Can I Forgive Me?

“I tell you, in the same way, there is joy in the presence of God’s angels over one sinner who repents.” Luke 15:10

 

She sadly shook her head, “Yes, I would love to help with that ministry! But with my past… I just can’t.” She had a colorful past, yet she had repented and today pursued Jesus with unparalleled passion.

Her past was in the past. She no longer practiced those former activities. God had forgiven her. God had redeemed her. God had redeemed her past.

Had she forgiven herself?

Could she see her redemption?

Jesus told three parables in Luke 15 about the lost being found. What happened when something lost was found?

Great rejoicing!

Not great lamenting over how long something was lost, or how it got lost, or even all the time “wasted” waiting for the lost item to turn up.

Instead, great celebration ensued; pure and simple celebration!

Maybe your past is a story you’d much rather die than retell. As much as you and I might wish to rewrite history, we simply can’t.

But Jesus reassures us that our stories aren’t completed yet. He assures us, “There is joy in the presence of God’s angels over one sinner who repents.”

Joy!

In the presence of God’s angels.

Just because one repents.

Joy!

Not condemnation.

Not lamentation.

Joy!

Since He forgives and adores us, He lovingly looks upon us with great joy. We should share that joy.

“I tell you, in the same way, there is joy in the presence of God’s angels over one sinner who repents.” Luke 15:10

 

She sadly shook her head, “Yes, I would love to help with that ministry! But with my past… I just can’t.” She had a colorful past, yet she had repented and today pursued Jesus with unparalleled passion.

Her past was in the past. She no longer practiced those former activities. God had forgiven her. God had redeemed her. God had redeemed her past.

Had she forgiven herself?

Could she see her redemption?

Jesus told three parables in Luke 15 about the lost being found. What happened when something lost was found?

Great rejoicing!

Not great lamenting over how long something was lost, or how it got lost, or even all the time “wasted” waiting for the lost item to turn up.

Instead, great celebration ensued; pure and simple celebration!

Maybe your past is a story you’d much rather die than retell. As much as you and I might wish to rewrite history, we simply can’t.

But Jesus reassures us that our stories aren’t completed yet. He assures us, “There is joy in the presence of God’s angels over one sinner who repents.”

Joy!

In the presence of God’s angels.

Just because one repents.

Joy!

Not condemnation.

Not lamentation.

Joy!

Since He forgives and adores us, He lovingly looks upon us with great joy. We should share that joy.

He wants us to joyfully acknowledge His forgiveness and rejoice that He does make all things new, indeed!

He wants us to joyfully acknowledge His forgiveness and rejoice that He does make all things new, indeed!

Prepare Before Battle

“I signed up for a marathon in six months, I’ve got to get training,” Sami said as she pulled her hair from her face, “but it’s been a long day and I feel so tired.” She glanced around at the mess in her room. “I’ll start tomorrow.”

Tomorrow was born a crazy day. The alarm somehow didn’t go off early, as she’s planned. Rushing out the door, her thoughts rushed ahead to the evening, I will make time then.

That evening, her workload stacker higher and she knew she couldn’t possibly take the time.

By the end of the next week she had not started. Nor by the end of the next month.

Time for the marathon came and Sami thought, “Well, it’s for a good cause, even if I only go partway, I’m doing something.”

Three miles in she was out of breath and in significant pain. It was time to quit.

Why did I never make the time to train?

Maybe like me, you can relate to Sami. I meant to start this good habit. I knew I would reap many benefits, but somehow I just never found the time.

I have done that with Bible Study. Yes, I want to know God better. Yes, I want to know what His word says. Why can it be a hard habit to start? Why does it seem that everything goes wrong, preventing me from having extra time, extra energy, extra determination needed?

“I can all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13 promises.  Did that promise only things which required physical strength? Emotional strength? Spiritual strength? Organizational strength?

It says all things…

All things.

Christ knew what it was to walk this earth, to live with earthly demands. He also knew what was important. He called on God’s strength to steal away and spend time with His heavenly Father.

We need to follow His example. At some point in this life, we very well may be called to run a spiritual marathon. That marathon jut might be the toughest situation we never could have imagined, never could have possibly prepared for. Yet, by getting to know God and His word in a regular routine, when called upon to run that marathon, we just might be ready if we start today.

Awaiting An Invitation

Miranda angrily shook her head, eyes flashing as she read the text message on her phone.

Are you kidding me? she thought. God doesn’t want me now.

She knew her friend on the other side of the words meant well, but really, she’d turned her back on God a long time ago, a lifetime ago, it felt to this young woman.

Ding.

Another text notification. Glancing at her phone, she sighed, Will she never give up?

Read Nehemiah 9:27b- 31.

Really? She stared at the phone remembering the warm hugs and constant encouragement; she felt her heart soften. Looking online for a Bible site, she found Nehemiah.

In their time of distress they cried out to You, and You heard from heaven. In Your abundant compassion You gave them deliverers, who rescued them from the powers of their enemies.”

She knew enough bible history to recall who these rescued people were: the Israelites. They had a history of walking with God, turning from God, then repenting and walking with God, then turning from God.

A pattern she knew well from personal experience.

When they cried out to You again, You heard from heaven and rescued them many times in Your compassion.” (v 28b)

She read through verse 29, key concepts leaping from the screen: You warned, they acted arrogantly, disobediently. They sinned, resisted You stubbornly.

You were patient.

Your spirit warned, but they would not listen.

Verse 31 almost stopped her heart: “However, in Your abundant compassion, You did not destroy them or abandon them, for You are a gracious and compassionate God

He was waiting for an invitation, Miranda thought, tears blurring the words on the screen.

God was patiently waiting for an invitation back into their lives. No matter what idols they built, or sought, or worshipped.

Her heart quaked at the next thought. Could He be waiting for me to invite Him back into my life?

That overwhelmed her as she recounted how she’d lived life after kicking God out.

He can’t care for me now, she thought, almost digesting the lie the Enemy fed her.

But Truth won out. She had been wrong, but He was waiting. It was time to make things right.

Reflections:

How have I turned away, believing the lie that God wouldn’t want me now?

 

What do I need to do to make amends?

 

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, How easily I can get sidetracked, focusing on others things, other relationships, other priorities, other than You. When that distance builds and it’s been a while since I was close to You, it seems easy to believe You wouldn’t want me. Remind me of Your truth. You always want me. No matter what. My choices may separate us, but just as a loving Father, You are waiting for my return with open arms. Thank You for being such a good father, In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Pause, Pray

End of the day,

but not the list,

Burnt meal narrowly missed,

Pause to pray

 

Piles of laundry,

dishes to do,

A dear little girl sporting a boo-boo,

Pause to pray.

 

Thunderstorms,

Electricity out,

Repair truck on the long route,

Pause to pray.

 

Drop dead tired,

the house to clean,

Confronted by a girl who is mean,

Pause to pray.

 

Angry at life,

frustrated and sad,

refusing to find a reason to be glad

Pause to pray.

 

Crunchy, brown earth

dry as a bone,

the drought and fire endangering homes.

Pause to pray.

 

A dad out of work

who doesn’t know what to do;

how much he is loved, he hasn’t a clue

Pause to pray.

 

A soul longing for God

But certainly can’t see

just how much He loves humanity.

Pause to pray.

 

“And pray in the Spirit on all occasion with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” Ephesians 6:18 NIV

 

“Pray continually.” I Thessalonians 5:17

 

 

 

Time for Everything

Have you ever felt both happy and sad at the same exact time for the same exact reason?

This week, I will drop off our first child at college.

I celebrated with her when she read the acceptance letter to her first choice school. I really got excited when her scholarship came through, making the dream a reality.

I look at the wonderful young lady she has become and I could not be happier for her. She’s been offered many opportunities and I continuously encourage her to seize them.

I’m her mom. I am so proud of her, so excited for her, and can’t wait to see where God leads her next. As her mom, I know I will miss her desperately.

As she’s been saying good-bye to everyone, it’s really sinking in. She won’t be at the dinner table. I won’t she her across the church, seated in the teen pew. I won’t get to embrace her and pray with her before bed each night.

How can I feel so happy, so excited, and so sad, simultaneously?

The God who created those emotions and who created me also gave recorded wisdom on this matter. Ecclesiastes 3:1,4 reads, “There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.”

In her preparations to move over 2000 miles away, we have shared much laughter! In those quiet times before bed, I’ve solitarily shed some tears.

God knows about those tears. He also knows about the joy I harbor,so thrilled at seeing His plans for her unfold.

He created all the emotions I’m feeling today. He knows. He will help me leave her there. He will be with her. He loves her even more than I.

Yes, there is a time for everything. Even when we weep and laugh and mourn and dance in rapid succession, He knows. He understands. And He will carry us through.

 

Known Heritage

Where do you come from? Families created through adoption often witness a teen’s curiosity about their birth parents as they grow up.

Who are my birth parents?

Where was I born?

Under what circumstances?

What is my biological heritage?

When we become followers of Christ we have a spiritual heritage. The best documentation of it is the Bible. God recorded people and places, promises and predicaments all inside, to pass down our heritage through Him.

He wants us to know what He has done; not only creating the world but also creating plans for you and me.

Not only working wondrous miracles, but weaving unfathomable disaster into faith-building redemption.

He wants us to know the legacy of:

His character,

His laws, and

His promises.

He wants us to know Him.

He wants us to follow Him.

He wants us to love Him as He loves us.

To know Him, follow Him, and love Him, we need to understand our inherited heritage He lovingly bestowed on us.

We need to know the stories of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. We need to understand how those stories apply to us today.

Like the people of Nehemiah’s day, learning our spiritual heritage can spark tears, sadness, and conviction.

Sometimes, we clearly had no idea.

But, as Nehemiah proclaimed, our heritage is a cause for celebration. As we know God more, we recognize His great love for us.

His heritage will captivate our hearts.

Suggested reading: Nehemiah 8; John 3:16

 

 

Navigation Desperation

Panic seized me as I desperately glanced from the GPS to scan the street signs.

The GPS did not know where I was! The connection icon swirled endlessly, indicating not only was I lost, but there was little hope of pinpointing my location anytime soon.

That thought terrified me as I followed traffic, frantically searching for a place to pull over, pause, and regroup.

Why isn’t my phone working? What is wrong with the connection? Do you ever feel that directions from God are not clearly coming through? Are prayers seemingly not heard? Have we lost that connection?

Even a long-time Christian can suddenly feel stranded on occasion.

But the  Lord promises to never leave nor forsake us.

So how can we reconcile that lost feeling with the promise of Deuteronomy 31:6?

God is there, always even when we can’t discern Him. (Joshua 1:9)

Feeling lost provides us with an opportunity to grow our faith as we witness His faithfulness. (John 14:23)

Cherish the thought that Jesus is the Good Shepherd. When we are lost, He is already coming to find us. (John 10:27-30)

Those three truths can alleviate the anxiety that can creep into a lonely and lost heart.

When we find ourselves lost, we need to find a quiet place to pull over and pause, pinpointing our present location and desired destination.

Sometimes, our usual communication seems to break down. My GPS wasn’t working and Siri was not telling me turn by turn where to go.

However, the Maps app was working. while parked in safety, I navigated through the app to turn myself around.

If prayers don’t seem to be providing answers, checking in on God’s map, the Bible, may clarify a direct path to your destination.

Getting lost can be terrifying and humbling. Once we’ve found our footing in familiar places again, we may see God was leading and teaching us every step of the way.

 

 

Conquering Foes

Once upon a time, there was a wise man who set out to do the impossible. He planned to rebuild what had been destroyed. He engaged a king to find him supplies. He journeyed a long distance, taking nothing but faith with him.  He was quite confident in his calling to construct a wall.

He had to motivate his coworkers.

He had to ignore the nay-sayers.

He had to fight the enemies who tried to stop him.

Staying away from the enemies had not worked. The enemy was bent on coming to him.

What did he tell his coworkers concerning the enemy’s arrival? “Do not open the gates of Jerusalem until the sun is hot.”

Nehemiah knew he could not stop his adversaries from approaching, but he thoughtfully determined the details of what they found.

Let them approach in the light, when they are clearly seen.

Let them approach when it’s the busiest time of day, with many others around.

Let them approach when we are ready.

Nehemiah’s plan offers wisdom for us today. Our enemy may not always be a physical soldier but a spiritual warrior bent on killing just the same. We can not control our enemy’s arrival. But we can control how he finds us.

Make him come into the light to find us. The Prince of Darkness loathes the light of Jesus. Let’s saturate our spirits, our minds, and our hearts with God’s love through His word, the Bible. When we are reflecting the light of Jesus, Satan has no choice but to approach the light if he’s trying to get at us.

Nehemiah wanted others around when his enemy approached. We need the love and encouragement of people who will spiritually fight for us when the enemy authors an agonizing battle. We do not want to face him alone. Friends and family of faith will happily hold us in prayer and keep words and deeds of encouragement coming.

Nehemiah wanted the enemy to find him ready. How do we prepare for our enemy?

Prayer

Reading and knowing God’s word

Refusing to yield to fear and anxiety

Self-care for the best physical, mental, and spiritual health

Nehemiah did not halt his efforts to fulfill his calling in order to prepare for invasion. He constructed the wall while fortifying his own defenses.

God calls us to follow Him and His leading while trusting in Him. By following Nehemiah’s instructions we can survive the enemy’s attacks and even emerge victorious!

Heart Guard

I am so blessed, I get to go to work today! Sierra thought as she jumped from bed minutes before the alarm sounded.

Humming happily, she buzzed through her workout and breezed into the shower. Smiling as she shampooed, she thought of how she might create today.

Her first commissioned work was foremost on her mind.  She needed to do her ultimate best to boost her work, promote the studio, and hopefully someday earn a comfortable living.

How blessed am I to use my gifts, my passion, to glorify God. Stepping out onto the fluffy, white towel, she suddenly stopped; realizing something which halted her heart.

All week I’ve been thinking of and planning for work each morning, breaking my routine of focusing my thoughts on the Lord. I’m so anxious to use the gifts He gave me, to see what I might accomplish in a career, and so excited to finally see the end product; I’m more focused on what I might create than the Creator who gave me the gift.

Sierra slowly toweled off, her heart deeply troubled. “Lord I didn’t mean for my love of my art to overtake my love for You.”

Proverbs 4:23 quickly came to mind, “Above all else guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”

Her heart had hung all week on her artwork, her masterpiece-in-the-making. It was filling her final thoughts as she drifted off to sleep and consuming her conscience as she awoke each day. It was forever on her mind, always the top priority.

Not today, she thought, shaking her head. She turned on the Christian radio station, streams of Scripture flowing through the lyrics, soothing her longing soul.

After completing her grooming, she carried her Bible to the breakfast table, vowing to start her day with Jesus. She began a conversation that she would revisit throughout the day.

Can you relate to Sierra? I know I have. I can get so excited about an assignment, especially when ministry related, sometimes I forget the true purpose in pointing life toward God.

In the work He gives us, He wants us serving Him, loving Him. What a blessing to enjoy the assignment! But we need to be on guard that the assignment we get to do does not overtake the position of the One who assigned it to us.

Sometimes, it’s difficult to remember our hearts are to be first and foremost overflowing for God, not for our God-given assignments.

 

Keys

Samantha gazed adoring into her darling daughter’s face. This perfectly beautiful baby slept so peacefully, not a care in the word.

Samantha began a prayer she would pray over all her children the rest of her life, “Lord, may this beautiful child love You and serve You all the days of her life. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

Who will she become?

What will her personality be like?

What gifts will she possess?

What challenges will she face?

In that hospital room, holding her newborn baby in her arms, Samantha knew tomorrow she would carry her home.

What is the most important key to life I can teach her?

How to stay safe?

How to love?

How to be kind to all?

Psalm 27:4 provides a weighty answer: “One thing I ask from the Lord, this only so I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek Him in His temple.” NIV

 

The Message version of Psalm 27:5 further explains, “That the only quiet, secure place in a noisy world, the perfect getaway far from the buzz of traffic.”

Being held securely in a parents’ arms feels safe and secure.  Going out into the world doesn’t always leave us with the same warm fuzzies. Every parent knows this vast world can be wonderful, and it can also be heart-breaking.

The best tool we have to offer our children, our friends, and even ourselves for navigating life is to introduce him to the Lord.

When we do life with the Lord, we are not alone. He’s not the magic genie in the sky who suddenly makes it all better. However, He does promise:

– to stay with us always (Deut 31:6)

– the pain has a purpose (Romans 8:28)

– He will redeem everything we go through. (Romans 8:28)

Samantha knew the proper order of things. As she watched the infant’s chest rise and fall, she knew mothers should not outlive their children.

Chances were, she would not always be there. However, if the baby grew up with a foundation of faith laid on her heart, she might choose to love God with all her heart, soul and strength.

She would have courage in scary scenarios. She would find wisdom when she felt clueless. And, even if she lost everyone she knew, she would know the Lord, and never, ever be alone.