The Sting of a Guilty Conscience

Have you ever thought God might be telling you something you did was wrong? Yes, He can do this, and it’s usually through a guilty conscience. It might not even be through something you did. It might be through an attitude or a thought you had towards someone else and what they did to you. Jesus wants us to love each other and to forgive each other when bad things happen.

Forgiveness is hard though. It’s hard to ask for forgiveness, and it’s hard to forgive what has been done to us. But I will say it again. God wants us to forgive, and Jesus spoke of it often. Matthew 6:14 says, “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.”  Another Scripture that speaks of this is from Romans 12:17-19. “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge, I will repay,” says the Lord.”  Most notably, there is one very obvious reason why we should forgive. Jesus forgave all of us.

So, why don’t we forgive or ask for forgiveness? I believe there are two reasons. The first is pride. We don’t want people to know we have messed up. I still do this, even with all I have learned in the past two years about the imperfect person that I am. None of us are perfect–only Jesus is. As my pastor likes to say, “We are all dirtbags.” Pride then shouldn’t matter in asking for forgiveness, right? No, it still does.

The second reason we have a problem forgiving is because we are hurt over what has happened. While we are still in this world, we can experience pain as well as joy. Of course, pain hurts more than joy, and we, in our human frailty, have a harder time dealing with pain.

How does that change? How can we forgive and live in the community God wants us to as believers? We need to rely on Jesus for the strength to forgive and to ask for forgiveness. We cannot do it by ourselves no matter how much we might want to. And once we have, we will be back in fellowship with our amazing Lord and Savior!

God’s blessings on you today!

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God is Able

Jude 1:24

“All glory to God, who is able to keep you from falling away and will bring you with great joy into his glorious presence without a single fault.”

God is able….when a child is not doing well in school. God is able….when we get a flat tire. God is able….when a friend has cancer. God is able….when a friend is heartbroken over a situation with her sister. God is able….when my husband is ill. God is able….when a world is hurting. Why do Christians have a hard time believing that? I have some ideas, but they will bend and prick the conscience of every person who claims Christ as they did for me yesterday.

First, we don’t believe in a big enough God. Sure, we might pray for the big things, but God hears all prayers even from hearts who ache for reconciliation and from hearts who want to do things for God, but lack courage to do so. I wish there was a simple answer for this, but I think the best answer is to stay on our knees in prayer. Praying for faith, praying for belief, praying that God today is still as able as He was all those years ago when a little baby boy was born in the tiny town of Bethlehem.

The second idea I had is one that is a common theme, sad to say, among many Christians including myself. God cannot demonstrate He is able because we don’t think we deserve it. I started this blog because of what I have learned about grace, and grace, first and foremost, means we do deserve it. Ephesians 2:8-9, my theme verses for the blog, state, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God not by works, so that no one can boast.” God sent the gift of His son for all of us. He paid the price so we wouldn’t have to.

And finally, we pick our burdens back up after we think we’ve given them to God. God can’t demonstrate He is able if we’re still holding onto our burdens–the small ones and the big ones. So, my prayer for you and for myself is that our fragile humanity can get out-of-the-way and let God demonstrate He is able!

God’s blessings on you all today!

Security

Psalm 37:23-24

“The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand.”

Security. Reading these verses gives me such security. Even when I stumble, God has me by the hand. I used to think I had to be perfect. When I accepted Christ as my Savior, I thought I would never do anything else wrong. I understand now that belief was the farthest thing from the truth. Those who become Christians will still sin. They still have a human nature that won’t be gone until Christ comes back. What does happen is that Jesus changes hearts. He changes our hearts to become more like Him, to make us not want to do the things we did before. Not because we are afraid of breaking a law or losing our salvation. But, because we’ve accepted Jesus’ love and let it permeate our hearts to the point where we want to share it with everyone around us.  To be that secure in something where we want to let it go to everyone around us is the true definition of security to me and what God truly wants for those of us who profess faith in Him.

God’s blessings on you all today!

Keeping Our Eyes on Jesus

In recent weeks, God has been generous in giving me a word when I’ve asked for one like He did a little while ago. I read Hebrews 12:1-2, and words just started flowing into my head. First, here is that Scripture.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us , fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

This is what it takes to be successful in living life in community and ministering in Jesus’ name. Keeping our eyes on Jesus. Not being wedded  to a specific format in how it’s supposed to happen. Listening to His call and doing what He asks of you even if that means changing things in mid-stream or not participating in one thing because God has called you to do another. It means looking to Jesus, even when you are tired, even when you feel like you’re at the end of your rope, even when you’re facing difficulties of one kind or another in this world. Because, you see, for those of us who are Christians, this world is not our final destination. Our final destination is in heaven with our Lord and Savior which means our time here in this world is finite. Jesus wants us going about His business and doing what He has called us to do.

God has put this message on my mind and heart because He has called me to be a leader. I’m starting to get some glimmers of what that means. It means we need to be flexible. Flexibility is the key. Not in how we love people in Jesus’ name, but in the ways we reach people in Jesus’ name. There might be things we do for a season and then stop or things we do one way and then decide to do differently. There’s nothing wrong with that as long as we are keeping our hearts and minds fixed on Jesus and on His call through prayer and not focusing on what we ourselves want or are comfortable with.  I truly believe that is the only way we will win the lost to Jesus.

God’s blessings on you all today!

The Praying Church

In my last post, I talked about how God had blessed my family in the last several weeks.  It seems the blessings have also come in the way of blog topics for me. This topic comes out of a discussion I was in last night during a women’s Bible study I attend. Among this group of women, my sisters in Christ, there is a longing to see more collective prayer time in our church. More time on our knees praying for needs, praying for the will of God to be done, praying for our community and our world.

When did that stop? Not just in my church, of course, but in the collective church of today. Yes, there are some churches that are very good about prayer, but, for the most part, I believe the church of today does not understand the true power of prayer. There are many people more theologically literate than me that could explain this better. This is my take on it though. One reason that churches might be distracted from prayer is the number of distractions in our world today. They have multiplied exponentially from even when I was a young person. (though my son does say I’m old) Our society tells us that there are things we all need to be doing or should want to be doing, and if a person, a Christian, is not careful, these messages can drown out what God is telling us we need to do.

Another reason could be that we don’t understand how to pray. Prayer is just a conversation with God, but so many people don’t understand this. They believe that God wants to hear elaborate words, that our prayers need to be said a certain way.  It’s not the case at all. Now, I haven’t always understood that myself. Don’t get me wrong. I used to think you had to pray like that to get God to notice you.  But, I don’t think that way anymore. My relationship with God, especially over the last two years, has become more personal, more rooted, and that has helped me understand what prayer is supposed to be.

Prayer needs, at times, can also be overwhelming. There can be so many things to pray for.  So many needs. So many things to do to assist with those needs. But, if those needs aren’t bathed in prayer first, they might be met, but they won’t be met the way God wants them to be met.

So, what can be done to become more of a praying church? I think we need to realize that we, as Christians, need to live in community. We need to trust each other, and we need to trust that the wounds we have won’t be judged by our Christian brothers and sisters. I know that is a hard one. I could tell you of the many times I have been wounded in the past because I was judged by someone who claimed Christ as Savior. It has brought me to a true understanding now though of how we are not supposed to judge each other. Of how we are supposed to love others in Jesus’ name no matter how they have been wounded.

We also need to be willing to change. If we are not relating to someone on their level, if we are only loving someone in a way that’s familiar to us because we don’t want to love differently, they will never see Jesus in us, and that would be the saddest thing of all.

And finally, we need to remember God gave us prayer for a reason. Acts 1:14 says, “They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.”  Powerful things happened in Jesus’ name during the time of Acts. There’s no reason they can’t happen now if we, as Christians, would only recognize the power of prayer.

God’s blessings on you today!

 

Acting on What I Believe – A Challenge

In all the years I’ve been a professed Christian, I’ve never really thought about this until the last few weeks – how action translates what I believe into something beautiful. Into something Jesus wants to see from all who claim belief in Him.

I know we all have been in our churches and heard sermons on stewardship. Yes, giving money is not the only thing we can do in Jesus’ name, not the only action, but it’s the one I’m going to talk about today. Now, back to those sermons. Have you rolled your eyes at least once when you’ve heard those sermons? I will admit it. I have. It seems like all the yearly pleas for money have made us immune to what the money is really needed for. Do we really want to win our world for Christ? Or is church and what we do at church just something to check off our list and not even the most important part of our list? I don’t want church or my faith to be something to check off a list.  I want my life and my money to show what I really believe in. I want people to see Jesus in me. I might not be able to give as much money as someone else, but, from what I can give, money, as well as time, I want people to see  what my priorities are.  And my very first priority is my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

I write this today because today is Commitment Sunday at my church for our 2015 budget. And it is the very first time my heart is in tune with my actions. I want to “touch God’s heart with a renewed sense of generosity”.  God has tremendously blessed my family in the last few weeks, and I want to turn that around and bless others. I hope my church family joins me.  But, more than that, more than just money, I hope that all of you who are Christians will love people in Jesus’ name today.

God’s blessings on all of you!

When You Can’t Feel God

This was the title of my devotion this morning, and after I had read it, I realized I had something to say about the topic. There have been many times in the last two months when I haven’t felt God’s presence, and they usually have been when I’ve been at my lowest and when I’ve been in the most pain. I wouldn’t wish the struggle my family has gone through on anyone.

But now that my family is on the other side of this struggle, I’ve realized a few things. The very first and most important of these things is that I’ve figured out what true faith is. It’s going through something when you don’t know what’s going to be at the other end. Having faith in God no matter what happens. This is a hard thing. Here is the definition of faith. “a belief that is not based on proof or a confidence and trust in a person, thing, deity, view, or in the doctrines or teachings of a religion.”  It’s easy to say you have faith in God, well, maybe not easy when you first come to faith. But, once you have faith, it’s easier to say you have it when you feel God’s presence. I believe having faith is the hardest though when you can’t feel His presence. When you’re at the bottom of the pit or in the middle of the desert. It’s important to have Christian brothers and sisters when you’re at those places. They are the people God uses to carry you so you will know He is there. I’m so lucky to have people like that in my life.

Another thing I’ve realized is that God already knows what’s going to happen at the end of the struggle. He’s already there forming and shaping me into the person He wants me to be. There have been things I’ve been uncomfortable doing and people I’ve been uncomfortable in talking with in regards to my faith. I’m starting to believe God has had me go through this struggle so I won’t be inflexible and resistant to change. I want people to see Jesus in me and then to ask what is different. It’s not me that’s going to change the little corner of the world I’m in.  It’s Jesus in me that’s going to change my little corner, and that’s the most sincere desire of my heart.

I leave you with this. There is a song Casting Crowns sings that’s called Already There. It reflects what has happened in my life over the last few weeks. Here are the lyrics.

 

“From where I’m standing
Lord it’s so hard for me to see
Where this is going
And where You’re leading me
I wish I knew how
All my fears and all my questions
Are gonna play out
In a world I can’t controlOh, oh

When I’m lost in the mystery
To You my future is a memory
Cause You’re already there
You’re already there
Standing at the end of my life
Waiting on the other side
And You’re already there
You’re already there

Oh, oh, oh, oh

From where You’re standing
Lord, You see a grand design
That You imagined
When You breathed me into life
And all the chaos
Comes together in Your hands
Like a masterpiece
Of Your picture perfect plan
When I’m lost in the mystery
To You my future is a memory
Cause You’re already there
You’re already there
Standing at the end of my life
Waiting on the other side
And You’re already there
You’re already there

One day I’ll stand before You
And look back on the life I’ve lived
I can’t wait to enjoy the view
And see how all the pieces fit

One day I’ll stand before You
And look back on the life I’ve lived
Cause You’re already there
You’re already there
When I’m lost in the mystery
To You my future is a memory
Cause You’re already there
You’re already there
Standing at the end of my life
Waiting on the other side
And You’re already there
You’re already there

You are already there”

God’s blessings on you all today!