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: 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

  “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 Accept Who I Am

Who am I? For that matter, who are you? I must have asked myself “who am I really?” at least a couple of dozen times during my life. Who would I be if… fill in the blank… had never happened? If only, you fill in the blank, then I would be: happier; kinder; less stressed; more generous; friendlier; more loving; more trusting; less fearful; and the list could go on and on.  We live in a culture which is all about self-improvement and self-help and if we are brutally honest we are encouraged to be all about self by much of the media and advertising. If we do not fit the acceptable social, economic, physical, intellectual type; many of us begin to question our value. Many would say we live in a narcissistic society and perhaps there are varying degrees of truth to that statement. That determination belongs to the only One who is qualified to judge and it is certainly not mine to speculate about!

There is one place we can go to begin to find out who we really are, though many consider it irrelevant and outdated. It is a place where we can see the true nature of the human condition from the absolute worst to the best humans have to offer. Many see it as a limiting rule book about an angry God just waiting to catch us doing something He doesn’t like; others see it as a historic book, not relevant to our day. There are those who just take it in sections; holding on to that with which they agree and tossing the rest. Lastly, there are those that see it as the greatest love story of all time; a love letter from God to His children. Yes, I am talking about the Bible. Sadly, many opinions about its contents are formed with little or no exposure to its actual contents or because without full understanding of its context as a whole; it appears confusing and in the eyes of some contradicting. Just as anything in life, when we don’t have the big picture or see the whole of a situation; some things can appear convoluted and confusing.

Ok, I am betting you are asking what does this have to do with Courage to Accept Who I Am! I would be.  If you truly believe that we were created by God, and I know some may not; His Word is the best place to find out who God says we are. This is especially true if you are a believer in Jesus Christ!  Can we glance at just a few examples?

  • We are created in the image of God – Gen. 1:26 “Let us make man in Our image, according to our likeness.
  • We were known to Him even before our conception  ‘For it was You who created my inward parts; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I will praise You because I have been remarkably and wonderfully made. Your works are wonderful, and I know this very well. My bones were not hidden from You when I was made in secret, when I was formed in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw me when I was formless; all my days were written in Your book and planned before a single one of them began.‘ (‭Psalms‬ ‭139‬:‭13-16‬ HCSB)  (I don’t know about you but this one slays me! Before I was born all my days were known, written in His book. Even though He knew beforehand everything I would ever do and the choices (even the stupid ones) I would make, He chose to bring forth my life. He placed me here for a purpose and found value in who I would be.)
  • God provided a way for us to be righteous despite our failures through Christ – “He made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭5‬:‭21‬ HCSB) Jesus suffered brutally and was crucified despite His innocence to bring peace between God and mankind with NO guarantee that we would accept the gift by accepting Him. He found us to be worth His suffering even if we remained in unbelief.
  • He chose us; adopted us into His family – “Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens. For He chose us in Him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love He predestined us to be adopted through Jesus Christ for Himself, according to His favor and will, to the praise of His glorious grace that He favored us with in the Beloved.” (‭Ephesians‬ ‭1‬:‭3-6‬ HCSB)
  • We are His beloved Creation – “For we are His creation, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them.” (‭Ephesians‬ ‭2‬:‭10‬ HCSB)
  • We are secure in Christ – “There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears.” (‭Philippians‬ ‭1‬:‭6‬ MSG)
  • We are chosen; not rejected – “I brought you from the ends of the earth and called you from its farthest corners. I said to you: You are My servant; I have chosen you and not rejected you. Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will hold on to you with My righteous right hand.” (‭Isaiah‬ ‭41‬:‭9-10‬ HCSB)   “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His possession, so that you may proclaim the praises of the One who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” (‭1 Peter‬ ‭2‬:‭9‬ HCSB)
  • We are valued – “Aren’t two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s consent. But even the hairs of your head have all been counted. So don’t be afraid therefore; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (‭Matthew‬ ‭10‬:‭29-31‬ HCSB)

This is just a small sampling of the scriptures that tell of our Father’s tremendous love for us even before we ever knew or accepted His gift of unspeakable grace through Jesus Christ. There are hundreds more examples available to us in His Word by searching Who You are in Christ. It is astonishing to see yourself as He sees you! So I challenge you if you have concerns about who you are or you struggle with insecurity, your value and worth, lack of confidence, or even fear; check out who the Creator of the Universe says you are. It will change your perspective and your life. Knowing Christ and who you are In Christ brings a healthy view of oneself. It helps bring wholeness to our lives without narcissism, big egos, and puffed up pride because our standing is not of our own doing, nor is it based on performance; but is totally based of the Grace of God and the accepting Gift of Jesus in our lives. The more we understand the wonderful gift of grace; the more grateful we become. The more grateful we become; the easier it is to show grace to those in our lives who struggle with insecurity, their value or worth, lack of confidence and fear. Afterall, we all struggle at times. We all fall short of others expectations; especially God’s. He said the greatest commandment was for us to love Him completely, whole-heartedly and to love others as we love ourselves. That is not an easy task at times; yet He is faithful to forgive us when we confess our failures to Him and ask forgiveness. (1John 1:9)  Even if we are faithless, He is faithful to is precepts and His Word (2Timothy 2:13), which is a great reason to get to know it better and begin to walk in line with who He says we are!!

May His Grace and Peace Abound to you!

Courage to Forgive

“Forgiveness is the fragrance the violet sheds on the heel that just crushed it.”- Mark Twain

Who among us has not suffered some kind of lose, hurt, betrayal or offense in our life? Who among us has not struggled to move on from these situations? How about when instead of you being the target of some mistreatment, it has been a very close loved one or your child or grandchild? Many times those are the hardest to stomach.  Have you ever struggled with forgiving them? I know I have! The absolute greatest example of forgiveness ever was the example Jesus Christ set for us. Let’s take a peek…

Isaiah 53:1-9 Who has believed what we have heard? And who has the arm of the Lord been revealed to? He grew up before Him like a young plant and like a root out of dry ground. He didn’t have an impressive form or majesty that we should look at Him, no appearance that we should desire Him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of suffering who knew what sickness was. He was like someone people turned away from; He was despised, and we didn’t value Him.
Yet He Himself bore our sicknesses, and He carried our pains; but we in turn regarded Him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. But He was pierced because of our transgressions, crushed because of our iniquities; punishment for our peace was on Him, and we are healed by His wounds. We all went astray like sheep; we all have turned to our own way; and the Lord has punished Him for the iniquity of us all.  He was oppressed and afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth. Like a lamb led to the slaughter and like a sheep silent before her shearers, He did not open His mouth. He was taken away because of oppression and judgment; and who considered His fate?

For He was cut off from the land of the living; He was struck because of my people’s rebellion. They made His grave with the wicked and with a rich man at His death, although He had done no violence and had not spoken deceitfully.

Jesus suffered greatly, was persecuted unjustly, betrayed by one of the twelve most intimate friends in His ministry and denied by others; whether by their fleeing or by outright denial of association. Further more, He was tortured along the route to the place He would be killed for crimes that were never committed. Still He never ceased to show compassion and forgiveness. Even as Jesus was drawing His last breaths, mercy was on His mind as He uttered the words, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” about those who had been integral in His arrest, trial, sentencing and soon to come death.  The offenses, betrayal and pain He suffered was heinous! Yet, Jesus forgave and asked God to forgive!

Some will say, but Jesus was God’s Son and He was fully God. I submit to you that He was also fully man with the same feelings, thoughts and emotions that we struggle with. His experience here was fully human while also being fully God, something we can not fully understand this side of His Kingdom. Yet He choose to forgive and petition for forgiveness not only for those who were responsible for His treatment but for us as well.

The Bible has many references to forgiveness, as best I have been able to find the most scripture with the word forgive are found in the New International Version. It mentions forgive 74 times, 42 in the Old Testament and 32 in the New.  Forgiveness can be difficult for us but it is the example that Jesus not only set for us but requires from us. He very specifically said that as we forgive so we will be forgiven. Conversely, as we hold onto offense and grudges, so will our offenses and sin be remembered. However, we are also promised He is wiling to forgive us and remember them no more if we repent, after all that was the reason He came.  To restore our relationship with God.  What better motivation to forgive those who we feel have wronged us?

Notice that He asked His Father to forgive them…why? We only have to look to scripture for the answer. Let’s consider Moses. In Exodus 16, it tells us that the Hebrew people grumbled against Moses and Aaron. They’d had it with wondering in the desert and were longing for the foods of Egypt forgetting their captivity and the conditions they had lived under. Moses petitioned God on their behalf. In verse 6 Moses addresses the people with the response; in the morning you will see the Lord’s glory because He has heard your complaints about Him. For who are we that you complain about us? ” Moses continued, “The Lord will give you meat to eat this evening and more than enough bread in the morning, for He has heard the complaints that you are raising against Him. Who are we? Your complaints are not against us but against the Lord.” (‭Exodus‬ ‭16‬:‭7-8‬ HCSB)  

Moses and Aaron were getting the flack, but the real sin was against God and God alone. This is also repeated similarly in Numbers 14. We can also find further evidence in Psalm 51 when David is writing about his sin with Bathsheba after Nathan the Prophet confronted him of his sin. In verse 4 David acknowledges that “against You and You alone have I sinned” as he speaks to God. Notice he did not mention sin against his soldier with whom he should have been with in battle; nor did he mention Bathsheba or her husband. He said it was God and God alone he had sinned against.  Perhaps we can draw a conclusion based of scriptural evidence that when someone wrongs us, they are not only hurting us but their complaints/wrongs are against God.

Personally, I am finding this realization along with the assurance that I am God’s child and a joint heir with Christ makes it easier to let go of offenses suffered and allow God the space to work in my life and leave it to Him to also work in the life of the one who may have brought some hurt or pain into mine…

“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and realize the prisoner was you.” -Lewis B Smedes

“Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart.”                   -Corrie Ten Boom

They confronted me in the day of my distress, but the Lord was my support. He brought me out to a spacious place; He rescued me because He delighted in me. (‭Psalms‬ ‭18‬:‭18-19‬ HCSB)

May we find the love of Christ in our lives and find the love, mercy, and  compassion to forgive others!  Also, to be forgiven as we have forgiven and be full of His joy. Grace and peace to you this day!

Grace Stoppers

   

 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law.” (‭Galatians‬ ‭5‬:‭22-23‬ HCSB)

      For the last six weeks, a friend and I have been studying the fruit of the Spirit together. We began with an overview of the Book of Galatians and a few a couple of weeks began to study each of the listed fruit, one per week. This weeks fruit: Patience; oh yes,I heard those groans! If only I had a dollar for everyone who has ever told me “Don’t pray for patience; you’ll get it, but it won’t be fun or pretty in the meantime.”! I would be sitting somewhere warm on a sunny beach enjoying the roar of the ocean and the sun beating down on my face as I write instead of looking out at glistening trees, a cold but gentle wind blowing, and a misty rain gently watering them. Oh how I miss the warm sunshine! 

      Hopefully that provided a little recovery time from the shock of that much dreaded word, patience. We are learning through studying this particular fruit that there are two types of patience mentioned in the New Testament. One is patience through circumstances and the other is patience with people. Patience with people is the type of peace referred to in the fruit of the Spirit. Interestingly, though we are studying this fruit, we first tackled the patience with circumstances and learned that hope is the key to having patience when facing difficult situations; hope coming from the Greek word elpis, meaning hope-the desire of some good with the expectation of getting it. That’s pretty straight forward. As long as we have hope, we tend to be able to press through the less than enjoyable aspects that we sometimes face. Without hope, we find it much more challenging!

     The second patience, patience with people can get much more complex, especially in those closest relationships. Hope may be important in these relationships but perhaps mercy is even more important when we endeavor to grow in patience with the people in our circles of influence and with people in general. Mercy or compassion can be a powerful tool especially when it comes to having patience with people. 

      Just an example from my own life: many years ago, my husband and I were having breakfast in a local restaurant. A customer comes in and is seated across from out table. From the very beginning, nothing went right in her opinion and everyone within a ten table radius was aware. People were getting up and leaving be cause of the scene. We had a birds eye view and could not help but hear as things escalated.  This young waitress did not deserve the treatment she was receiving. As we continued to witness this spectacle, I pointed out to my husband that even if she was performing poorly it was no way to treat her. Maybe she broke up with her boyfriend/spouse, had a sick child, a family member sick or dying. We have no idea what people are dealing with in their lives! We went to the register to pay and Kevin gave me his keys. Then he addressed the manager and explained that we had observed everything and the server had done nothing to deserve what was happening. He then asked me to wait in the car (which I did though it was a hard request to follow).  He said he then said a quick prayer and with the same compassion and mercy I had expressed for the server; he approached this lady sitting with her two adult daughters.  He was very respectful and asked if he could join them for a moment. Then my sweet husband who looked about eighteen with his ‘baby face’, proceeded to ask her with great respect if she’d ever considered that the young server might be struggling with some kind of life trauma or tragedy or had spent the night up with a small child that was sick and sleepless? (We knew this one well as young parents ourselves!)  Kevin said her daughters looked so relived and this lady’s whole countenance changed. They all thanked him and he started out to the car. I met him at the door where the manager thanked him…it had been a while and I must admit I was a little concerned and I decided I needed to check on him.

     In the end, mercy, compassion and patience triumphs! We may not always see results right away and it is possible we may not see results at all. Nevertheless, it is a seed that is well worth sowing! (Lord, please give me the grace and wisdom to remember this life lesson!) Why?  Because even if it does not touch the person benefiting from it, others see. Even if it doesn’t touch the lives of observers, it changes us! It is a sure way to teach us to be more Christ-like by walking in the Spirit and exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit; an intentional though momentary choice to live beyond that moment, beyond our circumstances and beyond our own little world in a place where grace flows freely.

      Grace flows freely where love, joy peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness and self-control abound.  Why Grace Stoppers then? There are also those things which clog and even stop the flow of grace. Let’s list just a few:

  • Hate, joylessness, discord, impatience, meanness, doubt, harshness, selfishness
  • Anger
  • Unforgiveness
  • Hopelessness 
  • Bitterness
  • Jealousy

Help us, oh Father God, to lay these down! Help us to walk by the Spirit, in the fruit of the Spirit 

and in the Mighty name of Jesus!



 Praying you are blessed with His grace, His peace and Fruit that remains!

 

 But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely. Legalism is helpless in bringing this about; it only gets in the way. Among those who belong to Christ, everything connected with getting our own way and mindlessly responding to what everyone else calls necessities is killed off for good—crucified.”(‭Galatians‬ ‭5‬:‭22-23‬ MSG)

To Soar Like An Eagle

For some reason this morning, a treasured memory has flooded my mind and heart. Last April on the 23rd., Kevin and I were blessed to spend several hours with some great friends just before they returned to minister in Europe and in Israel. Our first stop was a quaint coffee shop with a great view of the Chattahoochee River. We purchased our coffee and made our way outside to enjoy the beautiful scenery from the bank of the river. As we chatted and caught up a bit on each other’s lives, something grabbed all our attention. Right in front of our eyes, up in a perfectly blue sky, soaring over the river right in front of us were five beautiful bald eagles circling around in front of us. After circling a few times they began to fly away. Kevin and I have been to this very spot a number of times, never have we seen even one eagle and this day there were five! It was an amazing sight to behold, sitting in quietness with special friends who we don’t get to see near enough, listening to the rushing of the waters and seeing that majestic sight. What a great way to start off our visit; what a great memory!

Eagles are Beautiful and interesting creatures. Here are just a few facts about them…

  • Eagles are powerful birds of prey.
  • They have hooked beaks and powerful talons to hunt prey.
  • There are over 60 species.
  • They build their nests on high cliffs or in tall trees. Bald eagle nests can weigh as much as a ton.
  • Some eagles hunt animals as large as a young deer.

Credit to:  Science kids.co.nz

  • They have very sharp eye sight, perhaps among the best of all other species.
  • Bald eagles are known for spectacular aerial shows.
  • Considered symbols of power, transcendence, and freedom.

Credit to: Onekind.org

  • Mate for life; Once pared together, bald eagles remain together until one of them dies. Life span-20-30 years
  • Most are approximately 3 feet long with wings spans of 6-7 feet and weigh 10 to 14 pounds.

Credit to:  defenders.org

Eagles are mentioned in scripture between 31 to 34 times depending on which translation you may be reading. Some scriptures compare God to a mighty eagle, others may refer to His enemy as an eagle. Perhaps one of the most quoted verses about eagles is Isaiah 41:30-31 “Youths may faint and grow weary,and young men stumble and fall, but those who trust in the Lord will renew their strength; they will soar on wings like eagles, they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not faint.”

What a beautiful picture that paints for us! It is truly a beautiful sight to watch an eagle soar up high, whether it is one or five! Just think…His Word tells us that we can soar on wings like eagles when we trust in Him; when we wait upon Him. He promises to renew our strength, that we will soar; run and not grow weary; walk and not faint… What a promise! We exchange our worry and doubt for trusting God and the benefits are beyond most of our expectations! We can be refreshed, renewed, and we can soar above our circumstances just by trusting God with our lives and our circumstances.

This is my hope and prayer for us for 2015: to trust God more; make Isaiah 40:31 more of a reality in our lives; to dig deeper and go deeper with God; to leave our cares with Him and trust Him to even turn the tough things in life into something beautiful and that He will cause us to be able to soar!  Don’ s words from that afternoon, as best I remember were… “May you soar above any turbulent waters and may you be found standing on a rock in the middle of the river holding a cup to catch the blessings when the blessings are flowing all around.” What a blessing to speak over your friends, and may it be so for each of us as we enter this brand new year! May God take us to a place of deeper relationship and deeper trust.  May we both give and receive mercy and may we be overwhelmed by His grace and peace.

Resolved

     Tonight, as I reflect on this past year with each of its highs and lows, each joy and sorrow experienced, and yes each pain and each delight; my heart is determined and even resolved to move from 2014 into 2015 with great expectation! Maybe my scripture verse for this next year will be…“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. (‭Isaiah‬ ‭43‬:‭18-19‬ NIV)

     Some would ask why forget? Well first of all, you can not truly experience the highs, joys and delights in life to the full unless you have also experienced lesser things that are dull, less exciting and perhaps even painful. Perhaps an example is called for here. My husband loves banana pudding, you know the homemade kind from scratch. So, about 2-3 times a year I will make him one and I believe He could eat the entire pudding if others were not around. Now, suppose I decided to make it weekly or even daily. After a time, no longer would it be an anticipated treat. Eventually, it would get old and at some point in time, I’m willing to bet it might actually become a chore to even think about spooning another bite into his mouth. There is much to be said for anticipation and only enjoying this delicious treat a few times a year builds anticipation and enhances the enjoyment. It prevents it from becoming commonplace and just another dull recipe that is over done and under appreciated.   

     Secondly, we are human and let’s be honest; many of us tend to spend too much time rehearsing and focusing on the negative and painful rather than the positive and joyful. This can lead us to places that are not good for us or beneficial to us therefore in many cases it just doesn’t prove in our best interest to remember the past. Focusing too much on the past can also distort our vision of the present and future. It can quench our hope and give fuel to any doubts we may have. Hopefully you’ve never experienced going through such a rough patch in life that you have wondered if this is all there is or if it is even possible that life will ever be any different. Yet many times it is during times such as these that God displays His goodness, faithfulness, grace and love in our lives. Not because He is not needed all the time in our lives but because we tend not to see our need for Him in the good times. 

     Unresolved issues with the past can also rob us of much future joy. It can cause us to not trust others and even not trust ourselves.  It can keep us at arms length from those we may care the most about; it can cause us to build walls of protection that over time can become chambers of isolation that seek to imprison us. 

     So today, on the cusp of a New Year I am resolved to not dwell on the past. I am resolved to remember His goodness, His faithfulness, His mercy and His grace. I am resolved to remember the times He has ran to my rescue in times of trouble or pain and remember the delights I have experienced in my relationship with Him. I am resolved to Let it Go where lesser things are concerned and focus once again on 2015 and the years to come with expectation. I am resolved to be alert to His movement in my life; to choose life and blessing;to choose love and forgiveness; to choose mercy and grace! Will I succeed or fail? Yes, for I am human. The past will try to sneak up on us and sneak in to remind us of it’s presence but there is a greater Presence and in Him we can be more than overcomers! 

Goodbye, 2014! Hello, 2015!!

Have a Happy and Blessed 2015! 

 May it be filled with grace and peace!!

 

 

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior (‭Isaiah‬ ‭43‬:‭2-3‬ NIV)

 

 

Resolved- Adjective- firm in purpose or intent; determined. Verb-to come to an ernest decision about; determine to do something; to settle, determine, or state in a formal vote or formal expression of opinion or intention, as of a deliberative assembly; to deal with (a question, a matter of uncertainty, etc.) conclusively; settle; solve:to resolve the question before the board. (Dictionary.com)

Wonder of Wonders

Lord my God, You have done many things—Your wonderful works and Your plans for us; none can compare with You.  If I were to report and speak of them, they are more than can be told. Psalm 40:5

     Oh how wondrous that  God seeks out opportunities to develop in us an intimate relationship with Him. Have you ever taken a trip through the Bible looking at the back stories of all the ‘heroes’ and ‘heroines’?  The one thing they all have in common is that they were totally human; flawed; made mistakes; made dumb decisions; and they had times of doubt! Basically, they were very much like everyone of us. God still sought them out and He loved them greatly. God did not give up on them when they floundered; He remained faithful to them even when they failed! This is proven true from cover to cover both under the old covenant and in the new. His Word, from beginning to end is a great love story. From creation, He has lovingly sought after us, pursued us. We may get lost in all the struggles, battles, history and fail to see the gentle thread of His pursuit of mankind but it is always there weaving it’s love story. Many times we get focused on the story and miss God. Some of us question why God acted as He did; question His motives, His kindness. For example, why did He allow a people group to be destroyed or enslaved? We often fail to be objective or see the whole picture but only see from our human perspective and understanding.

  • For example, when I was a fairly young girl my Mom took me to see Gone with the Wind on the big screen. I may have been about seven or eight. First, to be clear, I am in no way comparing any character in the movie to God but my focus for this purpose is how we can get so focused on the story, whether our own or someone else’s, that we fail to see the whole picture. My take away from Gone with the Wind as a small girl was this: Rhett Buttler is a giant monster! He rejected his wife, pushed her down the stairs, hurting her and loosing their baby, and killed his little girl Bonnie Blue. He was a monster and I hated his character. My opinion was framed by my young mind and small understanding. I did not see the big picture, I only saw the most obvious problems and those weren’t seen from a place of understanding. I felt sorry for Scarlet, not seeing the part she played in how her life was going. I was crushed about Bonnie Blue and if he hadn’t bought her the pony and encouraged her in her riding, she would have lived. I loved Melanie’s character, she was so gentle and sweet.  Then I watched it on T.V.  As a  young woman, my  perspective changed pretty dramatically. I could see Scarlet’s flaws and how a good bit of the things that happened to her were related to her own behavior. I saw Rhett in a slightly different light and realized he was not all bad. Some of his actions were out of hurt and rejection. I saw his love and dotting with Bonnie Blue. I was able to see that sometimes Melanie’s sweetness and kindness was actually indulgence that in time caused her pain and grief. Some would note it as weakness rather than indulgent love for her friends and family. Everything looks different, when you see it from a different perspective and I bet if I rented it today, my perspective would be different from the last time,

Now, back on topic. 

       A good example of God’s pursuit of people is Abram (later Abraham). Abram lived in an area where it was the practice to worship false gods, yet Abram did not worship the gods of his family and God was pleased with this. God called Abram to leave his hometown and to go to a place that God would show him. Abram agreed. He set out with blind faith in God and followed His request. Abraham walked in faith with God and is listed as a hero of faith in the book of Hebrews. He listened to God and was very obedient to God. Abraham is well know for his faith in Christianity, among the Jewish culture (his own people) and even in the Muslim culture. Abraham is a famous Bible character; he was also human. He had fears and doubts, at least where man was concerned. Just one example:  not once but twice, out of fear he said Sari (Sarah) was his sister, not his wife. Because of this, the king he feared and his people experienced punishment because of the Kings interest in Sarah.  My, point? Abraham’s mistakes did not stop God from pursuing him and having a relationship with him. It did not hinder God’s plan or negate God’s promises to Abraham.

  • God still made Abraham a great nation!
  • God still blessed Abraham!
  • God still made Abraham’s name great!
  • God still made Abraham a blessing to others!
  • God still blesses those who bless Abraham’s descendants!
  • God still curses those who curse Abraham’s descendants!
  • Jesus was was brought forth through the seed of Abraham!
  • Today, in Christ, we are considered the seed of Abraham!

     God never failed Abraham or his descendants. God kept every promise! God’s ways are wondrous and so much higher than ours! His love is a pure love that never fails even when we mess up. It is said by some that even our failures and sin cannot disappoint our God because He is all-knowing. Before we were born-before the foundation of the earth, He knew us. All our days were written in His book before one of them came to be. Psalm 139.  Wonder of wonders, He desires us, chooses us. He loves us, He forgives us and makes us His own. He is ever faithful. Even when we cannot see or understand His ways and His purposes, He has a plan and it is a good plan. We may question it’s goodness or His goodness because we just can’t see or understand the bigger picture. Lord, we do believe, please help our unbelief!  Please give us eyes to see and ears to hear the wonder of wonders, Your amazing love for us!

May His grace, peace, love and joy overwhelm you this Christmas and New Year!