God to actually transform the lives of people. God has used the Bible to change the lives of murderers, drug addicts, government officials, business people, husbands, wives, and students.

The Bible is not merely a book that tells us how to live. It is literally packed with life-changing power. It is the Word of God with the power to transform lives.

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (II Timothy 3:16-17, ESV).

Dennis Prager once debated Jonathan Glover, an atheistic philosopher from Oxford. Glover didn’t believe the Bible. So, Prager asked Glover, “If you, Professor Glover, were stranded at the midnight hour in a desolate Los Angeles street and if, as you stepped out of your car with fear and trembling, you were suddenly to hear the weight of pounding footsteps behind you, and you saw ten burly men who had just stepped out of a dwelling coming toward you, would it or would it not make a difference to you to know that they were coming from a bible study?”

Glover had to admit that it would make a difference. Even skeptics know that the Bible changes lives.

Why should we believe the Bible? Because of the witness of internal consistency, manuscript reliability, eyewitness credibility, fulfilled prophecy, and personal transformation.

Maybe you’re wondering, “Can I change? Can I kick this habit? Can I become more patient? Can I live free from fear?” You need God and His Word. The Bible is the means He’s given us so everyone can live new every day.

Read it through. Pray it in. Live it out. He said, “My Word will accomplish My purpose in your life” (Isaiah 55:11). Psalm 107:20 says, “He sent out His word and healed them” (Psalm 107:20, ESV). God can use the Bible to change your life.

5 Reasons to Believe the Bible is Trustworthy – Part 4

This post continues the series we began earlier this week. Why do we believe that an ancient book has real relevance for today? Last time, we took a look at the witness of eyewitness credibility. Today…

The witness of fulfilled prophecy

There are dozens and dozens of prophecies made about Jesus in the Old Testament: where He would be born; how He would be rejected; how He would die. All these prophecies were made hundreds of years before Jesus ever came to earth.

Some say these prophecies were fulfilled by chance, but the odds against that happening would be huge. It would take more faith to believe in that chance happening than in the fact that Jesus is God and these prophecies are divinely inspired.

Consider just 8 prophecies about the events surrounding the death of Jesus.

1. Betrayed by a friend. Prophecy: Psalm 41:9. Fulfillment: Matthew 10:4.
2. Silent before accusers. Prophecy: Isaiah 53:7. Fulfillment: Matthew 27:12.
3. Beaten and spit upon. Prophecy: Isaiah 50:6 Fulfillment: Matthew 26:67.
4. Hands and feet pierced. Prophecy: Psalm 22:16. Fulfillment: Luke 23:33.
5. Crucified with thieves. Prophecy: Isaiah 53:12. Fulfillment: Matthew 27:38.
6. Gambled for His clothes. Prophecy: Psalm 22:18. Fulfillment: John 19:23, 24.
7. Pierced side. Prophecy: Zechariah 12:10. Fulfillment: John 19:34.
8. Buried in a rich man’s tomb. Prophecy: Isaiah 53:9. Fulfillment: Matthew 28.

Peter Stoner was chairman of the science division of Westmont College. He wrote a book called “Science Speaks.” Stoner said that by using the modern science of probability in reference to eight prophecies, “We find that the chance that any [one] man might have… fulfilled all eight prophecies is 1 in 1017.” That would be 1 chance out of 100 quadrillion.

Take 100 quadrillion silver dollars and lay them on the face of Texas. They would cover the state two feet deep. Now mark one of these silver dollars with a red dot. Stir them up. All over the state. Blindfold a man. Tell him he can go wherever he wants. But on one try, he has to find the one silver dollar with the red dot. He would have a 1 out of 100 quadrillion chance – the same chance that the prophets would have had of writing these eight prophecies and having them all come true in any one man. And that’s just 8 fulfilled prophecies. Conclusion: There is a design, a purpose, and a guiding hand behind the Bible.

Tomorrow, we’ll take a look at the witness of personal transformation.

5 Reasons to Believe the Bible is Trustworthy – Part 3

This post continues the series we began earlier this week. Why do we believe that an ancient book has real relevance for today? Last time, we took a look at the witness of manuscript reliability. Today…

The witness of eyewitness credibility

Most biblical scholars agree that the NT documents were all written before the close of the first century. That means that the entire New Testament was completed in about 70 years.

So what? There were people around when the New Testament was being written who could have said, “That’s not true!” But we have no ancient documents written in the first century that contest the New Testament.

“The Biblical accounts of Jesus’ life were circulating within the lifetimes of hundreds who had been present at the events of His ministry… The New Testament documents could not say Jesus was crucified when thousands of people were still alive who knew whether He was or not. If there had not been appearances after His death, if there had not been an empty tomb, if He had not made these claims, and these public documents claimed they happened, Christianity would never have gotten off the ground. The hearers would have simply laughed at the accounts” (The Reason for God, by Tim Keller, pp. 101-102).

Tomorrow,  we’ll take a look at the witness of fulfilled prophecy.

5 Reasons to Believe the Bible is Trustworthy – Part 2

This post continues the series we began yesterday. Why do we believe that an ancient book has real relevance for today? Yesterday, we took a look at the witness of internal consistency. Today…

The witness of manuscript reliability

The reliability of the Bible is often challenged by critics. But if you see the Bible as unreliable, then you also have to disregard other ancient writings by people like Plato, Aristotle, and Homer. Why? The Biblical documents are better preserved and more numerous than any other ancient writing.

Take Plato’s writings. The time span between the original and the earliest copies we have? 1,200 years. How many copies? 7. Take Aristotle’s writings. The time span between the original and the earliest copies we have? 1,400 years. How many copies? 49. Take Homer’s writings. The time span between the original and the earliest copies we have? 500 years. How many copies? 643. Take the New Testament. The time span between the original and the earliest copies we have? About 70 years. How many copies? 5,600.

There are thousands more New Testament Greek manuscripts than any other ancient writing. And scholars tell us that the New Testament documents are about 99.5% textually pure.

If you dismiss the New Testament as reliable, then you must also dismiss the reliability of the writings of Plato, Aristotle, and Homer. We have more reason to trust the New Testament than to trust any other ancient writing.

Tomorrow, on the blog, we’ll take a look at the witness of eyewitness credibility.

5 Reasons to Believe the Bible is Trustworthy – Part 1

The Bible claims to be more than just a book. At Cuyahoga Valley Church, we believe it is Living Truth. The centerpiece of each worship service is a message based on a text from the Bible. We listen to the Bible carefully. We build our lives on its truths. We submit our wills to its demands. We believe that following the principles and precepts of the Bible is tantamount to following Christ.

But many people today think that our attitude toward the Bible is foolish and archaic. “Most would say that they know there are many great stories and sayings in the Bible, but today ‘you can’t take it literally.’ What they mean is that the Bible is not entirely trustworthy because some parts – maybe many or most parts – a scientifically impossible, historically unreliable, and culturally regressive” (The Reason for God, by Tim Keller, pp. 99-100).

So, why should we believe the Bible? Here are 5 reasons…

The witness of internal consistency

The Bible was written over a period of about 1,500 years. It was written by 40 people from many different walks of life: Peter, a fisherman. Solomon, a king. Luke, a doctor. The Bible was written on 3 different continents: Asia, Africa, and Europe. The Bible was written in 3 languages: Hebrew. Greek, Aramaic.

The Bible was written under many different circumstances. David wrote during a time of war. Solomon wrote in a time of peace. Mark wrote while Israel was under Roman domination.

The writers of the Bible had different reasons for writing. Isaiah wrote to warn about God’s judgment. Matthew wrote to prove to the Jews that Jesus is the Messiah. Paul wrote addressing problems in different churches.

Put it all together. The Bible was written over a period of 1,500 years by 40 different authors on 3 continents in 3 languages under different circumstances for different reasons. But with all that diversity, there is unity: The glory of God as He reconciles a fallen creation to Himself. The internal consistency of the Bible despite all its variety is incredible.

Ask 40 people today to write down their views on a controversial topic. How about, “Who should be the Cleveland Browns head coach and/or quarterback?” Do you think you could get 40 Clevelanders to agree about that?

Yet when it comes to the Bible, all 40 authors, over 1,500 years, wrote on many controversial subjects, and they do not contradict one another. How did it happen? Someone guided these writers through the whole process: the Holy Spirit. “No prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God” (II Peter 1:21).

Tomorrow, on the blog, we’ll take a look at the witness of manuscript reliability.