Courage to Share

Even when I am old and gray, God, do not abandon me. Then I will proclaim Your power to another generation, Your strength to all who are to come. Your righteousness reaches heaven, God, You who have done great things; God, who is like You?”                 ‭Psalms‬ ‭71:18-19‬ ‭

 

    Even from our youth, may we encourage those coming behind us and share our experiences with God with them. How else will they know? Judges 2 marks a time after Joshua’s death when a whole generation passed and there arose a generation who did not know God experientially. They had not witnessed or been told about the works of His hand, nor were His words hidden in their hearts. Each one did what seemed right in his/her own mind. They abandoned the Lord and worshipped other gods; idols of all types. What are the idols we replace God with today?

 

“The Lord’s anger burned against Israel, and He handed them over to marauders who raided them. He sold them to the enemies around them, and they could no longer resist their enemies. Whenever the Israelites went out, the Lord was against them and brought disaster on them, just as He had promised and sworn to them. So they suffered greatly.”Judges‬ ‭2:14-15‬ ‭HCSB‬‬

 

     I don’t know about you, but this sounds a lot like the world around us including our very own backyard, America.  Will we walk in arrogance or…Will we wake up, humble ourselves, repent and return to God before we are given over captive to our enemies?  God is faithful, loving and merciful! He is faithful and just to forgive us, to heal us and to set us free even from our captivity. There is example after example in scripture where He rescued His people and He is the same…yesterday…today…and forever! Whether your captivity is a habit, an ideology, an addiction, a person…He is your way out! In Jesus Christ (not religion), freedom is found! Forever freedom is found in knowing Him, accepting Him and living life in Christ. It is when we know who we are In Christ, that we can have the confidence and boldness to share what He has done for us, to bring comfort and hope to others who are struggling.  May we not neglect those coming behind us nor tear them down because of their struggles and ideologies; but let us reach out with love and share this same comfort and hope to them in the humility and gentleness of Christ. Most folks don’t have issue with Jesus, their issue is with His representatives, so if we share His love and hope in humility, meekness and love as He did; we will be much more effective.  Lord, please give us strength, wisdom, and boldness; tempered with gentleness, grace and kindness to share with others and future generations Your exploits and benefits in our lives! May you find us faithful!

 

“You shall not make yourself any graven image [to worship it] or any likeness of anything that is in the heavens above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; You shall not bow down yourself to them or serve them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate Me, [Isa. 42:8; 48:11.] But showing mercy and steadfast love to a thousand generations of those who love Me and keep My commandments.   Exodus‬ ‭20:4-6‬ ‭AMP‬‬

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”                        1 John 1:9  HSCB 

 “It is because of the Lord’s mercy and loving-kindness that we are not consumed, because His [tender] compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great and abundant is Your stability and faithfulness.”. Lamentations‬ ‭3:22-23 AMP‬‬

Grace & Peace to you in Him!

Courage to Consider

                                           How we should respond when we disagree? 

 

     This morning the little time I had while getting ready for an appointment, I took a few minutes to read an article online.  This article was posted on the Christian site and it was giving information about a group of people in Texas who are opening The church of Lucifer and some members of the body of Christ that were there to protest. There was also a video clip on the site that shows the behavior of both sides.

      As far as protests go, it seemed quite calm and fairly simple though some of the signs were objectionable from my point of you I’m sure those who carried them felt strongly and that they were standing up for other Christians but even more so for God. Something deep inside of me was unsettled even after reading this well-written article. It is a common occurrence to see articles of this nature; almost every article of this type leaves me a bit unsettled, especially when they are aggressive or hateful.  

    As a prepared for the appointment, I prayerfully pondered what I’d read and I came up with a response/comment. More accurately, a few questions. This was the comment I posted in response…

                     I have to say the protest did look calm and peaceful for the most part…

                     BUT I must ask this question to the protesters…Is a protest with large 

                     signs and some that were less than kind the way Jesus Christ would

                     have approached these folks?? Those who are in deception do not 

                     know they are in deception. Jesus choose to walk among the people 

                     humbly, gently peacefully and kindly. He firmly and lovingly taught God’s 

                     ways in a way that compelled lives to change and follow Him and allowed 

                     them the choice to follow or not. He always spoke the truth in love. His

                     harshest words were reserved for the Pharisees and Sadducees who

                     lorded over His people and held them to a higher standard than they 

                     themselves lived up to. Flesh and blood are not our enemies as Christians. 

                     

                       Ephesians 6:2   “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but 

                     against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this 

                     darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly place. 

                     Heavenly places!! That means warring on our knees and loving people into

                     the kingdom and out of darkness.”

 

                    “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness,

                    faith, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law. Now      

                    those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions

                    and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, we must also follow the Spirit.

                   We must not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one

                   another.”

                    Galatians 5:22-26 HCSB

 

     After responding, I placed my thoughts on the back burner and had some worship and prayer time as I drove to the dentist.  Well as you most likely know, most of us have little to do while sitting in the dental chair whether it’s for dental work or for a regular cleaning. There is usually some music playing in the background, or in my case the TV in the room switched to a station of random choosing that held little interest to me. Some of you will not understand, but others will totally get it; I want to those whose brain never stops.  You see, I have an inability to just sit back, relax  and let my mind go blank. It’s always jumping around back-and-forth on some topic or another and now I’ve come full circle back to the feeling this article provoked! And then more questions…

 

                     Is there any precedence in the Word of God that promotes protests?

                     We are commissioned to tell the Good News (Gospel), but does it tell 

                      that it is the Holy Spirit draws the unbeliever and brings understanding?

                      Are we trying to be the Holy Spirit in someone’s life?

                      Does the Creator of the entire universe really need His creation to 

                      defend Him?

                      Is it true that Biblically, Paul called believers in Christ to follow him as he

                      followed Jesus Christ?

                      Did Jesus Christ ever involve Himself in a protest or take it upon Himself

                       to defend God, His Father? Or even defend Himself, for that matter?

                       If allowing individuals to chose Him or reject Him was God’s idea, 

                       is it really our place to step in and try to force others to choose our way or

                       beliefs?

 

       My point is this, if we are loving God with all our heart, soul, and strength; following wholeheartedly after Jesus and His example; and walking in the Spirit (exhibiting His fruit); people will be drawn to the Christlike lives we live. That opens to door to share the Gospel in power because they will see us living it and be drawn to His likeness in us. Will all listen or receive? Probably not, but with God all things are possible. We may share the things we are against in protest thinking we are doing good and helping others but are we really doing good or being decisive? If we do so in a way that has not been sanctioned by God or His Word, can it really be good thing? These are but a few of the questions rolling around in my head today in hopes of growing deeper and stronger in obedience to His Word and His ways.

 

 Grace and Peace to you my friend!

Courage to Let God Work

 

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Do I have the courage to let God work or work more in my life?  That is the question on my heart today. This week’s lesson from Armor of God study was all about four types of righteousness. When we believe and receive Christ, His righteousness is imputed to us but we have to accept  it and allow it to be worked out in our life through sanctification. So, just what is sanctification?  In this study, the working definition is “the process by which you are molded into the image of Christ.”; “the Spirit’s progressive influence on you.” (Armor of God- Priscilla Shirer)

    

     This morning I took a look at Ezekiel 36: 24-32 as part of the lesson. I found it very interesting. As I read, it gave greater clarity on how we can understand depth of the work of Jesus Christ in both His life, death and resurrection.  Through His acts we are told He took on the sin of the world and those who believe will have life and life eternal. We are told that He took our sin upon Himself and traded it for His righteousness giving us a new life in Him. Looking at this passage I made tons of notes but the most significant was looking at God’s relationship with the Israelites in this passage and what He said He would do for them. The Hebrew people were in rebellion and idolatry. They had turned from God. As always, our actions have consequences but there are always benefits for repentance and turning back to God. His promise to HIs people was that He would gather them back to their land from all the places that they’d been scattered.

Then God would:  Cleanse them from their sin and rebellion

 

       God would give them:                                                  God would remove from them:

            a new heart                                                                the dirt or sin from them

            His Spirit                                                                    their old rebellious ways

            His ways/rules                                                            their stoney heart

            a soft heart

           the ability to walk in His ways

           the ability to obey

 

      Basically, God was doing all the heavy lifting in this whole scenario! What was left for His people was to accept His gift and from that time walk in obedience to His ways. The only had to cooperate. Yes, it can be a little challenging or difficult to accept God’s authority and His ways and to walk in them… BUT…Did you notice that He specifically gave them His Spirit, and the ability to walk in His ways and to obey? In other words, He had already provided everything they needed for life and godliness. This is also true for those of us today who are in Christ. 2 Peter 1:3 tells us: “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us to His own glory and excellence.”  ESV  God also told them that He was giving them a choice from early in their relationship with Him:

 

Deuteronomy 30:15-20  ““See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil. If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you today, by loving the Lord your God, by walking in His ways, and by keeping His commandments and His statutes and His rules, then you shall live and multiply, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today, that you shall surely perish. You shall not live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to enter and possess. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying His voice and holding fast to Him, for He is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.””

 

 

      So from these words, we can gain understanding. We always have a choice; to cooperate or to rebel; to choose life and blessing or to choose death and curses. God in His great mercy and grace has given us everything we need for life and blessing, will we choose life?  Will we receive His gifts? A gift is of no benefit if we set it aside and refuse to accept it or to open it! In order to enjoy a gift, we must accept it, open it and use it. In other words we have to cooperate with the giver of the gift to receive the blessing of the gift. In like manner, we can read the Word of God and sit under the teaching of the best of Bible teachers on the planet, but until the Word is applied in our life there is no real change in our life. The process of sanctification is stalled. We must actually apply what we learn to see the blessing it can be in our life. That is choosing life. Now the real question for me (and you if your game) is when the crossroads come and tough times or decision have to be made; will we have the courage to cooperate and let God work to sanctify us or will we rebel? We have the freedom of choice, what will it be?

May HIs grace and peace abide with you!

Courage to Guard Your Heart

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Guard your heart above all else, for it is the source of life.” Proverbs‬ ‭4:23‬ ‭HCSB‬‬

“Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life.”  Proverbs‬ ‭4:23‬ ‭NASB‬‬

“Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.”  ‭Proverbs‬ ‭4:23‬ ‭NLT‬‬

“Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life.”  ‭Proverbs‬ ‭4:23‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”  ‭Proverbs‬ ‭4:23‬ ‭NIV‬‬

     While studying this morning I ran across this familiar verse. My context was within studying the armor of God and specifically the breast plate of righteousness. I am currently studying The Armor of God Bible study by Priscilla Shirer and ran across this thought provoking question: “What does Proverbs 4:23 command us to do regarding the heart? Why do you think this is necessary?” This passage is a very familiar scripture and normally I would just give a quick obvious answer based on my gut but today something deep within made me decide to go deeper and not treat this lightly. I began searching it on the Blue Letter Bible site by looking up the chapter and then going to the actual verse and clicking on tools. I started with the word guard. The original word used in the Hebrew was Natsar which means guard; watch over; keep your heart (as in tending a vineyard); preserve; guard from dangers; observe; guard with fidelity; to keep close; watchman.  While I found the whole depth of the meaning of natsar interesting, I found one particularly compelling! Keep your heart, as in a vineyard…tending a vineyard; a garden! This word picture began to form in my mind.

     Keeping or guarding your heart is much more that just being alert and diligent when we think of it in terms of tending a vineyard. Go with me for a minute if you will and let’s look at the many aspects in tending a plant of any type. This process takes much intentional and frequent care long beyond cultivating the ground and planting the plants. The soil must be monitored often for the water content and for the nutrients. If it is found lacking, we must water and treat the soil in order to keep our plant healthy and thriving. We also need to care for our heart this way both physically through nutrition, exercise and water, and spiritually through healthy feedings of the water of the Word of God and fellowship with other believers.

    We must regularly weed our growing area. We need to regularly inspect the ground for any weeds taking root and for any invading insects or predators that will harm our plant and the expected fruit of that plant. If we find any invaders that threaten to damage our plant and the desired results; we must quickly work to make the environment one in which our plant can thrive. By the same token, we also need to be inspecting the environment around our heart. Are there any unhealthy things in that environment that threaten the health of our heart? Is busyness crowding into the spaces we need for our heart to grow strong and healthy? What unhealthy weeds are crowding into our hearts threatening to choke some of the life out or keeping it from flourishing?  Are there any signs of root rot or critters damaging our plants (hearts)? If so what measures do we need to take or boundaries do we need to set up to protect the environment to secure the health and well being of our plants or of our heart?

     Not only do our plants need to be carefully monitored during the growing season, but we also have to watch both the quality of the plant’s fruit and learn to know exactly when that fruit is at it’s peak.  Then it can be harvested at just the right time. For example in the vineyard, they not only monitor the ripeness of the fruit by sight, touch, smell and taste; sweetness, p.h, and acidity levels are checked by using the proper tools. Fruit is picked here and there from clusters all over the vineyard to get an accurate reading of the vineyards readiness. Then when all the levels are just where they need to be the grapes are picked. That’s just the beginning, each cluster is examined removing green fruit, shriveled grapes and moldy grapes in order to get the absolute best grapes.  Finally, they can be processed into juice, jelly, wine or readied for the market.

     Even still, the work is continually being done between harvest and the next growing season. Plants must be protected from cold, pests, weeds, and predators even in the off season and the grower has to know the proper pruning and feeding times for his/her plants. It takes year-round constant and consistent care to have successful growing seasons and even with that detailed and careful care there are still some uncontrollable weathers possibility and hazards.

     I can not help but wonder how many of us truly understand the depth of care needed to tend the vineyard of our heart.  After this time looking at the care needed to tend the vineyard or a garden, it has become clear to me that it requires a balance of nourishment; examination; looking out for those who would prey on our heart; pulling out unbecoming weeds within and weeds that crowd out our ability to grow; making wise choices; staying strong in adverse situations; and monitoring our fruit for sweetness, ph and acidity. Priscilla noted in this lesson that the heart is the center of our soul which is made up of our mind (our intellect), will (our ambition), emotions and conscience ( defined as our “moral compass”). With that in mind, I would say that examining each of these areas would be another required step in guarding/tending our hearts. At first glance, most see this verse as mainly an defensive move.  Protecting ourselves from external predators, the enemies tactics, pests, weeds, weather, etc. After looking deeply at the facets of the responsibilities of the vinedresser, I have come to see that it incorporates much introspection. Are we providing proper nutrients?, adequate exercise and water? Are we the proper balance of ph, acidity and sweetness? Are we balanced and congruent in our emotions, mind, will and conscience? Perhaps when we are tending to all these things and bringing them into alignment with who we are in Christ and with God’s Word, we will find true peace and contentment in our hearts no matter our circumstances.


Grace and peace to you!

Courage to Stand Out

Lately, I have been focused on the book of Isaiah and the book of Matthew during my times of study and reflection.  Many think or assume that the book of Isaiah is just an ancient book about an ancient kingdom and that it is not relevant to us today. On the other hand, many scholars will tell you that many of the prophets writings though already fulfilled in many cases, will have a future fulfillment. It is possible that we will see them within our lifetime. For example, as I read Isaiah 5 a couple of weeks ago, I could not help but see some of those very things God had pointed out among the Jewish people were also very prevalent in our world and in our nation. God was loving and patient with His people during the time of Isaiah but eventually, when they did not turn back to God; He acted.

     His people would begin to fit into the culture of the people around them. Honestly, isn’t that the tempting and easy thing to do? It is much harder to hold ourselves accountable and guard our heart by following God’s guidelines while others pressure us to go along with them. God loves His people so He would send prophets to encourage them to return to Him and His ways. They were warned about fitting into culture and worshipping false gods of the neighboring people groups. When they returned to God all was well. Then there were the times after many warnings and a refusal to return to God and His ways; they ended up in captivity to another nation or some other punishment. It was easy for those people to blame God when they ended up serving as slaves to other nations! But realistically it is not God who is to blame. 

      The people were given guidelines to live by, not to hold them back but for their protection. They were told if you follow these precepts, you will be blessed and enjoy life and then very clearly they were told the curses that go along with disobedience.  These precepts were taught to each generation from childhood. (Deuteronomy outlines the law and the blessings and curses can be found in chapter 28)  God spoke to them in Deuteronomy 30 an said in verse 19-20  “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants, by loving the LORD your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him; for this is your life and the length of your days, that you may live in the land which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.” 

       If we look objectively, it was not God who put the Israelites into captivity. They put themselves in compromising situations through their disobedience many times to fit in or make alliances with enemy nations and the result of their compromise was captivity and loss. Fitting in is always easier than standing out!  This is still true in our world today. When you stand out from the ‘norm’ of culture in years past you might have been labeled as different, peculiar, odd, weird and similar labels but over the last few years it has escalated to being labeled as a hater. This is true from political points of view to religion, marriage, abortion and list could go on and on. Once upon a time civil debate was a welcome exchange of ideas where people discussed differing opinions intelligently and those who were not swayed by the preponderance of the evidence presented would agree to disagree agreeably. Not so much today! Todays debates more resemble duels of words with the intent to eliminate the opponent. 

         How do we find the courage to stand out? To hold fast to our beliefs as the world often runs in the opposite direction from the beliefs and morals we hold? How do we respond when despite our outrage over a captive lion being wrongly killed; we are even more outraged over Planned Parenthood employees talking about illegal selling body parts of aborted babies for profit over a lunch?  How is a lion worth more than a human baby? A life is a life! How is it if you are pro-life it is twisted to say your are anti-choice? Most pro-lifers will tell you they are all for choice and there were about a dozen of choices that could have prevented that unwanted pregnancy before it ever happened. When did it become almost a crime to stand out in how we live or to have an opinion other than the ‘vocal majority’? When did we decide to just give in to those who are “vocal”?  How did one lady’s offense at prayer in school win out when statistics say at the time 78% of the nation identified with some form of Christian religion?  How did we get to a time where we allow life to happen to us or around us? 

     As I ponder these things, I can not help but think about John the Baptizer, Jesus and the disciples! Their goal was to follow God; to please the Father; to love Him completely and to love others. They stood out in their culture and there was no doubt that they were different. People knew everywhere they went that they were not like others around them. Had they just fit-in, they would have never found themselves persecuted, imprisoned, beaten, and even martyred. Maybe that is part of the problem…do we keep quiet or conform to the world out of fear? Are we just to busy with living life? 

      Christ drew people to Him by the way He lived and loved, as should we draw people to Him by loving like he did.  Jesus also drew large number of religious leaders that hated Him, were threatened by His faith and how He loved and followed His Father. We should not be surprised when that happens to us. Religious leaders of His age labeled Jesus and if we all out follow Him, we will also be labeled by some. He was labeled possessed of the devil, crazy, a rebel; just to name a few. He suffered immeasurable pain and grief to bring us access to the Father and to bridge the separation that came through sin; to restore that which was lost in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit. He bought us the chance to have right relationship with God the Father. Can I/we do more to stand for Him resulting in people being drawn to Him? Are we fitting in or are we standing out? Are we allowing life to happen to us or are we happening to life by being a living demonstration of His love, mercy and grace to those around us? 

Courage: This is War

       As I sit at my desk on a sunny Sunday afternoon with humming birds flitting and playing right outside the window; I find myself reflecting on a new book I began reading yesterday evening. But first, let me say that I don’t believe in coincidences. Nope, divine appointments yes; happenstance no way. Because of this belief, I fully believe that my need to go into town to the bank to pay a bill that was due the next day and my daughter’s desire for a new translation of the Bible on Friday were no accident or coincidence.  During our trip to the bookstore, it was no fluke that we spotted a new book by one of our favorite women in ministry. Not even scheduled for release until August first, yet here it was not only available but also on sale beckoning to us!  Not a mishap or happenstance, no my friend; this was favor!
 
      After only reading the forward and Strategy One, I know without a doubt that this was a divine appointment for me. If you’re anything like me, sometimes life goes through rough patches. When that happens, sometimes we weather it with grace and other times we can tend to let what’s happening in our life, health, or the world zap us and drain us of our desire to push forward; to march on. In those times, it is easy to fall prey to marking time or even consider just quitting since it just seems too hard. Most of us are quick to realize it is no real option and usually after a short time resume our march forward. Other times we can get stuck marking time. When we aren’t moving forward, whether on not we want to admit it, we are really loosing ground. We think we are standing still when in fact we are actually retreating because the world around us keeps going even if we do not. 
     One look at the headlines around the world and you can see everything is moving faster and life is changing at warp speed. Technology has put information at our finger tips. Things change fast and social media is full of posts and blogs about this or that subject. Information can be helpful and good but much of what I am seeing lately is also very polarizing. Almost warlike. In many circles, it just isn’t ok to have a different opinion than someone else. There are battles over politics, religion, flags, historical statues and much more.  While it’s important to know current events, events such as those above can be discouraging and draining on us. World or local events are not the only things affecting our lives; our health, wealth (or lack of) and relationships also can be a drain. Lord help us if they all converge at any given time.  Sometimes we feel like casualties of the constant battle around us. At least I do.
 
   That brings me back to our trip to town. Fervent: A Woman’s Battle Plan for Serious, Specific, and Strategic Prayer by Priscilla Shirer seems like just what the doctor ordered for me; for such a time as this (if you will). There are ten strategies for the battles that we face. Unlike any other book on prayer I’ve read, this one outlines a battle plan using prayer and I can already see benefits after just the first step. Whether we realize or acknowledge it or not, the Christian life is a war and we have a real enemy that wants to take us out. (John 10:10) We also have a real hero who wants us to be victorious because He has already bought and paid for our victory! Our enemy is not flesh and blood! It is not that surly person that keeps driving you crazy. Normal strategies are seldom effective when things just keep coming at you; but I can say first hand prayer works and I believe the information and techniques in this book will be perhaps the best prayer journey to date because it not only informs but draws a plan of action. It outlines tactics of the enemy and effective ways to combat those tactics. As I begin this journey, I am confident that it is a great tool for life and can develop  a prayer warrior in each one who dare to read its pages…more to come.  Keep the faith.
 
Grace and peace to you!    

Courage to be Unoffendable Part 3

     As I pushed the publish button on WordPress yesterday, I uttered a thank you to Jesus, feeling a bit overwhelmed.  Thinking that this was the end of the instruction on being unoffendable but the practice was really just getting started. This journey had begun a couple of years ago when Pastor Tony taught on the need for us to become unoffendable and has continued over the time that has elapsed.  Before I even took a breath after the prayer of thanksgiving, I felt a nudge or a check in my spirit. I could almost hear the Holy Spirit whisper, “Not Quite yet!” My quick reply was ok, Lord I am listening because I am learning quick obedience always works out best. 
This verse is what I felt or heard in my spirit…
 
 Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34
      
I meditated on the verse for a time before responding in a whisper; “yes He did, thank you for reminding me. Guess we are back to the classroom.” 
 
       My heart was overwhelmed with thoughts. Jesus Christ, God’s Son had every reason to feel offended throughout His life and especially on the cross! Yet He remained unoffended even to the very last breath and prayed for the forgiveness of the people despite the agony in His body, soul and Spirit as He hung there. He also lived His life this way.
 
      Let’s just look at a few reasons Jesus could have found place for offense.  He was targeted for death before the age of two and His parent forced to flee the country.  His temptation in the wilderness brought mocking words as He was tested.  In Mark 3:21 His family set out to restrain Him and said this about Jesus,”He is out of His mind.”.  In the following verse scribes accused Him of being possessed and that the miracles were done by demons. He healed three leapers from disease, two showed no appreciation. He was betrayed by one of HIs twelve closest friends. Jesus was falsely accused of blasphemy. The community choose to release a violent criminal over His release. He was beaten, whipped with a nine tailed whip, each strand covered with small sharp pieces of broken pottery tearing and shredding His skin until He was unrecognizable! He was made to carry His own cross to the place where He would die the most humiliating death hanging naked upon a cross; struggling for every single breath until death came. These are just a few of the injustices Jesus suffered on our behalf yet He chose to love and forgive rather than being offended. Jesus had His face set like flint on the task set before Him. He kept His heart right before God and kept His mind on the purpose He was sent for which was to… 
 
           “…bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.” (‭Isaiah‬ ‭61‬:‭1-3‬ NIV)
 
     Choosing to let go of or refuse to take up offense may be a difficult task for us but Jesus set a great example and Stehpen followed in that example when they stoned him. As he neared death and saw Jesus seated at the right hand of His Father; full of the Holy Spirit he proclaimed  “Lord do not hold this sin against them.”  Note it was through the power of the Holy Spirit, the same Holy Spirit that lives inside every true believer in Jesus Christ. He empowered Jesus and Stephen to let go of offense and forgive and He is waiting to give us the strength we need to do the same. The question is am I willing to allow Him to work in this way? Are you? Carrying offense is a weighty thing! It weighs heavy on our hearts; our minds. It robs us of precious time; opportunities; sleep; relationships; hinders our prayer life, social life, worship; hardens our hearts; quenches the work of the Holy Spirit in our life and grieves the heart of our Heavenly Father. These are heavy prices to pay for the ‘right to be offended’.
 
     One question I have to consider now when offense is knocking at my door is “Is there something in me that is making me over sensitive or makes me feel offended?”  God clearly teaches in His Word that we are to examine ourselves and that He is the judge for only He knows the intent and motives of each heart. If there is nothing going on in me at the time making me insecure or over sensitive then perhaps I should choose to overlook the offensive behavior. After all is said and done, I have no idea what is going on in the other persons life that may have resulted in careless words or behavior on their part. Only that person and God know the trials, stresses, pressures, losses, fears, and insecurities they face. I can remind myself to look at the great suffering of Jesus all so He could extend salvation to me with extravagant sides of mercy and grace. And with that in mind, I pray that I will choose to let go of offense or better yet never take it up to begin with! Lord, please keep me teachable, humble, and grateful. Please strengthen me to trust You more, to have me where I need to be and to let go of that which needs letting go. Help me not to gorge on the extravagant mercy and grace You have provided for me; but through the power of the Holy Spirit, help me to let the grace and mercy You show me flow through me to others in my life. As it has been freely given to me, help me to freely give it to others. May all the glory and honor beYours, In the Mighty and Merciful name of Jesus, Amen!

     Could it be that this is the only way to be truly free and experience the freedom available to us In Christ? Please grow us Lord into the image of Jesus, who considered it  joy to humble Himself even unto death for our sakes.
 

May mercy, grace and peace mark our lives in a fresh way!

Courage to Be Unoffendable Part 2

  “And anyone who is not offended because of Me is blessed.” 

                                      Luke 7:23

      A good friend invited us to visit her church a few months ago. We finally got a chance to go last Wednesday night since our church has not been having services this summer on Wednesdays.  Our visit was the beginning catalyst for these posts on being unoffendable. We came in on the next to last week of a study that they had been doing together based on the book The Prisoner in the Third Cell  by Gene Edwards. Just that morning I had prayed about a situation that had occurred; I thought I had resolved any ill feelings over it. Sadly, a fresh feeling of rejection reared it’s little head. I actually caught the potential offense quickly. I set out to put all my feelings on paper in the form of a prayer and to try to objectively look at each possible side of the my situation. Just writing out my thoughts was very cathartic to my soul. It helped to see things in a broader perspective and not have tunnel vision about the incident. Yet and still the sting lingered a bit. I digress, so back to the story…

       We were very graciously welcomed by our friend and the fellowship she attends! They began by meeting corporately and a Pastor introducing the topic. Afterwards we broke into small groups that I later found out were based on gifting. We had a great discussion time and then reconvened as a large group for more discussion and teaching. Imagine my surprise when the scripture from Luke 7:23 was the main scripture and the topic was John the Baptist.

     Foe some background, a little bit about John’s story…Recently imprisoned and with the threat of death upon his head literally; John asked friends to seek out Jesus and ask “When the men reached Him, they said, “John the Baptist sent us to ask You, ‘Are You the One who is to come, or should we look for someone else?’” Luke 7:20. We don’t really know exactly why John asked this but it doesn’t take much imagination to wonder if John’s unexpected imprisonment and the threat of death made him question his beliefs. After all, he was sent to prepare the way for Jesus the Messiah. Jesus was just getting started in ministry and John may have been questioning if he had really understood how things were to go. If Jesus was truly the foretold Messiah.

    Many believed when the Messiah came that His rule would be a governmental rule; an earthly kingdom. God had other plans. They were looking for relief from the Roman rulers of the day and a kingdom of their own.  Isn’t that just like us as humans? We try to understand God in human terms rather than accept Him on His own terms. We put God in a box that we can understand rather than accepting that His ways are not ours. If you will allow me leeway here, we make Him a god in our own image often times rather than truly studying His character by studying His Word.  If we are not careful, we loose track of  Isaiah’s words in  Isaiah 55:8-9 (NET Bible): “Indeed, my plans are not like your plans and my deeds are not like your deeds, for just as the sky is higher than the earth, so my deeds are superior to your deeds and my plans superior to your plans.  (many translations use the word higher when describing God’s ways and plans)  As Creator, He is sovereign; supreme ruler, ultimate power, not controlled by outside forces. There is no higher authority than God.

      John’s friends found Jesus and relayed John’s question to Him. Later they returned to see John with the answer,  “Go and report to John the things you have seen and heard: The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, those with skin diseases are healed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor are told the good news.   Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.”   Luke 7:22-23  These scriptures were the springboard for a spirited discussion on what we would want to take care of if our death was imminent; questions we might have about or for God;  why offense might come and the reasons we become offended. Lastly, a question about our potential reaction when thinking we have been given a task by God and taking on the belief that we will be the one to see it to fruition. Is it possible that the very supposition can be or is a challenge to the authority of God in our lives?  The immediate thought that came to my mind was God calling Abraham the “Father of many nations” only to later tell him to go and sacrifice his only child as an offering. Then what if Abraham had carried it out to the finish and had not heard and obeyed when God said “Stop” and provided the ram instead. SurelyAbraham had a hard time understanding God’s directions and yet he listened and obeyed. His faith was unwavering despite his circumstances. How about ours?

       Do we really want a God we can completely understand? One that always act as we expect  him to act? One that grants us our every wish? Do we really want a God who answers every question we have? Not me! I have asked for things that in hindsight would have been very bad for me. I have asked questions that God in His sovereignty has not answered and I am glad He did not answer. I am wise enough now to understand that I could not have handled that information at the time I asked! Is our faith in God and His ways (His sovereignty) enough to accept those things we do not understand and continue to trust Him? Does it hold up even when our pain seems unbearable? How about when our loss seems too much to bear? What happens when tragedy strikes? And finally, do we really want a God that always or only meets our expectations? Again, not me! Sometimes my expectations are not the best answer and more often than not God exceeds my expectations on the flip side. Blessed are we if we are not offended on His account!

   “And anyone who is not offended because of Me is blessed.” Jesus Christ

Grace and Peace to you!


Friends, I highly recommend the above book. I read it cover to cover over the holiday weekend. The chapters are short and it is only eighty-one pages but it is quite thought provoking and challenging! 



Courage to be Unoffendable

  “And anyone who is not offended because of Me is blessed.”

                                      Luke 7:23
 
 
         Perhaps you are like me and have experienced some circumstances and situations in life where you have found yourself asking tons of questions, feeling confused and hurt. In such situations, it is very easy to fall into the temptation to take offense. I have been facing just such a choice; maybe my processing my way through this just might be beneficial to someone else.
 
         Most of us have been there at one time of another and if you are following current events, you will see it all over social media and the news. All it takes for offense to flourish in our culture today is a difference of opinion on some topic. There are many other causes of offense as well so for clarification, let’s get a starting definition.  From Miriam Webster Online Dictionary we find offense is defined as:
 
 
 
                “something that causes a person to be hurt, angry, or upset”
 
                               “something that is wrong or improper”
 
                                               “a criminal act”
 
                                           “an act of stumbling”
 
                                     “an act of sin; stumbling block”
 
                     “something that outrages the moral of physical senses”
 
 
        Offense can come by means of something as simple as a few careless words to a great and terrible tragedy. Recently I was reminded of the verse at the top when Jesus said “and anyone who is not offended because of Me is blessed.” In fact, it has come up several times. For this reason, I began to try to look at reasons that we become offended. Here are a few I have come up with:
 
  • unkind words
  • loss
  • unmet needs
  • disappointments-whether circumstances, people or things
  • abuse, acts of violence, crime
  • people who disagree with you on a specific topic
  • opposing view on something you feel strongly about
  • injustice

        Basically, we become offended most often by unmet expectations and when something does not fit within our thinking of what is “normal” or fit within our worldview.  Our worldview is our conception of the world we live in. The question I had to ask next was how can I choose not to be offended in the situation I’m facing. Rather than blame someone or blame God, do I have the courage to look inside myself and ask why the situation gets under my skin? Why does this upset me? After much consideration, behind the hurt and disappointment I found unmet expectations. You see, I had put this person/relationship in a box. The truth is people are like multifaceted jewels and they are ever changing; ever growing. No matter how well we know someone we don’t know everything about them; we don’t know everything they are going through! We only have a perception of who we think they are. 

 
        With all this in mind, I begin to process the potential offense. Father, help me to understand this situation… Is there anything to really be offended about?  Would addressing this be helpful or hurtful to the situation?  I had an expectation, help me see whether or not it was realistic. I experienced a perceived loss or hurt; the ‘offender” may or may not have a clue as to my pain/loss! I have to ask what is in me that causes me to see this as an offense? Is it pride? Insecurity? Why does this create such strong feelings in me? Do I think everyone has to think like me; believe the same things I do?   Realizing of course, crimes and physical abuse would be handled much differently and potentially outside intervention.  
         For the most part, I am realizing that taking offense is often times tied to some form of insecurity and by default connected to pride in some way. Perhaps it is failure to know our true value given to us by our heavenly Creator and  through our relationship with Jesus Christ.  For after all, He tells us we are fearfully and wonderfully made; worth more than many sparrows; created just a little below the angels; and that we are kings and priests in His kingdom.  Yet most of us do not begin to understand how beloved we are.
 
        Scriptures like “be quick to listen, slow to speak and anger, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. (James 1:19-20); Proverbs 14:29  “A patient person shows great understanding, but a quick-tempered one promotes foolishness”; and Proverbs 19:11  A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.” can be helpful in our quest to be un-offendable.
Also helpful:
 
 Ephesians 6: 11-13 tells us:
       ” Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the tactics of the Devil.  For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens.  This is why you must take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand.”
 
Ephesians 4:30-32 cautions us:
“Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.  Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”
 
Proverbs 15: 1      “A gentle answer turns away anger; but a harsh word stirs up wrath”
 
Proverbs 15:18  A hot-tempered man stirs up dissension, but a patient man calms a quarrel.”
          Can we truly conquer this thing called offense? Absolutely! I believe by learning our true worth and value (not thinking less or more than we ought about ourselves); accepting that people are different and have the freedom to believe as they want even if it is different than our belief; and realizing when we have unrealistic or unvoiced expectations will take us a long way toward this goal. We will also benefit from the realization of the many times we have benefitted from  being shown mercy and grace by others and by God Himself. Lastly, we will be forgiven as we forgive others. I don’t know about you but I want to be forgiven; I need to be forgiven! Preaching the Word to myself!
Grace and Peace to you, In the Mighty name of Jesus!

Courage to Remember and Not Draw Back

Greetings, 
      I am sad to say it’s been quite a while!  Normally when I write, it is about something I feel that God is teaching me or what I am learning as I walk through an event or situation in my life. Lately, I have been in a weird place and I just could not figure it out or even define it. In my estimation it made no sense.  Perhaps the reason It has been so difficult to define is because the basics of my life are pretty good. God has been gracious, merciful and loving to me; my marriage seems to be better that ever; I have a great family, wonderful adult children, and the blessing of seven super cool grandkids not to mention extended family and wonderful friends formed over the years. For all this I am deeply grateful!!
 
     After some avoidance, in the way of reading mind-numbing fiction to escape reality; some mild retail therapy and much contemplation, soul-searching, praying; and just a minute or 129,600 to actually put it all together and figure it out; I have determined that my heart is broken!  Yes, my heart is crushed!!
 
     I don’t know if you’ve noticed or experienced this, but it seems the last few months everything is speeding up. Time seems to evaporate right in front of my face. The world seems to be spinning faster and changing at extraordinary rates. Fighting in the Middle East, Christians being martyred for their faith, earthquakes, jail breaks, senseless murders, child abuse, spousal abuse, humans being abducted and trafficked and harmful addictions of every kind. Let’s not even get into all the political news and the warring between people groups. 
     
     We have gone from a place of live and let live allowing each man to be responsible for their own beliefs and actions; agreeing to disagree civilly and continue to treat each other with respect and love. Now it seems the majority or at least the vocal majority have adopted the ideology that if you are of a differing opinion that me, you should be trampled and some believe eliminated. Any differing opinion now indicates in the eyes of many that the person not only fears you but also hates you and therefore is a criminal and deserves to be punished by whatever means the offended one deems appropriate. This is truly sad!  In the effort for every people group to be treated ‘fairly’, special privileges are granted for one that in turn minimalizes the other or squashes their voice.  In the end, everyone is hurt. How would Jesus respond?  
 
      Did I say I am heartbroken?  Particularly close to home is the political correctness of attacking people of the Christian faith. The thing is, if you happen to be in the boat with me, it should not come as a surprise…Jesus plainly said that those who choose this life will be mocked and hated because of Him; Jjust as they mocked and hated Him.  Will we respond as He would?
 
      What was once considered good, wholesome and right is somehow becoming classified as evil, offensive and is villainized; conversely, many things that were once kept secret because they were considered harmful, dangerous, and wrong are openly celebrated. Seriously, one look at headlines, social media and other media outlets is all it takes and it’s not just the big stuff. Again, the Bible prophesied that this would happen, we should not be surprised.  
 
      Here is where  courage to remember comes in, bet you were wondering if I’d ever get around to the point of the title…
 
 
Hebrews 10 tells us:
       “Remember the earlier days when, after you had been enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings. Sometimes you were publicly exposed to taunts and afflictions, and at other times you were companions of those who were treated that way. For you sympathized with the prisoners and accepted with joy the confiscation of your possessions, knowing that you yourselves have a better and enduring possession
So don’t throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you need endurance, so that after you have done God’s will, you may receive what was promised. For yet in a very little while, the Coming One will come and not delay. But My righteous one will live by faith; and if he draws back, I have no pleasure in him. But we are not those who draw back and are destroyed, but those who have faith and obtain life. (‭Hebrews‬ ‭10‬:‭32-39‬ HCSB)
 What is the cure for a broken heart?
 
 Remember!
 
     You have been enlightened…You choose a new way in Jesus.
 
     You have been through struggles before!
 
     It’s not your first time in tis place and most likely not your last…
 
     Choose joy; even during these times, find Joy in Christ as your refuge!
 
     Hold tight to your confidence and find that confidence in Jesus Christ and 
          God the Father through the power of the Holy Spirit!
 
     You may struggle and suffer for a short while here, but you will receive a 
           greater reward according to His promises!
 
    He is coming back, and He is victorious! Revelation 5:5
 
    We who remain faithful share in that victory.
 
    He takes pleasure when we do not draw back.
 
    We obtain life when we refuse to draw back!
 
   Lastly, Remember what Jesus said…
Matthew 22: 37-40 Jesus said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them.”
May His grace and peace be multiplied to you!!