“Surely He bore our sorrows…”

(Matthew 8: 1-4, The Message) 1-2 Jesus came down the mountain with the cheers of the crowd still ringing in his ears. Then a leper appeared and went to his knees before Jesus, praying, “Master, if you want to, you can heal my body.”

3-4 Jesus reached out and touched him, saying, “I want to. Be clean.” Then and there, all signs of the leprosy were gone. Jesus said, “Don’t talk about this all over town. Just quietly present your healed body to the priest, along with the appropriate expressions of thanks to God. Your cleansed and grateful life, not your words, will bear witness to what I have done.”


I love the simplicity found in this exchange between Jesus and the man with leprosy.  This man, so sick and in so much pain, had an undemanding and sincere measure of faith.  Notice that he didn’t even ask Jesus to heal him; he simply stated, “If you want to…I know you can.”  He humbled himself, down on his knees, and declared his faith in Jesus.  His recompense?  Total restoration. 

I can’t help but think of people who are living under the oppression of outward, obvious sin and its consequences.  Like the leper, they are often cast aside, seen as filthy, and exiled from the sacred confines of the church. 

We see your sin.  We see your struggle.  We don’t want any part of it.

Maybe that’s you, or someone you hold dear to your heart.  You get up every day and strap on your backpack full of shame and haul it around because you’re just used to it, and you think you deserve it.  You spend each day feeling like the dead man walking.  Maybe someone else has convinced you that it’s just your cross to bear in life.  Well, it’s time to find the truth and stop dragging around your failures. 

YOU ARE NOT A LEPER!!! 

What I mean is…you don’t have to feel like a castaway just because someone else knows about something you did.  Guess what?  We don’t always know specifics, but we do know something that is a universal truth about people…WE ALL SIN!  EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US is an unworthy, lowly, sinner who deserves death…as we are all born into the dilemma and curse of sin. 

But just like Jesus wanted to heal the leper (and did), He wants to heal your life (and will).  Romans 8: 1-4 says:  1-2 With the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah, that fateful dilemma is resolved. Those who enter into Christ’s being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud. A new power is in operation. The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death.  3-4 God went for the jugular when he sent his own Son. He didn’t deal with the problem as something remote and unimportant. In his Son, Jesus, he personally took on the human condition, entered the disordered mess of struggling humanity in order to set it right once and for all.

You must understand that because God is love, of course He wants to restore your life.  You simply have to humble yourself and believe.  It’s not about begging, or even hoping.  It’s about an unembellished statement of faith:  If You want to…I know You can.  He wants to, He can, and He will. 

Maybe you are worried that others won’t believe you, and that because of your past you will shed a negative light on the name of Christ.  Please do not buy into that lie!  It’s straight from the mouth of the devil, and it has no place in your life.  You don’t have to convince anyone else that your life is changed.  Just live according to God’s word and let your life do the talking. 

“Your cleansed and grateful life, not your words, will bear witness to what I have done.”


Prayer:  Heavenly Father, I thank you for the beautiful exchange that takes place when we simply believe.  Beauty for ashes, strength for fear, gladness for mourning, peace for despair.  Amen.

Can Anybody Find Me Somebody to Love?

Luke 6:27-36- “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29 To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either.30 Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. 31 And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. 32 “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. 35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. 36 Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.

 

If you’ve been keeping up with the news in any form: television, radio, newspaper, social media, etc., you’ve no doubt seen hatred and animosity at every turn. Riots, protests, violence and hate speech seem to be the norm for some people. It’s heartbreaking when the reality of how shallow some people are in their opinions of others sets in.

As Christians, we should know this kind of behavior and rhetoric is entirely unacceptable in the eyes of our Savior. We are commanded to love everyone on this earth, as they are His children- precious in His sight. We talk as if this is very easy, and for the most part it probably is- but- seeing that we are human, there are times we have to make a conscious effort to keep our actions, words, and hearts in check.

When someone wrongs us, or wrongs someone we care about, it’s easy to “justify” our attitude towards said person. We feel we’ve been given the right to “write them off,” “put them in their place,” or “teach them a thing or two.” If our Example is to be Jesus Christ, (which it is), this ought not be how we handle situations. Our thoughts, comments, (or lack thereof) when driven by spite, are not Christ-like in the slightest. He tells us to love our enemies… do good to those who hate us… bless those that curse us… and pray for those that abuse us. THAT is the true spirit of Christ. Can you fathom such love? Such humility? It takes practice, if you will, for us to get our hearts right. We know we are to use wisdom, be selective in whom we place confidence and choose to spend a lot of time with for our own protection; still, we must be ever so careful to not use that knowledge to make excuses for our selfishness, greed, or frustrations. After all, how often do we need someone to overlook our shortcomings? How often does Christ do that for us?

My pastor’s wife shared something on this topic today on Facebook, and it was so beautifully spoken, I had to copy it here:

 

“There are people that we like better than others…there are people that are easy to forgive…others, not so much. But, the Word that I read and profess to believe doesn’t make allowances in terms of my obedience to love as He first loved me. He loved me when I was not easy to love, when I was inconvenient to love, when I didn’t deserve it, not waiting until He felt like it…He just loved me. When I am frustrating…when I am immature…when I am stubborn…He welcomes and embraces my sad, sorry self. He forgives me. He crowns my life with goodness. He removes my guilt. He removes the stain of my sin and washes me in His blood, makes me whiter than snow. He covers me. He forgets forever, my failings. He calls me daughter. He lavishes me. He takes care of me. He provides for me. I have been and am loved. I WILL love whoever He places in my pathway along my journey home. Heaven. That’s where I’m going. It’s a place too big for small thinking and behavior. By His grace…”

 

I appreciate so much the truth and transparency exhibited in this post. Christ didn’t make me earn His love. He didn’t wait until I had everything together. When I failed at the same thing for the 10th time, He didn’t write me off and tell me He was done. He loves me unconditionally, and oh so deeply! He loves us all that way! And this is why He expects us to do the same for each other. We don’t know what others are facing, or what they’ve been through… what makes them hard or cruel. While rudeness and targeted hurt is never something that is expected to be excused, two wrongs don’t make a right. We are still to love! This world is in desperate need of His kind today… Find someone to show that to today and everyday. 

Prayer: Lord, I thank You for loving me unconditionally, for blessing me when I do not deserve it, and for gently correcting me even when it takes me forever to listen. You are so patient with me, and I pray that You help me show that same love and patience with all those I encounter. I love You, Lord. Amen.

‘Tis a Mystery Indeed

(2 Peter 3: 8-10, NLT)  8 But you must not forget this one thing, dear friends: A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day. 9 The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent. 10 But the day of the Lord will come as unexpectedly as a thief.

I heard a lot of “hell, fire, and brimstone” preaching when I was growing up.  If you don’t know what that is, it’s basically a lot of hollering and spitting about God’s anger and wrath toward the sinner — about how we are running out of time and living on the edge, knocking on the gates of hell.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I have heard some wonderful sermons on sin and repentance in my life, and it is important to understand the repercussions of sin and how God feels about it.  Hell is real.  God does hate sin.  But even more than God hates sin, He loves us — and He is patient and kind for the sake of the world — for us.  It is His desire for all to be welcomed into His heavenly presence on that day when we will all face Him.  Why does God get so angry about sin?  Because of His great love for us.  He desires our love and adoration.  He longs to be in communion with us, and that sin is a wedge that we continually drive between Him and us.  No wonder He gets angry!  That must be so frustrating…

Yet His patience never ends.  He doesn’t give up on us.  He doesn’t turn His back to us or shut down.  We don’t get the cold shoulder.  No.  He patiently, and lovingly, waits.  He extends to us the courtesy of choice — even though we don’t deserve it.  He looks on us through eyes of compassion and His spirit continually reaches out to our hearts in every way — through the love and kindness of others, through healing and grace, through provision and blessing, and even through divine encounters with His own Holy Spirit.  He is constantly seeking us out — drawing us to Him.  And we are the prodigals.  All of us.  We come dragging down the road in our tattered garments — our filthy rags — and He welcomes us like royalty.  When we are weak and wallowing in sin, He waits with clean garments of praise and the oil of gladness, ready to cleanse and clothe us as His sons and daughters — making us joint heirs with Jesus. 

But know this, and never forget, that even in all of His patience and graciousness, there will come a day when God will have to judge us according to our choices.  It is an appointed day, and it’s timing is a mystery to all.  Do not mistake God’s kindness for weakness.  His judgement will not waver or change.  Yes, He is patient…but time is ticking. 

For you know quite well that the day of the Lord’s return will come unexpectedly, like a thief in the night.  (1 Thessalonians 5:2)

This is why it is so important not to take advantage of God’s patience.  We don’t know that appointed hour when He is coming back for us.  Therefore, we must be ready…

So you, too, must keep watch! For you do not know the day or hour of my return.  (Matthew 25:13)

And really, that is all He wants from us — for us to keep our hearts pure, and for us to willingly remove that wedge of sin that has been driven between Him and us.  He wants us to choose the eternal life that He sacrificed so greatly to give to us.  It’s life or death, friends.  What do you choose today?

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, simply put…I don’t want to be caught unaware.  Help me to never take advantage of Your patience and grace, but to instead be vigilant with my choices.  I choose You, God, today and every day.  I want to live for You, having full confidence that when the day of judgement does come, I have nothing to fear.  Amen.

God of All the Chances

2 Chronicles 33:1-7, 10-13-  “Manasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign, and he reigned fifty-five years in Jerusalem. And he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, according to the abominations of the nations whom the Lord drove out before… he rebuilt the high places that his father Hezekiah had broken down, and he erected altars to the Baals… worshipped… and served them. … He used fortune-telling and omens and sorcery, and dealt with mediums and necromancers. He did much evil in the sight of the Lord, provoking Him to anger. And the carved image of the idol that he had made, he set in the house of God… … … The Lord spoke to Manasseh and to his people, but they paid no attention. … When he (Manasseh) was in distress, he entreated the favor of the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. He prayed to Him, and God was moved by his entreaty and heard his plea and brought him again to Jerusalem unto his kingdom…”

We live in a world where second chances are few and thirds are non-existent. People don’t take well to being lied to, talked about, cheated on, or betrayed in any form or fashion. We don’t like feeling hurt or disrespected. We can’t stand treatment that leads to thoughts of unappreciation or our unimportance.

And, I’d say 80% of the time someone forgives a person who has wronged them, the relationship is never fully restored. There’s always a fear, lack of trust, or hurt that won’t ever completely go away. Human hearts are fragile/selfish things.

But look at the heart of God shown in this account of Manasseh. He rejected God. He ignored Him, betrayed Him, and mocked Him by setting up idols in His house. Years went by with him living and behaving in such ways – and not only that – he was leading a whole nation to live in this same manner. After all the goodness the Lord had shown his nation, his family… Wow. Could you imagine the pain we would feel if someone treated us in such a way? Can you picture the anger you would battle? Blood pressure rising, face flushing, nerves racing? It wouldn’t be something we could just sweep under the rug.

Then the day comes when the king of Assyria captured Manasseh and bound him with chains in a foreign city. In his distress, he knew Who he had to call on. He humbled himself and prayed to the God of his fathers. He didn’t just ask the Lord for forgiveness… but for some favor! Wouldn’t this be the moment we would want to say, “I told you so!” or “Serves you right!”? Of course it would. But, God is much more loving and faithful than we are. He wasn’t angered by this cry for help. He was moved by it!

God didn’t just offer His forgiveness to Manasseh. He didn’t just set him free and tell him to fend for himself. No. He completely restored Manasseh’s life. He took him back to Jerusalem, set him on his throne, and continued to bless him and his nation. No guilt held over his head… no shame, no “payback,” and no less love and mercy.

Understanding how difficult it is to let someone “get away with” something, my humblest gratitude goes to my God. He is the only One who has in every way been faithful and compassionate to me and yet deals with my shortcomings on a regular basis without any loss of love or favor towards me. Do you know any other love like that? What a Savior! The only perfect being extending the only unconditional mercy ever known… Irony? Nope. Just genuine love.

We struggle to give a second chance. Most entirely refuse a third. By the fourth, we’ve all written the wrongdoer out of our lives for good. But, here’s God… ever moved by our need and dependence on Him…  We serve a God of ALL the chances!

Prayer: God, thank You for Your unconditional love and kindness. Your mercies are new every morning and Your favor never leaves me. Keep me from falling, Lord, but in those times I do, help me remember You are there to help me back up. I love You. Amen.

“To Love the Unlovable”

(Jude 1: 22-23, The Message) Go easy on those who hesitate in the faith. Go after those who take the wrong way. Be tender with sinners, but not soft on sin. The sin itself stinks to high heaven.

I have found that we like to put sin in boxes.  We categorize it all from what we deem understandable or acceptable, to what is most unforgivable and horrendous, and then all of the stuff between.  I’ve done it, and I know you have as well.  But really, isn’t it all just sin?  It’s all bad, it all separates us from God, and it all “stinks to high heaven.” 

Not many people who know me would consider me an optimist.  I tend to be more of a realist than anything.  However, I have a deeply compassionate heart, and I always seem to find a way to see the good in others.  In this way, I am hopeful.  I see the beauty that is the human soul, made and formed in the image of God, and I am often able to look past what people are doing or have done and love them anyway.

I wasn’t always so loving.  For many years of my life, I had a very distrustful, resentful and hard heart.  I had to ask the Lord to help me open my heart to others, and He has.  In my walk with Christ, I have learned that compassion and love are simply not optional…they are requirements!  We are not asked to love others…it is a commandment…in fact, it is the greatest of all commandments…that which must govern and influence every aspect of our lives, and will ultimately keep us from many of the sins that may tempt us.  Love and compassion must be evident and ever growing in our lives…

The most difficult part of love is extending that grace and compassion toward those who are the most difficult to understand and forgive.  Because of our “sin boxes” that we have created, there are just some things that we can’t seem to get past — the big, bad sins — the things that our worst fears and nightmares are made of — the things on the news that make our stomachs turn and boil our blood with anger and outrage.  But where does love fit into it?  We must remember that it has to…we have to make it fit.  If we are to “go after those who take the wrong way,” then we have an obligation to stretch ourselves — to love the unlovable, right?

So what do we do?  How are we to be tender with the sinner, yet hard on the sin?  The answer will always be the same:  just love.  Open your eyes and see a person, a soul created by God, imperfect, yet never too far gone for God to reach.  When you pray, ask the Lord to restore that person, and instead of rebuking them, rebuke the powers of hell that have been allowed to take hold of that life.  You see, we can hate sin all day long, but we have been commanded to love others. 

A few years ago, my husband and I were at big youth conference in Knoxville, TN.  We take teens from our church every spring.  That particular year, a singer named Matthew West was there.  He sang a song called “Forgiveness,” but before he sang it, he told a story that has stuck with me.  I want to share what he said about why he wrote that song:

“The song is about Renee, who lost her daughter Megan in a car accident at the hands of a drunk driver, a 24-year-old named Eric who was by all accounts a great young man, but made a tragic mistake. Renee’s been on a journey of hatred, and bitterness, and she’s learned how to forgive the young man who took her beloved daughter’s life.

In a miraculous way, after Megan’s death in 2001, Renee began giving presentations, and in time, God put it on her heart to forgive this man and reach out to him in prison. She learned that until she was set free of the anger and bitterness she held towards Eric, she was going to be the prisoner even though he was the one behind bars.

As a result, Eric found his own personal faith in Christ and they developed a unique friendship to the point where she feels like she gained a son, and she even went to the courts to cut Eric’s sentence in half. He made a terrible mistake taking the life of two young girls, and yet he’s been forgiven. Renee told him that she serves a God who commands her to forgive and she needed to be set free as much for herself as for him.”

It took a lot of love, that could only come from God, for this mother to not only forgive the young man who caused her daughter’s death, but also for her to reach out to him and show him compassion.  Because she was obedient to God in her own life, she was able to be used of God to change his life forever, bringing healing to both lives in a remarkable and miraculous way — God’s way — the only way that it could ever take place.  That’s what I call a beautiful exchange.  And this, friends, is the perfect example of being tender toward sinners — of going easy on those who waver in the faith.  It may seem impossible, but we are called to go beyond what we think we are capable of, and we are commanded to love.

Show me how to love the unlovable

Show me how to reach the unreachable

Help me now to do the impossible

Forgiveness

-“Forgiveness” by Matthew West

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, help me to see others through Your eyes. Give me Your heart, and help me to be brave enough to love those whom everyone else seems to reject.  Soften my heart, Lord, and help me to always let love win.  Amen. 

“Nothing is Wasted”

Screenshot 2016-08-15 22.18.02

1 Out of the stump of David’s family will grow a shoot—yes, a new Branch bearing fruit from the old root. 2 And the Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. 3 He will delight in obeying the Lord. He will not judge by appearance nor make a decision based on hearsay. 4 He will give justice to the poor and make fair decisions for the exploited. The earth will shake at the force of his word, and one breath from his mouth will destroy the wicked. (Isaiah 11: 1-4)

I like the idea of repurposing, recycling, and bringing new from old.  It’s why I have so many antiques, hand-me-downs, and thrifted items in my home.  I don’t look at old things as disposable…I see the beauty there, and the potential.  This is a part of me that I consider to be in the likeness of God.  He sees beyond what has been…what many would pass over and lay to rest…what is dry and withered…like an old stump.  Most people see a stump as something that needs to be completely removed…ground up and discarded.  But God…the Artisan and Creator of the universe…He reaches down and gently nudges a tenter shoot from the buried roots of that stump.  And it peeks out, green and new, as if to say, “This is not over yet!”  Maybe someone will come along and pluck that tiny sprout from the cracks of the stump, because unfortunately that happens sometimes, but it’s okay…because the roots are now teeming with life from the sun and the rain, and despite all efforts of destruction, new growth continues to force its way upward.  When God sees fit to breath life into what seems to be a lost cause, there is nothing that can sever His lifeline. 

Sometimes our families, and our lives, are like the line of David.  We go through stuff, and that stuff can become a disease to our tree…we get angry or hurt and we just lop off branches until there’s nothing left. Sometimes we recklessly go ahead and chop down the whole tree!  When a family unit, or a life, is destroyed by human actions…deemed useless and therefore discarded…we see it as finished…something to remember (or forget).  But where the roots of love and potential still lie dormant in the dirt, from it God is able to coax new life into the light. 

Your new day is coming.  When the first signs of forgiveness (of others, or even just yourself) begin to push through the cracks of your stump (whatever relationship or situation that may be), let them grow…nurture them…let God do His thing.  He sacrificed His own son so that we could and would have this promise of restoration and hope.

Everything that the prophecy of Isaiah promised that Christ would be, He was…and He is.  The Man of Sorrows, born into humanity exactly as we are, tempted in every way, fully human…yet still completely GOD to His core, who lived His life to serve God the Father as well as the people He would eventually walk headlong into misery and death for…to spare our souls…to conquer death by enduring it…bringing about a NEW DAY for the children of God, and with it our one and only hope.  On that day when He procured the ultimate victory, the earth did shake and tremble at His voice.  One breath, His last one taken in a mortal body, the breath that ushered in His death, is what destroyed the enemy.  He came to us, a tiny baby, a tender root of hope, and because of Him, nothing is wasted.

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, when I want to give up on myself and others, remind me of the stump and the shoot.  Thank you for grace and for new life.  Amen.

“Forgiveness: The Heart of the Matter”

(Mark 11:25) But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too.”

Forgiveness and self-care are not two things that we usually relate to one another.  I always considered forgiveness to be more for the person who wronged me than for myself.  Someone asks for your forgiveness because he or she is full of remorse and in need of your grace to get past it — so you extend that grace and that person feels better about everything.  Right?  That’s what I always thought.  However, as I have gotten older, and have grown more mature in my my spirit, I have learned that grace and forgiveness heal us all, from the inside out.  When we extend or receive grace, it is like a soothing balm over a festering wound.  It instantly coats that painful outer layer, shielding it from further injury and stimulating the beginning stages of healing.  Just like a wound to our skin will start to regenerate new skin from the inside of the wound until it is a completed process of healing, a wound to our soul also needs to heal from within.  It takes time, but the process will never be able to begin without that protective covering — without grace. 

I have a very passionate personality.  I feel everything very deeply and with much intensity.  It may take me a bit to come to trust someone new, but when I do, I love with my whole heart.  However, just as we all have our faults, one of my biggest shortcomings in life is that I feel things on the opposite end of the spectrum just as strongly.  I wouldn’t say that I hate, but I do tend to struggle with unforgiveness and resentment when I feel that I have been wronged, yet never receive an apology.  That kind of injustice just sort of burrows itself into my soul and begins to take root — sprouting bitterness and anger.  But who do you think is damaged by that root of bitterness, bearing its rotten fruit?  It certainly isn’t the unapologetic party!  It’s me!  I’m the one who suffers with the burden of it.  I’m the one who thinks about it every time I see that person.  It’s my spirit that becomes embittered and hardened because of this unforgiven transgression. 

There is an old African Bantu Proverb which says, “The bitter heart eats its owner.” And so true it is!  Bitterness will eat at and erode your heart and soul until you have nothing beautiful left inside to give.  The biggest part of who we are as Christians must be love, for that is the foundation for our calling and commission.  When we allow a root of bitterness to grow, when we hold back forgiveness because we are waiting for an apology that we’ll probably never get, we are slowly emptying ourselves…and you can’t pour from an empty cup, can you?

So forgive, as God the Father has forgiven you.  In John 10:10, Jesus says, “The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.”  When we hold onto bitterness, we are allowing the enemy of our souls, Satan:  Father of LIES, to rob us of our joy and satisfaction.  It just doesn’t matter if you ever get an apology.  Forgiveness is for you, that you might enjoy the freedom of grace, both internally and externally.  Don’t let the thief drain you dry.  Keep that cup filled with every good thing that Jesus has to offer you — filled to overflowing — so that those sweet, living waters flow from Him, to you, to others, and back to Him, in a beautiful exchange. 

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, thank You for this reminder today that there is freedom for me when I am able to forgive others.  Help me to keep my cup filled to the brim with the beauty that is found in You, so that I can easily and faithfully love others the way that You have called me to.  Amen.

“Oh, the tangled web we weave…”

(2 Samuel 13: 37-39) 37 And David mourned many days for his son Amnon.  Absalom fled to his grandfather, Talmai son of Ammihud, the king of Geshur. 38 He stayed there in Geshur for three years. 39 And King David, now reconciled to Amnon’s death, longed to be reunited with his son Absalom.

How deep the Father’s love for us,

How vast beyond all measure,

That He should give His only Son

To make a wretch His treasure.

“How Deep the Father’s Love for Us” by Stuart Townend

The story of Absalom, Amnon and Tamar is difficult to read and thus, to stomach.  But that’s the way of sin, isn’t it?  Here we have a brother, Absalom, the eldest child of King David, his sister, Tamar, and their half-brother, Amnon, who has fallen in love (more like lust, from my understanding) with Tamar.  He can’t seem to shake his urges and feelings, and devises a plan to rape and shame poor Tamar.  She runs to her big brother, like so many sisters would do, and he vows to avenge her disgrace.  It takes couple of years, but the opportunity comes, and Absalom kills his brother, Amnon, in an anger-fueled attempt to right a wrong. 

Now, you may read this story and think, “I would have killed him too!  Go Absalom!”  I must admit, that’s what I always think.  What Amnon did was deplorable, disgusting, and low.  As a woman, I feel outraged on behalf of Tamar!  To the outsider who is merely looking in, Amnon deserved what was coming to him.  Right?  But how do you think their father, David, felt?  Imagine the grief he felt for all three of his children.  What an awful place for him to be put into as their parent!  And you can’t much blame Absalom for fleeing the way that he did.  He knew that, beyond the justification he felt for it, what he’d done was to be met with outrage and consequence.  Why?  Because no matter what we do, no matter how low and despicable we get, our parents love us.  Further still…God’s love for us transcends even that of our parents’ love. 

So even though Amnon had done wrong, David loved him still.  He looked past what he’d done and simply grieved the loss of his son.  Likewise, he was able to look past what Absalom had done, which was equally wrong, and longed to reunite with him.  That’s the love of a parent.  It looks past transgression and sees into the heart of who we are, and it always forgives.  And that, my friends, is the love of God.  It doesn’t matter what you’ve done.  God, our Heavenly Father, longs to be reunited with you today…right now.  You have only to believe, to confess, and to return His love with your own. 

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, I come to You today humbled in spirit.  I believe that You sent Your son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross for my sin.  I acknowledge Him as my Lord and Savior.  I recognize my wrongs as such, and I ask you to forgive me, to sustain me, and to be my help when I fall.  Thank You, Lord, for your everlasting love.  Amen.

This Will Hurt Me Worse Than It Hurts You!

(Luke 17:3-4 HCSB) 3 Be on your guard. If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. 4 And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and comes back to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.” 

When I was young, one of the methods of discipline that my parents used was spanking. Mom and dad were good spankers. They would sit me down and explain why I was getting a spanking, they spanked me on my backside, they hugged me while I cried while explaining how much they loved me, and then assured me that the discipline was for my good. Often they would say, “Son, this will hurt us more than it will hurt you.” Of course, being young and immature, I never really believed that! In my limited understanding, I only saw the physical pain I was experiencing. As an adult who has raised two children of my own, I now understand the emotional pain that is felt by the parent. It was painful for all, but beneficial to my development. I am who I am today partly because my parents were willing to hold me accountable for my actions and attitudes.

Jesus spoke very directly to the disciples in Luke 17. His words were strong, clear, and non-negotiable. “Be on your guard. If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him.” I wonder when is the last time you rebuked another Christian? Oh, I know what scripture says about being judgmental… But, Jesus is not talking about judgmental attitudes here. He is actually calling us to accountability. It is my responsibility as a Christian to rebuke another Christian if they commit sin. In fact, according to Jesus I should be on my guard; watching out for their soul and the possibility that I might be drawn into the sin as well.

We are not very good at this! In fact, we don’t want to rebuke or be rebuked. We’d rather just turn our eyes away and mind our own business. But you know what? If my words of rebuke can help you make better and different decisions which will have a positive impact on your life then I should be willing to engage in the dialogue. For this to be done properly, we should consider the following guidelines.

  • A rebuke MUST be motivated by love.
  • A rebuke is better received when delivered with soft and appropriate words.
  • A rebuke should offer assistance, solutions, and prayerful support.
  • A rebuke MUST be followed by forgiveness.

Do you know someone who has lost their way? Maybe a friend has backed off from their relationship with Christ. They identify as a follower of Christ, but there is very little evidence to support their claim. Have you considered the possibility that the Lord has placed you in their life to help them in their SpiritLife journey?

I realize this is not easy. It probably will be more uncomfortable and painful for you than it will be for the other individual. But, if your loving involvement can be a mitigating factor in leading them to victory–shouldn’t you be willing to take that chance?

PRAYER: Lord, as difficult as this task can be, please give me the courage to speak appropriately, forgive freely, and support my Christian brothers and sisters on their journey of faith. Amen.

Come To Your Senses!

(2 Chronicles 6:36-39 HCSB) 36 When they sin against You — for there is no one who does not sin  — and You are angry with them and hand them over to the enemy, and their captors deport them to a distant or nearby country,  37 and when they come to their senses in the land where they were deported and repent and petition You in their captors’ land, saying: “We have sinned and done wrong; we have been wicked,”  38 and when they return to You with their whole mind and heart in the land of their captivity where they were taken captive, and when they pray in the direction of their land that You gave their ancestors, and the city You have chosen, and toward the temple I have built for Your name,  39 may You hear their prayer and petitions in heaven, Your dwelling place, and uphold their cause.  May You forgive Your people who sinned against You.


Have you ever done something and then said, “Why in the world did I do that? Or, “I should have known better than that! I have. Many times!

I remember deciding I would cut and hang some crown molding in our house. I had done all the prep work–I had bought the molding, measured the lengths, set up the saw–In my mind, I had really thought this project through. I had even watched some DIY videos on Youtube so I would be thoroughly prepared for this simple little job.

When it came time to cut the wood, I messed it up terribly. I could not remember which way to turn the wood so the saw would cut the necessary angle on the proper side. I’m sorry to admit that I tried several times and FAILED EVERY TIME! I was embarrassed, and a little angry that I had ruined the pieces of molding I had paid good money for.

I went back to the store to buy more wood when the employee at the lumber yard asked, “Weren’t you just here?” I sheepishly admitted that I had been there earlier and shared with him what I had done, and how frustrated I was that I could not do the job properly. He chuckled and shared with me that I was not alone; that this simple job was messed up by most of the amateurs who tried to do it. He said, “Let me show you a simple trick that will enable you to make the proper cut EVERY TIME! He continued, “Anyone, with a little common sense can do it!” He had more faith than I did!

In dedicating the temple, Solomon prayed and asked God to have mercy on the people. He said, “When they come to their senses…” and “When they return to you with their whole mind and heart…may you hear their prayer…may You forgive Your people…”

How many times have you messed up? You may be dealing with problems right now that are a direct result of poor choices on your part. I have good news to bring! God will always forgive and help those who come to their senses! John wrote, (1 John 2:1 HCSB) 1 My little children, I am writing you these things so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father — Jesus Christ the Righteous One.

That is very good news!


PRAYER: Lord, please be patient with me as I bring my thoughts back in to proper alignment with your will. Many times, I’ve been guilty of not using common sense. But, with Your help I will come to my senses so that I can be forgiven and restored. Amen!