God’s Protection

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The past several weeks have been both a busy and exciting time for our youngest daughter, but also one that has taught my husband and I to lean on God and know that he is holding her in his hands.  She finished her internship, another blessing from God, gave all her possessions to her Dad and jumped on a plane to travel across Europe for two weeks.  What does this means for me?  Lots of prayer.  Giving her to God, giving all my worries to God, and praying for his protection and guidance for her.  Scripture has become a comfort as I read with purpose to diminish my anxiety and worry, and look for God’s Grace.

By choosing to turn to scripture, I receive great comfort and God’s grace is easily found in his word.  My husband and I have told our daughter over and over go and do what you want now before your life fills up with responsibilities that will make it harder, so it should not be unexpected that she is doing just as she was told!  These different choices that she is making in her life leads me back to God for comfort.  I want her to live the words of Jeremiah 29: 11, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” and as she now is striving to live these words from scripture, I pray she waits always on the Lord.  Isaiah 40:31 is a reminder of God’ timing and that we should follow his will, ” But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”  I long to see her mount up with wings like an eagle and soar.

When searching for scriptures on protection, I found so many that compares the Lord to a mother eagle.  As I read these, I identify with my over protective self just as God can be over protective of me, yet he allows me to make mistakes, make choices, and celebrates in my successes.  I have to be like the mother eagle who is protective but wants her babies to fly.  She is willing to allow her babies to take risk so they will spread their wings and soar.  The mother eagle’s pride comes from their soaring away from her not clinging to her.

What does scriptures say about protection compared to an eagle?  Here are a few of my favorite from Psalms that I have been cherishing over the last week.

  • “How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God! And the children of men take refuge in the shadow of Your wings.”  Psalm 36:7
  • “Let me dwell in Your tent forever; Let me take refuge in the shelter of Your wings. Selah.” Psalm 61:4
  • “He will cover you with His pinions, And under His wings you may seek refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark.” Psalm 91:4

Although, they don’t refer directly to an eagle, I picture a great eagle.  When wings are spread for me to take shelter or protection under I see an eagle wing.  An eagle is a majestic bird and my simple brain can only draw that comparison.  In reality, I know that God’s protection and wings are nothing that I can truly comprehend or know until I am in his presence in heaven one day, but until then I will visualize the mother eagle spreading her wings over her eaglets.

As I must now remove my wings and let her fall under God’s wings, I realize that he is now in control of her path.  I must heed 1Peter 5:7, “casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”  Scripture tells me to give my worries to God and he will care for me.  As I receive strength from scripture, I am reminded that he cares for her and will direct her path.  The Lord assures me in Psalm 25: 4-5, “Make me know Your ways, O LORD; Teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me, For You are the God of my salvation; For You I wait all the day.” that if she knows him and his ways he will direct her towards salvation.  So my prayer for her is found in Psalm 119:105, “Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path.”  I pray God’s word will light her path and he will keep her in the shadow of his wings just as Psalm 17:8 reads, “Keep me as the apple of the eye; Hide me in the shadow of Your wings.”

As I pray for her journey across Europe, I find myself praying for her path in life and that God will direct her and she will seek his word and guidance as she grows and prepares for her future.

Closing Verse: “For You are my rock and my fortress; For Your name’s sake You will lead me and guide me.”  Psalm 31:3

Challenge Verse:  “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”  Psalm 22:6.  Know that if you have planted the seed of the Lord in your children that God will cultivate those seeds one day.

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Did I Do The Right Thing?

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The past week in our house there has been a focus on the Dove House and their annual fundraiser.  My husband and I became involved 3 years ago with the Dove House and each year we feel our hearts pulled more and more to become involved with this organization.  This year I spent the week really looking over myself again and the decision I made or really didn’t make many years ago.  Many people know that my husband was a victim of a sexual predator.  When he was in the 4th grade, his teacher earned his trust and that of his parents and changed his life forever.  He wasn’t his only victim there were many others, little did we know how many till it all came out.  As he grappled with realizing the truth of what happened as he matured and believing that no one would believe him, as the teacher had earned so much trust from his parents and the community,  he hid this secret away.

One day while we were dating and soon to be married a door opened where he had the opportunity and chose to give me some insight into this part of his past.  Just a little piece of what had happened to him.  I chose to listen, question little, and to also never bring it up again.  Did I do the right thing?  Even with this decision I know God answers prayers, because I have spent our entire marriage not just praying for our marriage, or just for him, but praying for God to heal him.  Deep down I always knew that he was suffering and prayed for God to heal this pain.  Over those 22 years of pain, I was blessed to watch a slow healing process that prepared him for the time when he would really heal and get the opportunity to tell his story, face his abuser, and feel the relief of a conviction.  This alone does not end his healing or my prayers, but God has answered my prayers in helping him find healing.  As always I pray knowing that God answers prayers his way as Isaiah 55:8 reads, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.”  This verse brings me comfort that God was working in my decision.

Now as I look back, I have to ask myself did I do the right thing?  Did I make the right choice?  Should I have prodded for more back when he first confided in me?  Although the answer is yes every time I ask myself, I am thankful that God is in control and in his timing was able to provide my husband with the healing even so many years later in his life.  His blessings in our lives reminds me that I am not in control and that he is as Romans 8:28 states, ” And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” and for this I am thankful.  I believe that the Lord has been fighting for him all these years even while he was silent.

His silence struck me again this past week while listening to the radio when I heard the song “Still“.  The singer, Hillary Scott, spoke about how she wrote this song about the verse Exodus 14:14, “The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” As I was driving to work, tears just welled up in my eyes, I immediately thought of how my husband had been silent, but then was reminded that the Lord had been fighting for him all these years.  He had prepared him for this time.  The Lord has been fighting for me as well in my silence.  God is Good!

Although, God has blessed us through this healing process by putting great friends around us, new friends who have suffered and understand his pain, and the great people of the Dove House, my heart tells me that I should have done more.  I feel it every time I have to tell his story and then my role and feel the guilt for not helping him sooner.  I feel the guilt that I know my husband has carried all these years for not speaking up sooner to protect other future victims.  I feel it when I think about the demons that have tormented him for so many years.  I feel it when I look in his eyes and see a new man now that has been freed of this terrible secret.  God gave him a voice at the time appointed, and he would want me to tell you that as he went through this process of court, jury selection, and sharing his story with strangers; he has been struck and moved by how many victims of child sexual abuse have been silently hurting.  He shares his story now empowered by God to bring darkness to light and let others know they are not alone.

Our blessing now from God is that forgiveness is real.  The promise of John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”  is God’s provision through the sacrifice of his Son that causes us to realize that we not only have to forgive easily each other but those who hurt us.  It seems so hard, but it is so fulfilling to release the pain and hurt to God and let him be the final judge.

Moving forward we support the Dove House because they do the work that is so desperately needed in our community and so many communities.  They support children as they move through the court system and finally recovery.  They make it safe to tell the truth and stop the abuse.  They save children.  I read this verse this week and it reminded me of the Dove House, “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.” 1 Corinthians 16:13.  The Dove House watches over, stands firm and is strong for those who aren’t.  May God continue to bless their work as they help others heal.

My constant prayer now is that God continues to heal those affected by child sexual abuse and, as my husband reminds me, there are many layers of victims even those that don’t think they are victims.   Family and others in the community today still do not believe that his abuser was guilty and he continues to have their trust.  May God show us the best way to use the truth to help others now that this secret is finally free, and that we will learn to be still while God is fighting.

Closing Verse: Romans 8:38-39 – “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Challenge: Romans 12:12 – “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”  Be constant in prayer for God is always fighting and working for your good.

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Listening to God

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Funny how God works on you sometimes, preparing you for the future that is to come.  I can look back now and see God at work for months in my life of my family.  I am the person who thinks I have it all worked out for everyone and then God comes along and turns my world upside down.  I have worked on this post before only to be moved to write something else, but now I am here again writing as God has spoken and now I am finally listening.  I have been mentally making plans for the future for one of my daughters.  I really believed that I had it all worked out for her.  I mean the Lord showed me closed doors and everything. Although, I knew the passion in her heart and what she wanted, and I did pray for the right doors to open that would show her the way.  Yet, I never expected that her persistence and prayers would be answered as they have been and my world rocked.  I am listening now God.  I know that I have not been.  Now, I can see how I did not stop to listen to your answers Lord because I was sure of mine.  I turn my ears back to you and to scripture.  James 1:1 reminds me, “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;”.

These are powerful words that we forget in our daily lives especially – “quick to hear”.  As I strive to be a better listener to the students I work with, the adults who are my colleagues, and the world around me, I have to be reminded that it is most important to listen to God and hear him when he speaks even if those words are coming from the mouth of my own child.   Scripture is a keen reminder to me of how God’s people have chosen not to listen to him.  So many of these times his people failed to listen and suffered the consequences of failure to be “quick to hear”.  Did I fail his test?  Was he or is he testing me?  “you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams. For the LORD your God is testing you, to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.” are words from Deuteronomy 13:3.  These words are a solemn reminder to me that I have to trust the Lord with all my heart and soul.

About a month ago this quote from Kyle Chandler showed up on my daily calendar, I am not sure why at the time I took a picture of the quote, but as God rocked my world this last week my thoughts went back to this quote.  Not for me but for the persistence of my daughter to get what she wanted for her future.  Now that I have been forced to listen to God and allow my daughter to walk her own path and not the one path that I was choosing for her,  I turn to God in constant prayer that will cause me to listen more intently to his words as he prepares not just her future but also mine.  It is important to me now that I have had my world rocked to stop and see the plans that God is laying for my family and that includes me.  I pray that the Lord hears my prayers as Psalm 61:1 states, ” Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer;”, and I constantly humble myself as Romans 12:12 reads, “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”  I humble myself and pray and listen so that my prayers might be heard as John 9:31 reminds me, “We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him.” I am listening now Lord in order to do your will.

Closing Verse: ‘But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge,’  Acts 4:19

Challenge:  Are you listening to God or making your own way?  My challenge to you is to be “quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” and find comfort in God’s plan.

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A Christian New Year: Meeting Jesus During Holy Week.

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“He is not here, but has risen.” (Luke 24:6)

Looking back over the Lent Season and more specifically Holy Week, I am reflecting on my relationship with Jesus.  This time of year is a like the new year, I realize that I need to tend to my relationship with Christ in order to grow stronger like the mustard seed in Jesus’s parable found in Luke 13:19, “It is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his garden, and it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches.”.  How did I tend my garden during Holy Week.

Holy Week began with Palm Sunday the reminder that Christ humbly entered into a week of suffering both knowing and understanding what the end would bring.  Jesus entered Jerusalem as a humble King but left crucified on a cross.  How should we as Christians reflect on this week and apply it to our lives?  Palm Sunday was a day I spent in reflection of the beauty around me, my family, and the life that God has blessed me with.  I was reminded of Christ as my King and Savior.  Also, sadly on this past Palm Sunday I was reminded of the violence that so many Christians suffer around the world just as Christ suffered to bring us to salvation.  The violence around the world and especially Palm Sunday must cause God to grieve for his people and his people must wonder what the future will bring as we move through Holy Week during such a volatile time in our world.  Palm Sunday reminds us that Jesus is peaceful and bring peace to our lives even in the midst of chaos.  As Holy Week begins my focus for the week even in my busy life is the walk with Jesus through this week.  I read his entry to Jerusalem and paused at Mark 11: 7-8, “And they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it, and he sat on it. And many spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut from the fields.”  Palm Sunday for me was a day of reflection with little distraction from tending my garden.

Each day since Palm Sunday, I tried to understand Christ’s walk to the cross, and the lessons he taught the disciples and left for me during these last days.  He was preparing them for what they were going to witness in order to share the Gospel moving forward after the crucifixion, and he was preparing his people for a future with a resurrected Savior.

Monday, as I worked, I remembered that on this day Jesus entered the Temple in Jerusalem to find practices that where not for a house of the Lord.  Jesus drove out those who bought and sold in the Temple by overturning the tables.  He spoke in Matthew 21: 13, ‘He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.”  Jesus did not show anger according to the disciples, yet spoke the truth of what he saw happening in the Temple.  He protected God’s house.  As I worked this day, I remembered Jesus and this frustration and walked through the day with Jesus as my focus.  Hold your tongue, speak truth, show love is my focus for this Monday of Holy Week.

The next day, Tuesday,  Jesus was met the Temple leaders who tried to question his authority.  Christ spoke and taught this day in parables as he spoke to the leaders and prepared his disciples for his coming death and resurrection.  As I read the lessons Jesus taught on this Tuesday before his death, I search for the lessons these parables can teach me today.  One parable is the parable of the Two Son’s (Matthew 21: 28-32) which illustrates Jesus rejection by his own people.  The lesson that Jesus has taught me today is to be careful and remember to humble myself before God and ask for forgiveness of my sins.  I tell students that their character is what they do when no one is looking, but I must remember that God is always watching and Jesus has reminded me of that today while reading the parables he taught on this Tuesday before his death.

On Wednesday, Judas conspires to betray of Jesus, yet in the evening Judas rebuked Christ for allowing Mary to wash his feet.  I try to get inside of Judas’s mind.  What was he thinking?  Did he love Jesus?  Was the money worth this betrayal?  Was he considering backing out?  I have never heard the term “Spy Wednesday”, but as I researched some of this Wednesday of Holy Week, I found this reference to this day.  Matthew 26: 14-16 clearly speaks of Judas’s betrayal, ” Then one of the twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?” And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him.”  This makes Wednesday a strange day to walk through.  Knowing what Christ knew about his future, about Judas, yet continuing to love through the pain he must have been bearing this week.  I find myself in prayer and thankful for the sacrifice Jesus has made for me.

Maundy Thursday has arrived and Jesus is preparing for his Last Supper and the final directions for his disciples.  He breaks bread and washes their feet showing his servant example to prepare the way for their ministry. John 13:5 shares Christ service to this disciples, “Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.”  He poured out his love on his disciples knowing the outcome he faced within hours.  This Thursday I find myself focussing on God’ beauty around me.  The world he has created for me, yet his greatest gift he sacrificed for me.  I don’t stop and focus on Christ enough and show his love to others.  I fail to wash the feet of those around me as the example Jesus left for me.

Good Friday or “Black” Friday is here.  Why is it Good because Jesus suffered the unthinkable death and descended into hell to wash us clean.  He suffered so that we might not.  Jesus brought the “Good” back to his chosen.  He chose to suffer so that we would not have to even though we are more  deserving of this death.  I am humbled at his gracious love for me.  I can not get enough of the beauty around me and the handiwork of God.  As I watch the sunset over the Gulf of Mexico, I know he painted a beautiful picture for me that I did not deserve.  I am extremely humbled by his mercy.  So many years ago this Friday ended as described in Matthew 27:51, ” And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split.”

The darkness of Saturday has fallen as Jesus death is real. His final words still ring in their ears and as I read them this morning they linger in my thoughts all day.  ‘When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.’  John 19:30.  It is hard today to really imagine the pain those close to Christ must have endured this day and the separation that Christ endured for us from his Father.  But the pain for his mother is something I can not imagine.  What she must have suffered watching him die on a cross before her eyes?  Even though Mary knew he was special and in God’s hands, the pain must have been crushing for her.  Saturday must have been a dark day for Mary as she grieved the loss of her first son.  This Holy Sabbath for the Jews must have seemed empty for many.  I know I feel the emptiness of this day, but long for the Glory Easter morning will bring.  A sense of renewal once again is coming.

Easter morning is here and I wake to a sense of peace and rest.  I walk through the day thinking of his sacrifice and glory.  I am indeed saved because Matthew 28:6 tells me, “He is not here, for he has risen, as he said.  Come, see the place where he lay.”

Closing Verse:   “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

Challenge:  Have you stopped to humble yourself before the Cross?  The cross which bore your savior so many years ago.  Even though Holy Week has passed don’t forget to stop and tend your garden.

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#Redemption

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If you were following the NCAA tournament you could not have missed the redemption tour message from the Carolina Tarheel Basketball Team.  After the final game with the Redemption tour was complete, I started thinking about what the word redemption means.  What did it really mean to those twelve young men playing basketball.  Redemption is defined in two ways  the action of regaining or gaining possession of something or clearing a debt and the action of saving or being saved from sin, error, or evil.  Both apply to this years National Champions, but how does it apply to our lives?

During the Lent season, many Christians have turned their hearts toward Jesus and his sacrifice and humiliation to provide “the way” to our Father and everlasting life.  Hebrews 9:12 defines Christ’s redemption of us, ” he entered once and for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.”  As I focus on discipline and sacrifice during Lent,  I compare my life to the redemption tour.  I reflect on the ups and downs of my life -both the joy and sin.  I see my failures and the hurt this causes those I love and most importantly Christ, yet in the end I know my debt is paid and I have been saved by Christ and one day I will live with him in heaven.

One part of the redemption definition focuses on being saved from sin.  This Easter season we remember the sacrifice that God made by providing his only son, Jesus, as a living sacrifice in order that our sin might be washed clean.  1 John 4:19, “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.”   With Christ partitioning for me before the throne, my sins are not forgotten but heaped upon Christ in order that I might be presented as a bride in her white gown.  Much like the team that has made numerous mistakes and their coach graciously and humbly accepted as his fault in order to put forth a complete team the next time they hit the court.  This sacrifice brought them to glory and a National Championship.  I long for my championship and my home in heaven with Christ.

The redemption definition also includes regaining or gaining possession of something or clearing a debt.  Christ as clearly paid our debt with his blood, his redemption for us.  We are reminded in Ephesians 2:13, “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” By paying this debt he has allowed me to gain possession of a heavenly home with him one day, my championship. As the Tarheels watched the clock tick down to zero, they could feel their redemption for all that had been lost in the last championship game, but this loss had now been regained.  Just as we were once lost we now are found in Christ, our shepherd, so that we might gain his glory through his redemption for us.  This gift is defined in Romans 3:24, “and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,”.

Closing Verse:  “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace,” Ephesians 1:7

Challenge:  Have you stopped to discipline yourself and reflect on the sacrifice of Christ this Lent season.  As Holy Week comes to an end turn your focus to Christ’s gift of salvation through the cross.

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Watching Your Game Film

IMG_0983Does you “game film” matter?  I recently heard a prominent educator, Baruti Kafele, use this terminology to refer to educators taking a deep look at how they treat their students each day.  As I reflected on my daily life as an educator, I saw a deep comparison.  As the March Madness NCAA Tournament wraps up this week, I began to really look at some of the last teams – Those Final Four!  What characteristics do these great basketball teams have?  They have a leader, a coach, but that coach is usually humble and gracious and always shoulders the burden of blame. This coach does not just show the way but lays the ground work for his team to follow.  As I pondered the role coaches play in the life of their team,  I realize how much a coach symbolizes the love Christ has for us.  Christ is our coach who came to earth to pave our path to salvation. “Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” ‘1 Peter 1:13-16.  Christ preparation for our salvation included the disciples (“And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” Mark 1:17), parables (“This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.” Matthew 13:13), and a living example of how to win over Death (“Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” John 14:6).  If we follow this path we are National Champions with a spot in heaven with our Lord Jesus Christ.

Now back to my question – Does your game film matter?  Does it matter how we lived today, yesterday, and even last year.  Do we stop and look in the mirror each day and reflect on our own life?  Do we live a life that is an example of the life Christ lived?  Are we striving to live our life like the example our Coach has provided, Christ?  As I watched these teams battle together, win and lose together, I caught a glimpse into God’s team.  I believe Christ is cheering us on from heaven, always praying we will follow the game plan he has laid for us.  This plan of prayer, scripture, and refection of our lives.  As we review our game film do we see Christ?  Do others see Christ?  This is the purpose in reflecting on our lives, checking our game film, to ensure we are following the game plan and example Christ has provided for us.  1 Peter 2:21 shares Christ example this way, “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.”

Christ is a coach for the church.  We have to work together even with all our differences and opinions to bring everyone on the team to the final glory of winning that Championship Game. I want to play on God’s team, but that means I have to watch my game film each and every day.  I must stop to pray, read scripture, and reflect on my day to see that I am following the path that Coach Jesus has paved for me. 1 John 5:4 speaks of victory, “for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.”

Closing Verse: “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” Philippians 2:3.

Challenge:  Take out a mirror and look at yourself.  Do you see an example of Christ looking back at you?  Rewind and reflect on your game film.

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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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