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When Faith Encounters Forgiveness and Love

You have met them at some point in your life. We all have. You have met a person that being in the same room with them sets your teeth on edge. The first word that passes their lips or even their demeanor has your number.  It is someone who you try desperately to like, but it is hard. In life there is always going to be ones with who we struggle to get along. Does that mean we stop trying? Certainly not. So where do we go from there? During these times, I find myself in the need of reflection and praying. Most times I will come to a couple of conclusions.

“Is the reason I struggle to get along something they have done to me or someone I care about?” If the answer is yes, the thought process follows. “Why am I holding on to this anger or hurt or frustration?” Often the reason is “I have to look after me and mine!” “They hurt me so I will hurt them by being angry with them, or finding a way to zing them back so they will feel bad about what they have done.” So if our thoughts take us to this place, unforgiveness is reigning in our heart. Our unforgiveness is coming between us and another person. The disciples were struggling with this too. In Matthew 18:21-22 we read, “Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.” I know the next step in the process. “You have no idea what they have done to me.” You would be correct in that, I don’t know. In these verses Jesus did not give a stipulation on the circumstances. He said to just keep forgiving. Is this an easy task? No way. IT IS A HARD THING, BUT IT IS A NECESSARY THING. It involves getting out of our own way and being willing to give up our right to be offended. Pride often will well up in us and we can’t let go. Pride can be quick sand on the road to forgiveness. It can bog us down and hinder us from doing what we ought to do. I can often bog us down for months, even years. We want to be free of our hurt. The only way to turn it over to God is through the avenue of forgiveness. This person may have hurt you over and over. We can’t be waiting for offense #491 then put the hammer down on them. The principle is to keep forgiving over and over. I have been in such a place so I am not speaking of something that has not been a hard, learned lesson. I know this is a tough subject, but it has been on my heart. When I see others struggling to forgive, I know if the freedom that is waiting on those who are willing to surrender their will to Father God in the area of forgiveness.

The other conclusion I come to when struggling to get along with others is “If they have not done anything to me, what is my hold up? Am I failing to love them as God loves them?” “Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.” (1 John 4:11) God tells us to love as He does. When God’s love is flowing through me it is extended to others. Only my unwillingness can stop that flow of love. In both of these conclusions, the power to get along with others begins and ends with us. You may find at some point you try to follow these things and the other person does not want to be right with you. It happens. You can’t control what others feel about you. But you can continue to forgive and you can continue to love because it is what God requires of you. When you know you have done your best and Christ is pleased with your effort there is a freedom and a peace that is beyond understanding. Then you can let them go continuing to pray for them and reconciliation to come one day.

The walk of faith was never said to be an easy one filled with only sunshine and roses. There are trials and testing to endure. We can be confident in knowing that we have a God who walks with us in the way and will help us through the hard times. We may struggle along the way to get along with others. Let God help you determine your part in the process of what you need to do to be right with Him.

When you can’t see His hand…

“Trials dark on every hand and we cannot understand all the ways that God will lead us to that blessed promised land, but He guides us with His eye, and we’ll follow till we die. for we’ll understand it better by and by.” ~Charles Albert Tindley (1905)

The third verse of the hymn “By and By” has always been the one I think of first of when singing this song. I am not sure exactly why. The third verse or stanza was probably one of the verses of the hymn least sung in a small rural church where I grew up. Our tendency was to sing the first, second, and fourth (or last). Can I get a witness? 🙂 As I contemplate the meaning of these precious words, I can’t help but think that the message is as true today as it was back in 1905. When we look on our own life and the lives of those around us, we cannot always see what God is doing. The trials and circumstances taking place in our lives can cause us to doubt that He is even working at all. If you were to visit your favorite Christian bookstore, you would find a wealth of options on finding God’s will for your life. While the principles many of these books resonate with us, we must realize that God is the God of the individual, and carries out His plan in each life according to that person’s needs. While there may be some things in common between us, God may also choose to move in another’s life in a way that might be a mystery to them and to us.

Have you ever said to yourself, “I don’t know what God is doing in this situation, but I hope He’s doing something!” Believe me when I say, God is working! Sometimes we only see the trials and the dark places. The places may feel like they are closing in and around us and we are overcome with the gravity of them. We feel weighed down and sluggish as if we were wading through a bog. We cannot find relief and feel our path will never change. We want God to step in and pull us out of the mire of our circumstances. ‘I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing: I am come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me. I am weary of my crying: my throat is dried: mine eyes fail while I wait for my God. ‘ Psalms 69:2-3  My friend, you are not alone. David felt these same feelings. Let’s see what God did. ‘Let not them that wait on thee, O Lord God of hosts, be ashamed for my sake: let not those that seek thee be confounded for my sake, O God of Israel. But as for me, my prayer is unto thee, O Lord , in an acceptable time: O God, in the multitude of thy mercy hear me, in the truth of thy salvation. Draw nigh unto my soul, and redeem it: deliver me because of mine enemies. I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify him with thanksgiving. ‘ Psalms 69:6,13,18,30 The answer is seemingly simple. David sought the face of God, and God heard and answered his cry.

The Christian life is full of mountain top experiences. Those are the fun times. When we see God move, work, and show all that He can do. Equally, the Christian life has a valley between the mountains. In the dark times, when we don’t understand and have a rough time seeing His hand moving in our life, Stop. Lift up your head and your voice and seek the face of God. In my life’s darkest places, I have learned more about God in the valleys than on the mountains. I have learned He works and moves in ways I cannot begin to understand. Really, it is not my place to understand. It is for me to seek Him and trust the one who sees both the mountain and the valley in a glance. So I with faith will follow till the end of my life. Hold tight to Jesus, my dear friend. “We will understand it better by and by.

Blessings to you!

Till I See More…

As one of the masses that is beginning to embrace technology as a force to be reckoned with, I have found a new way to make it work for me. I installed a Bible app on my smart phone. I have had the app for a few months, and enjoy being able to access God’s Word at any given moment. This app also picks a verse as a daily power verse every morning and evening which is super cool when its notification pops up on my home page. Saturday morning, my verse was Psalm 19:1, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.” Awesome right? As I went outside a short time later, I was all ready to admire “the firmament.” Then I saw a grayish, dreary mass of clouds blocking the warm rays of the sun. As my hubby and I were driving to our next destination, I began to think, “wonder why God let Psalm 19:1 be my power verse for the day?” As I began to focus on the dark masses, I realized that just because I cannot see the brightness of the sun or the beautiful blue sky does not mean that it is not there. Right now, the beauty is only obscured from my view.

Often in my life, circumstances often obscure from my view what God is doing in my life. Circumstances have a way of getting in your face, and sadly that is all that we can see. Our focus can only see the darkness and the ugliness of the situation. Our bodies can only feel the pressure and pain inflicted. Our hearts can only be weighed down by hurtful words or hateful actions of another. Yet, when I with blind trust look for God who is working behind the circumstances, I see Him by faith. I can see beyond the ugliness and see His beauty shining bright with the warmth I receive from Him. I understand the pain I feel Jesus endured and overcame with help that was not of this world. I gather from His Word the pain and agony He felt when betrayed and abandoned by those close to Him. I trust and base my faith in the One I cannot see, but who knows all and sees all and has been beside me all along.

Dear Friend, I don’t know what you are having to go through today. Circumstances may be weighing you down where you can’t find your way. It is in these moments we can cling to God. He will be there till you see a clear sky. Remember Romans 8:28-31 is still true. Pray and wait for the Son!

‘And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? Romans 8:28-31

An Attitude of Restfulness

Ok, to begin. I was tired! I was very anxious, and unsettled, yet all of these did not seem to actually convey how I really felt. It went much deeper. I was already reaching for my inner “panic button”. I was waiting and praying for an answer to a need that I had. Deep down I knew that the Lord would take care of it, and I knew He would be with me even when the deadline for the answer was on the way.  Yet, Here I was doing everything but trusting. I was out of sorts and these feelings lead to frustration on my part. Why am I doing this to myself? Though I am an anxious person by nature, can I really use this as an excuse? These feelings that I have are real. I’m at an impasse. I’m tired and I need rest not only in my physical body, but also in my heart and in my soul. So I run to my Heavenly Father, confess I cannot handle this, confess my failure to trust, and ask for the rest that is only found in Him.

At the end of what we know as the Lord’s Prayer (after the Amen) in Matthew 6, Jesus continues to speak. He speaks of forgiveness, fasting, reward, and God’s care of you! Verses 25-29 read, “Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” God is taking care of the most basic of your needs. In doing this, will he not also take care of any other needs you and I may have? I am learning daily that God wants me to rest when I lay down, of course, but He also wants me to rest when I am going about my days activities. God wants me to cultivate an attitude of restfulness. So you may ask, what does this look like practically speaking? Have you ever seen someone in a situation where you know everything around them was going sideways, yet they have a peaceful smile, they are moving about deliberately doing what they have to do, and they have a calm about them that is not “normal”. This is someone who is relying on God for their next breath, next step, and next moment in time. They exhibit an attitude of restfulness. My heart’s cry is to rest and trust like that!!!

Your reaction may be, “NO way can I do that?”. Sometimes I feel it too, but it is in these moments we have to look beyond our situation and ourselves, and focus on Jesus, the only true source of rest for the heart and soul. Walking with Jesus is not running ahead and getting out of breath. Walking with Jesus is when He takes a step we take one too. Step by step, moment by moment, resting in His presence is the only way to live. This is what an attitude of restfulness looks like. We can embrace this way of living, but not alone. It is a daily partnership, between the Almighty and me! My dear friend, restfulness is a prayer away. When feelings want to claim your calm, lean on the Savior and let Him support you through it all. When we seek Him first, we will find the rest we need.

“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” Matthew 6:33-34

Let Go What’s Gone

I love a good heartfelt story. I guess I have always enjoyed them. I was watching a movie one day where the main character was trying to comfort a friend who had been hurt both physically and emotionally by someone. The main character put her arms around her friend and said, “Honey, you have to let go what’s gone!” The depths of those words have been going over and over in my mind the last couple of days. How often to I try to hang on to the things that are past. They need to be let go, yet I find myself grasping for the edge of those things and fighting to keep my fingertips on them. Like dandelions in the wind we chased as children, they flew away and were gone before we realized it. And yet we continue to reach back to grab the negative rather than turn forward and embrace what is positive.

This morning I was reminded of Hebrews 12:1, “Wherefore, seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,”  There are two types of baggage Paul is dealing with here. First, Paul talks about weights. When I came across this verse for the first time, I kind of read it all together as “weights and sins“, but they are two distinctly different things. Weight, I have learned, can be anything that is holding back our progress. Negative feelings and actions can bind us tight. Trappings of the past and the “what if’s” can burden us to the place where can’t put one foot in front of another.  Hurtful words or actions by someone or regrets of our own makings can be weighing us down. A weight could also be a seemingly good thing. Perhaps longing for the way it used to be can stop you from moving forward. Sometimes I long for the days when the boys were little. Looking back and cherishing the memories of them is good, but it can become a weight when I focus solely on all the changes I would have made, and mourn all my mistakes.  Regrets can be cumbersome, they can tie us up and not only hinder our progress moving forward, but also can be so heavy it pulls us backward dragging our spirit low. This can also lead to depression if we are not careful. We need to lay the weights aside. Often we carry weights that were never meant for us to carry. Friend, what are you trying to hold on to that is locking you down from moving forward for God?

The second part of the verse is “the sin which doth so easily beset us.”  Believers all have sins which seem to give us a fit. We are tempted and find ourselves drawn to the same sin over and over. Our human nature did not dissolve when we became a Christian. It became something we would continue to deal with every day. Before we gave our life to God we didn’t care if we were sinning or not, but now that we are a Christian, and our goal is to be like Christ, we have to deal with our sin as it comes up. That’s where 1 John 1:9 comes in. Confessing our sin to God and receiving forgiveness that God offers moves us forward. It’s time we get serious about letting go of that sin we are trying to hang on to. It is time to let go and let God cleanse you. You must ask yourself, “Is the sin I am holding on to worth what it is doing to me and my relationship with God?”

Whether it is a weight or a sin you are fighting so desperately to hold on to, it is time to let go. Letting go will free us to do what the last part of Hebrews 12:1 tells us, “and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.” We all have a race that God has given us to run. It stretches before us and lasts a lifetime. In our hearts, we know we want to run the race well. If something in the past is weighing you down, or a sin plaguing  in the present and regret is locking you down, let go what’s gone. Do not keep dragging it back up. Brake free and run like mad in the race that is before you.  Philippians 3:13-14 “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before. I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”  Let go what’s gone, my friend. Jesus is waiting for you.

Stronger Together

“Red Rover, Red Rover send John right over!”  Of all the childhood games I played, I would have to say that “Red Rover” was not my favorite. Probably due to the fact that my hand grip was not very strong. In the game of  “Red Rover”, the line on the other side always seemed to know just the right place to hit to burst through our line. Children often are able to perceive the weakest link fairly quickly and where the line is most vulnerable. Unfortunately, I was targeted far more than I would like to admit. There came a time on the playground when I did what most children do. I grew. I got stronger. So only when I got stronger did the game of “Red Rover” become more fun. I was able to hold on tight. I was able to help my team out to a far greater degree. In those first few years of playing “Red Rover”, I would often wonder “I sure wish I could have some help down here on my end of the line.” Someone who would be willing to stand behind me, and help me hold my spot. Someone who could fortify my position so that I would not be the weakest part of the line. That is not how the game is played.

As in the game of “Red Rover”, I wonder if we have the same mindset  in the church. We band together to stand strong, but we are never hit where we stand the strongest. We are hit in the places where we are the weakest, and the most vulnerable. The Bible states in Romans 15:1, “We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves.” Often times we go to church and sit in our place, worship through song and message, fellowship with our fellow believers, or participate in the ministry God has placed us. These are all good things and we should be active in our churches and serve as God intends us to, but do we take the time to really see our fellow brothers and sisters  in Christ? Do we recognize the signs of one who is struggling? Do we pay attention to those who are trying to put on a good front, but in their eyes we see their pain? It is in these moments that we need to build them up in their faith. We need to take time to pray with someone who is crying in the bathroom, or mentions their frustrations in passing. If you are late for the service or singing in the choir, so what, it would be so much better to take hold of those “God divined” moments and bear up a brother or sister in Christ. We need to build each other up in our “most holy faith”. It is time to be proactive in our worship and our faith by putting our hands together and hanging on against the attacks from the outside. We can be so much stronger. We can be stronger together!

“Bear ye one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.” ~Galatians 6:2

May God bless you in the journey,

Amy

Another Bend In The Road

One of my favorite lines from the movie, Anne of Green Gables, is “There is always another bend in the road.” The road I have traveled over the last 8 months has been one bend after another. About the time I get used to the path in front of me, another curve full of surprises looms ahead, and I wonder what new experiences I will have to face head on. I will say this last few months there has been some major changes in our family unit. My oldest son after graduating from high school began working at summer camp from memorial day through the last week of July. We then began focusing on getting him ready to enter college which is almost 7 hours away. The emotions that have gone along with all of this have been at times overwhelming. I am so happy and proud for him and all his accomplishments, but I sure do miss him. My youngest son began dual enrollment at a local college this semester so our homeschooling adventure has been  kicked into another gear. So life as we know it has drastically changed.

I am a planner by nature. To quote, Hannibal from the 1980’s show the A-team, “I love it when a plan comes together.” Surprises do not work very well in my daily routine. I wish I could say that I have learned the lesson of going with the flow or bends in the road of life, but I just haven’t achieved this yet. I wish for a moment that the road would spread out in front of me straight as an arrow with no curves, rocks to climb over, or hazards to avoid. This moment passes, and I realize that without the bends in life’s road there would be no variety. By seeing everything ahead of me would probably be even more scary. With the Lord by my side and a lantern to light the few feet in front of me, I press on. I let the Word of God be “a light unto my path” as it states in Psalms. Though there are many bends in the road ahead I have a blessed hope that the Lord will be with me every step of the way.  Perhaps you are struggling today not being able to see what will happen in the next few days or maybe the next few hours. Remember God is there no matter what you may face today. Be thankful for the bends in the road because God may be using them to grow your faith and develop a deeper relationship with him. The closer we are to Him the more ” the Light of the World” will illuminate our path. You may be climbing over some rough terrain on your path today. Take heart and press on for these moments will pass. Together we can move forward and when we look back on where we have been we will see that we have overcome. May God bless you today in the journey!

 

My Plan for You

Plans can change in an instant. You may get up one morning and have your day planned out in the greatest detail, but often things do not always work out the way you plan. Sometimes what God has planned for you that day is completely different from your well, laid out, detailed plans. How important is it that each morning we give our daily agenda to the Lord? I would say very important. This was made even more clear to me on Wednesday two weeks ago. My agenda was set, and my plans were made, but in a brief moment everything changed. I don’t know how to even comprehend  how drastically things were turned around that day.

I am sure as I am here today that God knew everything that would happen that day and prepared the way before me. Psalm 23 comes to my mind “thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies, thou anointed my head with oil…” On Wednesday, two weeks ago,  I was in a bad car accident. I know that in the midst of the storm I was facing; God was preparing my path. He showed his mercy to me in a person He put there to hold my hand till the paramedics came. Also, in someone calling my husband after calling 911. He showed grace to me by letting my husband get there to talk to me before the paramedics pulled out.  He had the helicopter ready to take me to Tallahassee, and a trauma team ready to help me upon arrival.  He had each group of people in the right place at the right time. Though the road was rocky, He prepared the way before me. Though I was unaware of His plan for me for that day, I know He was by my side through it all.

Maybe you are facing a time that is trying the soul. You may have made plans and in a moment those plans changed. Please know that even when plans change, God is there. Though pain and fear may be surrounding you, God is there. He is waiting to show you His love, His mercy, and His grace. In my devotions today, God lead me to Jeremiah 29:11. God had a special plan for me today. His perfect plan leads me to hope and a future. Let us never forget that as Christians God orders our steps. His will for us may not be exactly what we plan. We may not see all that He is doing because our wisdom is limited, but we have the ability to trust Him with childlike faith that His plan is just what we need.  May God be with you all today and as His plan for you unfolds, just put your hand in His and go through the day together.

Blooms of Summer

About 3 months ago, I was walking around the church where I work helping a member find something she had lost when I came upon two peace lilies in the corner that had been forgotten. One of them was turning brown and wilted and the other one was in slightly worse shape. The dear lady I was with asked me to toss them or if I wanted to try to bring them back to their green status, I was more than happy to try and put them in my office. I have never had a particularly green thumb but I decided to try because I always thought peace lilies were so pretty when they bloom. I kept them in the room next to my office and began to water them and have them where they could get some sun. Believe it or not they begin to perk up. I was so very excited the day I moved them into my office.  The deep green of the lilies added some nice contrast to the tan walls and I have thoroughly enjoyed them.

Even though I have taken good care of them, I had yet to see any blooms on either plant and it had me concerned. Aren’t plants supposed to bloom in the spring? I wondered if they would ever bloom. As I started my work day this morning, I notice a small white flower opening up. In its own time, it brought forth a beautiful white lily.

I am reminded that God’s hands are on the plants as well as on people. How we grow and develop are in His hands. I get so impatient sometimes wanting things to move and grow on my time table.  In our churches we want those who are visiting to join. We want those that are asking questions to make decisions for Christ. In my hurry, I need to remember that if we do our part God’s way the timing of it all will be perfect. In the New testament, there are verses that describe this process so well when it tells us how some planted the seed, some watered the seed, but God gave the increase. God takes all of us where we are and cultivates us into the Christians He would have us to be.

For a while it seemed like things were on hold in our church. We could sense God moving, yet I could not see any visible changes. Then over the last month an explosion of things were happening. People were being saved. God moved dramatically in our Vacation Bible School. Folks were joining the church and getting involved. Though there were struggles, God was bringing the increase. It was in His Perfect time.

I don’t know what you are going through in your life today. Maybe you are struggling and wondering if God is even hearing your prayers.  You want things to happen right now and you feel like the blooms of spring are a long time in coming. Don’t give up hope. Keep planting the seed, keep watering, let God move in on His time table, and be amazed at the blooms of Summer.

Snow and Cotton

As I was driving to work this morning, puffs of white drifted across my windshield. I was taken aback a moment because it looked like snow. For those of you who are not aware where I live it is quite an unusual occurrence for South Georgia doesn’t normally have snow. When I realized what it was, I laughed at myself for being silly. Someone close by was cutting the cotton from their cotton field.

It’s funny how we sometimes think something is one thing when it turns out totally different than what we thought. God is just like that. When I think I have a certain part of his nature figured out, he up and surprises me with a new part of who He is.  It is then that I realize that I can’t put God in a box like a Christmas present and say this is the only way He does what He does. I am constantly amazed at how wonderful God is. I have had the opportunity to get to know Him in so many ways. I know at times I will have to go through difficult things to find out more about who He is and to receive new glimpses of His nature. I also know that God has proved that in all things He is working out “all things for my good”. (Romans 8:28)

I was watching a movie the other day and the two main characters were discussing why God allows some things to happen. One replied, “Without suffering there would be no compassion.” This is so true. God shows compassion and love when I am hurting, and He gives me the opportunity to show love to others when they are hurting. If I never went through a hard time, I would not know how God could be my Comforter. If I never was betrayed by someone, I would not know how Christ could be “a friend that sticketh closer than a brother”. If I never knew sickness or pain, I would not know how God could be my Healer. If I never lost a parent, I would never know that God could be a true “Heavenly Parent” and bring peace to my heart. The list could go on and on. As I go through this life there will be circumstances that test me beyond what I thought I could endure. Yet in all I know that God is faithful.

I don’t know what you might be going through at this time in your life. I do know that we have a great God who will be the strength you need to face life’s trials, and when you least expect it, He will surprise you in wonderful ways and with blessings you did not think were possible.