A Friend

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Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on.  When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” (Mark 2:4-5 NIV)

There once was a man who couldn’t help himself. He couldn’t walk. He couldn’t work. A life sentence for a man like him was simply to ask. Day in and day out he would ask for enough to get by. He wasn’t going to get wealthy from his begging. He simply needed to provide enough for himself. I imagine he didn’t have a family but this man had friends. He had people who cared for him and wanted the best for him. They stopped at nothing to get him where he needed to go.

This story is a beautiful depiction of true friendship. This man could not get himself the help he needed but his friends could. They brought him and were met with crowds of people. There were too many people and no room to get in. So his friends tore the roof apart so they could lower their lame friend down. They didn’t give up, they found a way. You see, their friend would only be cured if he saw Jesus.

Sometimes, we are met with circumstances that are beyond us. They seem unfair, even wrong. We wonder if God has forgotten about us. We feel abandoned. And we find ourselves unable to pray. But God is always at work. He understands we are struggling. He knows our hurt. He recognizes that we are simply overwhelmed. That’s when He calls on someone to pray for us.

When God sees us unable to help ourselves, He brings in others to help. He calls in someone who will pray. When we can’t get to Jesus alone because the obstacles are too numerous, He provides a friend who will offer support. God brings in those who are willing to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. They lay us at the feet of Jesus because they know this is where we need to be.

Be encouraged today. God has not forgotten about you. He remains faithful, working out every single detail. And when you cannot pray, He will provide someone to do that for you too. He loves you and He knows what you need. When He calls upon you to pray for someone else, be honored. He is at work in the life of someone else and allows you to be a part of it.

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Forgiveness is a Process

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In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. (Matthew 18:34 NIV)

I read Matthew 18 this morning. The end of the passage is a parable Jesus shares to answer questions about forgiveness. Peter asks how often he is required to forgive. He puts a limit on forgiveness. Can you imagine keeping track of every offense by each person in your life? I’m exhausted just thinking about it!!

I know Peter was simply trying to live as Jesus would expect. I imagine he was used to following a set of rules. It’s not like that with Jesus. He was not motivated by performance. Instead, love propels Him.

The servant in the story was jailed because he was unwilling to forgive a debt. He refused to offer the same mercy he had received from his master. Likewise, when we can’t bring ourselves to forgive, we are imprisoned. Our minds are consumed with thoughts of vengeance. We justify our behavior. We convince ourselves we have a right to feel this way. We think we are being righteous when we are actually judgemental.

The reality is, we will never be free until we forgive. God forgives us over and over. He shows us mercy and love every single day. We should offer the same. We have to if we want peace. But how do we? Sometimes, everything in us wants to but we just can’t.

True forgiveness is a process. It begins by allowing God’s will to override ours. We just have to tell Him we will forgive. Then we have to pray diligently for Him to change our hearts. He will but often times it takes work. It rarely happens overnight. And it has been my experience that I have to go to Him over and over recommitting to forgive. I know in the long run it is for my own benefit to forgive. And God knows that too!

Random Thoughts

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Writing was pushed to the side last week. I was too busy to put words to paper but I wanted to share some of the things that really spoke to me.

It began last Sunday with my pastor’s sermon. He used the scripture, “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 1:6 NASB) I had always applied this scripture to me. I am being perfected. I am becoming more like Christ. But he had a new spin. He explained when God uses us to do a good work, that work doesn’t die. God continues to bring His plan to pass even if we are not a part of it anymore. I was so encouraged and reminded that when God sets out to do anything, He never leaves it undone. And although we may never see the finished product, the Lord is still working. Your efforts are never a waste.

A few days later I read a blog post by Beth Moore. She is, by far, my favorite Bible teacher. She makes me laugh until I cry while striking the deepest part of my heart. She truly is gifted. She wrote a blog about memories. She shared some memories she’d like to forget. And she reminisced about precious things she cherished. Ultimately she came to this conclusion:

“So, today, Lord, I want to say to You that I am thankful. Because I remember. I remember the ditch You pulled me out of. I remember the hopelessness I’ve felt and the fears that I had no future. I remember a time when I wanted to go to sleep and never wake up. And I remember that the sun came up the next morning and the next and the next, glistening without fail on a heap of fresh mercies. I want to say that You have been right all along. And that life is such a gift. And it is precious. And passes with such haste. What we can hope is that there would be no waste.”

Every struggle and every joy creates a memory and that is a gift.  I do love her heart!!

Finally, I read a devotion in a Bible my hubby gave me almost 20 years ago. That man still makes me smile when I see him and shake my head in disbelief we’ve been together so long.  Warren Wiersbe writes in Live Like a King,

If life is to be rich and meaningful, then our joys must be the highest possible; and Jesus tells us that the highest joy possible is to see God.”

Know God is always working, even when you think He’s forgotten about you. Your memories are a gift. Use them to see His blessings in and through your life. And joy; always seek joy. We serve a God who is compassionate… and strong …and most of all, loving.

Life is Short

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My heart was heavy and my mind was reminiscing as I drove to the church on Saturday. I was attending a memorial service for a man I had never met. I knew his name. I had seen pictures, but I had never had the privilege of sitting and talking with him. The only thing I knew about him was the woman he had married; an old friend of mine.

My friend was someone I met over twenty years ago. We met at church and realized we had the most important thing in common. We both loved the beach; still do. Way back, when I had no husband and children, we would get up almost every Saturday morning and head over to the coast for a day of relaxation. We’d set our chairs up on the edge of the water and soak in the warm sun. I am convinced there’s a beach in heaven. There is simply no better place on earth.

When I got married, my friend was one of my bridesmaids and she sang. I remember looking over at her singing that day but having to look away because I was about to burst into tears. It’s funny the things you remember. On Saturday, I became teary eyed again as I watched my friend sing at her husband’s memorial service. Her voice brought back so many memories. You see, it had been probably ten years or so since I had seen my friend.

After the service ended I made my way to see her. She gave me a big hug and I burst into tears. I told her I was so sorry. And she responded, “You never got to meet him.” You know, the older I get the shorter life seems. You think you’ll do it tomorrow. You expect everything will remain the same but it never does. There are no guarantees.

So, my question is, if we knew when our last day on this earth would be, what would we do with it? How would we spend our time? Who would we talk to? What would we say to them?

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. (Psalm 90:12 NIV)

Insincere Love

clingingLove must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. (Romans 12:9 NIV)

I read these words yesterday but this morning they made their way into my heart. I wondered why Paul would write these words…Love must be sincere. I mean, isn’t love always sincere? I don’t think it is. I think there are times we “fake” love. We seem to be sincere but in our hearts we don’t really care or maybe we’ve simply grown cold. Perhaps this was happening to Paul. Or maybe, it’s what he witnessed.

Today I started to think about how or why we become insincere. I think the answer lies in the rest of this verse. Paul says, “Hate what is evil”. Recently, my Mom came for a visit. In the evenings we would watch the news and she was horrified at the crime taking place each day. I reassured her it wasn’t near where we live but I don’t think it brought her any comfort. Night after night the news was filled with shootings, rapes and child abuse, just to name a few. Looking at mug shots of criminals and hearing about the crimes they allegedly committed hardens your heart toward them. How can they carry out such terrible acts? How am I supposed to have a sincere love for them?

Paul finishes this verse with, “cling to what is good”. He knew the key to heartfelt sincerity was clinging to good. Each and every person was created by a Loving God. Regardless of their actions, He loves them. His love is never dependent on behavior.  I think Paul understood the only good in this world comes from God and when we cling to Him, our hearts can be filled with love.

When my kids started school years ago I challenged them to look for God. I told them He was always there. Sometimes, it was obvious and other times He seemed absent. But I reminded them He promised He would never leave them. Over the years my kids have come home with stories of God. They have noticed His hand in unexpected places. These God sightings have offered hope. They gave them something to cling to.

Life is exhausting emotionally and physically. It can cause us to become burned out and insincere. We have to remember to look for God. It is our only hope of remaining authentic in our love for those around us.

My Confession

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My writing is so sporadic these days. It seems I have the inspiration but not the time. Or maybe I have the time but not the inspiration. I thought the “lazy” days of summer would open the opportunity for me to sit and reflect and write. Life doesn’t turn out the way we hoped. But today, I am writing and that makes my heart glad.

Several months ago, I attended a meeting for an organization I am affiliated with. The speaker for that evening approached the podium and offered her experience. She shared her testimony. She praised God for His hand. She was thankful her child had made the decision he had. Everyone applauded and I walked away angry.

My anger wasn’t against what God did in her life; it was her choice of words. I don’t know her exact words, but my ears heard condemnation for those who didn’t follow the same direction. In my mind, I heard her speak against another institution and every single person who chose to be a part of that institution. I am a part of that institution. And so, I was hurt by her comments.

Anger is a tricky emotion. It generally follows a hurt. When left unchecked, the anger can lead to bitterness. Last week, God opened my eyes about the root of bitterness growing in my heart. It was spreading causing me to have blurred vision.  Anything, or person involved with that organization became tainted. They were all misled, misguided and misinformed. The very thing I was angry at the speaker for had become my platform. Ouch!

I am always amazed at the amount of time I have wasted with anger. It accomplishes nothing. It makes it hard for me to hear and see God. It focuses on the wrong doing in the world and not God’s hand. And it causes me to lose perspective. The reality is, if the speaker for that evening knew how offended I was, she would probably have been horrified. She never intended to hurt anyone, only to encourage.

I’m moving forward these days laying my anger at the foot of my Savior. My prayers have been many but I can feel my joy returning.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9 ESV)

My Redeemer Lives!

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That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea. (John 21:7 ESV)

I’ve read this story a few times over the last couple of days. Peter decided to go fishing and some other disciples decided to go with him. They didn’t catch anything until the man on the beach told them to cast their nets on the right side of the boat. John realizes the man is Jesus and before anyone could stop him, Peter jumped out of the boat rushing to get to Jesus.

I found Peter’s actions interesting not because it was out of character but because the last time we read of Peter, he denied knowing Jesus.  John doesn’t record this but the other gospel writers share Peter’s denial noting Jesus looked right at Peter when asked a third time if he were one of Jesus’ followers. They all record the rooster’s crow followed by Peter’s weeping. I imagine this was one of Peter’s darkest moments. He had done the very thing he was sure he would never do.

I wonder what Peter was thinking when he jumped out of the boat. The last time we saw Peter jumping out of a boat, he wanted to walk on water like Jesus. But this time was different. I think he was rushing to Jesus to ask for forgiveness. Surely, he thought his life was useless. He was fishing again going back to the life he had before he was called. He soon realized, as did the others, there’s no going back.

Later in the chapter, Jesus takes a walk with Peter and asks three times if he loves Him. After the third time the scripture says Peter was hurt by Jesus question. Jesus was reinstating Peter. Three times he denied Him and three times He reaffirmed him. He was showing Peter that his sin would not define the rest of his life. Jesus had a purpose for him and his fall would not destroy the ministry Jesus had laid out for him.

The Lord doesn’t dismiss us because we sin. He doesn’t look at our history and find us incapable of doing His work. Instead, He uses it to build upon. He takes the very thing we consider shameful and builds a ministry around it. We don’t have to be perfect. We are not expected to be sinless. He knows we will fall. But He still uses us. That’s why we call Jesus our Redeemer. Nothing is worthless to Him. He redeems the worst in us for His glory.

AMEN!