Week 52 – The End is Just the Beginning

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Mark 16

Then He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation.Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. Mark 16:15-16

Wow! I can’t think of a better verse to end this 2017 scripture challenge! Look at what it says in The Message translation.

Then he said, “Go into the world. Go everywhere and announce the Message of God’s good news to one and all. Whoever believes and is baptized is saved; whoever refuses to believe is damned. Mark 16:15-16 (MSG)

What a bold and clear directive! That’s our Jesus! It’s an incredible reminder for us all as we close out one year and start another. This scripture challenge has certainly equipped me for more “going out and telling the good news” to one and all. It’s been a year of discovery, growth and faith development through the scriptures. Thank you for coming along on this journey with me. God gave me an idea for the 2018 Bible Challenge months ago. I’m excited to share it with you.

Drum roll, please . . .

Sometimes when we are learning, even if we’ve been learning for a while, there is no better place to start than back at the beginning. So, for 2018 I’ll be exploring the book of Genesis. There are 50 chapters in Genesis, so I’ll tackle one chapter per week in 2018 and that still leaves me 2 additional weeks for the introduction and closing thoughts. I’m so excited. I have never done an intense study of Genesis, so I’m looking forward to the challenges, new discoveries and wisdom God has in store. I hope you will join me.

I pray the hope and joy that Christmas highlights within us will remain with you throughout the new year and that you seek Him more and more through His written word and prayer.

 

 

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Week 51 – What’s Your Legacy?

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Exodus 34

Then the Lord passed in front of him and proclaimed: Yahweh—Yahweh is a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in faithful love and truth, maintaining faithful love to a thousand generations, forgiving wrongdoing, rebellion, and sin. But He will not leave the guilty unpunished, bringing the consequences of the fathers’ wrongdoing on the children and grandchildren to the third and fourth generation. Exodus 34:6-7

In all honesty, these verses have always scared me a little. So, I welcomed the time to sit, reflect and dig into them this week.  So, what do these verses really mean?

We read all through scripture that God will not just close His eyes to our sin and forget it. Sin must be punished. Yikes, right?! So how does God show His mercy and punish us for our sins? In the Old Testament, they had to sacrifice animals daily. But, in the New Testament, we receive His Son! The perfect sacrifice that would put a cover, with His own blood, over our sins so they could be forgiven. Wow! When you put it that context, it hits home in a new way.

So, why are our wrongdoings passed on to generations? God doesn’t do it, we do. I recently had a conversation with a couple struggling in their marriage because of the past hurts and pain the husband was still carrying from his childhood. His father and His father’s father has treated their wives with dishonor and disrespect and this husband realized he was doing the same.  Thankfully, he began to see the destruction and pain it was causing not only in his marriage but his children and wanted to change. He realized he was continuing a legacy that wasn’t one he was proud of. Already, the sin of dishonor has been passed down for three generations (and who knows how long it started before that). If we don’t stand up, look to God for direction and courage, and make the choice to change, the unhealthy legacies will continue on for generations.

I pray this generation will stand up and take a close look in the mirror at the lies, legacies, and lethargic patterns we have fallen into because it was “all we knew”. We can no longer accept the lies and status quo for our marriages, families, and communities. We have access to the truth, power, and wisdom of the Holy Spirit through the great sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Let’s not waste it! Let’s make some changes! Let’s stop the destructive legacies and start some new ones that are loving, healing, restorative and life-giving. The Christmas season is a wonderful reminder of the hope and joy we have in Jesus Christ.  So, who is with me?

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 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.

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.