Tag Archives: Jesus

Forgiveness

Trying another one of the prompts from bibleconnectionnews.com today as part of my challenge. This one promises to be difficult because it involves something that’s hard for me and, more than likely, hard for the rest of us too.

First, here’s the prompt. “Forgiveness. Is it easy or hard? That likely depends on whether you are the one doing the forgiving or receiving it. Why do you think forgiving someone can be so difficult? Who do you need to forgive? When have you received the incredible gift of forgiveness?”

I think forgiveness is hard, but I believe what it really depends on is what side of the forgiveness table you are on. Last week, I wrote about justice and grace, https://alisarussell.wordpress.com/2017/11/14/justice-and-grace/, and how we like it when some of the definitions of grace are extended our way, but not when we need to extend them to others. I believe the same thing applies with forgiveness. It’s easy to be the gracious one when extending forgiveness (most of the time). It puts us in a “higher” position than the one doing the asking and gives us a level of “control” over the process. We can say yes. We can say no. But, we have “control”, sometimes more “control” than what God wants us to have.

The hard thing, for me, is having to ask for forgiveness. It means admitting I’ve done something wrong. It means I have to let loose of some of the “control” I supposedly have over my life. It means letting someone in past the shields I have put up and letting them see the bad person I have been. It means being true and authentic when I have no reason to be true and authentic or when I don’t want to be. It’s easier to just avoid the situation and pretend like nothing’s wrong.

But, God doesn’t want us to do that. He wants us to exhibit the same grace and forgiveness that Jesus did. He wants us to ask for it and to extend it. He wants us to be our true and authentic selves as we live in community together. He wants us to live like we actually have Him in our hearts and let go of our “control.

There is also a misconception of what happens after forgiveness. Some people believe you have to let someone back in your life after you forgive them and since that might  not be a good idea, it brings up another reason to hesitate on the forgiveness front. No, God doesn’t want us to put ourselves in situations that are dangerous to us whether it be physical or something else. Forgiveness is more for us than for the other person in these situations. Actually, I believe it’s more for us in any situation. It’s bringing the peace of Jesus back into your life and releasing the hold Satan has on your heart and mind. It takes away anger and resentment and brings back the love that Jesus wants us to have for others.

We all have people we need to forgive, me included. I need to tell them I am sorry for avoiding the conflict between us and forgive them for things that have happened in the past. This is the part that’s really hard for me especially since I have never handled conflict well. I was taught from an early age to bury bad feelings and told I was too sensitive when I had them. This has carried into adulthood, and I have had a hard time giving myself permission to have bad feelings. Conflict has always been something to be avoided at all costs.

I would like to say I’ve gotten better at this in recent years, but I can only say I’ve worked on it. It has taken every ounce of courage I’ve had to address instances of conflict in my life, and for the most part, it hasn’t gone well. I would venture to say that other people also have problems with addressing conflict and asking for forgiveness. 🙂

But, I’ll keep trying, and the reason I’ll keep trying is my answer to the final question of this prompt. “When have you received the incredible gift of forgiveness?” I received it when Jesus, my Lord and Savior died on the cross for me. I didn’t deserve it and never will deserve it, but Jesus’ death and resurrection provided a way for me to be with God eternally. As it says in John 3:16-17, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” Because God gave me this gift of forgiveness, I need to turn around and give it to others like He has asked me to. May we all be willing to forgive!

God’s blessings on all of you today!

Advertisements

How Jesus Really Sees Us

I’m taking a break from the prompts today to explore this topic because, sometimes, I don’t think we, as believers, truly understand this. I know I don’t.

What do you do when you get up in the morning? Do you take a shower? Wash your hair? Ladies, do you put on make-up? Guys, do you shave? Do you make sure your clothes and hair look the best they can look before you walk out the door? If you do that, you are presenting your best face to the world. Who am I kidding? We all do that. We want the people in our world to see us in the best possible light.

It’s not in how we physically appear either. When we are around other people, we want the best parts of our character to be present so they will love us. We want to do good deeds, have good attitudes, and be seen praising God even if we don’t want to. In other words, we put our best front forward.

As all of us know though, our best front doesn’t stay good all of the time. We get mad. We’re sad about something. We’re difficult to get along with. We’re unreasonable. We’re demanding. It’s all a part of sin nature. And that doesn’t even count the deepest things we hide at the bottom of our souls. Things that don’t come out at all, ever, even on the pain of death. That’s what sin nature is.

Jesus knows everything though. What, you didn’t think He knew? 🙂 Yes, He knows everything, and He still loves you. He died on a cross for you.

Sometimes, though, I need words and imagery to come from another place. And, in this instance, how Jesus really sees me comes from the words of a song. One of my favorite songs, as a matter of fact. If you’ve ever been married or you have participated in a wedding, you’ll understand this. Everyone looks their best on their wedding day. It’s a moment of significance that, hopefully, will last for a lifetime. But, our sin nature still exists underneath all the finery. Jesus knows all the things we’ve done wrong and will do wrong. We should look like dirt to Him, but we don’t. That’s why I love the song “Wedding Day” by Casting Crowns. Even though the words fit a bride more than they do a groom, I believe all of us can take something away from this song. Jesus loves each and every one of us, and we appear perfect to Him though we are not because our sins are covered by the cross. I’m going to quote the verses of this song so you can see what I mean. May we all understand how Jesus really sees us today!

“Wedding Day” by Casting Crowns

There’s a stirring in the throne room
And all creation holds it’s breath
Waiting now to see the bride groom
Wondering how the bride will dress
And she wears white
And she knows that she’s undeserving
She bears the shame of history
With this worn and weary maiden
Is not the bride that he sees
And she wears white, head to toe
But only he could make it so

When someone dries your tears
When someone wins your heart
And says you’re beautiful
When you don’t know you are
And all you’ve longed to see
Is written on his face
When love has come and finally set you free
On that wedding day
On that wedding day

She has danced in golden castles
And she has crawled through beggar’s dust
But today she stands before him
And she wears his righteousness
And she will be who he adores
And this is what he made her for

When someone dries your tears
When someone wins your heart
And says your beautiful
When you don’t know you are
And all you’ve longed to see
Is written on his face
When love has come and finally set you free
On that wedding day
On that wedding day

When the hand that bears the only scars
And heaven touch her face
And the last tears she’ll ever cry
Are finally wiped away
And the clouds roll back as he takes her hand
And walks her through the gates
Forever we will reign

When someone dries your tears
When someone wins your heart
And says your beautiful
When you don’t know you are
And all you’ve longed to see
Is written on his face
When love has come and finally set you free
On that wedding day
On that wedding day”

I am so glad my Lord and Savior sees me with the cover of the cross. May God bless you all today!

My Mess

Time to write a post about another one of the journaling prompts. I wasn’t sure how to interpret this prompt or even if I wanted to write about it until just now so my thoughts are going to be all over the place. This is my only warning. 🙂

First, the prompt. “God is like a potter, and we are like the clay. He molds us as he wills. What process does clay have to go through before it can be turned into a masterpiece? In what areas of your life do you feel God is especially hard at work right now?”

When I was younger, I had experience with many art mediums such as crayons, markers, chalk, and clay. I never was intrigued enough or thought I was good enough to do anything with art. I preferred to paint pictures with my words. But, I remember how cool the clay felt in my hands and how neat it was to be able to shape it into anything I wanted. The best part was when I got the finished piece back from the kiln, and I had something pretty to take home.

I wonder if that’s how God feels when He is forming us. It says in Scripture that we are the work of God’s hand specifically in Isaiah 64:8. “Yet you, Lord are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter, we are all the work of your hand.” I used to think these verses were referring to when He was forming us in our mothers’ wombs. But, what if it means the ways He has formed us over our lives? The experiences–both good and bad. The people He has brought into our lives. Does Jesus get excited when we finally get something He is trying to teach us, and He is able to form another piece of our clay? Does God cry when we experience deep joy in Him despite our sorrow? Is there delight in the way He has formed us? Does He tells the angels ‘Look at that one. He’s going to be perfect when I bring him home.’?

None of us know, and we won’t know until we get to heaven. But, I can’t help but think that He speaks sweet words of love over us every time He forms the clay differently. Because sometimes it hurts to go in a different direction. I understand this now because I remember what I used to do with the clay. I would pull it and stretch it to make it like the shape I wanted. I didn’t think of my pulling and stretching the clay as hurting it because the clay wasn’t a person. It was just something I used in art class.

We are people though, and sometimes life and our mess hurts. It makes us think we can’t be used by God. That’s not true although I am still learning that for myself. The imagery of the kiln helps me to process this. God is preparing me to be perfect (covered by Jesus and in His eyes) when He brings me home. And boy, that will be a wonderful day, when I’m with my Lord and Savior.

I’ve spoken of how clay is prepared and how I think God delights in the preparation of how He wants to bring us home. What I haven’t spoken of is the second part of the prompt. In what areas of my life do I think God is especially hard at work?

I think God is doing His best to help me realize I’m loved by other people. (besides my family) Because, you see, I fall short in that area. I don’t think I deserve to be loved because of my mess. I know God loves me. He sent His Son Jesus to die on the cross for me. But, I have a hard time thinking anyone else does.

We come together on Sundays and Wednesdays, and we hide our true selves from each other. We isolate ourselves which makes it much easier for Satan to work. At least, I do anyway. Why don’t we have the courage to say “I love you.” to the people around us? Is it because of the connotations of the word? Is it because of the mess we have deep down inside that we don’t want to admit to anyone? Is it because of the energy we use trying to maintain our shields?

I’ve had a lot of mess in my life during the last couple of weeks. Mess I didn’t think deemed me worthy of being able to talk to anyone else. I begged God to give me courage, but Satan had my mouth locked up tight. I was finally able to reach past the mess, hurt, and pain to talk to someone the other night, and I’m so glad I did. Through that conversation and others, I have realized we are going to love each other imperfectly until Jesus comes. We are going to let each other down, and we’re going to get mad and tired and grumpy and whatever other bad emotions you can think of. But, use the words please. Use the words “I love you.” in conversations with your families and friends. Let them know that despite their mess you love them and want what’s best for them. Who knows? You might give someone the courage to walk back to Jesus.

God’s blessings on you all today!

A Different Kind of Brokenness

I would hope by this time that all of us who are professing believers would know that we are broken; covered by God’s grace and what Jesus did for us on the cross. There is not one of us who hasn’t fallen short. In fact, the only being that has lived a perfect life on this earth is Jesus Christ who lived, died on the cross, and was resurrected so He could save us from judgment for our sins. I know this and am thankful to God every single day for the grace He has exhibited towards me.

But, for anyone who has read this blog or anything I have written, for that matter, you know I have a penchant to wonder. My wonderings are what brought me to today’s post.

We all know what is broken inside of us. We know our weaknesses, and the sins we are most likely to commit. We know the best ways to push Jesus out and to pretend that what we are about to do is okay with Him. We know the best ways to hide from Him. All of this is how I know I’m broken.

I wonder though. I wonder why people think it’s okay to be consistently late to work. I wonder why people speed on the highway. I wonder why people throw trash out of their cars. I wonder why people cheat on their taxes. I wonder why people try to take advantage of other people. I wonder why people seem to be so oblivious sometimes. It can make me crazy if I let it.

Now, I’m not trying to set myself up to judge other people. Far from it. I know judging other people is wrong, and God says not to do it so I won’t. But, I still wonder why people do things that are so obviously wrong to me. Why do people take drugs? Why do people steal? Why do people take advantage of others? Why do people hurt other people?

The very simple answer to this would be because of sin or someone’s sin nature. But, I want to go beyond that as suggested by today’s title. I know I’m broken, but there are other kinds of brokenness so foreign to me that I have a hard time seeing into them. Let me explain. During the times my husband has been out of work over the last couple of years, we didn’t have a lot of money coming in. In fact, it was by God’s grace that we survived each time of unemployment. During that time though, the idea of stealing money never entered our minds. Why not, you ask? Well, because stealing is wrong. We didn’t want to do something that was wrong although we could have used the money.

There are others though who wouldn’t have blinked an eye. They would have stolen money because they needed it, and they wouldn’t have cared who it hurt. Those thoughts are foreign to me. I have a hard time understanding them. But, I wanted to understand, and God gave me the words. These people have a different kind of brokenness–from their life experiences and life choices. If these are experiences and choices I have never faced, why would I understand them? The answer is a no-brainer. I wouldn’t.

God still calls us to love them though as it says in Luke 10:27. “He answered, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'”

And before we get caught up in what neighbor means, Leviticus 19:34 says it plainly. “The foreigners residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.”

So, we are called to love everyone despite how foreign their brokenness is to you and to me. We are called to love strippers like my friend in Oregon does. We are called to love the person who gives us difficulties at work. We are called to love the person who might try to take advantage of us. We are called to love the person whose mindset and brokenness might be completely different from ours. We are called to love period! I saw a quote in my email earlier that shows what this love could do if the church truly expressed it. It is not a specifically Christian quote, but I think it demonstrates how Jesus wants His church to love. From Barbara DeAngelis: “Love is a force more formidable than any other. It is invisible–it cannot be seen or measured, yet it is powerful enough to transform you in a moment, and offer you more joy than any material possession could.” May we love like Jesus would have us love!

God’s blessings on you all today!

 

Being a Caregiver

I debated about this title when I started this post, and I might change it before finishing, but right now, the title will stay. What image comes to mind when you read the words? For most of us, these words entail someone who is taking care of someone who is no longer able to work. Someone who has one of a myriad of diseases which renders them incapable of living a life we would consider “normal”. Diseases like cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, dementia…the list goes on, but I think you get the point.

But, there’s another definition of caregiver. I’ve spoken of this before. It’s taking care of someone who has a chronic condition, but is still able to work. There are days when things are okay, and life is rocking along like it does for the people who have no concerns in this area. And then there are days when things are not okay. Days when a family member is not able to do something because he has given all he has to give. Days when he has to save his energy for what is absolutely necessary and nothing else. And those are the days that hurt–when I appear in public by myself and pretend like everything is okay when it’s not, or when I break down, and people are uncomfortable because I have broken down. I can’t win either way so sometimes, I don’t want to try. I stay at home licking my wounds until I get the courage to try again.

I know it’s confusing to people because of the days that are okay. Days when the family member can give. Days when the family member accepts requests that maybe are unwise, but he feels okay at that moment so he wants to do it. He wants to give instead of having to receive so I bite my tongue, and we walk along until the next crisis.

But, that doesn’t mean I’m okay. The concerns, the worries always lurk beneath the surface. I can’t prevent it. I don’t think anyone could. I must do a pretty good job of pretending though. The other night someone said I do a good job of being a caregiver. The look of disbelief must have shown on my face because she said it was a compliment. I mumbled my way through an answer thinking if she only knew…because there are many days I don’t manage well. Days I have to marshal my own energy reserves to meet the obligations of the next day. Days when I’m just tired and discouraged because something else has gone wrong.

When that happens, I do my best to go back to the well. The well of my Lord and Savior’s living water. The water that never gives out. His water gives me the courage to keep going, the courage to keep giving even when I don’t want to, and the courage to find joy in the little moments. He even gives me the courage to pretend nothing is wrong with me so I can give encouragement to someone else. God is good for that. Jesus, too. There are days when I hang onto God with all my might as I walk through the storms of life.

Depending on God doesn’t mean I don’t need encouragement from someone with a voice and arms. The church, in case you’re wondering. We were created to be the hands and feet of Jesus and the voices and arms too. There are people who have the gift of encouragement, and there are people who well, you can tell they’d rather be somewhere else when you’re talking with them. We all fail in this area, including me. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try though because even if we do encourage imperfectly, it is the start of what Jesus wants us to do as believers while we are still in this world. He doesn’t want us to type a Facebook status in support of something. He wants us to Be His hands; Be His feet; Be His voice; and Be His arms. In other words, Be Jesus to a hurting world!

Praying God’s blessings on all of you today!

Giving it to God

How many ways have we tried to solve tough situations on our own? Going through a tough situation is against our nature so when it comes upon us, we do our best to get away from it as quickly as possible. We do such things as talk to the people involved and ask others for advice. We feel such emotions as worry, anxiety, and depression. We pray too, but we are mostly just consumed with what is going on. I’m sure all of us have had these same emotions and thoughts and sometimes, more than one at a time which can get confusing.

God doesn’t want our lives to be like this though. He wants us to leave our burdens at His feet and find rest as it says in Matthew 11:28-30. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Christ’s burden–I like that better than the burden of feeling left out because there was no room in the car or the burden of trying to convince a family member that God loves them even when nothing about their situation changes, and they keep dealing with the same fears over and over again.

Earlier in this post, I wrote a list of the things people do and the way they feel in tough situations. One of those things is beneficial–something that God wants us to do along with releasing the burden to Him. Prayer. Talk to our Lord and Savior about anything and everything. He wants that deep relationship with us, but sadly, most of us just include prayer in a list of things to do in a tough situation and don’t believe there is power in prayer only offering up a superficial prayer, at most.

There is power in prayer though, and I’m starting to think God is wanting me to take it off of the list and depend on it alone.  Jesus says this in Mark 11:22-25. “‘Have faith in God,’ Jesus answered. ‘I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it and it will be yours. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive your sins.'”

Wow! The power in these verses. The power of the words can be heard when they are said out loud. I want that power in my life. Shouldn’t all of us who are believers want that power in their lives? Now, before anyone says they have prayed and prayed to God and nothing has happened, let me offer some disclaimers. I know I’m not going to get everything I want by praying, and I know for sure that money is not going to pour out of the sky in my direction. Everyone would be a Christian if those kind of “pie in the sky” prayers worked. 🙂

No, God wants our prayers to be honoring to Him. He wants out prayers to honor Him and to honor our faith in Him. He wants our prayers to be the “Even if” and the “Your will be done” kind of prayers. Those are the kind of prayers which have power.

Some of you might remember me speaking of the song “Even If” by Mercy Me several weeks ago, and I think the chorus of the song is the perfect way to end this post.

“I know You’re able, and I know You can

Save through the fire with Your mighty hand

But even if You don’t

My hope is You alone.”

My hope is in my Lord and Savior alone, and today, I give everything in my life to Him!”

 

Praying for God’s blessings on you all!

Healing in my Heart

Last week, I wrote about a new Bible study I was starting. A study which talks about rejection and how God can fill those empty places caused by rejection if we would just let Him. “Let go and let God.” We’ve heard these words; we’ve seen these words written down, but do we really practice them? Like I said last week, I fail at practicing them a lot. They seem so simple, but they can be difficult in our Christian walk.

Something happened though as I was dealing with that difficult situation from last week, and I realized that, through it, God has already opened my heart for His healing to start pouring in. My open heart has made me more open to hearing His voice (through prayer and Scripture), to hearing the author of the Bible study as she imparts His truths, and to releasing any guilt I might be feeling for taking a step back. Keeping my eyes on Jesus and not on the world has been the best thing for me as I am listening for what He wants me to hear.

God has also met me with specific words about the situation I was dealing with, and this is where releasing guilt comes in. My Lord has given me many gifts, but dealing with preteen boys is not one of them. I could feel guilty about not doing my “part” at church to help out with them, but it is not my job to acknowledge and use gifts that God has given to other people. That’s between them and God.

I also had some other takeaways related to the Uninvited study. I’m not a popular person at church and won’t ever be the popular person at church. I’m not going to be close with everyone, but Jesus commands me to love everyone. (I’m still figuring out how that works.) Prayer is the most important thing we believers can do as we live out our lives here in this world. Making the effort in relationships is what God wants us to do even if it turns out badly. Pulling back for a season is ok too.

The previous paragraph is a hodgepodge of disparate thoughts, and one might wonder how they would work if a person is in an environment where they are experiencing continual rejection. One of these is covered in the Uninvited study. The session this week talked about going into a situation being filled by God as opposed to expecting to be filled by others. As I’ve studied Scripture and prayed, I have come to realize the truth of this statement. God is waiting to fill us. We only need to ask Him which I think, sadly, not a lot of us are doing these days.

I think the other thing though is a sad statement on all of us who are believers. We have all done our fair share of rejecting people–only seeing our differences and not seeing the things that are the same namely that we who are believers are brothers and sisters in Christ. Personally, if someone is in a church and experiencing continual rejection, I would question the salvation of those believers. Harsh words, yes. But, we all need to know the truth of what God wants from us. Rejecting others is a sin. He wants us to embrace our differences and our similarities as we live out our lives as one body.

It has been life changing and healing to be a part of this study so far. To have God’s healing grace moving in my life has helped me understand what He wants from me as a believer. I’m looking forward to what else He has to teach me through it.

God’s blessings on all of you today!