Posted by: glorifyhim1 | September 18, 2014

Searching for Perfection

Searching for Perfection

 

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This week I’ve had the blessing of spending some special time with my family at the beach. Since home to me has always been in the mountains, vacation time is typically spent somewhere near the ocean. While a week at the beach can be fully spent walking along the beach, playing in the ocean or pool, or lounging lazily in a beach chair listening to the sea gulls; I generally always have a plan for something extra to do. It may be visiting a museum or historic site, taking some kind of tour or sightseeing excursion, or just doing something we don’t normally get to do.

 

One of this year’s extras was a morning hike on Bird Island Coastal Reserve, an uninhabited island that extends around one and one-half miles on the coast of North Carolina to a rock jetty that divides North and South Carolina. The island is absolutely beautiful with high natural dunes; salt marshes and tidal creeks; a gorgeous stretch of pristine, sandy white beaches; and a variety of habitats and nesting areas for a variety of birds, some of which are threatened or endangered. I couldn’t wait to embark on this little adventure, especially when I discovered that it was not uncommon to find loads of sand dollars, many completely perfect.

 

I began this hike, eager and excited, as well as equipped with a small bag to gather all my perfect sand dollars. As I inched my way along the shore, I saw many, many sand dollar pieces – many broken, chipped, and scarred, but not one perfect sand dollar. My little bag remained rolled up in my backpack as I gradually gave up and instead just drank in the beauty of the untouched island.

 

When we finally reached the rock jetty at the end of the island, however, I discovered that both my daughters had picked up a few of the broken sand dollar pieces, and my daughter-in-law had a bag full of shell and sand dollar pieces. While no one had uncovered a perfect sand dollar, my daughter-in-law was excited about how she could use the broken pieces to create something beautiful, perhaps a mosaic. I was looking for perfection while my daughter-in-law was looking for ways to make the broken shells into something beautiful. And I thought of God!

 

Isn’t that the way God is with you and me? We are all broken. None of us are perfect. We are all broken, chipped, and scarred – in one way or another. Some of us try to ignore our brokenness. Others of us try to overcompensate for it. Still others may try to hide their imperfections, justify them, or make excuses for them. But there is only one thing to really do with our brokenness – turn it over to God.

 

 

Luke recounts the story of a broken woman in Luke 8:43-48. This dear woman had endured a flow of blood for 12 years. The Scriptures tell us that she had spent all she had on doctors who had not been able to help her. But then she heard of Jesus. Luke tells it best.

 “Now a woman, having a flow of blood for twelve years, who had spent all her livelihood on physicians and could not be healed by any, 44 came from behind and touched the border of His garment. And immediately her flow of blood stopped.

45 And Jesus said, “Who touched Me?”

When all denied it, Peter and those with him[f] said, “Master, the multitudes throng and press You, and You say, ‘Who touched Me?’[g]

46 But Jesus said, “Somebody touched Me, for I perceived power going out from Me.”47 Now when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling; and falling down before Him, she declared to Him in the presence of all the people the reason she had touched Him and how she was healed immediately.

48 And He said to her, “Daughter, be of good cheer;[h] your faith has made you well. Go in peace.”

 

Notice three things about this story.

  1. The woman was at the end of her resources as well as her strength.
  2. She reached out for Jesus.
  3. Jesus encouraged her and reminded her that her faith had made her well.

 

Jesus is the cure for our brokenness. As we surrender all of our chips, scars, hurts, anxieties, and brokenness to Him, He is there ready to meet us where we are and work in and through us to fulfill His plan for our lives. As Paul reminded the Philippians: “being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ;” (Philippians 1:6). Christ’s work in us may not always mean physical healing like the woman in the story. It may not always mean a miraculous change in our circumstances or instant solutions to our chips and scars. But we can be assured that our faith will make us well as we surrender to Christ and allow Him to complete His work in us. The beauty He creates will take all those broken, chipped, and scarred areas and blend them together into a beautiful whole that more nearly reflects the One in whom we trust, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

I’m thankful that God doesn’t give up on us just because we are not perfect. I’m glad that He desires to draw us to Him, to smooth out all of our rough edges, to heal us and help us to become the man or woman He created us to be. And just as I look forward to seeing the mosaic that my daughter-in-law hopes to create from a collection of broken and chipped sand dollars, I look forward to one day being able to behold how God used all my chips, scars, and broken edges to create a mosaic that He can use to help others see the beauty and perfection of His dear Son.

 

Posted by: glorifyhim1 | September 10, 2014

No More!

No More!

 

 

A few days ago I was introduced to a precious little preschooler – not personally, but through Facebook. A friend of mine is a member of the child’s extended family and she went to Facebook to request prayer for this precious preschooler who had suffered a severe head trauma. Countless prayers were surely offered for this dear child as Facebook posts were shared with friends of friends earnestly pleading for people to pray. Yesterday, however, as I logged onto Facebook I received the sad news that the little girl had died.

 

I didn’t know this family, but, oh, how my heart hurts for them. While I can’t fully comprehend the devastating loss that they are experiencing, I do know from losses I have suffered that it hurts – it leaves a gaping hole that seems will never be filled. I’m also aware of the struggles that accompany such loss. We grapple with why it happened and with all the explanations that try to explain why it happened. Sometimes, we wrestle with God Himself as we can’t wrap our minds around why a God who can do anything didn’t miraculously intervene in our situation.

 

I’m reminded of the story of Martha and Mary in the Bible when their brother, Lazarus, died. Jesus loved Mary and Martha and Lazarus. However, when He heard that Lazarus was sick, He waited two more days before He left where He was to go to them. By the time Jesus arrived, Lazarus had already died and had been in the tomb for four days. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet Him and exclaimed:  “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:21). A few moments later, Mary responded the same way: “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:32). Is that not the way we often feel? Where is God when bad things happen to us?

 

So how did Jesus respond to Martha and Mary? Notice first of all what Jesus did not do. He did not rebuke Martha and Mary for their apparent concern that He had not come when they called for him (see John 11:3-6). Neither did He offer any explanation regarding his delay or Lazarus’ death. Instead, He did the three following things.

 

  1. He reminded Martha that her brother would rise again (John 11:23).
  2. He assured Martha of who He was (John 11:25-26).
  3. He wept with Mary.

 

The way Jesus responded to Martha and Mary can help us when we struggle with our own losses. We can take our grief to Him. He is big enough to handle our hurt and anger, understanding enough to allow us to grieve, wise enough to lead us through it, yet caring enough to sorrow with us. There are three things that I can glean from Jesus’ encounter with Martha and Mary that I can hang onto when I suffer.

 

  1. No matter how difficult my battle, I can know that this is not the end. There is hope beyond this life. “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).
  2. Even when I don’t have all the answers and even when I don’t understand, I know my God. As I have walked with Him and experienced His love, mercy, grace, and faithfulness, I know that I can trust Him. I can surrender it to Him. “And those who know Your name will put their trust in You; for You, Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You” (Psalm 9:10).
  3. I can take comfort in knowing that just as Jesus wept with Mary, He grieves with me as well. “You number my wanderings; Put my tears into Your bottle; Are they not in Your book?” (Psalm 56:8). The Psalmist reminds us that “The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart” (Psalm 34:18a).

How thankful I am for a God who walks with me through my trials and troubles just as He did with Martha and Mary. Yet I admit, sometimes I grow weary. As I hear of the struggles, losses, and difficulties of so many in this world, I yearn for the day when God will make everything right. I long for the final culmination of the victory that Jesus has already won for you and me, a victory wrapped up in two little words – No More!  And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4). A day is coming, my friend, when there will be no more – no more death, no more sorrow, no more crying, no more pain! Imagine life without death, without sorrow, and without crying or pain. Imagine a world without war, without violence, without hunger or thirst, without cancer or disease, without any curse from sin! How I am looking forward to that day when we will no longer hear about and mourn the death of a sweet little child. Come quickly, Lord Jesus. How we pray for no more!

 

Posted by: glorifyhim1 | September 5, 2014

Seeing Through the Fog

Seeing Through the Fog

 

 

Recently, I’ve helped my niece by occasionally driving her to work in the mornings.  The route is familiar to me because I drove much of the same route daily before my retirement. While I definitely don’t miss rising early to head to work every morning, I admit that there is one thing that I do miss about that early morning drive – the incredible morning sky.

 

I was blessed during my working career to daily enjoy one of the most beautiful drives (I may be just a tiny bit prejudiced) in the whole world. Driving along the interstate highway surrounded by the Black Mountain and Blue Ridge Mountain ranges that circle the small valley where I lived and worked, I was often in awe of the majesty and beauty around me. I delighted in the changing canvas from spring and summer through fall and winter. I often prayed, sang praises (thankfully, no one else had to listen to my singing), and rejoiced in the amazing beauty that witnessed to the One who created it all – my Heavenly Father!

 

As much as I loved those layers of mountains, however, there was just something about the beauty of the changing sky. As I headed out most mornings this week, I was surrounded by a thick, blanket of fog. After dropping off my niece, however, and turning back toward home, I was treated to a dazzling display at the morning sun began to break through those stubborn low-lying clouds. Each curve in the road presented a different panorama – from sun so bright that I couldn’t even stare into the beauty (although I almost blinded myself trying) to a small circle of sunlight just visible behind the rising fog- and all against the backdrop of the mountains emerging from the fog. It was amazing! All I could do was worship.

As I thought of the brightness breaking through the thick fog, I was reminded of many Old Testament scriptures that speak of God’s radiant glory. I recalled when God gave the law to Moses on Mt. Sinai that  The sight of the glory of the Lord was like a consuming fire on the top of the mountain in the eyes of the children of Israel” (Exodus 24:17). Later, after the people of Israel finished building the tabernacle, the cloud covered the tabernacle of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter the tabernacle of meeting, because the cloud rested above it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle” (Exodus 40:34-35).  This same glory, cloud of light, also filled Solomon’s temple when it was completed (see 1 Kings 8:10-11). Ezekiel, the prophet, had a vision of heaven and the throne of God. “ And above the firmament over their heads was the likeness of a throne, in appearance like a sapphire stone; on the likeness of the throne was a likeness with the appearance of a man high above it. 27 Also from the appearance of His waist and upward I saw, as it were, the color of amber with the appearance of fire all around within it; and from the appearance of His waist and downward I saw, as it were, the appearance of fire with brightness all around.28 Like the appearance of a rainbow in a cloud on a rainy day, so was the appearance of the brightness all around it. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord(Ezekiel 1:26-28).

God’s glory is often associated with light, brightness, and fire. In essence, such light demands our attention. It is not something that we can easily ignore. God wants to reveal Himself to us. He wants to break through our fog and help us see Him – to really see Him for the awesome, amazing God He is – not because He needs our praise, but because we need Him and His power in our lives. We can behold His glory in various ways.

  • One way God reveals His glory is through Creation. The Bible tells us:

 

The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork.
Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard.
Their line] has gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.

In them He has set a tabernacle for the sun” (Psalm 19:1-4).

 

The vastness, as well as the intricate detail, of all that God made reveals a great and mighty, incomparable God who is filled with power and wisdom. All that He created testifies to His great glory.

 

 

  • God also reveals His glory through His Son, Jesus. The author of Hebrews states:

“God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Hebrews 1:1-3).

 

The greatest expression of God’s glory was found in His Son, Jesus. Jesus showed us the Father. Jesus, Himself, stated: “He who has seen me has seen the Father” (see John 14:9). Jesus revealed a merciful, gracious, and loving God. Through Jesus’ revelation of the Father, we come to know a holy, righteous, sinless, and forgiving God who is faithful to His promises.

 

  • God also reveals His glory through believers just like you and me.

Oh, sing to the Lord a new song! Sing to the Lord, all the earth. Sing to the Lord, bless His name; Proclaim the good news of His salvation from day to day.  Declare His glory among the nations, His wonders among all peoples” (Psalm 96:1-3).

Paul told the Corinthians to do all that they did to the glory of God (see 1 Corinthians 10:31). In other words, as believers our foremost desire should be to reveal Him to others – wherever we go, whatever we do. We do that as we seek to honor Him in all that we do. Do we obey Him? Do we confess our sins and turn from them? Do we seek God and learn from Him? As we walk with Him and trust in Him, do we begin to look a little more like Him? Do others begin to see Christ in your life and mine? Do we tell others about His goodness, His faithfulness, His love, mercy, and grace? When we do these things, we are bringing glory to God as we reveal Him to those around us.

As I think about the glory of my Heavenly Father, I am both humbled and overjoyed that in His glory and greatness, He calls me to help show something of who He is to others. So many times I feel like that thick blanket of fog I witnessed on my early morning drives when I allow my daily activities, worries, and concerns to blanket me and consume my thoughts and attention. Yet I know this God of glory who is ever ready to let His light spring forth and dispel the thick fog around me. When I turn to Him, seek Him, and honestly seek to honor Him in all that I do, not only will His light shine forth in me, but He can reflect His glory through me to help others, too, witness His glory and know Him.

 

“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.”

(2 Corinthians 3:18)

 

Posted by: glorifyhim1 | August 30, 2014

In His Presence

In His Presence

 

 

Recently, I was reading in 2 Chronicles about the completion of the temple during the reign of King Solomon. This was the temple that David had longed to build for God, but that God had declared to be built during the reign of his son, Solomon. David helped gather materials, made preparations for the temple, and charged his son to build the house for the Lord his God (see 1 Chronicles 22). After David’s death, Solomon became king and immediately followed through with David’s wishes and worked to complete the temple for God.

 

After all the work was done, Solomon arranged to move the ark of the covenant to the temple during the Feast of Tabernacles which was held to commemorate Israel’s time of wandering in the wilderness.  The following verses describe what happened after the priests brought the ark of the covenant into the inner sanctuary of the temple and the Levites stood near the altar and played instruments and sang.

 

 Indeed it came to pass, when the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the Lord, and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals and instruments of music, and praised the Lord, saying: ‘For He is good,
For His mercy endures forever,’
that the house, the house of the Lord, was filled with a cloud, 14 so that the priests could not continue ministering because of the cloud; for the glory of the Lord filled the house of God” (2 Chronicles 5:13-14).

 

The cloud represented God’s glory, His manifest presence with them. God had led the nation of Israel through the wilderness with a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night (see Exodus 13:21). Throughout their wilderness wanderings, God guided them by day and night. The cloud in the temple confirmed God’s continued presence with His people. It literally gives me chills to think of God’s presence being so real to the priests in the temple that they could not even continue to minister.

 

What a privilege to know God’s presence! There have been times when I have felt His presence to be so real. I can’t explain it. It’s just an overwhelming awareness of His love and mercy, His grace and faithfulness. There have also been other times when I’ve craved to know His presence and found myself wishing I could see a cloud like the Israelites and know without a doubt that He was with me. How can we truly know God’s presence in our lives today?

Before Jesus was crucified and left His disciples, He told them:  “If you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever—  the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you” (John 14:15-17). When we accept Jesus as our Savior, we receive the Holy Spirit who dwells within us. As Peter taught in Jerusalem after the Holy Spirit was manifest: Then Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit’” (Acts 2:38). Today, God’s Spirit, His very Presence, lives within all believers. God doesn’t need to guide us with a cloud or a pillar of fire. Instead, He’s right there within us to lead and guide us (John 16:13), help us (John 14:16-26), give discernment (1 John 4:1-6), give understanding (1 Corinthians 2:10-16), offer comfort (Acts 9:31), empower us (Micah 3:8), provide joy (Romans 14:17), bear fruit in us (Galatians 5:22-23), and to confirm our relationship to the Father (Romans 8:16-17). We are continually in the presence of God!

So why do we sometimes feel so far away from God? If His Spirit is abiding in us, why do we struggle sometimes to know He’s there? It’s not because of God, dear friend. It’s because of us. The following references warn the believer about grieving or quenching the Holy Spirit.

  1. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice.And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:30-32).

 

  1. “Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies.Test all things; hold fast what is good.Abstain from every form of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:19-22).

 

Grieve can be defined as “causing great distress.” Quench can refer to “extinguishing something that is very hot.” When we are feeling far from God, we’re probably do one or both of these two things. We may grieve the Spirit by being disobedient and doing things that God’s Word is clear to us that we should not do. We may quench the Spirit, put out His fire in our lives, by not doing those things He tells us to do.

 

God loves us and it grieves Him when we make choices that He knows are damaging to us and others. His Spirit within us will convict us and encourage us to turn away from our sin and seek God. As Peter preached: Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19). When we fail to listen, repent, and turn from our sin, however, we grieve God’s heart.

 

Similarly, the Holy Spirit is a fire within us, desiring to accomplish God’s will in our lives. As Paul explained to the Corinthians: “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?” (1 Corinthians 6:19). However, when we refuse to work with the Spirit, we can extinguish His fire, His work in us. We may ignore His gentle nudgings. We may fail to seek God, doing things our own way. We may fail to read the Bible or pray, or to offer thanksgiving and praise. Little by little, these failures serve to quench God’s Spirit within us.

 

Our God is a loving, merciful God, but He is also a holy God. He has no fellowship with darkness. As Paul told the Corinthians:  And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: ‘I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, And they shall be My people’” (2 Corinthians 6:15-16). Only as we yield to God’s Spirit within us can we know the fullness of His Presence with us.

Moses was one who enjoyed the blessing of God’s presence. He exclaimed at one point in his sojourn in the wilderness: “If Your Presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here” (Exodus 33:15). That’s the attitude I want to have in my heart as I walk with God. I pray that I will not grieve Him or quench His Spirit within me, that I’ll seek Him with all my heart, and listen and repent when He convicts me of sin. Oh, how I pray, that I will more and more know the joy of His Presence in my life!

 

“You will show me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

(Psalm 16:11)

 

Posted by: glorifyhim1 | August 21, 2014

When the World is Falling Apart

When the World is Falling Apart

 

 

A few days ago I was working on a devotion when I took a break to listen to the evening news. I sat in stunned silence as I listened to the reporter detail the savage execution of US journalist, James Foley. Hours later, I still couldn’t shake the horror of seeing Foley kneeling in the desert beside his executioner just moments before he was slain. I thought about this young man and his final moments, about what he may have endured since his disappearance in Syria almost two years ago, and about the ache and sorrow those in his family were surely experiencing. It was difficult to get back to work on my devotion which, oddly enough, was about finding joy – even in hard and difficult times.

 

Also, right here in our own nation, another “war” has erupted in Ferguson, Missouri after the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown by a white police officer. The shooting sparked protests, as well as looting, vandalism, and growing violence. The unrest led to the declaration of a state of emergency and imposed curfews by the Governor of Missouri. Presently, the National Guard has been activated to assist police in maintaining order. Once again, it was difficult to work on my devotion on joy as I thought about all the lives affected and reeling from events in Ferguson.

 

Can we really have joy when it seems that the world is falling apart? I scroll through Facebook and it seems that life goes on – new births, smiling brides and grooms, anniversaries, graduations, first day of school pics, and even ice bucket challenges – events that seem so far removed from executions in the Middle East and the rioting and violence in the Midwest. As I prepare for a family reunion this weekend, I almost feel guilty. But then I remembered the following advice and encouragement that Paul offered to the Roman believers: “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer” (Romans 12:12).

 

We live in a fallen world, a world that is broken and infected with sin and evil. Bad things happen. But the Bible tells us that God sent Jesus to save the world. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:16-17). This hope that we have in Jesus is what brings joy to a believer – yes, even in the hard times. You see, when I think about all the bad things happening in our world as well as the many personal tragedies we hear about every day such as broken hearts and homes, illness, disease, and death; I can rejoice knowing that Jesus has already overcome and won the victory for all who trust in Him. One day Jesus will return and we will be through with this sin-sick, destructive old world. We will finally know that perfect world that God originally created for us. But for now, we wait, as Christ, in His great mercy, longs for all men to be saved. “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us,[b] not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

 

In the meanwhile, we’re citizens of Heaven while living here on earth. Jesus warned His disciples before He was crucified that they would have trouble in this world.

 

“These things I have spoken to you, that you should not be made to stumble.  They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service. And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me. But these things I have told you, that when the time comes, you may remember that I told you of them” (John 16:1-4).

 

But Jesus also reminded them that this fallen world was not the end.

 

“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

 

Yes, my heart has been sad this week as these fresh images of a world falling apart join so many others we’ve witnessed in just the last few years – school shootings, gang violence, and countless other persecutions. But, yes, we can still have joy because of Jesus. I can rejoice in the One who came to save us and give us hope when it seems that there is no hope. May we all remember Paul’s instruction to the Romans and “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”

 

“ But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat?  Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.”

(2 Peter 3:10-13)

 

 

  

Posted by: glorifyhim1 | August 12, 2014

The Why and How of Forgiveness

The Why and How of Forgiveness

 

Have you ever struggled with being able to forgive someone who has hurt or wronged you? Perhaps it was something said or done deliberately to hurt or annoy you. At other times, the offending party may have been totally unaware that their words or actions caused you pain. Either way, have you ever forgiven someone for an offense just to have to deal with it again and again as you continue to recall the hurt? No matter how hard you try, you just can’t seem to let go of it.

 

Through the years, I have to admit I’ve been there from time to time. But no matter how justified I felt to not forgive someone who had wronged me, I knew in my heart it wasn’t right. The Bible clearly teaches us to forgive. Paul taught the Ephesians: “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32). He taught the Colossians: “bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do” (Colossians 3:13). The writer of Proverbs stated: He who covers a transgression seeks love, But he who repeats a matter separates friends” (Proverbs 17:9). And even Jesus, Himself, proclaimed: And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses” (Mark 11:25). We are taught to forgive regardless of how someone has trespassed against us.

 

Why? Why is it so important to forgive? I’m sure there are many Biblical scholars who could answer this question far better than I can, but this is what I’ve discovered as I’ve grappled with the issue of forgiving others.

 

  • Forgiveness affects my relationship with my Heavenly Father. I am saved by grace alone. My salvation does not depend on whether or not I choose to forgive someone who has wronged me, but Jesus commanded us to forgive others. When I fail to forgive others, I sin. When I fail to confess this sin to my Heavenly Father, my relationship with Him is broken. As we read in 1 John 1:9-10: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.” Only as we agree with God about our sin and confess our sin to Him, can we be cleansed, forgiven, and restored.
  • Forgiveness affects my relationship with others. I’ve discovered that when I fail to forgive, I cannot love others as Jesus commands. Jesus taught: “But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful” (Luke 6:35-36). My Father forgave me of all my sin – not because I deserved it, but because He loved me. He calls me to do the same. Just as Christ’s merciful, unconditional love makes a difference in our lives, our love can make a difference in the lives of others.
  • Forgiveness affects me. My ability to forgive others reflects where I place my trust. Do I trust in myself? When I keep records of wrongs and rights and how I can repay, I’m trusting myself to right all wrongs. On the other hand, when I can release all the wrongs others have committed against me to my Heavenly Father, I trust Him to work things out. And when we seek Him and follow Him, we can know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). Releasing all my hurts to my Heavenly Father frees me to move forward instead of constantly living life in rewind. Instead of allowing the actions of others, over which I have no control, to occupy my mind and thoughts, forgiveness helps me to put these things behind me, let them go, and move on to the next step God has planned for me.

 

But how do we do it? How do we forgive when we really don’t feel like forgiving? How do we forgive when terrible wrongs have been perpetrated against ourselves or others? While it may not always be easy, forgiveness is really not an option for the believer. Perhaps the following can help when extending forgiveness is hard.

 

  • Recognize that it is God’s place to judge, not ours.

“ Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Romans 12:19).

 

  • Surrender the person and the situation to God.

“Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, Because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass” (Psalm 37:5).

 

  • Pray for the offender.

“But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).

 

  • Trust God with the outcome.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).

 

We are probably never more like Christ than when we can extend love and forgiveness to those who have hurt or wronged us. Likewise, when we commit to pray for someone who has hurt us, we may discover that our thoughts and attitudes change toward that person as Christ works in us to produce a love like His. What a difference forgiveness can make in all our lives – as we are forgiven and as we forgive!

Posted by: glorifyhim1 | August 5, 2014

Called To Simply Be

Called To Simply Be

Yesterday, I was a child

Who laughed and ran and played,

Oblivious to time or change

Or even the time of day,

Climbing trees, riding bikes,

Wading in cold creeks,

Life was made for living,

I was content to simply be.

But as I grew and packed away

The memories of those days,

The pressures of life and living

Soon obscured those simple ways,

Consumed with work and schedules

And so many needs to meet,

Life became a struggle

As I forgot how to simply be.

But as I worked and struggled

And fought to make my way,

I prayed for God’s direction

And for needed strength each day,

He heard my prayer and answered

In an unexpected way,

He helped me see my children

As they laughed and played each day.

Assured of their father’s love

Life was lived with joy,

Not with stress and worry

Over every broken toy,

My Heavenly Father loves me, too,

My steps and needs, He sees,

He gives me life for living

And calls me to simply be.

My Heavenly Father taught me this lesson many years ago, but as is usually the case with me, I’ve needed to be reminded more than once. What does it mean to be called “to simply be”? To me, this is the basic call that God gives to each of us to be His child. When we accept His offer of salvation and surrender to His Lordship in our lives, we become His children. As John declared about Jesus: “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God” (John 1:12-13). God made the way and calls us to be His children.

 

While many of us know this in our heads, for some reason we seem to have trouble translating it into our hearts. We joyfully accept God’s offer of salvation and set out determined to make it work. But we forget the most important thing of all. God wants us first and foremost – more than anything we can do for Him. God wants us to know the joy of walking with Him; to find strength, help, and courage in His presence; and to know peace and rest as we fellowship with Him. He wants us to look to Him as a child looks to her father, totally trusting in the one she loves and who loves her. This is our first calling – to simply be His child. Any other calling God makes on our lives flows from and through this relationship as He guides us in and through the situations and circumstances we face each day.

 

God calls every believer to be  ….

 

  • Still and know God – “Be still and know that I am God….” (see Psalm 46:10).
  • Yoked to Him – “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:29).
  • Trusting – “Be not anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on;” “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (see Matthew 6:25a, 33).
  • Faithful – “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him” (John 14:23).

 

As we seek and surrender ourselves to God, as we walk with Him and learn from Him, as we trust Him and are faithful to do what He shows us, not only can we live life with joy, but He will give us peace in the midst of all our circumstances. Our Heavenly Father will take care of all the details. May we answer His call to simply be.

Posted by: glorifyhim1 | July 28, 2014

To Love Like Christ

PENTAX ImageTo Love Like Christ

 Last week I received one of those telephone calls that sends a Mom’s heart racing and her blood pressure skyrocketing. I gripped my cell phone tightly as I listened to the controlled voice of our youngest daughter. “Mom, my house has been broken into. I’m waiting now for the police!”

A thousand questions rushed into my mind, but, thankfully, she reassured me of the most important one of all. “I’m okay. I saw the door had been kicked in, so I didn’t go in. I came back to the car and called the police.” The next hour or so seemed like an eternity as I waited 2-1/2 hours away to hear what was going on. I knew my daughter had been gone for a couple of nights on a work assignment and she had made the discovery when she ran by her house at lunch time after returning. Soon, I listened as my daughter recounted the difficulty of walking into the small house she had just rented and moved into a few weeks ago, to find it thoroughly trashed. In addition to missing items; drawers, cabinets, and storage containers had been ransacked, contents dumped on the floor, thrown and scattered. She barely knew where to start cleaning up, much less the heart to even begin.

But, that’s not the end or the point of this story. The point of this story is what happened next. The people my daughter worked with and went to church with (she works at the church she attends) rallied around her. People from her office showed up to help pick up the worst of the mess that very afternoon. She received offers to stay in homes until she could decide her next step. Friends have offered to help her finish cleaning up and sorting the mess left behind. Other friends have offered to help move her remaining things into storage or a new place to live. In short, she has been surrounded by the love of Christ.

And, oh, isn’t that what we all need? But not just when bad things happen! The one thing that we all need more than anything else in the world, whether we want to admit it or not,  is to be loved. Love matters because it says that we matter. One of the last instructions Jesus gave to His disciples before His death was about love. “ A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35).

Love makes a difference. Think of the many ways that Christ’s love makes a difference in your life. I immediately thought of the following.   Because Christ loves me….

  • I have life, eternal life. I am no longer condemned (see John 3:16).
  • I can love others. Christ’s love for me enables me to love others – even when others are spiteful to me, or when they do things to use me or persecute me (see 1 John 4:19; Matthew 5:43-48).
  • I can have fellowship with the Father (see John 14:23).
  • I can have hope even in the darkest of times (see Romans 5:2-5).

But as much as I rejoice in the wonder of Christ’s love and the difference it makes in my life, I also know that Christ doesn’t want me to just keep His love to myself. He wants me to share His love freely with others. I have to ask myself if others see Christ-like love in my life? Do I love only those who love me, or who are like me, or who I deem to be worthy of my love? Christ loved both the sinner and the saint, the social outcast and the accepted friend, those who loved him and those who hated and betrayed him. He took time for the children, showed compassion to the hurting, and went out of His way to befriend and show love to those who needed it most. He was no respecter of persons, but loved all unconditionally. Do others see that kind of love in my life?

When I stay close to Christ and allow His love to flow through me, others can also experience the difference Christ’s love can make in their lives. To be sure, my daughter’s friends are providing help and encouragement during a tough time. But even more, as they allow Christ’s love to flow through them and as they lift up and hearten my daughter, it’s as if Christ, Himself, is reaching out to surround her with His love. How thankful I am for the love of Christ and for faithful followers who share His love so well!

For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”

(Ephesians 3:14-19)

 

Posted by: glorifyhim1 | July 22, 2014

When We Abandon God

When We Abandon God

 

Most of us would probably agree that as believers we would never, ever abandon God. How could we ever turn our backs on the very One who planned for our redemption before we were ever even born? How could we forget the One who has walked with us through hard places, blessed us in countless ways, and who gives our lives purpose and meaning? Yet, we do it all the time.

 

We abandon God in many of the same ways that the nations of Israel and Judah turned away from Him. In spite of the many ways that God showed up to protect them from their enemies, make them victorious in battle, and to supply their every need, time after time they abandoned God and pursued other gods. And we do the same, today – not just as a nation, but personally as well.

 

The Old Testament books of Kings and Chronicles recount the various rulers of both Israel and Judah. There were those who “did what was right and good in the eyes of the Lord his God” (2 Chronicles 14:2). There were others who “did evil in the sight of the Lord” like evil kings before them (2 Chronicles 22:4). And, sadly, there were even some who were so evil that they died “to no one’s sorrow” (2 Chronicles 21:20). But, perhaps just as sad, often those who did right and good and whose reigns were blessed by God ended their reigns turning from following God and from pursuing Him wholeheartedly.

 

One of these rulers was Joash who became king of Judah at the tender age of seven. Joash was the son of the evil king Ahaziah. When Ahaziah was killed, his mother, Athaliah destroyed all the royal heirs and assumed rule over the land. However, Joash, the infant son of King Ahaziah was hidden by the wife of Jehoiada the priest so that he was not killed. For six years, Joash was hidden by the priest and his wife in the house of God.

 

After six years of Athaliah’s evil rule, Jehoiada worked out a plan with the religious and civil leaders and covenanted to overthrow Athaliah and restore the throne to Joash, the rightful heir. Jehoiada’s plan succeeded and Joash became king. With Jehoiada serving as his guardian and counselor, Joash “did what was right in the sight of the Lord” (2 Chronicles 24:2).

 

Unfortunately, that is not the end of Joash’s story. Although Joash repaired the temple and restored the house of God to its original condition and served the Lord, he, too, abandoned God at the end of his reign. After Jehoiada died, King Joash listened to other leaders of Judah and began to serve wooden images and idols. God sent prophets to try to bring them back to God, but Joash would not listen to them. Even the son of the priest Jehoiada, Zechariah, spoke to all the people and asked them why they were transgressing the commandments of God. He warned them that they were forsaking God and that God would forsake them. But Joash and the people refused to listen. Then, Joash, who had been protected, guided, and counseled by Jehoiada, commanded that Jehoiada’s own son, Zechariah, be stoned to death. Joash, himself, was severely wounded later in battle as God delivered Judah into the hands of the Syrians. Joash’s own servants killed him as he suffered on his bed. (see 2 Chronicles 24).

The life of Joash depicts the downward spiral that occurs when we abandon God.

 

  • We forget.

 

Joash forgot the kindness of Jehoiada. He forgot his help, his guidance, his advice, his counsel, and all that he had taught him. He forgot God, how He had prospered Joash’s rule as long as he sought Him with his whole heart.

 

  • We listen to the wrong advice.

 

After Jehoiada’s death, other rulers in Judah came and bowed down to Joash. He listened to their advice rather than remembering the godly advice of Jehoiada. They left God and served wooden images and idols.

 

  • We abandon worship.

 

Joash abandoned the house of God. They abandoned the daily burnt offerings that indicated obedience and faithfulness to God and instead worshiped images and idols. They forsook worship of the one true God.

 

  • We fail to obey God’s commands.

 

Joash refused to listen to the prophets that God sent to try to bring the people back to God. Instead, he conspired and killed God’s messenger.

 

And we do the same in our own ways.

 

1. How do we forget?

 

Do we forget God’s past mercy, grace, and faithfulness?

 

2. Who do we listen to?

 

Do we become prideful because of past accomplishments and trust our own wisdom and judgment? Do we listen to advice that the world or our non-Christian brothers and sisters offer? Do we test advice we receive against truths contained in Scripture?

 

3. Who or what do we worship?

 

Do we love God with all our heart, soul, and mind? (See Matthew 22:37.) Do we seek Him, honor Him, and serve Him?

 

4. Do we obey God?

 

Do we only obey when it is easy, or do we obey when it’s hard as well? When God’s commands run counter to culture, who do we obey? When God’s commands are in opposition to activities we practice, who do we obey?

 

As the lives of the kings of Israel and Judah so aptly demonstrate, when we continue to turn our backs on God and abandon Him, we will reap the consequences of the choice we make. But no matter where we find ourselves on this downward spiral, our lives do not have to finish like the life of Joash. God is ever merciful, gracious, ready to forgive and restore each one who will repent and turn to Him. “’Now, therefore,’ says the Lord,
‘Turn to Me with all your heart,with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.’ So rend your heart, and not your garments; return to the Lord your God ,for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness; and He relents from doing harm”
(Joel 2:12-13).

 

The choice is ours.  Will we abandon God or will we choose to seek Him in all things? I pray that I will seek God so that like those good kings, it can be said about me that she “did what was right and good in the eyes of the Lord her God.”

 

Posted by: glorifyhim1 | July 15, 2014

Continuing My Journey

Continuing My Journey

 

I only have a little over a month left with my current group of kindergartners in Sunday School – alas, my last group. What a privilege it has been for the past 32 years to help young children as they begin their life-long journeys of learning about Jesus. I have been blessed beyond words and ever thankful that God has allowed me to be part of such a ministry.

 

My decision to leave did not come easily. I’ve worked with preschoolers for so long that I’m not sure if I can sit quietly with adults. Neither am I sure if I can get out of the habit of packing two or three bags every Sunday morning filled with activities, CD’s, snacks, and everything I need to engage five- year-olds. And will I ever get used to not making homemade play dough? But in spite of all my reservations, I think it’s finally time for me to leave kindergarten.

 

As I thought and prayed about the decision I needed to make, I happened to read the following passage about God’s call to Abraham.

 

The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Haran, and said to him, ‘Get out of your country and from your relatives, and come to a land that I will show you.’ Then he came out of the land of the Chaldeans and dwelt in Haran. And from there, when his father was dead, He moved him to this land in which you now dwell. And God gave him no inheritance in it, not even enough to set his foot on. But even when Abraham had no child, He promised to give it to him for a possession, and to his descendants after him” (Acts 7:2-5).

 

Although I have often read about God’s call to Abraham, this time I noticed several key things about that call.

 

1. God told Abraham to go without knowing where.

 

When God calls us to go somewhere or do something, He doesn’t always give us the whole picture of what He has planned. He wants us – our worship, our devotion, our obedience, our complete trust. He guides us in the way He wants us to go as we stay close to Him, listen, and obey.

 

2. God told Abraham to go to a land He would show him.

 

God doesn’t set us off on a course and expect us to navigate it all by ourselves. He told Abraham to go to a land that He would show him. In much the same way, God will give us direction and guide us to the “land” He has prepared for us.

 

 

3. God directed Abraham step by step.

 

Abraham left as God directed, but he stopped in Haran – not in the land of Canaan. We don’t know why Abraham stopped in Haran, but apparently he stayed there until the death of his father. Then God moved him on to the promised land. Genesis 12 recounts God’s continued call to Abraham to leave Haran and continue on to Canaan. God leads us step by step. Sometimes we may take detours and fail to follow God’s leading. We may go when God says stay, or we may stay when God says go. But God is ever ready to help us get back on track and continue on.

 

4. God gave Abraham not an inheritance, but a promise.

 

God promised to make Abraham a great nation and a blessing to others. However, He gave Abraham no inheritance in the land to which He brought Him, but promised to give the land to Abraham’s descendants (see Genesis 12:7). God gave Abraham a promise instead of a possession. Possessions have a tendency to hold us back, while promises tend to push us forward as we seek to obtain the promise. I think that the call God places on your life and mine is probably a lot like the one given to Abraham. Our callings, our ministries, are not our possessions. They are not something we own or that define us.   Our callings and ministries are sacred opportunities to participate in some way in God’s kingdom work – a work that is intent on revealing the precious promises of God.

 

 

God calls each of His children to follow wherever He leads them. The callings differ as well as the times and seasons for those calls, but one thing remains the same – our total surrender to God as He directs our steps. When God called me as a young Christian to help in a 4- and 5-year old Sunday School class, I had no idea the calling on my life that would continue to unfold over the next 30 or so years as I grew right along with the kids I had the privilege of teaching. But God set my course, directed my steps, and called me to follow Him. As I look back over these years, I see God’s faithfulness in all the ways He guided me. Now, as I look forward, I know that I can trust Him to continue to lead and direct my steps, knowing that I can depend on His faithfulness whatever He calls me to do.

 

 

I’m so thankful for the call God gave me all those years ago to teach preschoolers. What a difference that call and all the preschoolers I’ve had the joy of teaching, have made in my life. Although it’s hard to step way, just as Abraham left for a place he did not know, I feel that it’s time for me to do the same. I’m going to stay close to my Heavenly Father, and pray that He will guide me step by step as I continue my journey. And I’m going to keep pressing on and looking forward to the promise that awaits all of God’s children – but I still might bring the playdough!

 

 

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