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Archive for the tag “Forgiveness”

Rain and Frogs

After hearing the messages from last week’s Code Orange Revival from Elevation Church, I want to reflect a bit on what I heard. As I sit here at my table this early morning, I hear the rain coming down. Levi Lesko said that rain was a symbol of God’s blessing. Rain is a precious commodity especially in a dry season. Elijah prayed for a drought because of the sinful condition of the nation of Israel. And God sent a drought for three and half years. At the end of the drought, Elijah sent for the people to gather at Mount Carmel to see the One true God. The message is found in 1 Kings 18:20-46.

The people watched as Elijah dug a trench around the altar that he repaired. The people were told to fill four large jars with water. Where did they get the water? Did they go to the sea to get it? Or did they use what they had brought with them? Whether they had to use what they had or they had to go a distance to find water, it cost them something to see a miracle happen. Elijah poured out the water jars on the altar and then asked the people to fill them a second time; then a third time. The water was running over the altar and into the trench. Elijah prayed and fire fell down on the altar and licked up every drop of that precious commodity.

The story didn’t end there. Drought was still on the land. Before there was a cloud formed, Elijah told the King Ahab to “go, eat and drink for there is the sound of a heavy rain.” Elijah went to the top of the mountain and prayed. Seven times he asked his servant to go and see if there was anything on the horizon. The seventh time the servant reported a small cloud rose from the sea. And with that small cloud, a blessing of rain came.

Elijah was persistent in praying. He continued in his efforts until a small cloud formed. He heard the sound of rain before the cloud appeared; actually before he started to pray. He knew that God would hear his prayer and knew that God would answer his prayer; he just didn’t know how long it would take. He kept praying until he received the answer. Persistence and belief go hand in hand to receive those answered prayers.

John Gray said that the sound of heaven brings things together for miracles to happen. God’s voice spoke creation into existence. Particles come together to form the earth and everything in it. God spoke and light separated darkness. The sound from heaven begins the process. Sometimes we just don’t hear the sound; sometimes we are too busy to hear the voice of God speak. But sometimes God sends a burning bush to get our attention.

Christine Caine spoke about the frog plague found in Exodus 8:1-14. God sent plagues on the land of Egypt in order to release Israel from the bondage of slavery. Moses was his instrument that He used to bring about these miracles. Dharius Daniels mentioned that the people cried out to God; God spoke to Moses. But the people didn’t know God was working on the problem. The people may have thought God didn’t hear their prayers cause nothing seemed to change. They were still in slavery, yet God was working on Moses. Moses had a few doubts about his ability to handle this God-sized task. We are never adequate for God-sized tasks; but God is, and He asks the most unlikely people to do the job so that He gets the glory.

So the frogs came and the people of Egypt had frogs everywhere – in their houses, in their kitchens, in their bedrooms and even in their beds. Yuck! Can you imagine? Pharaoh summons Moses to pray to remove the frogs. Moses told him to set the time of the removal. Pharaoh said tomorrow. God could have removed them immediately, but Pharaoh chose another night with the problem. When the prayer was answered, the people were left with the consequences of the plague. The people had to remove the dead frogs from their houses. The stench filled the air.

The plague of frogs is a bit like our sins. Sin is a stench to God. The only way we can remove the stench is to seek forgiveness from God. But we have to do it today, not tomorrow. Sin is removed immediately upon forgiveness, but we have to deal with the consequences of our sins. Whatever is causing our distress, our sin or someone else’s; when we cry out to God, He will hear our cries. An answer is coming but sometimes it may take a while to see the results. God may be dealing with another Moses to answer our prayers. In the meantime, God is working on our hearts.

Persistence and belief in our gracious Father brings about a change in our hearts not a circumstance, but ultimately God will answer according to His time and in His way. God will send the rain, and the dry season will end. Wait for it. Persist and believe!

Let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water. Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Hebrews 10:22-23 (NLT)

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Now, What do you say?

Why is it we have to be taught to say “thank you?” Is it a cultural thing or is it just our human nature that makes us think we deserve some kindness or gift? As children grow up, parents are continually reminding their offspring: “now, what do you say?” when they receive something. I can remember my own mother asking me this question time and again. Children can be stubborn when they know what to say but just don’t want to say it. They suddenly go deaf to their parent’s question.

As adults, we should have this ingrained in us. “Thank you” should roll off our tongue. I think I do pretty well in this department when someone does something nice for me. However, am I so inclined when it’s just the everyday blessings from a loving God? The sun shining on a fall afternoon. The beautiful picture of painted leaves on a crisp fall morning. The rolling waves on a beautiful beach. The pleasure of God filling me with breath every morning. It’s the little things that go unnoticed in a hurried life. After hearing a message on Sunday, I began to ponder the words of Jesus when He cleansed the ten lepers. “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” (Luke 17:17)

Maybe the men who were running toward the priest were praising God as they ran. They just didn’t take the time to come back to Jesus. The Samaritan however, had a different outlook toward his healing. The men from Israel were going to be accepted by the priest, but the Samaritan would have been rejected. Samaritans were hated by the people of Israel. The Samaritans were half Jewish and half Assyrian. They were not considered to be equal with the Jews. But the faith of this one man was evident as he went with the others. He was told to go, so he went even though he knew he would be rejected by the priest. He went anyway.

When he encountered Jesus, his whole life was changed. Not only did he get new skin, he got a new faith in the One who heals. When the man recognized his healing, he ran back and threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. Jesus said it was by his faith that he was healed. The Samaritan was made whole. He was physically healed, but I believe he was spiritually healed first.

Another time was noted in the Scriptures when Jesus was dining with a group of Pharisees. A woman anointed Jesus’ feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. Then she poured expensive perfume on them. The Pharisees viewed this act with indignation. They knew this woman’s many sins. The woman knew her position as well. Yet, she came to the One who heals. Jesus recognized her heart. She poured out her heart on his feet. Jesus said to the woman “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” (Luke 7:50)

When we recognize the One who heals, we have a new appreciation for the new life we have been given. We are naturally more thankful. It is an overflow of the heart. Jesus said that the one who has been forgiven much will love much (my paraphrase Luke 7:47). Our gratefulness comes from a changing heart. A grateful heart isn’t natural; it’s supernatural. It is the work of the Holy Spirit. When we encounter our Lord, we are changed. Gratitude will supernaturally flow from us because we recognize the One who has forgiven us for our many sins. This alone is enough to offer praise to God for every little detail of His overflowing blessings. We have been forgiven much. Let us go out and love more. In this act of kindness, we will show the world how truly grateful we are for a loving Father who gave so much to us. He sent His Son to save us. Your faith has saved you; go and sin no more.

Thank you Jesus. Thank you that we don’t earn anything, but by your grace and mercy we have new life. Faith as small as a mustard seed changes everything. Praise to God the Father. Praise to God the Son. Praise to God the Spirit – three in One. “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty. Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” Let everything that has breath praise His name! Amen! Amen!

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thank to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations. Psalm 100:4-5

Lean in

My dear Child,

Oh how I love you! I want you to understand the depths of my love for you. I want you to grasp that my love is deeper than any ocean; wider than the expanse of the sky; my love for you cannot and will not change. I loved you before you were born. I loved you back then when you were doing that thing that has you so feeling so ashamed. I love you right now when you don’t feel worthy of it. I will love you no matter what you do or what you say. I want you to understand to the depths of your being that my love for you is unfailing. My love for you propelled me to the cross to take on your sin and shame. I bared the pain and sorrow of the cross so that you wouldn’t have to. There was no other expression that could demonstrate the depth of my love than to die for you. I forgive you for everything that you have done or will do in the future. Believe in me to take those sins and shame from you. Get your heart right with me so that you can experience my depth of love.

Open your heart and let my love heal you. When your heart aches, mine does too. When I see a tear, I shed one too. When I see the joy in your face, I am welling up with joy as well. I want you to know I am with you. I have never left your side. I feel your heart beating next to mine. I know you probably don’t feel me next to you, but I am here. You do not walk alone. I want you to feel my presence today. Seek my face and you will find me. I want to reside in your heart permanently. I want you to experience my joy and peace. Don’t be afraid any longer.

Let me heal those hurts and let me into those dark places. I will heal you and make you whole. I will go with you when the waters are too deep. I will be with you in the dark valleys. I will take care of you when the darkness closes in. Do not be afraid. I have not given you a spirit of fear but of faith. Believe in me. Believe I can do all things. Tell me what burdens your heart today. Talk to me. I am right here listening. Let me into that place that is hurting right now. Reach out to me. Set your heart toward me. Open your ears to hear.

Remember the joy you once experienced. Remember the times when miracles happened. Remember the times when you were rescued. That was me helping you. Think about the times you felt my presence. The memories are there; just remember. Remember those moments of your greatest victories. Remember the times when prayers were answered. Remember the times when you didn’t know how you were going to get out of the mess, and yet you got through it because I was there with you. Remember that all things will come together for your good, even though it doesn’t feel like it right now. Be still with me for just a little while. I promise when you look for me, I will be found. I am willing, and I am able to do immeasurably more.

My Father wants a relationship with you. He sent me for you. I am your salvation and your hope today. I am faithful and trustworthy – not only for your salvation but for your deliverance. Know that I am for you. I have not turned away from you. What you are experiencing today will not keep you from the place I have appointed for you. I know there are obstacles in front of you, and I am prepared to go with you through them. I want to walk with you. Rejoice now for the things that I am doing that you cannot see at this time. Keep pressing into me as I work it out for your good and my Father’s glory. Stay the course. Keep your faith in me and do not lose heart. I have overcome so that you will have the victory! Remember my love for you will not fail you. Stay close and feel my presence next to you today.

Your friend forever,

Jesus

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

I Wonder

As I was contemplating some matters on Monday, I began to think about the comedienne Joan Rivers. She recently died. She was known for her bawdy jokes mostly directed on her own looks or events in her life. She also had a reputation for judging celebrities’ fashion choices at big “red carpet” events. It wasn’t so surprising to hear that the funeral held over the weekend gave the comedienne a grand sendoff. What I do find surprising that the family chose to do this in a synagogue – which is supposed to be a holy meeting place. While I was pondering this thought, I hoped that the speakers did not offend God while they were in this holy place. I wondered if God laughed at the jokes offered in this setting. Do we really take God seriously as the Lord God Almighty? This God who made the universe with a word; this God who takes seriously His love for us and the sin in our lives that He sent His Son to redeem our souls from the very gates of hell.

I wonder also, when God’s patience runs out on us as a nation, will we ask “why are these things happening to our nation?” In a year or two, or ten, when everything comes to a head and disaster is upon us, will we run to God and ask Him why has He allowed us to suffer? I ponder these things and realize I too have laughed at the bawdy jokes before. I have judged unjustly. I have mocked God. I am just as guilty as anyone. I too have come running to God when my world was turned upside down wondering why such things have happened. I understand now, that God allows things to happen to turn us back to Him. Right now, I can see things spiraling out of control for this nation. I see things moving in the wrong direction. Will events that will happen or is already happening turn us back to God or will it push our society further away? Will we allow the correction or turn our fists against Him? These are the things I wonder.

My heart hurts to think about God being mocked and scorned. But it’s happened before. God sent prophets to warn His people, but they didn’t listen. He ended up sending His only Son, but they crucified Him. John the Baptist warned the people before Jesus came that the people of God needed to repent. Some did; others mocked John as a crazy man eating locusts in the wilderness. Jesus claimed to be God’s Son, and the religious people were offended. He was just another crazy man, speaking crazy things to warn God’s people about God’s wrath being stored up for a time. God’s patience will run out. We are getting away with the mocking for now, but there will come a day when the patience of God will end.

How will we as a society react? Let’s get real personal. How will you react? How will I react? I understand from my own perspective that at times I have lack of respect for an Almighty God. God isn’t looking at people who are far from Him to respect Him and glorify Him; He is looking at those who claim to be His. Do we as followers of Jesus respect and honor and glorify Him? This is our purpose. Every one of us has a responsibility to repent of our own actions and cry out to Him for forgiveness. Yes, God loves us, but He hates sin. In that tension is where we find ourselves today.

I wonder if anyone else feels the tension that is swelling up even now. Time is growing very short. Jesus came so that we would have forgiveness. Jesus came for the lost of the world. Jesus came to take the wrath of sin away. We have a part to play in this story. We have to ask for forgiveness for ourselves and for our nation. We have to be a part of the solution to the lostness of this world. We have to cry out for God’s patience for just a while longer while we reach our family and friends. It’s not too late, but one day it will be. I wonder if anyone is listening to the clock ticking besides me.

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:7-9

Forgiveness

With today being the last day of the year, I thought it would be appropriate to end it with a post. I started this year with the theme of victory. I think victory comes through forgiveness. God has done a major work in my heart this year. He took a broken place – one that I didn’t even know I had – and brought about healing, restoration, and forgiveness. I was hurt. I was angry, but it was a passive aggressive type. I didn’t know how angry I really was until God opened my eyes. I was ready to be healed. I asked God to show me the places in my heart that were hindering my walk with Him. There were some obvious places like my Mom’s death, my Dad’s quick marriage, but there was a place buried so deep that I didn’t recognize it. God knew it was there though. And He proceeded to show me inch by inch where I was hindered. I’m sure I am not done with forgiving. I’m sure there are still places that need to be healed. Inch by inch, He is faithful to reveal if I am willing to be open to it.

Now, what do I do with this information? How do I use it for His glory? God has placed in me a need to tell. I first went to the ones I could go to and ask for forgiveness. I went to God and asked His forgiveness. But the ones that hurt me so deeply, they are the ones that I have to forgive. They probably don’t even know how deep I was hurt. They are probably not even aware I have been carrying this around with me for so long. It was hurting me not them. It was hurting my relationship with God, with Jesus and with the Holy Spirit who lives in me. I may not actually talk to them about it. But I offer my forgiveness now. I have laid down my heart: my hurt, my anger, my bitterness, my resentment and have taken up forgiveness because God first forgave me.

It’s time to heal and move on. Jesus forgave those who put Him on the cross – the ones that nailed him, tortured him, spat upon him, and he did it from the cross. His love endures forever no matter what. It’s because of Him and his love that I can go forward with forgiveness. What will God do in 2013? He’s still working on my heart, but it will be for His glory no matter what! Happy New Year!

For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. Matthew 6:14-15

Pulling Weeds

I wrote a newsletter a few years ago about pulling weeds. I remembered the newsletter one morning when I was outside pulling weeds in my flower beds. I am reminded how diligent I have to be to keep the weeds at bay. But I also have to get down to the root in order to get it removed completely. When it was really hot this summer, I let things go. I didn’t want to be outside in the hot and humid weather pulling weeds. They completely took over my beds. Now, I have to take more time digging down deeper because they have been in there too long. It takes more effort to remove them. This thought leads me to consider the roots of sin in my life. There is sin in my life that relates to just a few small things that really aren’t a big deal when looking on the surface. But it’s the small sins that can get down deep and take more effort to remove them.

When I started writing my story this summer, I realized some of the small sins that really did get in deep soil. I thought I had done a good job in removing the sins in my life, but I didn’t get into the deep soil. I only got the weeds that were sticking out. I have been asking God to show me the places in my life where He wants to prune. Slowly, He has been revealing places in my life where the sin has dug down deep. There was a sin of unforgiveness that I didn’t recognize until He revealed it. There was the sin of pride that keeps sprouting up when I least expect it. Each time I see a sin, I am reminded I need to get down to the depth of the cause. Why is it an issue still? Why haven’t I removed it completely? It’s a lifelong pursuit of becoming like Christ. It is the process of sanctification – of becoming holy. God is still revealing. I am still pulling the weeds out knowing that as they are revealed, I repent and at once I am forgiven!

But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:22-23

Ouch!

Don’t you just hate when your toes are stepped on? In my self-righteous moments, praying for divine wisdom, asking God to show me what area in my life is hindering my relationship with Him – thinking, all is well in my little world. Not! Not too long after praying about what is hindering me to greater understanding, I heard a sermon that knocks me down a peg, steps on my toes and leaves me feeling about two inches tall. The Holy Spirit is not condemning me – that’s not the case at all. He is pointing out exactly what I did that is causing this blockage. I heard the sermon, and knew exactly what I had done. There was one point but two branches that smacked me on the head.

The pastor’s main point was: greed will kill the work that God wants to do in and through you! This sermon was from Perry Noble (Senior Pastor NewSpring Church). The title was actually on generosity – and I thought, “I don’t really need to hear this; I’m a pretty generous person.” That should have been my first clue. I also heard a sermon recently on insecurity. I think both are pretty relevant for this particular point through the Holy Spirit’s nudging. I don’t trust God to provide for my needs. I am insecure about my financial picture. I have said I believe God can do more than I can imagine, but I guess I don’t believe that relates to my financial well-being.

But greed can be about forgiveness as well. If I don’t forgive as Jesus forgave me, then I am being greedy. Greed is selfishness and focuses on my needs instead of others needs or what God wants. God can deal with the situation. We have to leave it in His hands. I am asked to forgive just as God has forgiven me. Jesus asked forgiveness for those that were hanging Him on a cross. Why can’t I forgive the one that hurt me? It’s time to let it go. It’s time to seek forgiveness, and ask to be cleansed of these sins that have kept me from experiencing His presence. I am ready to experience His fullness. And it only comes when my heart has been made clean.

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:8-9

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