Do you hear the sermon?

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Do you hear the sermon on Sunday mornings?  I know this is a powerful question to consider, but recently, I encountered someone who was seeking validation from a sermon, yet this person biggest issue was the failure to apply the sermon to themselves.  Instead this person chose to apply it to others around them.  As I listened, I began to think about how we listen to God’s Word.  Do we get the message that God is sending our way?  Are we applying what we are learning from scripture to our lives or are we choosing to apply it to those around us.

At lunch the other day with a colleague we were discussing sermons and their application to our lives when I brought up this topic of how sometimes we forget to apply the sermon to our own lives but choose to apply it to others.  I realize how easy it is to turn the message from a sermon away from ourselves.  As we discussed this during lunch, we all agreed that it is easy to judge others and fail to judge ourselves.  Matthew 7:1 reminds us, “Judge not, that you be not judged.”  This past Sunday as our pastor shared the story of Haman from Esther 5 and delved into the pride in our own lives, I focused on aspects of my life where I have allowed my pride to get in the way.  I realized the deep message that I needed to hear from the scripture and how it applied to me.  Looking back now at the message God was sending me, I can also see how easy it could have been for me to have placed the message on someone else and not myself.  Why do I know this could have been easy because I have been guilty of it in the past.  I have been Haman before preparing the gallows for others and promoting myself.  I could have chosen to look around the church and pick out who I felt was prideful and hoped they were hearing the message, or I could have thought of people that I wished were here listening to the sermon.  In essence, I could have turned the lesson from scripture away from its intent which was application to my life and become the judge for others.

In this day of social media which provides public platforms to share and vent, we can receive validation so quickly in our lives.  For many it can become easy to miss the great lessons that we should be learning from God’s Word.  Our lives are full of distractions that can cause us to miss what God is placing right in front of us.  Matthew 7:5 reminds us not to be hypocrites, ” You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”  We have to be able to see our own sin before we can judge the sins of others.

David was a man after God’s own heart as Acts 13:22 states, “And when he had removed him, he raised up David to be their king, of whom he testified and said, ‘I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will.'”.  Even such a man failed at first to hear the message God sent to him from Nathan in 2 Samuel 12 about his own sin after conceiving a child with Bathsheba and having Uriah killed.  Once David was able to stop applying the message to others but was forced to see his own sin and apply the message of the lambs to himself he humbled himself before the Lord and repented.  ” David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.” And Nathan said to David, “The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die.”, 2 Samuel 13.  Even in his repentance the Lord did not remove the consequences of his action.  We must still bear the consequences of our sin.   This deep reminder of David’s sin and God’s forgiveness exposes our need to hear the messages from the Lord.  I will continue to focus on how the sermon’s message is intended for me and not for others.  Are we listening?

Closing Verse: Psalm 119:105 “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”

Challenge:  Focus on the message the Lord is sending to you this Lent Season.

Please share if so lead.

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Friendship vs Relationship

 

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How does one define a good friend?  We all learn what true friendship is at our highest high and lowest low because these are the friends by our side regardless.   Friendship can be one of the hardest yet most rewarding aspect of this life that God has provided for us.  My husband and I have recently found ourselves in the midst of some shocking revelations.  So shocking that family and friends aren’t sure how to respond. Interesting because response is a small part of what we really wanted, which is just being present with us.  True friends tend to be present regardless of the situation and even hold us accountable.  They search with us, cry with us, and laugh with us.  These friends emulate our relationship and walk with Christ. Christ has promised to walk with us through the valleys and across the highest peaks if we open our hearts and let his light into our lives.  The question is how do we let that light into our lives.  How do we build relationship with Christ.  The easiest way for us here on earth is to look at the relationships we have with friends.

The old testament shows us brief glimpses into the relationship with God.  Abraham walked closely with the Lord, yet we know Abraham was imperfect and made bad choices such as in Genesis 20 when he lied about Sarah being his wife.  “And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, “She is my sister.” And Abimelech king of Gerar sent and took Sarah.”, Genesis 20:2  This was not only a violation of his trust in God but betrayal of the most important human friendship of a man and his wife.  Yet, the new testament remind us of God and Abraham’s relationship in James 2:23, “and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness’–and he was called a friend of God.”  We are imperfect friends.  Yet, if God chooses to stand by us then we have to choose to forgive each other in friendship to build deeper relationships.  We don’t get to see how this affected Sarah and Abraham but obviously the struggle made their friendship stronger and Sarah forgave Abraham.

As I pray for our friends and their lives, and pray for my relationship with the Lord, I realize that maybe I am not praying for what I truly want.  I want friendship with the Lord not relationship.  If you look at the difference in the definition of the two, it becomes clear what I should be praying for when praying for my relationship or friendship with my Father.  Relationship is a connection by blood or marriage.  Friendship is an emotional action based on our choice of who we choose to interact with through trust and support.  As much as I want relationship with the Lord(and he has established that as he is our heavenly Father), I realize that what I truly want is his friendship.  This is the bond that I want with the Lord.  My prayers need to change to reflect the true desires that I have in my heart for the Lord.   The Lord reminds us in Psalm 37:4 to delight ourselves in him, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

A relationship that is more of a Friendship can stand the test of reflecting on one’s life.  A friend is able to redirect and call you out when you are in the wrong.  This may not always happen in a relationship.  Even when a tough conversation has to be had between friends, the words of Proverbs 27:9 rings true, “Oil and perfume make the heart glad, So a man’s counsel is sweet to his friend.”  I give thanks to the Lord for the friends my husband and I have.

The Lord tells us in Psalm 25:14 that, “The friendship of the LORD is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant.”  Yes, we do fear our Lord, but building a friendship with God is not built on fear but knowing that Christ has washed us clean of judgement.  Our friendship must be built on Love with both the Lord and others.  “Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.”, 1 Peter 4:8.

 

Closing Verse:  “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.”  John 15:13

Challenge:  ” Good friends help you find important things when you have lost them…things like your smile, your hope and your courage.”  Are you praying for a deep friendship not just with your friends but with your Lord?

Quote from  Stayingaliveisnotenough

 

Forgiveness

We think that forgiveness is weakness, but it’s absolutely not; it takes a very strong person to forgive. -T. D. Jakes

My husband and I spent a Sunday afternoon going to watch The Shack.  We read the book years ago, but we were quickly reminded of the deep meaning of this story.  Forgiveness.  God is the only one who can pass judgement, so in order to find joy in our life we can not sit in the judgement seat but must forgive those who sin against us.  The Bible is the story of redemption and forgiveness that God has for his chosen people.

How many times have I sat in God’s judgement seat of others?  Probably more than I care to admit, but it is so easy to want our own revenge and justice for our lives and the wrongs committed against us.  The difficult part of God’s plan is not accepting his forgiveness but giving that forgiveness to others.  Releasing the burden of carrying the anger and pain from others and forgiving that sin is a gift from God to allows us to build our relationship with Christ.  Christ is our path to the Lord, but we must travel the road of forgiveness.  The disciples in their teachings remind us all in Acts 13:38 that we must know Christ, “Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you,”  Christ teaches us that if we do not forgive then he will not forgive as the  Lord’s Prayer reminds us.  Matthew 6:9-12

     9 Pray then like this:  “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.

                    10 Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

                    11 Give us this day our daily bread,

                    12 and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

                    13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

As we pray scripture in Mark 11:25 says, “And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”  Forgiveness allows our relationship with God to be stronger because we allow him to sit in the judgement seat.

As we left the movie, I have to admit my mind was everywhere thinking about the impact the movie was having on not just me but Derwin.  Derwin and I sat in silence for awhile on the car ride back before talking about the impact the movie was having on us.  Tears filled our eyes as were realized that we have to give so much to God.  We have to allow him to carry so much of our hurt and pain, so that we can move forward.  We have to trust in his love for his children.  He will provide good and glory in his own timing.

Evil is a part of this world as the movie so tragically depicts.  Everyone including Christians will be touched by evil as they walk through this life on earth.  Scripture in Proverbs 28:5 reads, “Evil men do not understand justice, but those who seek the Lord understand it completely.”  I am reminded to turn to scripture to understand the evil in the world and how to forgive the evil when it finds me or my family.  Sometimes evil creates a feeling of unfairness in this world, but I must remember that my desire is not for this world but that which my heavenly Father has prepared for me.

Our pain does not match the fictional pain of the movie or the pain that so many others Christians face each day in their walk.  I pray for their strength to let go and walk in God’s plan.  I know that so many face deep struggles but choose to walk in God’s joy as an example to us all.  I pray that God will provide forgiveness in my life so that I too can be example of the joy even as you walk through the valley.  I was reminded of a story recently shared with me by a friend when I was breaking down and sharing my anger and judgement over someone who had hurt me.  She told me how she walked this path and prayed for her ability to forgive this person who had hurt her.  She realized one day when she ran into this person in public that she had forgiven her because she did not feel the anger and pain of the past any longer.  I cling to her story and pray for that in my own life. I am reminded in Galatians 6:7-8: “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.”  Forgiveness is sowing to the Spirit and all Christians strive toward eternal life as their reward.

Forgiveness is hard but I read somewhere that it is like a muscle we must exercise.  Forgiveness is not just one and done.  It is like my friend described that you work at it and one day you will find that you have framed the pain differently through forgiveness.  I know that it is impossible for humans to forget, but by flexing our muscle of forgiveness we can change the pain to joy by giving it to the Lord to carry.  Matthew 11:30, ” For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”  These words are reminders that God has not given us more than we can bear and he will carry the burden.  As I walk through this difficult time of forgiveness I know that God walks with me, Psalm 138:7 comforts me, “Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life; you stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies, and your right hand delivers me.”   God knows my enemies and their hearts and I must trust in my walk and relationship with him, and flex my muscle of forgiveness, and continue to walk in the truths of scripture like Romans 8:28 which comforts me often, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,for those who are called according to his purpose.”

My final thoughts come from a verse that I feel is a deep reminder of how I need to be in constant prayer to release the anger of my sins.  The words of Ephesians 4:26, “In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry,”  drops me to my knees to pray and forgive others who have sinned against me before the sun goes down.

Closing Verse:  Luke 6:37, “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven;”

Challenge:  May the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer challenge you as you forgive those in your life who have sinned against you.

“In a word, live together in the forgiveness of your sins, for without it no human fellowship, least of all a marriage, can survive. Don’t insist on your rights, don’t blame each other, don’t judge or condemn each other, don’t find fault with each other, but accept each other as you are, and forgive each other every day from the bottom of your hearts…”

― Dietrich BonhoefferLetters and Papers from Prison

 

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A New Beginning

This past week Derwin and I attended a wedding.  The wedding ceremony is a vivid reminder of not just my love for Derwin but of Christ’s love for us.  This wedding was full of both joy and sadness as the pastor wove two families together that had walked the deep valley of pain but followed God’s plan for their lives which lead these two families together.  It was special to see the joy that God can bring to two families that have had such deep sorrow.  Funny that at the same time Derwin and I went to see The Shack.  We both read this book years ago and remembered the basic story, but seeing the story was a deep reminder of Romans 8:28, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”  This reminder from the movie is the theme of this wedding – from great pain and sorrow, God can bring tremendous joy.

Derwin was honored to have known both families and watch God’s plan bring them together. Tina and JR both lost their spouses several years ago.  A colleague of Derwin’s, JR, watched his wife die of cancer.   He was relieved of her finding her father hands in the midst of the pain, but the deep pain of her loss created an empty place that could not be filled.  JR then began a lonely walk.  Tina’s husband suddenly had a heart attack and was stripped from her life.  They were clients of Derwin and he helped Tina walk through the insurance issues as she began that lonely walk.  Both Tina and JR had adult children who were living their lives yet suffered along with their parents and loneliness  and sorrow each were living day to day.  As they each became weary but did not turn from their God and he provided as Isaiah 57:10 promises, “You were wearied with the length of your way, but you did not say, “It is hopeless”; you found new life for your strength, and so you were not faint.”  And then Tina moves into JR’s neighborhood and the rest is history.  They found joy in companionship.  Someone to laugh and live with.  All their children rejoiced in the joy of finding a new love, a new beginning. This new beginning for their lives reminds us all to count our blessings even in our trials as God provides for us as James 1:2 reads, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.”

The wedding which focused on Christ and their families was beautiful.  God’s promise was realized for two families that night as the light of Christ shone.  Ephesians 3:9 reads, “and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things,”  Children and Grandchildren all coming together to enjoy and celebrate a new beginning in God’s plan of life.  The children participated in the wedding pouring the sand of the family into the jar that represents their new marriage.  Christ at the beginning and the end just as scripture reads, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” Revelation 22:13.  Between Christ is the love of the each family and the lives of JR and Tina were mingled to show their commitment to God, Family, and each other.  It was a special service of new love and new commitment that God has offered to two families which have walked with him through the valley into the light of joy.  God’s promise to them from Timothy 1:4, “As I remember your tears, I long to see you, that I may be filled with joy.”

Closing Verse: “And now I ask you, dear lady–not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but the one we have had from the beginning–that we love one another.” 2 John 1:5

Challenge: Lean on God as you walk through the valleys into the new beginnings God is planning.

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Come As You Are…

Come out of sadness
From wherever you’ve been
Come broken hearted
Let rescue begin

My husband and I work the sound and presentation for Sunday mornings at our church once a month.  Recently, The song Come As You Are by David Crowder was sung at our church.  I listened to it during practice several times and then during worship.  For some reason every time I heard the words, tears filled my eyes and began praying for the Lord’s rescue in our lives.  I sometimes forget that when the mountain seems so high and the task so daunting that God is there.  I strive to have David’s faith as he met the Goliath.  In Samuel 17: 37, ‘And David said, “The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” And Saul said to David, “Go, and the LORD be with you!” ‘

Come find your mercy
Oh sinner come kneel
Earth has no sorrow
That heaven can’t heal

So lay down your burdens
Lay down your shame
All who are broken
Lift up your face

Maybe it is due to the recent tears and pain in the life of my family that caused me to pause.  The words remind me of God’s love and that the pain here on earth will one day be healed in heaven.  This gives me great comfort in times of deep sorrow.  Deep sorrow of the depth of human sin and the lack of compassion and love we can have for one another.  We all choose to stand so strong on our beliefs that sometimes we don’t even try to understand, love, have compassion for our neighbor.  I sometimes just want to cry out to God to fix all this brokenness as David did in Psalm 57:2-3, “(2)I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me. (3) He will send from heaven and save me; he will put to shame him who tramples on me.  God will send out his steadfast love and his faithfulness!”
Oh wanderer come home
You’re not too far
So lay down your hurt
Lay down your heart
Come as you are

There’s hope for the hopeless
And all those who’ve strayed
Come sit at the table
Come taste the grace

Bringing our sins and troubles to the Lord on humbled knees will provide a sense of comfort and grace in our lives.  As sinners when we lay all our brokenness before the Lord and lift our eyes for his mercy then our lives can find hope and love and peace.  This song reminds me to turn to his loving arms for comfort during these trials.  I must have the faith of David.  I will turn to my Father in heaven because my earthly life will fail me over and over.  The people in my life will fail me over and over.  The only constant is my Lord, as 2 Timothy 2:13 comforts me, “if we are faithless, He remains faithful – for He cannot deny Himself”
There’s rest for the weary
Rest that endures
Earth has no sorrow
That heaven can’t cure

There’s joy for the morning
Oh sinner be still
Earth has no sorrow
That heaven can’t heal

My prayer is for the joy in the morning.  I know it may not come soon, but I will continue to pray for the  joy in the morning to arrive so the light of Jesus will shine on the darkness.  Until God brings joy from all this pain.  I Chronicles 16:33, “Then shall the trees of the forest sing for joy before the Lord, for he comes to judge the earth.”

David Crowder – Come As You Are Lyrics | MetroLyrics

Closing Verse:  John 9:5, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

Challenge:  How can you help others walk through the darkness until they find the joy in the morning?