Thursday, July 20, 2017

I Admit I'm Offended . . . Now What?

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I admit it. I’m offended.

Honesty isn’t always pretty, is it? 

There’s a sizeable situation in my life where I recently felt betrayed by those I trusted. In truth, I was misled. I can think of more than a dozen situations where opportunities to speak honestly and share true feelings were neglected – ignored, even. As a result, I invested a bundle of heart, effort, time, and even money into a cause that I now know wasn’t real.

Anger and bitterness reared their ugly heads and I made little attempt to temper their power. While the people involved asked for grace, my heart cried, “Yes, there’s grace, but there is still a cost associated with your actions. People were hurt. Lives were impacted.”

While I offered forgiveness, my heart still hurt. I said, “Yes, let’s move forward instead of staying stuck in the past,” while hoping, deep down, that they’d somehow acknowledge consequences, see the big picture, and count the cost. Since I didn’t see that happening, I felt rather justified in my offense. 

Enter the slippery slope of subtle sin.

Have you ever been there?

Now What?

I love how the Lord lavishes His love on us, even when we miss the mark. In His immeasurable love, He moves in our hearts, minds, and circumstances to turn us back toward His ways. As it’s often said, God loves us right where we are, and loves us too much to allow us to stay there.

Through a remarkable book I’m reading, God grabbed my attention. Using a graphic illustration by the author, God showed me that He cares when I feel betrayed, unvalued, and offended.  (See Psalm 56:8, 1 Peter 5:7).

The Holy Spirit also reminded me that in the blink of an eye, my feelings can become sin and separate me from the Lord.

When do feelings become sin?

When I harbor negative thoughts.

When I feed and protect them.

When I allow them to multiply within my heart and mind.

When I feel justified in them.

Yep. I did all those things. Every. Single. One.

Little by little, the Lord captured my attention and revealed the fleshly nature of my attitude.

A Facebook friend shared some counsel that was actually intended for someone else but resonated in my heart. Part of her advice was this: “We have to learn to rely on the Lord and on His Word, not on our feelings.”

Wow. What incredible wisdom. Because our hearts are deceitful above all else (Jeremiah 17:9) and our feelings can’t be trusted, we must rely on the truth of God’s Word.

I took my friend’s words to heart and began to seek the Scriptures considering the offense I carried. Here are 5 Bible verses that helped reframe my attitude: 

  • A person’s insight gives him patience, and his virtue is to overlook an offense (Proverbs 19:11).

  • Do not take revenge or bear a grudge against members of your community, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am Yahweh (Leviticus 19:18).

  • Walk in the calling you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, accepting one another in love, diligently keeping the unity of the Spirit with the peace that binds us (Ephesians 4:1-3).

  • Therefore, be imitators of God, as dearly loved children. And walk in love as the Messiah also loved us and gave Himself for us, a sacrificial and fragrant offering to God (Ephesians 5:1-2).

  • When He (Jesus) was reviled, He did not revile in return; when He was suffering, He did not threaten but entrusted Himself to the One who judges justly (1 Peter 2:23).

Putting God’s truth into action is far different from reading it on a page so I’ll try to express my takeaways:

In light of eternity, the events over which I feel offended are as nothing. They don’t feel as nothing right now, in fact, they hurt like heck. But I believe that even 1 year from now, God will have shown me more of His plan and I’ll see that I’ve grown because of this experience. I can trust that He means to show me His glory and reveal His good plan.

I’m learning to love my neighbor. This has been a long journey for me, but God’s Word showed me that this is an opportunity for spiritual growth, specifically in loving others. I am to practice His presence and respond as He directs to administer His love to those around me – even those with whom I’m angry. 

When I hold a grudge and harbor an offense, I am not walking in my calling with humility, gentleness, and patience. My attitude will hinder not only my relationship with God (by becoming sin) but will diminish the effect of my service to Him. (Ministry is far too much work to let a rotten attitude weaken the effort!)

I am to be an imitator of God and walk in the love of Christ. When Jesus was scorned, ridiculed, judged, falsely accused, and crucified, He did not seek revenge. He did not hold an offense. His words were, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).   

My situation pales in comparison. If Jesus can walk with such dignity and grace, I trust that He equips me to do the same. I’ll lean upon His guidance for my next steps and for the attitude of my heart.

Today I declare freedom from the bondage of my offense. I say sayonara to sin through my grudge, adios to attitudes that mask my joy. I embrace God’s heart and allow His love to flow through me. It continues to require His supernatural power, but He has plenty of that. I trust His ways and rely on His truth rather than my feelings.  

Your Turn

Will you join me in this freedom? 

Is there a grudge that you need to release and surrender to God?

Which of the Bible verses listed most touched your heart? How will you apply God’s truth to your life?

Be strengthened today, by His Word,
Psalm 119:28

For your reading pleasure:

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Reflecting on the Trinity

This is a guest post by Debbie Andrews

This post contains affiliate links, meaning that 
I receive a small commission for products and services that you may purchase. 
This involves no extra cost to you and supports the ministry of this blog. 

Today my study led me to really meditate on each part of the Trinity.  While studying each member of the Trinity, a prayer came from my lips to our Heavenly Father.  Sharing my thoughts may help you personalize God, our Creator, Jesus, our Savior and the Holy Spirit, our Counselor.

God – Our Creator

Genesis 1:1 says “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Throughout all of the events of creation, the Bible says, “And God saw that it was good.”   Verse 31 says “God saw all that He had made, and it was very good.”   

Ever enjoyed a “very good” meal, a “very good” vacation, a “very good” story?  “Very good”, in my opinion, takes on a whole new meaning when I read that “God saw that it was very good.”  If His conclusion was that all he had made was “very good”, then it must be the best of the best.  I want all that I do to be “very good”.

In Genesis 2:1 we read “Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array.”  As I thought about “vast array” many mental images came to mind that were beautiful, breath-taking, beyond pretty - - “Very good”.

So here was my prayer after I meditated on God, the Creator.

            “Lord, some things You created may be more colorful, more grandiose, or more impactive to me.  Yet, Father, You created me in such a way that I can see, smell, taste feel, and hear all the beauty You created.  That is such a blessing and I praise You for Your creation.”  Creator, I agree it is “very good”.

Jesus  – Our Savior

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”  John 14:6 

“ . . . Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners . . .”  I Timothy 1:15

As I think about a savior, words like rescuer, liberator, deliverer come to mind.  Anyone who saves someone from danger rescues us or delivers us.  As Christians, our danger is “sin” and our Savior is Jesus who delivers us from sin and its consequences.  When we accept Him as our Savior (someone who saves us from sin), we are redeemed and reclaimed.

After thinking on this very exciting part of the Trinity, I prayed:

            “Lord, I have been blessed in my life with many heroes who have protected me and saved me from many situations.  As a child, I had loving, caring parents, family and teachers who poured into my life so I would be safe in this world.  As an adult, I have a loving, hard-working husband, grown children and their families, as well as many friends who constantly assist me in everyday challenges where I need protection.  Generally, I’ve lived a safe life.  However, no one can deliver me from sin and its consequences except my Jesus.  Your entire purpose for coming to this world was to save sinners like me.  (I Timothy 1:15)   Lord, Peter says that You want me and everyone else to be rescued from the danger of sin.  In 2 Peter 3:9, he says,  “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness.  Instead, He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”  I’m so thankful that You want to be my Savior, my rescuer, my deliverer, my liberator.  Thank you, Jesus!

Holy Spirit – Our Comforter

A very familiar verse is Acts 2:38 where Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of our sins.  And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

If I have a Creator (God) and a Savior (Jesus) why is the Holy Spirit necessary?  For many years of my Christian life, I did not understand the Holy Spirit.  Jesus said in John 16:7-11, “But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away.  Unless I go away the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment; about sin, because people do not believe in me, about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer, and about judgment, because the prince of this world stands condemned.”   In verse 13, he goes on to say, “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth.”

In scripture, the Holy Spirit is often referred to as Counselor, Spirit of Truth, or Advocate.  Hear my prayer to God about the Holy Spirit:

            “Lord, I have had many experiences in my life where my closest friends, co-workers, and family members have promised to be truthful, yet have led me astray.  And I have often misrepresented things to people I love and care very much about.  Even with good friends and family members, I’m still in need of a perfect advocate and counselor who is always with me and speaks truth to me. So, Lord, thank you that Jesus paid the price for my salvation.  In doing so, he left this earth and is sitting at your right hand.  But when he left, he promised to send me an Advocate, a Counselor, a Comforter who would ALWAYS tell me the truth and lead me into truth.  I love being filled with the Holy Spirit and knowing that in all situations he will guide me where You want me to go.

So, are you like I was?  Do you have an intimate relationship with God, our Creator and Jesus, our Savior, but have shied away from embracing the Holy Spirit?  After reading Robert Morris’ book “The God I Never Knew”, I now have a real friendship with the Holy Spirit and he has changed my life. 

Back to my study on the Trinity, it was wonderful and I ended it with this praise to God in this very simple prayer.

            Thank you, Creator (God) for creating this beautiful world I get to live in.  Thank you for creating me with a thirst for truth and a desire to accept my Savior (Jesus) who rescued me from sin.  And thank you for giving me someone who is my personal Advocate (Holy Spirit) who will never leave me.  I want to be a light to all I meet throughout every single day I’m alive.  Father, prayers with my grandchildren often end with “we love you, God, we love you, Jesus, and we love you, Holy Spirit.  In Jesus name, Amen.”

Debbie Andrews and her husband, Charlie own and operate a quaint hotel in the small town of Wallace, Nebraska. Their 4 children chose wonderful mates who have blessed them with 8 fun grandchildren. Her heart is full of love for the Lord and the family He has given her. Teaching, scrapbooking, canning, and sewing are talents God has given to Debbie to share with others.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

3 Beautiful Traits of a Life Fully Surrendered to God

This post contains affiliate links, meaning that 
I receive a small commission for products and services that you may purchase. 
This involves no extra cost to you and supports the ministry of this blog. 

The words seemed to roll off her tongue in a surprisingly easy fashion. “I’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer.”

Our phone conversation took a sudden turn at that point. “It’s just stage 1,” she went on. “I’m scheduled for a lumpectomy.”

As I gave my commiseration for such dreadful news, her next comment both blessed and amazed me.

“In some odd way, I see this as a gift. Since God has allowed it, it’s good.” Her voice was tender and heartfelt, and I realized I was speaking to a woman fully surrendered to God’s will.

Our conversation lasted just a few brief minutes, but I walked away with a lifetime of inspiration. I learned 3 beautiful traits of a life fully surrendered to God:

1)    Full surrender means recognizing and embracing God’s sovereignty. 

My new friend didn’t see her cancel as evil. She didn’t cry out, “I don’t deserve this.” Instead, she viewed the situation from a Kingdom perspective and trusted that if God allowed it to happen, He would bring good through it.

Yours, LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the splendor and the majesty, for everything in the heavens and on earth belongs to You. Yours, LORD, is the kingdom, and you are exalted as head over all. Riches and honor come from You and You are the ruler of everything. Power and might are in Your hand, and it is in Your hand to make great and to give strength to all.
1 Chronicles 29:11-12 (HCSB)

We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose.
Romans 8:28 (HCSB)

2)    Full surrender means thinking of others first.

My sister in Christ didn’t mention her own struggle once during our conversation. Instead, she expressed concern for those in her life who didn’t know Christ, specifically a co-worker and two of her brothers. She held great hope that through this situation and the faith to which she held fast, she could shine the light of Jesus for others to see.

In humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look out not only for his own interests but also for the interests of others. 
Philippians 2:3-4 (HCSB)

For the entire law is fulfilled in one statement: Love your neighbor as yourself.
Galatians 5:14 (HCSB)

3)    Full surrender means allowing God’s perfect love to cast out fear.

I perceived no measure of fear in her. She leaned on the Lord for strength and trusted Him for protection. As she conveyed, her biggest concern was for her grandchildren who had recently lost two important people to cancer. In explaining her own situation to them, she expressed great confidence in her recovery and in drawing strength from God.

When I am afraid, I will trust in You. In God whose word I praise, in God I trust. I will not fear.
Psalm 56:3-4 (HCSB)

Do not fear for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will hold on to you with my righteous right hand.
Isaiah 41:10 (HCSB)

There is a saying that I am about to badly misquote: 

A measure of a man is the behavior that manifests when he is squeezed by the pressures of adversity.

So true. When pressures hit, what behaviors, words, actions, and attitudes come out? It’s an honest representation of what’s inside of us.

As we finished our conversation I couldn’t help thinking, “I want to be like her.” When I am squeezed by the pressures of life, I want nothing but Jesus to come out of me.

By His grace, may you and I shine brightly for His Kingdom – through everything that comes our way. In Jesus’ name.

(Images from ChristianPics.)

Your Turn:

What additional traits do you see in a life fully surrendered to God?

This level of faith is not often seen in our present culture. What steps can we take to grow our own faith to such a steadfast level of strength?

Please leave a comment below or join the conversation on Facebook or Twitter. Shares are awfully nice, too!  

Be Strengthened Today, By His Word
Psalm 119:28