Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Forgiveness; Luke 23:34 Then Jesus said "Father forgive them, for they do not know what they do"

Forgiveness can be a bitter pill to swallow. Our emotions will normally kick in telling us that we have been wronged and that the offending party needs to be the one repenting and asking for our forgiveness. The reality is that this may never happen.

In order to forgive others, we must be forgiven. We can neither love nor forgive as God intended until we understand His love for us and ask for His forgiveness of our sins. It's at that moment in time that we experience something so unique and so pure that it literally changes our whole life. Forever. When we come face to face with who we are, and by contrast, who we are not, as it pertains to truly having a relationship with Christ, then, and only then, can we repent and ask forgiveness and in like manner learn how to forgive others.

When we have been hurt in our life, especially by a parent, a spouse, or a close friend, it leaves a mark on us that we live with, sometimes for the rest of our lives. Today it seems that if you DIDN'T come from a dysfunction family you are outside the norm. What having a relationship with Christ teaches us is that the patterns we learned early in life can be changed to reflect who we are now and who we are becoming every day. If we don't forgive the wrongs that have been done to us, the hurt will turn into bitterness and that root will begin to show up in the dirt of our own lives.

Your pain can both define who you are and how you see the world. This is especially true in the parent and child relationship, effecting our ability as adults to love, trust , and respect those we hold most dear . Often we see marriages crumble and friendships effected because we exhibit the same traits we identity with as having hurt us so much. You may use a pattern of causing pain or heartache to others when you are hurt because you spent so much time in your past lashing out to be loved and understood and held and comforted. Maybe they never kept their promises to you, embarrassed you, physically or mentally hurt you, and now you think that's the way to express your pain. Maybe you've been lied to so much that you learned how to lie as a way of inflicting pain on someone who has hurt you. Maybe your parents didn't model a good marriage relationship in front of you and now you don't think you can have one either. Maybe you think you don't deserve a good life, will never have a good life, have gone too far down the wrong path. Maybe, just maybe, you don't know how to forgive because you've never been forgiven. It's worth thinking about. Feelings we inflict on others do matter. If you are struggling with forgiveness in your life, you should know that better than anyone.

The example that Jesus showed on the cross in asking the Father to forgive them for not knowing what they were doing, is a model that can transform our way of dealing with those who have hurt us and left ugly marks on our personality, our hearts, our soul. It may be that the parent you love but can't trust not to hurt you, was also hurt and effected by a vicious cycle of pain in their own lives. It may be that they never experienced forgiveness or the unconditional love that only Christ can provide. It may be that no one showed them a better way, a different path, the truth that you can turn from who and what you were to who and what you want to be. It may be that your spouse or your friend or your parent desires more than anything to love you and be there for you, but because of your bitter root, you have walls that they cannot scale to reach who you really are inside. Ask Jesus. Use His example. Purpose today that you don't have to let the root of bitterness take hold, keeping you from forgiving others or seeking the forgiveness you desire so much.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

James 1: 14 But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust

Greg Laurie has a book out on lies we tell ourselves. We can tell a little white lie sometimes so smoothly that we don't even realize we've done it! Often, when we are tempted to do something wrong , we don't understand that the lies we tell ourselves can lead to our sinful behavior. Here are some of those lies:

I know it's wrong.......but everyone is doing it!
I'll quite tomorrow
It's not my fault, I was raised this way or that way, or I was mistreated as a child......
I can't help it. I've been under so much stress! ( apparently my favorite since I say it all the time!)
I deserve this.

Does any of this sound familiar to you? It does to me. If we stop and think about it, everything around us, and often about us, is compromised by a world that is an enemy of God. Either you are for God, or you are against God.

What? Of course I'm not AGAINST God! That would be our immediate response, but what about our actions? It's never going to be about what we say, but always about what we do. We allow ourselves to be tempted and be led into sin because we believe a lie or we lie to ourselves. Some of these lies say we're not hurting anyone so it doesn't matter. Some say we can love God and serve Him just as easily on the golf course or fishing, or at the pool, or at home on Sunday when in reality, we need to be in church and we need to be surrounding our children and our marriages and our friendships with the things of God. Some of them say that we don't need anyone or anything. We can handle it, we've got this. Lies.

God loves us and understands us where we are. Through His word, He is teaching us that we are to move beyond the shallow religion that allows us to lie to ourselves and to look to Him in faith and in trust. We will even lie to ourselves and say that we are fine with ourselves and our lives just the way they are. If we want to move beyond taking the easy way out and beyond giving in to our sin nature, we but have to turn to Him and ask. Really ask, believing that He is there, waiting to reveal to us our sin nature so that we can seek forgiveness and move into a new life.

Do you feel that you are being tossed around in winds from every direction? That you need and want more but don't know how to get it? Don't believe a lie. I can honestly tell you that I've been there, and done that. Even today, Satan often lies to me and tells me that I will never be different, that I am just waiting to fall back into this sin or that sin. That's a lie. While I certainly fall and sin everyday, I don't have to do it and I certainly don't have to stay in it. There is so much more to life than what the world can offer. Isn't it time that we stop being afraid of what we'll give up so that we can experience all that is promised to us? Jesus is the Way, the TRUTH and the life. He understands our nature and our flesh, our lusts and the lies we buy in to. He loves us anyway. Completely, totally, without question and requirement, He loves us.

He has an incredible, full, abundant life planned for each of us who call him Lord. It is a lie to think it's too hard, no fun, not attainable, not worth it. Give it a try, it's the best thing that will ever happen to you. And that's the truth.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Psalm 19:14 : Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in they sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer

My thought today is this, "Just because you don't take responsibility, it doesn't mean you are not responsible".

Too many times in our life, we think we have a license to just say and do whatever we want, simply because we "can", or simply because we "want" to. When did life really become so much about us? What has happened that we are no longer humbled by the fact that we just wake up each day and find that a loving God has let us live?

We are living in a world that has bought into Satan's lies, hook, line, and sinker. We seem to believe the magazines, the reality T.V. shows, and the things our so called "friends" tell us, over believing the word of God. Or, actually, even knowing what God has to say about it. Or, in many cases, actually caring what God has to say about it. This is where the condition of our heart comes in and why searching out our own condition is so important. I teach a ladies Sunday School class and a Ladies Bible study every week. And every week, after I have the lesson prepared, it hits me like a ton of bricks that all that time and effort was not for everyone else, it was for me. I have to learn the lesson first before I can hope to impact anyones else's life with it. I am totally responsible for what I say, and then, for what I do. That holds true regardless of what you tell yourself your "intent" is. We are responsible for what we do every day, both the good and the bad.

When we get together with anyone but the Lord to discuss our lives and seek their seal of approval, we are simply gathering to pool our ignorance. When we say and do things that hurt and destroy relationships and act as though we have the right to do it, we are aligning ourselves with the "world" and the approval of the "world" and shunning our ownership of our actions. When we have discussions about God's word that are void of the absolutes of His truth, we are playing with fire. Literally.

The Bible speaks of (1) knowing in your heart-intelligence, (2) having a willing heart-will, (3) the plans of the heart-purpose, (4) A heart troubled over sin-conscience, (5) the obedience of the heart-morality, (6) reasoning in the heart-rationality, and (7) Jesus Christ in the heart-spirituality. The heart is the very center of our inner life and the force behind your own motivations. When God commands us to hide His words in our hearts so that we might not sin against Him, He is not telling us to feel good about them ( the " all about me society"), but rather to be conscience of them and to abide by them. In order to do this, a foundation has to be laid. One that is built on having Jesus be the cornerstone of our life. One that does matter and does make us responsible. One that doesn't allow for a cafeteria style religion where we pick and choose what we want. We are responsible and it's time to take responsibility for our actions, and words , and deeds. God will show us our hearts is we ask Him to. He will clean it up and give us a new and better way to "follow your heart".

Monday, August 10, 2009

It all starts with the heart

Today I want to write my first on-line devotional. When I consented to do this, I thought, "Sure", that's no problem! Later, as I began to think about what to say, I realized the gravity of "putting yourself" out there. When we tell someone anything about our life, our heart, and especially our Lord, we need to be very careful that we do it honestly, completely, and with one goal in mind. What is that goal? To give God the glory, for anything, and everything in hopes that someone, anyone, will want to experience the same grace and mercy that has inspired us to share. I trust that this will be such a blog.

I have been so privileged in my life, through my marriage and with my children that I thought about the most important things I know and what I could share in this devotional blog and so "love" became the natural theme. Thinking about that led me to thinking about the innermost part of my being, starting with the heart.

After 38 years of marriage to Gary, I am often asked about how we have done it, and done it so well, for so long. There is really only one answer, and that is the Lord. I have always loved Gary, from the time I met him almost 40 years ago, until this very day. Always. He was always so good to me, so kind and sweet and with a way of making me feel like the most treasured wife in the whole world. Besides that, he was, and still is, quite a looker!! We met in 1969 and I had never before nor since, met someone with such a caring heart and humble spirit. He is the exact match for someone like me, because he is calming, and sure, and steady as a rock. I am excitable (putting it mildly), ready to try anything and everything, and have been known to be all over the board! See? Perfect match!! He is probably the only person, besides our Lord, who knows the fear, the uncertainty, the hurts and the heartaches in my life, and he guards the trust that I give him with everything he is. I love him deeply.

Even though I fell so madly in love with Gary from the start, it wasn't until he was saved and became a Christian, letting God direct our life and become the authority in our home, that I found out it was possible to love him even more. Why? Because until the Lord completed his heart, even with all the love he gave me, he couldn't give me everything because he was not complete. And neither was I. Until I accepted the Lord as Savior, turning my will over to him and starting to practice the whole "get over yourself" philosophy, I couldn't be all I wanted or needed to be to Gary, to my children and to our Lord. Marriage. It really does take three. It starts with our hearts, goes forward with our hearts, and ends with our hearts. We have to seek to know ourselves and the One who can fill the void in our lives before we can become who and what we were made to be. Start at the beginning, examine your heart.

As believers in Christ Jesus, our life is not to be one of guilt, shame, emptiness and a constant search to fill the void in our lives. Until we turn over ourselves, we cannot give Him our homes, our marriages, our children. In Deuteronomy 4:29, was are told to seek out the Lord with "all of our heart". That is because when we come to Him, bare, open, needing help and truly wanting to make a change and turn it over, He will be there and we get started on an unbelievably blessed journey.

In the days ahead, I will be dealing much with our hearts and how we should be so careful to make sure that it is right with God and kept from the enemy who seeks to destroy who you were meant to be and the wonderful life a loving God wants to give you. Will you have to give up something? Change? Get over yourself? Probably. But since the Bible mentions the heart 743 times, it is worth looking into and even more worth in finding and living and abiding in the truth.