Week 50 – Don’t Forgive & Forget

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Luke 6

“But I say to you who listen: Love your enemies, do what is good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If anyone hits you on the cheek, offer the other also. And if anyone takes away your coat, don’t hold back your shirt either. Luke 6:27-29

My husband and I recently completed a wonderful class called Re[Engage. We had the pleasure of leading an incredible table of couples through a study that encouraged us all to reconnect, reignite and resurrect our marriages. One of my favorite chapters was on forgiveness. It reminded us of what forgiveness is and what it is not!

Understanding that we should always forgive others because God has given us is one thing. It’s the actual forgiving part that is the tough part. Here are a few incredible truths about forgiveness that they shared.

  1. While reconciliation takes two people, forgiveness only takes one. We have complete control over whether we forgive someone or not and there is no action needed on their part for us to do so.  And forgiveness doesn’t guarantee reconciliation.
  2. Forgiveness is for us! We are the one released from the negative impacts of holding on to resentment, anger, and betrayal. When we forgive we get to experience freedom.
  3. Forgiveness is a choice, not a feeling. If we wait until we “feel” like forgiving our offender, we will never forgive them.
  4. Forgiving does not mean forgetting! Why would we want to forget the lessons we learned during difficult times. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to have to relearn those. Forgive, but don’t forget. In fact, we need to remember God has called us to forgive.
  5. Forgiveness doesn’t mean you are condoning what your offender has done.

They share some incredible articles on forgiveness on their website if you are interested.  This is one muscle that needs constant reinforcement and strengthening in the world we live in. However, when we understand God’s great love for us and His continued forgiveness for our daily transgressions, it is easier to extend that same forgiveness and mercy to others.

Jesus’s parable about the man in debt (us) to the king (Him) in Matthew 18:21-35 is a very powerful story and so convicting. In the Message translation, it is actually titled, “A Story About Forgiveness.” It shines a light on our tendency to be hypocritical when it comes to forgiveness. We always want others to forgive us when we have wronged them, but we are often slow to forgive.  As a new year approaches, my prayer is that each of us will look closely at our hearts and ask God to reveal any unforgiveness that lies within it. May He give us the strength, courage, and wisdom to release it and turn it over to Him so we can experience freedom.

Blog Art is provided by my friend and sister in Christ Polly Jo Green.  She is an artist based in Cary, North Carolina. Visit her website at pollyjogreen.com.Her art ranges from doodle creations to mixed media pieces. In addition to commissioned original art, her art is available on notecards.

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Week 49 – Looks Don’t Count

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1 Samuel

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or his stature because I have rejected him. Man does not see what the Lord sees, for man sees what is visible, but the Lord sees the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7

I wonder if God knew how much we would need this verse in 2017?! Of course, he did! However, I’m sure Samuel could have never known how much we would. In this day and age, the constant bombardment of images from social media makes this verse more relevant than we could have ever imagined.

Think for a moment about the images posted on social media. How many people post pictures with messy hair, no make-up, losing their temper with their children or when their kid misses the pitch that loses the game? I know before I post anything my children want to “approve it”. They want to ensure that they look a certain way, that there isn’t anything embarrassing about it or I don’t put a “weird” comment with it. It’s all about an image we are trying to create. Our own personal PR campaign through social media. It works too because this world looks at the outward appearance. I know people who have become depressed because they don’t have it all together like an old friend from high school that (from social media) seems to have the perfect children, travel all the time and have a happy marriage. The sad part of this is when the friend learned her friend was getting a divorce and all that seemed so well had been an illusion.

We look at what is visible and able to be seen with the eye. The Lord, however, looks at what we can’t see. He looks at us and sees right through the physical and straight to our hearts. The heart is an important theme that is woven through the Bible. In fact, it would make an interesting word study because it is mentioned over one thousand times in the Bible. Of course, we aren’t talking about the blood pumping organ, but the innermost part of us, the “center for both the physical and emotional-intellectual-moral activities.” (biblestudytools.com)

In fact, if we look at the Greek word for heart, kardia, we find it means middle. I love this. The heart is the core, center, and middle of all our actions. The scary part of this is that God sees right in there. Straight to the heart! No matter how many masks we try to cover the pain, anger or sin with, God sees it all. No matter how much we dress it up, God sees the dirty mess. No matter how much foundation we apply or concealer we use to cover the blemishes of the heart, God sees the truth. And on the flip side of that, no matter how dirty or poor an individual may seem, God sees past that too. He sees the love, joy, and humility. No matter how low or lost, no matter how many tattoos, God see past that and sees the love and light we shine if we have Jesus.

It goes both ways! This week, I pray that we all start practicing God’s technique of looking past the outward appearances of others and stop to consider the heart of the individual. Their journey, their life, their pain, their joys, their struggles, and celebrations. I pray God will open the eyes of our hearts to look into the hearts of others. May we see their pain behind the smile, their kindness behind the messy exterior and their desire to be known and heard for who they are in Christ.

Blog Art is provided by my friend and sister in Christ Polly Jo Green.  She is an artist based in Cary, North Carolina. Visit her website at pollyjogreen.com.Her art ranges from doodle creations to mixed media pieces. In addition to commissioned original art, her art is available on notecards.

Week 48 – The Shield

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2 Sam

God—His way is perfect; the word of the Lord is pure. He is a shield to all who take refuge in Him. 2 Samuel 22:31

We hear about God being a perfect shield over and over in scripture, so this week I wanted to really think about what a shield is and its purpose.

Wikipedia says this about a shield. “A shield is a piece of personal armor held in the hand or mounted on the wrist or forearm. Shields are used to intercept specific attacks, whether from close-ranged weaponry or projectiles such as arrows, by means of active blocks, instead of providing passive protection.”

Now, let’s put the power, protection, love, and provision we have at our disposal as Christians into perspective.

Our God loves us so much that He sent His Holy Spirit to be a part of us. A part of our own personal armor that is so close we can hold it in our hands. As our shield and defense, He will stand between any attack that is thrown at us from close-range or from fiery arrows that travel at fast speeds to try and surprise us. As a shield, He takes quick action to defend His beloved children. His protection is active, as He moves quickly and precisely to defend and protect.

And this isn’t just a cute little way to take a definition and turn it into a God thing… Look at all these scriptures that back up this incredible truth.

Psalm 28:7 – The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.

Isaiah 41:10 – So do not fear, for I am with you;  do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand

Psalm 18:2 – The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold

2 Thessalonians 3:33 – but the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one.

And these verses are just a small sample. Take some time to search for other verses that back up this truth. The power of the Lord is real! He can move mountains (Matthew 17:20).  I pray we all realize His power in new ways this week. That we lean into it, accept it and trust it with all of our hearts.

Blog Art is provided by my friend and sister in Christ Polly Jo Green.  She is an artist based in Cary, North Carolina. Visit her website at pollyjogreen.com.Her art ranges from doodle creations to mixed media pieces. In addition to commissioned original art, her art is available on notecards.

Week 47 – Enough Faith?

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Hab

Lord, I have heard the report about You; Lord, I stand in awe of Your deeds. Revive Your work in these years; make it known in these years. In Your wrath remember mercy! Habakkuk 3:2

Although we may not realize it, we have a lot in common with Habakkuk. He was vocal about how displeased he was with God. He felt as if God was just sitting idly back while His people ran amuck and suffered. He asked God a question that we still ask of Him to do this day. “God, where are you? Why aren’t you doing anything about all the suffering, the violence, and inequality?” Sound familiar? This small, three chapter book of the Bible really digs into the question of why God allows evil and the faith it takes to trust in God’s plan. The entire book deserves a read, but today are only focusing on one verse.

Although the first two chapters in Habakkuk tell the story, the third chapter is almost like a psalm of praise. The first two verses of Habakkuk 3 are a prayer. Habakkuk was worried that the Lord wasn’t keeping a close enough watch on His people. However, when he cried out to God about his dissatisfaction and God answered, Habakkuk’s worry changed. He wasn’t worried so much about God’s lack of a response anymore, but that God’s judgment was coming.

The Message Translation reads this way:

God, I’ve heard what our ancestors say about you, and I’m stopped in my tracks, down on my knees. Do among us what you did among them. Work among us as you worked among them. And as you bring judgment, as you surely must, remember mercy.

Now, that’s a strong prayer! Have you ever prayed, “God, I’ve read all about how you had to judge and discipline your children of past generations? Please work in us as you did our ancestors to bring about change and good, but please remember Your great mercy when you do?”

Wow!!! Now that is a bold prayer. One our country needs if we are bold, brave and courageous enough to pray it. I have no doubt judgment will come for our nation that has fallen so far from God, so maybe it is now that we must begin to cry out (as Habakkuk did), “Father, do as you must, but please remember to have mercy on us.”

Blog Art is provided by my friend and sister in Christ Polly Jo Green.  She is an artist based in Cary, North Carolina. Visit her website at pollyjogreen.com.Her art ranges from doodle creations to mixed media pieces. In addition to commissioned original art, her art is available on notecards.

Week 46 – No Masks

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Psalm 51

Surely You desire integrity in the inner self, and You teach me wisdom deep within. Psalm 51:6

Psalm 51 is called a Prayer for Restoration (HCSB). David (who was called a man after God’s own heart) wrote this Psalm in response to breaking both the 6th and 7th commandments. He was heartbroken, had fallen short of what he knew God’s best for him was and was crying out to God.  David had not only set up a murder but also committed adultery. If you have never read David’s amazing story, I encourage you to explore his life in first and second Samuel.

But today I want to sit on this one short and simple verse that holds so much wisdom for each of us in our daily lives. My mind quickly goes to all the social media pictures we post of ourselves with filters, our families who are all smiles and our activities that look glamorous but have strained our bank accounts. We put on masks to make things look amazing and happy when marriages are falling apart, children have gone prodigal, loneliness is our heart’s cry or illness, stress and life have overwhelmed us to the point of exhaustion. We compare ourselves, we react to news with a thumbs up or a “smile” emoji instead of a prayer. We are digital refugees, but our children are digital natives and this is all they know. And I wonder. . . how will this change them? What will this look like in their own relationships, friendships, and marriages one day?

The hard truth today is this, you can attend church and not be saved. You can volunteer for hours a week and not truly care for others. You can be baptized and not saved if you don’t truly believe in the sacrifice of our Savior. The outside can look amazing and the inside can be rotting. God doesn’t care about what the outside looks like as much as He does the inside of our hearts. He knows that when the inside is changed the outside (our actions & deeds) follow.

This week, my prayer for all of us is that God allows a glimpse into the condition of our hearts and He will give us the strength and courage to step out from behind our masks to ask the tough questions, take a bold step of faith, trust Him on a deeper level and seek Him with every fiber of our being so that He can change our hearts and grant us the wisdom He desires to share with us.

Blog Art is provided by my friend and sister in Christ Polly Jo Green.  She is an artist based in Cary, North Carolina. Visit her website at pollyjogreen.com.Her art ranges from doodle creations to mixed media pieces. In addition to commissioned original art, her art is available on notecards.

Week 45 – Life Lessons can HURT!

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jonah

Those who cling to worthless idols forsake faithful love, but as for me, I will sacrifice to You with a voice of thanksgiving. I will fulfill what I have vowed. Salvation is from the Lord! Jonah 2:8-9

Can you imagine how wonderful it must have been, after being inside a big stinky fish belly for days, to be vomited out on the beach? I bet Jonah had never been so excited to feel the sun on his face, rub the sand between his toes and rinse fish goo and vomit off himself by the seashore. Honestly, I can relate a bit to Jonah. I mean, I’ve never been swallowed by a fish, lived inside it and been vomited out, but I have been through trials that seemed scary, uncertain and never-ending.

For me, it was over five years ago and it all seemed to happen in slow motion. It was a gradual downsizing. First, the Mercedes, then my precious housekeeper, our new home, the gym membership, an entire lifestyle that I had grown accustomed to was gone in just a few months time. As I type out all the things I had to give up, I sound like a very selfish and spoiled brat. But, was I? Most everyone around me had these things and much more. Why did I have to give them up? I didn’t deserve this? I lived a good Christian life. Ever had those thoughts enter your mind?

But, my husband and I agreed it was time for him to make a career change. I told him I was up for the challenge and I really thought I was. And so began a journey with God that revealed some distorted things in my heart. I am embarrassed to say, but there were many things I had much too tight a grasp on, and as He was prying them out of my hands, I admit that I didn’t let go easily or without lament.

I learned a lot during this time of transition. God revealed to me things I thought I had under control in this Christian heart: materialism, idols, pride, greed, selfishness . . . . As a “Christian”, these were things that should be easily conquered, right?! I found they were so familiar to me that is was easy to tolerate and overlook in myself than to face and defeat.

I knew that I didn’t have what it took to make this transition and so I began praying for God to change my heart and help me find joy in this “wrestling match” and transition. He not only gave me joy in my suffering, He began to open my eyes in a new way to His lessons, His truths and His desires for me and my family.

The crazy thing is, on the other side, I was thankful for the hardship and the lessons God taught me. I’m thankful to Him for the painful pruning and the fruit He produced. Notice I said . . . on the other side. Friends, when you are in the storm it is never fun or easy and sometimes it downright painful. It can feel lonely and dark (as I’m sure it was for Jonah in the belly of the fish) and seem as if it will never end. But, when the sun starts to come out again, you top the mountain and see the other side it can be so rewarding.

You can read the whole story of my journey in my book Revision of a Heart. And if you are reading this blog today and feel the dark storm surge overtaking you, I’m praying God’s strength, peace, courage, perseverance and hope to overtake the despair of your circumstances. May His great light and hope be a beacon for you in the storm until He carries you through. Amen

Blog Art is provided by my friend and sister in Christ Polly Jo Green.  She is an artist based in Cary, North Carolina. Visit her website at pollyjogreen.com.Her art ranges from doodle creations to mixed media pieces. In addition to commissioned original art, her art is available on notecards.

Week 44 – Know Him?

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1 John

You know that He was revealed so that He might take away sins, and there is no sin in Him. Everyone who remains in Him does not sin; everyone who sins has not seen Him or known Him. 1 John 3:5-6

Love this verse! In a nutshell, we are all a sinful mess and there is nothing WE can do about it. But, Jesus can! It is the whole reason He came as a baby, lived on this Earth among us away from His rightful home and place at the right hand of God for 33 years before dying a criminals death on the cross. He came for us! He did it all for each of us because we aren’t capable on our own. The big question is have you taken Him up on His amazing offer?

This verse takes it even further than that and tells us that Christ Jesus didn’t just die to cover our sin, but takes away the action of sin in the life of Christians who believe and trust in Him. There is a distinct difference I feel we need to distinguish between. Jesus not only died to pay the penalty for our sins, but the deliver us from the pull and power sin has over us in this flesh. He was able to do all this because He was a perfect and blameless sacrifice offered up to the angry and cruel crowds to hang from the cross. .  . all along accomplishing God’s divine plan because of His great love for us. That’s a love we can barely grasp or comprehend, but it is real.

I feel like we often forget that these verses say Jesus did and does all these things. Many times, we live as if these verses from 1 John read, “Everyone who remains in himself does not sin; everyone who sins has not tried hard enough to stop.” God never created us to do manage sin alone. We simply can not do it without Him. It’s Jesus who paid the price and the Holy Spirit that resides in us so that we are able to overcome our sinful nature. As hard as we try, we will never accomplish freedom from sin without Him. I’m not sure about you, but that lifts a tremendous burden off of my heart and mind. Me and God, You and God! We are in this, as a team! His might and His power can accomplish all (Zech 4:6, Deut. 8:17, Ephesians 6:10). We are not alone. What a relief!

Blog Art is provided by my friend and sister in Christ Polly Jo Green.  She is an artist based in Cary, North Carolina. Visit her website at pollyjogreen.com.Her art ranges from doodle creations to mixed media pieces. In addition to commissioned original art, her art is available on notecards.