Cruel Savior

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Hebrews 4:15

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Looking for my daily infusion of hope this morning, I opened my Bible to Hebrews 4 and read vs 15, then did a double take.

I’d read the verse wrong. The message I received in my brain was, “We have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses…” I shook my head. What?! I went back and read it again, and again it said, “We have a high priest who is unable…”  That’s not right, I said to myself, and of course it’s wasn’t. Funny, what the brain can do to you before an infusion of caffeine.

The jarring reality of what this world would look like if we didn’t have a Savior able to empathize with our weakness, though, was a thought that lingered with me long after my mistake.

What if Jesus was a harsh Savior?
What if He cracked a whip over our backs every day?
What if He couldn’t or wouldn’t understand how susceptible we are to sin?
What if He didn’t come looking for us when we’re lost and alone?
What if He couldn’t care less about our pain?

What if He only cared about how low we’d go when He passed by, and wonder if it was never low enough?

What if Jesus looked the other way when we were tempted, or tearful, or tested beyond our ability to resist? What would life look like for us then? And wonder if we had no choice but to serve Him. Wonder if we hated Him, and He us, what would that do to us? What kind of life would we live then?

Today, I’m eternally thankful for a baby born in a manger, and that His birth was a divine act of mercy; that He grew up understanding a sacrifice would be necessary, and that He was willing to make it for me. I’m thankful that when I cry out, Jesus listens and not only listens, but understands and responds.

In the courtroom of heaven one day, I will have Jesus standing and defending me. How grateful I am for that promise that He will never leave me, never forsake me.

Today, I’m grateful for a high priest who is able to empathize with my weaknesses–for admittedly, they are legion. This reality is my only hope for my future.

How about you?  Are you glad for a Savior who understands?

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5 Reasons We Should Forgive Our Offenders

Can a man carry fire next to his chest and his clothes be not burned? Proverbs 6:27

I’ve been thinking a lot about healing lately. How it happens. When we’re ready. What we’ll bring to Jesus when the time is right.

The time has to be right, right?

Healing can’t come on a whim. Troubles must proceed it. The hard of life has to take the wind out of our sails before we are ready to close our lips and open our minds to the opinions of the One who matters most.

People don’t like to admit that they are powerless over much of life, but they are. What they’re not powerless over, and this is significant, is their decision-making.

It seems to me the most powerful decision we can ever make, aside from trusting Jesus as Savior, is the decision to forgive our offenders.

Not forgive and forget. I didn’t say that.

To forget the grief visited upon us by others spells trouble and recidivism to me, so let’s not forget the wounds they’ve inflicted or how they held the knife as the blade went in. But let’s take some serious steps to reclaim the emotional balance we had before they acted to hurt us.  We need to forgive our offenders, and here’s why.

FIVE REASONS WHY WE SHOULD FORGIVE OUR OFFENDERS

1. THEY KNOW NOT WHAT THEY DO. Our offenders often don’t understand the damage they are doing to themselves when they come against us. If they did, they would never dare to do it. And here’s the thing: we don’t have to worry about their discipline or punishment. We will benefit most from keeping in mind that they don’t understand, and we can’t make them understand. Only God can make a person understand their own sinful condition. (Luke 23:34)

2. WE DON’T DESERVE TO BE MISERABLE FOREVER. Holding onto hurts of the past will only make us miserable, especially when those who have harmed us are no longer a threat to our lives. If we or they have relocated, or they’ve left this earth, we do ourselves a favor by releasing them to God. He will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are stayed on him, because they trust in Him. (Isaiah 26:3)

3. IF WE DON’T FORGIVE, NEITHER WILL WE BE FORGIVEN. It’s God ruling in this world, and one of His fondest wishes for his children: that we be agents of grace. Mercy afforded to our offenders displays faith in God. Do we trust Him to give us what we need, including the ability to forgive big and small hurts, or do we want our offenders to rot in hell forever? If the latter is true, we might need to examine our motives and desires. God doesn’t want that, not even for the worst of our offenders, so we need to not want it either. (Matthew 6:15)

4. TIME IS SHORT AND FORGIVENESS IS SWEET. The truth is that holding onto bitterness hardens our hearts, and that is the opposite of what God wants for us. Conversely, forgiveness is sweet. It releases us from bitterness and rewards us with a clear conscience toward God. The clock is ticking on our forgiveness from the moment an offense is committed against us. We shouldn’t waste another minute carrying the sorrow of our hurts. The sooner we surrender the offense to Jesus, the greater our time to walk free of the killing power of hatred, for which the Lord Jesus died. (James 4:14)

5. WE NEED FREEDOM VS BRICKS WITHOUT STRAW. Unforgiveness builds walls that close in those who have already gone through tremendous loss…loss of trust, loss of safety, and loss of innocence. We view the act of remembering our offenses as our right and the only way to protect ourselves. God sees it differently. He sees unforgiveness as bricks built without straw. They’re formed through hard labor, with the result being that we’re robbed of the freedom Jesus came to proclaim and secure as our birth right in Him. What would you give to walk free of your offender and the resentments you’ve carried so long? You can do it. Jesus can help! If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (Luke 4:18)

Have you ever carried fire close to your chest?  When have you prayed that God would do whatever is necessary to get someone you love to the point of hardship (and thereby, healing)?

5 IMPORTANT ACTIONS TO TAKE WHEN YOU’RE IN DEEP TROUBLE

Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls;all your waves and breakers have swept over me. Psalm 42_7

I had a friend share with me his afflictions this week.  A pipe broke overhead, above his newly remodeled kitchen, causing him to spend two of his banked vacation days making repairs.  Deep called to deep as he fixed one problem only to discover another quickly taking its place.  In his troubles, Psalm 42 seemed to apply.

I’ve been there–in that place where deep calls to deep and troubles multiple like blow flies around a nasty pool of stagnant water.  Blow follows blow, until misfortunes “come not in single file, but in battalions.” Do you know what I mean?

All your waves and breakers have swept over me, the Psalmist wrote.

Those waves and breakers can do more damage than the strongest tornado, destroy more property that the most powerful tsunami, and send us thrashing into the murky flow of a Mississippi delta at flood stage, were it not for God holding us back.  The only wise response to such an occurrence is prayer, because the truth is…

Discipline does come to us from the Lord sometimes.
Difficult things do happen.
We sometimes invite the rod of correction to snap across our back.
Pipes break, but more disconcerting than broken pipes are broken lives!

What should our response be when deep calls to deep and the flood is threatening to pull us under?

David’s response to trouble, observed by the Psalmist, was to remember the Lord and the good times of the past. This is an important part of God’s remedy for deep pain, especially when it comes at his command. If He sends the troubles, he can sweep them away. Make sense?

During his difficult time, David remembered—brought together in his memory—that relationship he had always shared with the Lord. He acted out of his memories concerning God in five important ways.

FIVE IMPORTANT ACTIONS TO TAKE WHEN YOU’RE IN DEEP TROUBLE

When in deep trouble, David did this:

1. He remembered God’s goodness.
2. He recalled the joy of better times.
3. He recounted the depth of God’s unfailing love.
4. He honestly expressed his grief and sorrow.
5. He prayed, believing that God would hear and help in his distress.

David may not have always done the right thing before God, but he was always honest with God about the wrong he had done. David had integrity. Maybe not in the moment. Maybe not even in the short run. But when it mattered, David acted rightly before God, confessing his wrong doings and seeking forgiveness from the One he knew loved him and wanted more than he to have a king sit on the throne that acted justly before and with the people.

How do you “get by” when deep calls to deep in your life?  Can you tell us how prayer and faithfulness, believing God is the Master of Grace, got you through a crisis of trouble in your life? Do tell.

 

So this happened…

Those of you who follow my blog know that I’ve been using a God Jar to direct my Bible reading this year.  It’s worked really well to keep me engaged and moving forward in my reading; much better than those old and musty plans that I’ve tried to use in the past, and found uninspiring. With my God Jar, I use prayer and faith to let go of my own ideas about what I ought to be reading at any given time in the Bible, and allow the Holy Spirit to be my guide.  He knows best what I’m working on, struggling through, or wondering about, so it makes sense to let Him lead.

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So this happened…

…two months ago I prayed and I picked a tab from my God Jar.  Jeremiah!

Yes, you read that right! My pick from the jar sent me to the book of Jeremiah.  Ugh. I knew what was coming.  Do you know how long the book of Jeremiah is, or how negative a message it includes?

Warnings.

Prophetic words.

Visions.

Compelling testimonies of dark times ahead.

Predictions of torture, war, starvation, and captivity. That’s what you get when you read Jeremiah’s account of justice for Jerusalem.  Not a pretty picture, and because the book is 52 chapters long, the telling of the persecution to come is FIFTY-TWO chapters long. Some of those chapter are also epic in length.  It’s a lot to take in, and a lot to process.

So when I was done with 52 chapters of Jeremiah, you can imagine I was not eager to enter into another long book of the Bible.

Judge me as you will, I had had enough of the doom and gloom to last for a while, and so, it was with a tiny bit of dreaded anticipation that I got my God Jar out and prayed again. Here’s the gist of that prayer:

“Lord, please do NOT make me read another book like Jeremiah!”

Truly, I wasn’t sure I could take it.

I dumped out the tabs. I prayed again. I waited. I moved the tabs around, eyes closed, then I picked. And do you know where God sent me for my Bible reading this time?

2 John!!!!

2 John, people.

Do you know how big the book of 2 John is, or what it contains?

2 John contains 245 words. That’s 32,757 words less than Jeremiah (which is btw, the longest book of the Bible).  2 John is the shortest book in the Bible, except for 3 John, with 219 words.  (Yes, there is a website that tracks that sorta thing, check it out here).

And get this:  2 John talks about LOVE, and staying connect to Jesus, and caring about others.  Just what I needed to hear.

Wow! Does my God love me, or what?  He knew I could not stand it to read another epic book of darkness. Not now. Not when I’m on a healing journey. Not with the holidays coming. I know prophecy is important and Jeremiah has a lot of good information to impart, but I was soooo glad to pull that tag that read: 2 John.

So glad!!!

I read 2 John last night in about 3 minutes.  It felt good, but I suspected God had more for me to glean from the book.  I’ve read it over a couple more times today.  Still thankful that it is not 33K+ words long.

Do you have a system for reading through the Bible?  What is your favorite book, chapter, or verse in God’s Word?

 

Listening to Crowder’s song, Forgiven, we gain a great appreciation for our piece in Christ’s ultimate suffering and the need for forgiveness.  The “deed” may have been done 2,000 years ago, but if it were to be re-enacted today we have assurance from God that the outcome would be the same.

We, humanity, are culpable!

The good news about a bad decision made centuries before we were born is that forgiveness stretches so far.  All the way back to that moment. All the way forward to today.  We have forgiveness from the only One who has the power and authority, even the right to give it–Jesus Christ!

Jesus has never wanted anything more than he wants you

Likewise, our Lord has never longed for anything more than he longs for them.

He set all of creation aside in favor of winning the greater prize. YOU are loved, cherished, redeemed, and forgiven. Remember that today!

When have you been forgiven?  Who do you need to forgive?

 

 

It’s true. I’ve been UN-friended!

What will my response be?

Moping?

Fretting?

Falling into despair?

Truth:  Hurt people, hurt people.

I’ll forgive.

Mend what can be mended, but not by pushing.

Not be shoving or insisting,

That’s manipulation, and I’m not going there.

Love still lives, but I will not force reciprocity.

Following God’s example, the heart offers options:

To love or not love.

Eat or not eat.

To drink the poison down, or trust Him!

Unfriended, and okay with it.

As for processing…

I will write, and pray, and meditate.  It’s my way.

I will also love on…

Facebook cannot kill agape love.

“Today, I choose by my will to wish you good.”

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  1 Corinthians 13:4-7 

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.  John 13:34 

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 1 John 4:7 

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.  Matthew 5:43 

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.  Galatians 5:22 

If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.  1 John 4:20 

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8 

Have you ever been unfriended or unfollowed on social media? Have you ever been unfriended in life?

 

She’s Self-Confident!

I’ve been working to create better graphics for my church’s social media presence.  It’s a process. My latest attempt is one that makes me giggle, because it reminds me of my niece, Danielle.

I wish you all could know Danielle.  She’s got the biggest heart, and the BIGGEST sense of style.

Danielle’s isn’t afraid to drop her son off at school in her PJs.

She’s not worried about mixing wild patterns with clashing colors.

She boldly tells people where to stand and how to look, while snapping life-long wedding memories from behind her camera lens–something that terrifies me.

She’s also not afraid to shave her head, although this is a habit that works better in the summer heat than the winter’s cold, so she’s got a few inches of growth on top at this point.

I’m pretty sure she would hit if off splendidly with this lil gal…

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Pretty darn sure!

Where’d Danielle get all that dominant style she possesses?  My brother, her dad.  He’s brimming with machismo…could care less what folks think. My hubby’s that way, too. Me, not so much.  But Danielle…yeah, she’s got it going on!

Danielle is working hard to pass on those self-esteem traits of hers to her sons, and I’ve gotta say she’s doing a good job.  They are both funny, sass-mouthed tail-wagglers with big personalities, and some of my favorite people. They make me laugh on a regular basis.  It will be fun to see who they turn out to be one day, but for now, they’re watching and learning from the best…repeating what they see.  Oh, boy, watch out world!

What are you doing now that will help your kids have a healthy self-esteem later?  How full is your child’s bucket?