Wave Walker

Matthew 14:25-31

Two weeks ago our family had a trip to Wisconsin, where much of the time was spent on the water, swimming, skiing, tubing, etc. When my 8 year old was out on the water skis, we could see her from the boat smiling and singing this song from Citizen Way:

I can’t help but think of Peter singing (shouting) this song as he was helping to build the early church! From the moment he was called by Jesus to be a disciple and follow him, he was a learner. Peter asked all the questions, had doubts, and had real fears. Jesus continued to surprise Peter with his parables, life lessons, and responses to his questions – even down to Jesus telling Peter he would deny him three times. Can you imagine? And then to experience everything Peter did through Jesus’ crucifixion, resurrection, ascension, and then the Holy Spirit coming to them. He had quite a testimony! As he was building the early church with Paul, I have to think that his time walking on the water with Jesus was huge in his faith journey, and a point he could always go back to. When things would begin to crumble around him, Peter could remember that he is a wave walker! Jesus not only did miracles in front of Peter – he did miracles THROUGH Peter.

When I asked my daughter what she knows about the real story of the wave walker, she quickly replied that Peter was in a boat and a storm came and Jesus was there and walked to the boat from the shore. He gave Peter the power to walk on the water, and as soon as Peter took his eyes off Jesus he would start to sink. But if he kept his eyes on Jesus he would not sink! I love the matter of fact faith that kids have – it’s humbling and challenges me to not overcomplicate things. . Pure and simple, keep our eyes on Jesus and we can be wave walkers too!

What miracles has Jesus done in your life? What’s your anthem of praise for who He has created you to be?

Let the Word of Christ Dwell in Us Richly

Colossians 3:12-17

The past two weeks I’ve been reading this passage over and over again…and WOW – I can’t get through it all in one sitting because there is just so much goodness to take in and meditate on.  My heart keeps going back to verse 16, Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly. 

How amazing that God gave us hearts and minds that can absorb truth! Paul’s encouragement is for us to LET the word of Christ dwell in us richly. We have to allow it. God wants us to be filled with the Word, himself, but we have to allow it in. Invite it in. Let it in.

Guess what else BLEW MY MIND?!  Thinking about the word of Christ. Is that the same Word in John 1, that was present at creation and also became the flesh (Christ himself)? Is it the red letters in my Bible?

Lastly, I love the word used here – dwell. Webster defines dwell as reside, live, be settled, be housed, lodge, stay.  I don’t know about you, but I want Jesus’s word to live in me, to stay with me, and to be settled in me! This isn’t a “Let the word of Christ stop by from time to time” or “Let the word of Christ be an occasional visitor in your world”. This is a DWELL. STAY. BE SETTLED.  And if that wasn’t enough, he adds “richly”. Abundantly, greatly, strongly, deeply, EXTRA.

How can we do this? Here are some areas of focus for me:

  • Pray for a passion and desire to let the word of Christ dwell in me richly. 
  • Read the Word. And if it’s going to dwell + stay, I need to read more frequently and consistently.
  • Speak, write, and sing the Word. We all learn in different ways – reading it, writing it, and singing it, talking about it, can help me retain memory.  Proven by my ability to recite the entire dialogue and songs from Psalty’s Camping Adventure, that I watched a million times on VHS (age 8).

I love that God gives us the ability to keep His Word in our hearts. He knows the power of the Word, the wisdom and peace it brings!

Francis Chan’s book Forgotten God shares a brief outline of Esther Ahn Kim:

Esther Ahn Kim’s biography is around the most powerful testimonies I have ever read. It was during WWII, and the Japanese occupation of Korea, that Esther’s journey of Faith really began. She refused to bow down at the shrines set up in every corner of her country and was eventually imprisoned for six years, from 1939 until 1945. Knowing she was destined for prison for refusing to bow to idols, Esther spent time training herself both physically and spiritually. She memorized more than 100 chapters of the Bible and many hymns because she knew she would not be allowed to keep her Bible. She spent countless hours seeking God though fasting and prayer. These times when she read the Scriptures led to greater clarity and she was able to surrender her fear of being tortured. When she was eventually taken to prison, God used her in countless way. 

Esther let the Word of Christ dwell in her richly, and when you read more of her testimony, you can see just how powerfully the Word was used in her life.  There’s nothing better we can fill our hearts and minds with than the Living Word!

God, thank you for providing your Word for us, and it’s ability to dwell in us. Help us to seek your Word and let it dwell in our hearts. We want to know You more and Your ways to become our ways. In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

Unity vs. Uniformity

Two weeks ago, my daughter posed this question:

In light of being frustrated with herself (and likely a squabble with her little brother), she wanted to know why we couldn’t all just be the same, think the same, and make good choices every time. I can’t say I blame her line of thinking. Even as an adult, I have found myself scratching my head wondering why God wouldn’t just make me to do exactly what He wants me to do… or why He gave us all different minds and two people could process the exact same situation wildly different. Ummm… any spouses feeling me on this one?

Paul describes God’s design in 2 Cor 12:12-27.

One Body with Many Members

12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves[a] or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body.17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts,[b] yet one body.

21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. 27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

Her 8 year old brain could process that God DID create us differently, and she understands that He gave us all the option to choose Him or turn away from Him. But her question is in the WHY.

Baby girl, there are just some things about God’s ways that are so far above our own ways, we may not understand till we are in heaven.

(I wonder when that line will get old…)

I asked her what she thought and we had a great conversation about robots. God could have created a bunch of people that were all identical, perfect, and He programmed to love Him.  But how much cooler is it that God created each person unique, and with a choice. Wouldn’t you rather create something that can choose to love you, than create something you force to? And wouldn’t you rather make 100 different rainbow loom bracelets, each with their own pattern and colors, rather than have 100 identical pink bracelets?

God is so powerful and so creative that He uniquely designed each one of us. AS HE CHOSE.  Did you catch that in verse 18? King James Version says “As it pleased Him”. So the answer to the “why”… because He wanted to. It made him happy. He chose it.

We can speculate about His creativity and being created in His image, and so many other attributes of God. And verse 24 tells us that He composed the body so that it would be different but unified. He gave us our bodies as an example of how we come together as the church. Even the parts that seem less honorable, He bestowed more honor.

God didn’t create us to be uniform, He created us to be unified.

In His perfect wisdom He designed us uniquely so we could be better together. Learn from one another. Serve one another. God designed us to synergize long before that was a business buzz word. We are greater together than the sum of our individual parts.

We can come up with a list of benefits of His “One Body with Many Members” design – but what would your list look like for the WHY behind it?

Because He Can.

Because it pleased Him.

What else?

The Ten Virgins

Matthew 25:1-13 and Psalm 135

Clearly Jesus wants to press upon us to BE READY – He gave us so many great teachings on this topic. In a world that is more than ever prepped, organized, and connected…we really seem to have our stuff together on the outside. And social media is such a great place for our highlight reel of all things filtered and cropped perfectly.

Like these ten virgins, we are all prepped, ready and waiting for the party. But when news comes that the party is FINALLY about to start, panic mode sets in. While we have the right dress, the lamp even… half of us do not have the oil to make the lamp burn.   Job Number One: BURN ALL THE LAMPS! It’s more than just showing up appearing put together – you have to show up with the oil!

I have heard different analogies for what the oil represents for Christ Followers. Faith. The Holy Spirit. Obedience. I can’t help but think of the lukewarm that John talks about in Revelation.

We aren’t told why these virgins (think bridesmaids) showed up without the oil. Maybe they were so consumed with doing their hair that they ran out of time. Maybe they were going around worrying about how everyone else’s dress looked that they lost sight of Job Number One. Whatever their reason for not having the oil – the bottom line is, without it, they could not enter the party.

I’ve been in a season of box checking and having so many holy “habits” that I found myself losing sight of holy union.  Sure I had the right dress on, my hair was in place, and I even had my lamp. But when it was time to actually do Job Number One, I had no oil.

In motherhood this looks a lot like stretching ourselves so thin with lots of “good” things (teach Sunday school, weekly BSF, Bible Journal, etc)….but then losing our minds on our kids when they clog the sink with silly putty. Or missing out on quiet moments with them because we have run ourselves so ragged that we collapse in an instant.

What’s keeping you from Job Number One today in your walk with the Lord? Are you walking around appearing to be ready – you’ve got the dress, hair, and your lamp is GORGEOUS… but in secret you’re out of oil? Don’t wait for THE BEST PARTY EVER to start before you announce you’re out of oil.  Get your oil NOW and BE READY!

The Parable of the Ten Virgins

“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise.  The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them.  The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.

 “At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’

 “Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’

 “‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’

 “But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.

 “Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’

 “But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’

 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.

 

Loving the Lost + Found

Luke 15:11-32 and Psalm 123

Sermons, books, paintings, and more, have detailed the story of the Prodigal Son from Luke 15. I’m guessing this is such a popular teaching of Jesus because each of us can relate to one (or all) of the characters.

Maybe we once set off on a path of selfishness and irresponsible choices and hit rock bottom.

Maybe our self righteousness got the better of us in a weak moment of judging others.

Or maybe we have experienced the joy of reconciling a relationship.

What’s so amazing about the Word of God is that it is LIVING. It is ETERNAL. It has POWER. The Word is God and is not bound by time. While the Word of God does not change – our response and our experience with the Word does change.  We receive, relate to, and understand the Word differently at different times in our lives.

I can think of seasons where I could really relate to the son and his disregard for others or himself. I can relate to the brother – who is working so hard to earn his father’s favor and yet harboring resentment and self-righteousness. And I have celebrated estranged family members that have reunited.

Within each of these characters, the Lord is at work. He was at work in humbling the Son, He was at work providing grace for the Father to extend, and He was at work in the brother’s life, giving him a second chance to join in the celebration.

How is the Lord working in your life? Do you need to take steps forward like the Father for a deeper reconciliation? Or admit your sin against God and against man and seek forgiveness?  This story is layered with wisdom and life lessons.

The overall focus of this lesson appears to be the joy of the salvation for the Son. This series started with the lost sheep, then the lost coin, and now the lost Son. While there are many more sheep, many more coins, and even many more souls, God stops and celebrates the ONE. Each are greatly valued, while in the midst of other greatly valued things. But even the one “lost and then found” item or person is still abundantly valuable to the kingdom. And to be celebrated! Can you imagine the party happening when one soul makes a decision to turn from sin and turn to salvation? How would our lives look and feel differently if we really celebrated the “found” in our world?

As a parent I can relate to the joy of the Father that his Son is physically back home. I have felt gratitude for a kid that comes with a humble heart seeking change. I have even celebrated spiritual steps forward in our children’s faith journey.  Parenthood comes with an unconditional love that leaves our arms and hearts open.

As we are all God’s children, and He sees us all with this same love, how can we see each other through those same Father’s eyes?  How do we get our arms open and meet people in the middle, when they aren’t our children? How do we celebrate the person that once sinned against us but is now seeking change? It seems easier when they are our children – which gives us a glimpse into God’s perfect heart and perfect ways. The love I have for my children is an imperfect version of the love God has for me. And even for my enemies.

God, thank you for your living Word that moves and changes us.  You are the perfect Father, with perfect love and grace for all of your children. Help us to shine that same love to all of your children while we are here. Amen.

A Parable about the Parables

Matthew 13:52 and Psalm 111

And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house, who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”

As we continue through this series of parables, we come to a moment where Jesus pauses and asks his disciples if they get the parables up to this point (verse 51), to which they reply a simple yes. I try to put myself in their shoes – would I have the faith to say yes? Or would I have had ten follow up questions to better understand? Even though we know that the disciples didn’t FULLY comprehend everything Jesus was telling them, they knew enough and had the faith to answer yes. And then we come to verse 52 where Jesus shares a parable about all of the parables!

In this mini parable break, Jesus is encouraging them to not replace everything they learned before with all of these new teaching and parables. Instead, add these new parables and teaching with the old (law).  Similar to how we have both new things in our home along with family heirlooms. One doesn’t replace the other – it’s all part of the collection.

I will admit that I have tried to line up God in the Old Testament with Jesus in the New Testament. The bright light that we can’t look upon and need to remove our shoes for, with the man that is fishing and eating with the lowest of the low. In my heart I believe and know they are one and completely unified, but sometimes my brain goes into overdrive trying to reconcile the two and figure it all out.

Recently a preacher shared this and it’s SO TRUE! Our human (barfo) nature wants our view of graceful bear hugging Jesus to deal with our own sin…. And we want OT fire + brimstone God to show up and deal with people that sin against us.  OUCH – that was a ZINGER! I can think of a time I had those thoughts.

Truth be told, they are perfectly unified. Balancing OT (law, teachings, etc) with the NT (parables, grace, etc) is similar to understanding the trinity. What a beautiful mystery!

Does anyone else love Paul’s comments to the church in Corinth about “now we see through a glass darkly…” – I can not WAIT for heaven, when it will all be crystal clear. Will we be like the disciples and simply say “yes, we understand”, or will we have a million questions?

As Jesus continues to fulfill the law, with his teachings and ultimately his sacrifice, my prayer is that we can have wisdom in balancing the old and the new. The Psalm that is assigned with today’s reading is Psalm 111. I love when the two readings come together so beautifully. Here are a few lines that really spoke to me in light of the parable about parables.

2 Great are the works of the Lord,
studied by all who delight in them.

4 He has caused his wondrous works to be remembered;

10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
all those who practice it have a good understanding.

God caused us to remember the law in the Old Testament and Jesus’ parable of parables reinforces this. As we seek wisdom and understanding, knowing who God is and having fear and respect for Him is our first step in understanding.

 

 

The Rich Fool

The Rich Fool

If you aren’t familiar with this parable, make sure to read these few verses.  Luke 12:16-21 and Psalms 99.

A farmer has an abundant harvest, more than he could store in his barns. So he tore down the existing barns, built bigger barns to store it and save for himself so he could relax. Specifically, he was looking forward to taking it easy, eating, drinking, and being merry, for the rest of his days.  Cue the voice of God: You Fool! Tonight you will lose your life, then who will have all of your stored up harvest?

Jesus wraps up the parable with the warning that the same will be for any of us, that store treasures and is not rich toward God.

I wonder where specifically this farmer went off track?  He is described in the beginning as rich (but not yet called foolish)…so maybe leading into the abundance he is a rich + wise farmer. Having a good harvest or abundance isn’t bad. I don’t even know that storing the harvest was all that awful. He had to put it somewhere, right?! Although I’m not sure why he had to tear down the small barns and build the bigger barns…couldn’t he have built an extra barn for the excess? Why tear town the existing barns? I’d really like to ask this farmer a few questions. 🙂

It seems like it went downhill with his heart + desire. We don’t hear anything about a grateful heart for the abundance, a tithe or offering back to the Lord, and we don’t read that he sought direction from God on how to use the abundance.  We don’t even hear any of his own plans to use the abundance to further the kingdom. He wants to relax and not have to worry about his future, keeping it in his own (perceived) control, relying on the abundance. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE a good sabbath – we are even commanded to rest. But not forever!

The farmer’s plans sure sound A LOT like modern era retirement goals!  Or lottery dreaming… “If I win the lottery, I am quitting my job tomorrow and living the good life”.  While retirement planning is a good way to show stewardship over what God has provided, doing it without the Lord will lead us down a path like this Rich Fool. It seems like a fine line!

How much of my financial planning and saving is to be a good steward and how much is me wanting to have control? It feels hard to discern. Are my conversations with God about money sincere? Is my heart and mind completely open to whatever He would ask of me? I love this picture of having our hands open – fully willing to use anything the Lord gives, however He directs. And it’s when our hands are fully open, we are also able to fully receive what He has for us.

Earlier this week I left a conversation with my jaw wide open and a tear in my eye.  Truly humbled by someone I really don’t know that well – but I crossed paths with Bob and wished him well in his upcoming “retirement”. I asked him what he had planned, to which he quickly replied “FIND A JOB”! What I know  about Bob is that he has a heart for the Lord and a heart for kids. His career has been in shaping children, and at home, he and his wife have fostered and adopted children. I really don’t know much more about his family or his story, other than he was at the point in his career where he either could retire or had to retire, and yet he wasn’t planning to truly retire. He shared that he needed to keep working to get these kids through college. I think about the choices he had to make when welcoming kids into his home, and knowing it would push back his time to retire. I wonder what else he and his wife have sacrificed for the kingdom. Would I have a heart like Bob, who likely sees his peers “retiring” and he is retiring from one career and actively looking for the next.

Lord, thank you for all the prosperity you have given me. Thank you for the talents and opportunities to prosper. Help me to surrender any control or fear about money, and have complete confidence in Your provision. Please put people in my path that have current needs, more than the future me might need. Give me wisdom in being a good steward and keep me from being a fool! Thank you for people like Bob that show me how to be rich toward you. Amen.

Two Roads + Two Gates

The Narrow and Wide Gates

 Matthew 7:13-14 and Psalm 87

 Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.  But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

This scripture is equally perplexing AND frightening! It is really hard for my small brain to comprehend God’s ways sometimes. Why will only few find it? If all will hear, why will just a few enter?

As Jesus wraps up His teaching on the hillside (now called the Mount of Beatitudes), He has covered a lot ground with topics ranging from serving, to judging, to prayer. He addresses our hearts: pointing out areas of law, tradition, and ritual, and replacing them with pure motives, love, and authenticity.

In an environment of Jewish law and order reigning over all, He fulfills those laws by showing what’s at the root of them – going back to the basics/intention of the law, and then maximizing the law to the fullest with love + utmost surrender to the Lord.

Every time I read this passage, two things come to mind. Anyone else watch A Thief In the Night back in the day? I was 7 and that movie FREAKED ME OUT! The razor left in the bathroom sink… the sad sad song “I Wish We’d All Been Ready”. It was more than my developing brain could process.

The second thing my mind races to is the scripture about the lukewarm being spit out (Rev 3:16). If you’ve read any of Francis Chan’s work, you’ve likely come across some of his thoughts on this scripture.  One cool thing about heaven is we will see + know things as they truly are (1 Cor 13:12) – no more guessing!

When I think about this narrow road of a few, it’s easy for me to start feeling frightened or downtrodden. Many enter the path to destruction, but few enter the path of life. Who am I to be among the few? There are a lot more Christians that are more spiritual than me.  Yikes!

How does this scripture coincide with the popular mantra “Just Believe”? If you pray the sinner’s prayer and confess Jesus as your Lord + Savior, that’s it, right? How do we know for certain? Will we ever know for certain?  Paul’s letter to the Philippians (1:6) sure sounds assuring: Being confident of this very thing, that He that began a good work in you will complete it until the day that Christ returns. How do we get that confidence??

I don’t know the answers to all of these questions. What I do know is that God doesn’t want me living in a state of fear, worry, or a mindset of “working my way into heaven”. This is exactly what Jesus preached against.  He wants my heart surrendered and pure. If I am truly believing in His saving grace and can comprehend His love for me, then my life wouldn’t be lukewarm. My passion for Him would be evident in all areas of my life. My desire to glorify Him (not earn salvation) will supersede everything else.

So what about when it’s not? What’s happening then? Am I “saved” when I have seasons of lukewarm living? When I start walking on the wide path toward the big gate…then what?  Is there grace for that? If I had a car accident in that moment and died, can I just use the common line “well, God knows my heart”?  And is that always a comfort or is that just what people say to justify sin and lukewarm living? Because the truth is, God really does know my heart. ALL OF IT. I’m not sure that’s something I want to brag about all the time.  Sure on Sundays when I’ve sang some worship songs and taken good notes from the sermon…or when I just got back from a long run filled with talking to God. But what about when I’m stuck in traffic, see someone that’s really treated me poorly, or my kids won’t listen. Yep, He sees my heart then, too. We can’t pick and choose when and what He sees. I digress…

The bottom line is, in my heart of hearts, I have confidence in the saving grace of God, His love for me, and I choose to surrender all to Him. I can’t wait for heaven!! I believe in Jesus and I believe in heaven! And I believe I will be there.

As I say that, I also have to tell you that I’ve had moments where I couldn’t get a hold of someone… so had to call another Christian (Grandma Rita is a good one) to make sure Jesus didn’t come back and I was left behind. You know, because if anyone’s FOR SURE IN, it’s her. HA HA!

Does anyone else ponder these questions? What have you come up with?

 

 

 

 

From Forgiven to Forgiver

Mathew 6:12 and Psalm 75

I have LOVED the past week’s focus on prayer. Ever since BJ shared for the next several days, we get to assess our theology and see how it is revealed through our prayers’, I can’t stop thinking about what my prayers say about my theology. It’s been equally humbling and challenging for me to ponder.

As we move through the Lord’s Prayer, verse 12 STOPPED ME IN MY TRACKS. Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.

This feels like one of those perfectly timed, witty, strategic responses that Jesus would use to turn hearts in an instant. You know… you who have no sin, throw the first stone. {insert emoji with big shocked eyes}

The first half of the verse – YES, PLEASE – we all want the perfect forgiveness that God promises.  The second half – YIKES – I do NOT want God to forgive me AS I forgive others.  Wait…does the “as” mean “like” or does the “as” mean “at the same time”? Either way, NOT IDEAL!!!  Jesus hits me right between the eyes with this one.

We have the first half of this where we need to verbally ask God for His forgiveness, and the second half calling us to forgive like He does. But how? How do we model His forgiveness? And how do we seek forgiveness from God (and others)? God doesn’t require perfection when we seek forgiveness from Him…yet we can struggle forgiving others when they don’t seek our forgiveness in a perfect way.

Forgiveness comes easier when the trespasser asks for it, shows true sorrow, and wants to change. Forgiveness flows more freely when they humbly come with an understanding of how their offense harmed you, and they seek restitution or some way to make things right.  There aren’t excuses, justifications, or accusations. Wow, if every sin against us could be committed by a perfect forgiveness seeker, this would all be so much easier!

At the same time, our own forgiveness-seeking conversations with God can be pretty pathetic, would you agree? I know mine are! And yet, He forgives us. Every time! Immediately! God forgives us amidst our imperfect forgiveness-seeking!  He blots out our sin (Acts 3:19) and removes it as far as the east is to the west (Psalm 103:12).

When we are on the other side of this, acting as a forgiver, it can be much harder when the trespasser doesn’t perfectly seek forgiveness, or even worse, they don’t acknowledge the trespass at all. And yet, we are still called to forgive.

Why? Why does God care if we forgive others? I believe it’s because He knows that an unforgiving heart harms us more than it ever will the person we aren’t forgiving. God calls us to forgive others, for our own benefit. You remember as a kid when your parents would give a consequence and say it’s because they love you? Yeah, this feels like one of those times. God calls us to forgive others, not just because He loves them and forgives them too, BUT BECAUSE HE LOVES US. He wants unity for us. He wants peace for us. It’s for our own good, even though in the moment it is HARD.

And How? How do we forgive people in our world?  The only way is with the power of the Holy Spirit. It’s not in our sinful nature to forgive, but by the grace of God, we can extend His forgiveness to others. We can’t go solo on this one… I know when I have tried it on my own, it is imperfect and short lived.  My version of forgiveness becomes a cheap imitation. It’s like lipstick on a pig – and the lipstick WILL COME OFF. And my unforgiving, vengeful, pig heart is what’s left. Do you know what I mean?

I don’t know where this scripture lands on you today. Maybe you’re in one of these places – or maybe all of these places (hello, self):

  • What sin do you need to confess to God today? Let’s die daily to sin, call it what it is and confess it.
  • Do you need to TRULY BELIEVE in His promise to forgive you? If you’re seeking forgiveness over and over for the same sin, TRUST HIM. He wants you to believe that He forgave you the moment you first repented and sought forgiveness.
  • Are you struggling to forgive someone today? We may choose and work toward forgiving someone (on the daily!), and the healing and reconciliation still take a lot of time and effort on this side of heaven.
  • Do you need to seek forgiveness from someone today? Romans 12:18 calls us to live peaceably with everyone as much as we are able, and to be reconciled to one another (Matt 5:23-24).

Thank you, God, for your forgiveness, even in the middle of my own imperfectly forgiving heart and imperfect forgiveness-seeking. Thank you for modeling forgiveness for us. God, I need YOUR POWER to truly forgive with my whole heart + mind. I confess to you that I imperfectly forgive and I need your help. Create in me a pure heart!  Move me from being Forgiven to also being a Forgiver! 

 

 

 

The Big D

Matthew 5:31-32 and Psalms 63

I will admit, I LAUGHED OUT LOUD when reading this month’s outline for the Bible Journal project. A deeper focus on one topic, maybe just one verse. I scroll down to my assignment: April 14th, Divorce, Matthew 5:31-32 and Psalms 63.  Lord, you really are just hysterical sometimes!

My parents are divorced, I married someone that is divorced, and my own marriage has been on the brink of divorce. I don’t know if this makes me a subject matter expert, or so completely biased that I’m the last person that should be journaling today. HA!

As Jesus addresses all of the different topics in His sermon on the mount, He explains, clarifies, and helps us find FREEDOM in living more fully focused on God. Specific to divorce, He reminds us that when separating/leaving your spouse, you need to give a legal certificate for divorce (don’t just stop living with them). He explains that without the actual certificate of divorce, you would be causing sin (adultery) if/when the person remarries. He also reinforces the acceptable grounds for divorce – adultery.

Clearly the Lord takes marriage vows seriously. They’re not only vows made to one another, but to Him. He doesn’t want them broken, and when they must be, He wants order even in the brokenness.

The topic of divorce brings a lot of controversy – today, and apparently ALWAYS – both in and outside of the church. I’m guessing it’s because divorce is the result of sin, which begets more sin, even beyond the divorcing party. Family and friends can find themselves judging, gossiping, harboring bitterness, anger and hatred. Divorce can really bring out all of our ugly. And all of our opinions and infighting.

I wish none of us ever had to study these verses or apply them to our life’s circumstances. I’m no stranger to the heartbreak and pain of divorce. It’s real, raw, and just plain awful. The wounds run deep and the healing is rarely linear. While I don’t have the answers, I will share a few general points of encouragement based on some of my experiences:

If you are a child of divorced parents, please believe, more than anything, that this is not your fault. Whatever sin was in your parent(s) lives that led to this, it’s not what you wanted and not what God wanted. I hope you know that God wants to help you heal from all of the hurts this brought you. I pray your parent(s) can repent and seek forgiveness from God and from you and relationships can be restored. Most of all, I pray that you can have a deep relationship with your heavenly Father that brings overwhelming love into your life. He loves you, and He knows every tear you have shed (Psalms 56:8).

If you are considering separation/divorce, or already in the middle of it, please, take your time.  Seek biblical counseling and cling to any amount of hope you can find. Remember, God is still in the business of making miracles!  Go to the word and pray for direction. God doesn’t contradict Himself – the Holy Spirit won’t press upon your heart to move in one direction that is contrary to Jesus’ spoken words.  Our God is a perfect way-maker – even when we can’t see a way, He goes before us.  I can’t always get my mind around the long-term picture, but I can trust Him in this moment, right now.

If you are divorced, and there are any areas you still need healing, cry out to the Lord. Regardless of the circumstances of the divorce, almost all parties harbor feelings of failure, guilt, resentment, or unrest. Seek the Lord, He is the best healer and perfect forgiver – He doesn’t want us stuck in a pit of bitterness, shame, sin, or self loathing. He wants to make you whole in Him. All of our life experiences can be used to glorify Him. Revelation 12:11 exemplifies how we can be OVERCOMERS – by Jesus’ blood + our testimony of His work in our life.

If you are a friend or family member of someone in the middle of a divorce, I have found the best support can be listening and praying. Take a step beyond praying for them, and actually pray WITH them. When asked for advice, leverage the scripture on the areas surrounding divorce. Encourage biblical counseling. Be a source of hope and healing. Try to not get sucked into gossip and slander. Take time to cover yourself in the Armor of God before offering any words.

We know that all sin is unrighteousness against God, whether it’s the sin of gossip, divorce without basis, lying, etc.  On this side of heaven we may feel the consequences greater of one sin compared to another – but it’s not in our wisdom to rank them and put each others’ sins above or below our own.

Wherever this heart-pouring on divorce finds you, you can forget all of my thoughts and opinions and remember this:

God wants everything BUT divorce in His relationship with YOU. He wants us reconciled to Him in a committed relationship for eternity! People will fail. God does not fail. He won’t let you down – He’d rather die than live without you!