Sunday, September 25, 2016

The Power of Forgiveness

Ephesians 4:32 "Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you."

I recently had a falling out with a friend. I said something she disagreed with. A lot. I disagreed with her. A lot. It was tense for a few weeks. We rarely spoke to each other and when we did it was... Well... Tense. I really thought we were done for.

After a couple of rounds of "intense fellowship", we began to realize something. We valued the friendship and each other more than we valued the argument. We forgave each other. We became tenderhearted and said kind things to each other. Then, God did what He always does. Not only did He restore the friendship ~ He took it to another level. We now meet weekly for prayer. If we hadn't been willing to forgive, we would be missing out on a prayer partnership.

Proverbs 17:17 says "a friend loves at ALL times". Good times, difficult times, times when we are unlovely, times when it would be easier not to love. Love "covers all wrong" and focuses on the friend. (Proverbs 10:12)

How are we able to live out this kind of friendship with others? Because we have been drawn into a friendship with Christ. He has poured out His grace and forgiveness on us so that we might pour it out on others.

Who better to pour a little grace on than a friend?

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Can You Hear Me Now?

Yesterday was not my best... not a great... kind of a bad day. I know it was partly my fault. But we all have "those" days. The whole day wasn't awful. I had a great lunch with my daughter and a sweet friend for her birthday. It all just seemed to go downhill after that.

Here is the deal: My work load is almost overwhelming right now. My best friend is moving out of state. I have some family issues that are challenging at best. My mom had some medical procedures last week. My husband had a major surgery.

It could be so much worse. Most days I know I am blessed. I am blessed I have a job. I am blessed to have a good friend who will stay my friend despite location. My mom is doing well. My husband is recovering nicely. And God's grace is sufficient. 

So why the meltdown yesterday? I wasn't being heard. I tried to have one conversation and the person on the other end was talking to someone else.. I didn't feel heard. Then I tried to have another conversation with someone who answered their ringing cell phone in the middle of my sentence... I felt less important than that phone call. I wasn't being heard. 

I do not write all of this to have a pity party. Indeed, I probably need to confess my selfishness and move on. I write this because God smacked me in the face with it this morning.

"This is what you do to me. You allow other things to interrupt your time with Me and you don't hear Me. You talk to other people about the things going on in your life before you talk to Me and you don't hear Me. I want to be heard too."

Ouch! How many days do I neglect God? Does He feel like I felt yesterday when I don't show up? I think in a way He does. I think He feels the same hurt and disappointment that I feel when I am more preoccupied with other things. But no matter how badly I treat Him - He is ALWAYS there for me.

1 John 5:14 says, "This is the confidence we have in approaching God; that if we ask anything according to His will, HE HEARS US." In Psalm 46:10 He tells us to "Be still" and know that He is God... In order to do that we have to listen. We talk to Him - He listens. We listen - and He talks back. Every. Time. No distractions. No interruptions. I always have His undivided attention (I have no idea how that works with 6 billion people on the planet - but that's why He's God). 

Scripture after scripture tells me He loves me, He delights in me, He sings over me.. and on and on. How can I not reciprocate?

Yesterday was a bad day. But I love when He takes those days and turns them into lessons. With His help, I intend to learn this one well. 

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Child of Hope

Some days, you just need to look across the table into the face of someone older and wiser. Some days, you just need the tender touch of a hand and a word of encouragement over a mug of strong Irish tea. Some days, you just need to be reminded....

I have been having some areas of dread lately. Things in my life that are making me feel anxious and overwhelmed. It occurred to me, after having a talk with a wonderful mentor in my life, that dread is just another word for apprehension and fear. Fear of the unknown mostly. 2 Timothy 1:7 says God did not give me this spirit of fear - He gave me a sound mind.

What I needed to be reminded of is that I am a child of hope. In Ephesians 1, Paul prays for his fellow believers and asks that they will KNOW the HOPE to which they are called. I am CALLED to hope!

One of the most inspirational passages on hope for me is in Lamentations chapter 3. But to truly get the full impact of Jeremiah's words here, you must read the whole chapter. In the beginning, Jeremiah talks of all the hardship and suffering he has done in his life. He says he has been made desolate and bitter. He is "bereft of peace". (ESV) Then, in verse 21, he says, "But this I call to mind and therefore I have HOPE." 

What does he call to mind? God is faithful. God's love is steadfast. God is merciful. 
"The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, says my soul, therefore, I WILL hope in Him." Lamentations 3:22-24
After all Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, had seen and been through, he still hoped in the Lord.

Will life be easy? Probably not. Will trials come? Assuredly so. Will the difficulties that threaten to overwhelm go away? Not likely. But the Lord is my portion, says MY soul. I WILL hope in Him.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Come To Jesus

It's not often I can say my days have a theme to them, but today was one of those days. The word for today was 'COME'.

I went to a new (for me) Bible study this morning and the lessons were titled "Come". The first scripture was Mark 10:13-16: "And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, He was indignant and said to them, 'Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdoms of God like a child shall not enter it.' And he took them in His arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them." (ESV)

Jesus wants us to come to Him as children, but How do children come?

I am a mom and a Nana of nine and I have spent much time on this earth raising and caring for children. Yes, children come to you with innocence and trust. But the times I always loved was when I walked in a room and one of our little ones would come running with arms up, lopsided grin on their face, and jump in to my arms screaming either 'Mommy' or 'Nana'. The excitement they felt just to be with me made my heart sing.

But here's another thing about children. They don't care what they look like when they come running to jump in your arms. They may be covered in mud or food...or nana's makeup. Let's face it, they may have poopy pants. They don't always smell great or look great, but THEY don't care. Why? Because they know I love and accept them dirt, food, poop, and all.

Guess what? That's exactly how Jesus loves us. Why, oh why, do we think we have to clean ourselves up to come to Him? Because honestly, we can't. Just like a toddler can't effectively bathe or change their own diaper, we can't clean ourselves up without Him, so we may as well just come as we are bringing all our dirt with us.

We sing the Travis Cottrell version of "Just As I Am" at my church that has the following chorus:

"I come broken to be mended, I come wounded to be healed.
I come desp'rate to be rescued, I come empty to be filled.
I come guilty to be pardoned by the blood of Christ the Lamb.
And I'm welcomed with open arms, praise God, just as I am."

I welcome those babies into my arms just as they are. I come to God broken, wounded, desperate, empty, dirty, but I can put on my lopsided grin and run with abandon because no matter how stinky I am He is waiting with open arms to scoop me up and tell me He loves me.

Come to Jesus. It's not hard. You can come just like you are. He's waiting for you with open arms.

Click Here to enjoy the song.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, December 11, 2015

His Grace Is Enough

As I sit here preparing my Sunday School lesson for this week, I am reading through the first chapter of Matthew which begins with one of those exciting genealogies we all love so much when reading through the Bible. (read slight sarcasm here)

But as I read through this one this year, it occurs to me that 2 Timothy 3:16 tells me that ALL scripture is inspired by God and ALL scripture is useful. So if the genealogy is here -  it must be worth my time.

The first, and most obvious, reason is to prove the lineage of Christ and His right to the throne of Israel. It traces His Messianic lineage back to David and further to Abraham both of whom the Jews recognized would be ancestors to the Messiah.

As we read on, though, there are some interesting characters indeed. Jacob was a liar. Tamar (the fact that a woman is included is unheard of) who seduced her former father in law, Judah, in order to continue her deceased husband's line (Genesis 38). Rahab (another woman AND a Gentile) who was a prostitute, but saved the spies in Jericho (Joshua 2; Hebrews 11). Bathsheba (yet another woman) who committed adultery with King David. Rehoboam and Manasseh, two of the most evil kings in Judah's history. And then there is Jeconiah. We don't usually talk about him much, but he was so evil that God cursed him so that none of his offspring would ever sit on the throne again. Bad dudes.

There are plenty of good folks, too, and some that started good and ended up bad and vice versa. Kind of sounds like a normal family, huh?

The point is this.. Jesus family line was made up of people who were prostitutes, adulterers, liars, foreigners, and just plain evil. But God - I always love those two words together - but God was able to use them anyway to bring about the birth of Christ. And in spite of His family history, God was able to use Jesus.

Family history is not an excuse not to be used of God. It's an opportunity to show His grace. no matter what is in your family's past, His grace is enough. Your personal past is not an excuse not to be  used of God. It's an opportunity to show His grace. Whatever you have done before today - His grace is enough. Let Him cover your past with His grace and move you forward in His mercy.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

Friday, June 26, 2015

My Sin's Better Than Your Sin?

I have tried so hard not to write this all day long, but I suppose it's one of those things that until I do it - the itch in my fingers won't go away.... sigh.... I've been hearing the title to this post all day in my head (sung to the tune of the old Oscar Mayer hot dog commercial). 

One thing I have seen recently several times is the justification that one shouldn't throw stones at someone for a particular sin (or insert lifestyle here), if they have another particular sin in their life. Kind of a "you can't judge my sin, because you sin, too" statement. For those who have posted that and are waiting for me to come up with a marvelously spiritual rationalization...sorry...but you are right. When the Pharisees wanted to stone the woman caught in adultery in John 8:1-11, Jesus said to them "let whoever is without sin cast the first stone". No stones were thrown that day, but we will come back to this story in a minute.

The simple fact of the matter is this: we have ALL sinned. Romans 3:23 says clearly that "all have sinned and come short of the glory of God." In our simple, finite human minds, we rank sin. Murder is worse than adultery. One receives a death penalty and one gets a slap on the hand these days. In God's view, though, sin is sin. Anything that does not measure up with His holiness separates us from Him - no matter how large or small that sin might seem. Romans 6:23 tells us that the wages of sin (not particular sins, but the state of being in sin) is death. We all get the death penalty in God's eyes. No sin gets special treatment. God is the ultimate fair judge and there is only one way to escape the death penalty.

Back to the story of the adulterous woman: Most like to end that story with the lack of stone casting, but it doesn't end there. After her accusers have left, Jesus tells her, without condemning her, to go and sin no more. Here's the rub - it doesn't matter what the sin IS, what matters is whether you continue to live in it, whether you repent of it, whether you ask the God of heaven to forgive you for it. 

John 3:16 tells us that God doesn't just want to sit on His throne judging and condemning us. He LOVES us. He loved the WORLD so much that He was willing to give His one and only Son, Jesus Christ to die for every sin. He didn't want us to be separated from Him, so He gave us a pass on the death penalty, but only if we REPENT and accept the forgiveness that He offers to us freely. Romans 8:1 says "there is NO condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus." The King James Version adds the statement in this verse "who walk not after the flesh".

How do you come to belong to Christ?
Romans 10:9-10 "If you declare with your mouth, Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved."

Acts 2:38 in Peter's sermon at Pentecost he told the people, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins..."

God loves you. 1 Timothy 2:4 says that God wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 2 Peter 3:9 tells us that God is not slow in keeping His promise (that He will return), as some understand slowness. Instead, He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish (the death penalty), but everyone to come to repentance.

Is my sin better? Nope. No better, no worse. Sin is sin and the consequences are the same for everyone short of belief in Jesus Christ. His message is still the same. He still loves the world. He wants you to belong to Him.

Being a Christ follower doesn't make me sinless, it makes me forgiven. It doesn't make me a judge, but it does tell me in James 5 that whoever turns a sinner for the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sin. I think the following quote from atheist comedian Penn Jillette sums it up 

“I’ve always said that I don’t respect people who don’t proselytize. I don’t respect that at all. If you believe that there’s a heaven and a hell, and people could be going to hell or not getting eternal life, and you think that it’s not really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward—and atheists who think people shouldn’t proselytize and who say just leave me along and keep your religion to yourself—how much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize? How much do you have to hate somebody to believe everlasting life is possible and not tell them that? 
“I mean, if I believed, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that a truck was coming at you, and you didn’t believe that truck was bearing down on you, there is a certain point where I tackle you. And this is more important than that.”

Monday, January 5, 2015

2015 - The Year of Standing Still

Since the New Year started, I have seen everyone well, maybe not everyone, posting their verse for the year or their word for this year. I want to be that spiritual, really, I do. But reality reigns at my house. Truth be told, I hadn't even thought about a verse or a word for the year. I'm not sure I could remember what my verse and word were for last year, so why bother with another one?

We had a lovely time ringing in the New Year with some wonderful friends and maybe the whole evening just had me waxing nostalgic. I looked at these people - some we had done life with for a long time. We have traveled together, laughed together, mourned together, and loved together. I looked at others who are more newcomers to the scene and think about what our future together will bring. It's exciting and a little scary.

On our way home, it was dark and there were still a few fireworks going off in the distance.. my thoughts turned toward the year past and other circumstances we have encountered. (New Years Eve does tend to make one reflective, after all.) I was thinking about all the things I felt needed to happen to clear those circumstances right up. I thought about a few people that I would like to shake some sense into. And then, I believe God spoke to me - shook some sense into me.

Some verses came to mind and kind of set me straight. They made me realize my desire to be in fix things. In short, to play God... OUCH!

Exodus 14:13, 14 " Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The LORD WILL FIGHT FOR YOU; YOU NEED ONLY TO BE STILL." 

The Israelites had left Egypt and the Egyptians decided to purse and bring them back. They were scared. They thought they were going to die. What happened? God parted the Red Sea, the Israelites walked through like nothing and the water closed over the Egyptian army and killed them all. The Israelites didn't have to lift a finger to fight. Hmmmm.....

2 Chronicles 20 is such a beautiful chapter. The Ammonites and Moabites were coming to make war with Judah and the people came from all over to "inquire of the Lord". They were scared. They thought they were going to die. And Jehoshaphat prayed. The best line in his prayer: "We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on YOU." God's response: "Do not be afraid or discouraged...For the battle is not yours, but God's...You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; STAND FIRM and see the deliverance the Lord will give you."
What happened? While the people were standing firm and praising God, He set ambushes in place. The next morning, the people of Judah found a bunch of dead bodies. The enemy was defeated and they never lifted a finger to fight.

So what does this have to do with me? I need to stand still and stand firm. Standing still doesn't mean doing nothing. Standing still and standing firm means standing up for what you believe in. This is not a passive act, it takes a lot of effort.

  • Standing still requires trust/faith. If the Israelites hadn't trusted God and crossed the Red Sea, they would have died at the hands of the Egyptians. I must have trust that God has a plan for me and for those I love. I need to let Him part the waters.
  • Standing still requires obedience. In either scripture, disobedience would have spelled disaster. It spells disaster for me too, because I am NOT God. Whew!
  • Standing still can still involve activity. While I am standing still I can pray and praise. I can inquire of the Lord. I can put my eyes on Him.
  • Standing still requires patience. We have to wait on God not knowing how He is going to intervene or when. Sometimes I wish He would give me the 10 year plan, but He doesn't. I have to be patient.
  • Standing still requires that I relinquish control. I cannot control the situations around me and I cannot control the people around me. God can. He is Sovereign and He will fight for me.
  • Standing still means knowing that God has got my back no matter what is going on in my life that I want to change.
I don't want anyone to think it is the people in my life who are my enemies. It is the circumstances. It is THE enemy. And, frankly, it is my desire to be in control. At the risk of bringing up a song everyone is ready to forget these days, I just need to "Let It Go"! 

So this will be my year of learning to stand still.  To trust. To be obedient. To put my eyes on Him. The year of Standing Still.

"Be still and know that I am God;
I WILL BE EXALTED among the nations,
I WILL BE EXALTED among the earth."
The LORD Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
Psalm 46:10-11