Nautical Naughtiness

“You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness.”

2 Peter 3:17

In my country, July 4th is a national holiday known as Independence Day.  It’s a day that is celebrated with parades, picnics, barbecues, beach days, boating and of course fireworks.  Everywhere you look American flags and  red, white and blue decorations adorn homes, streets, businesses and even people.  It’s a day the US celebrates becoming its own country, independent of another country’s governing.

In my family, we have a traditional Independence Day celebration.  It’s a small gathering of cousins and their children.  We attend a parade, enjoy a cook-out, relax at the beach and end the day reveling at the firework show.  There is an annual festival going on with many events and we tend to find ourselves exploring vendors and enjoying the whatever entertainment is performing in the park.  There are always a few stressful moments but overall it’s a very enjoyable day.

This year, after the cook-out, I took my daughter and three nieces to the beach.  The lake is very shallow and my younger nieces went out quite a distance before the water was even near their bellies.  Being a “nervous Nelly” when it comes to water safety, I would call out to my nieces and motion for them to come back in.  This of course was no fun to them because they would inevitably end up swimming in very shallow water.  After seeing one of my nieces express some frustration, I explained that I was only trying to keep them safe.  As far out as they had previously gone, if they ended up in danger, it would have taken me too long to get to them from the shore.  After a brief storm interrupted our beach time, we found a happy medium for distance in the water that we could all live with.

As evening approached and only a few short hours until fireworks time, the rest of my family arrived.  This crew included my nephews who are seven, five and three.  Because the temps were cooling off, the sun was setting and fireworks would start at dusk, my nephews were not permitted to go swimming.  In fact, when everyone else arrived, my nieces changed into dry clothes as all swimming had come to an end for the day.  That was, until my three-year-old nephew decided to walk right into the lake.

Keep in mind, this is a very shallow lake.  Thankfully that meant no drop offs anywhere around him that put him in immediate danger.  His mother, seeing what her son was doing, called out his name and told him to stop.  He did not listen.  She called again and he continued walking into the water.  Another adult family member headed to the water to get him.  My nephew turned around wearing a giant grin on his face and continued to walk backward farther into the water as my cousin slowly walked toward him.  My nephew’s mother continued to tell him to stop but alas, he did not listen.  Reading his face, it looked as though he thought his uncle was playing a game with him and he was determined to not get caught.

Just before he went under the water, my cousin grabbed a hold of my nephew and carried him to shore.  He was greeted by his momma who was wearing a very serious, concerned and unhappy look on her face.  As he looked as his momma, that big smile turned to a frown.  He lowered his head and in a soft, sweet toddler voice he said, “Sorry momma.”  As I am one who tends to find these moments funny when it’s not my own child disobeying, I jumped up and took a photo of the very moment he became apologetic.  All in all, his clothes were soaked but he was kept safe from going under water.

As this scenario played out, and especially as I watched my nephew’s facial expressions turn from joy, mischievousness and then to remorse and regret, I thought about God’s parenting and our own sinful natures.  If we are honest with ourselves, we can be certain to recall a time or many where we looked God in the eye, heeded His warnings, possibly flashed a cheeky grin and walked directly into a dangerous and sinful situation.  It doesn’t have to be something as drastic as three-year-old ignoring his mother’s warnings and walking into a lake where he could’ve drown.  It could be something as easy as overeating, overspending, having sex before marriage, telling a lie or a handful of lies, etc.  It could be something more destructive like being married, forming a friendship with a member of the opposite sex, heeding God’s warnings about getting too close and crossing lines into an emotional and/or physical affair.

There are times we face sinful choices and like the situation with my nephew, God steps in just before we’re about to go under water.  There are other times though, God chooses not to intercede but instead waits to piece us back together as you or I self destruct.  With that self-destruction comes collateral damage to ourselves and others that isn’t always fixed.  Relationships can be destroyed and God’s redeeming love doesn’t always restore them.  Some decisions we make can be life changers or life enders.  That’s why God calls out to us yelling, “STOP!” It’s our fault we get into deep water when we choose to ignore God’s warnings.

No matter what type of sin it is, ignoring God’s warning signs will always lead to negative consequences.  When walking through those consequences, that cheeky grin we once displayed turns upside down as we are burdened with remorse and regret.  Thankfully, God’s mercy and grace mean we do not have to live in an eternal state of regret.  Yes we will make mistakes.  Some may even forever change us.  But we don’t have to let our mistakes define or govern us.  We can have our own “independence day” celebrating the freedom God’s love and forgiveness brings-freedom from guilt and shame.

God’s redeeming love covers all of our mistakes.  He is our foghorn when we face temptation.  He is our lifeboat when find ourselves in deep waters.  He is our guiding light when were shipwrecked and lost.  He forgives us as soon as we say, “Sorry Abba” just as my nephew’s mother forgave him immediately when he sought forgiveness too.  If you’re in deep waters today, God can still save you.  All you have to do is cry out for help and trust Him.  If you’re struggling with a regretful past, swim away from the under toe of shame and know that you are forgiven.  If you’re facing a temptation today, listen to God yelling, “STOP!”, heed His warning and walk out of the deep water you’re about to enter.  Walking in obedience may feel like swimming in shallow water but there’s no chance of drowning when you’re right where God can save you.

No matter how enticing the enemy is making temptation look, it will not bring you the joy and satisfaction you’re longing for.  Obedience to God’s word is the only joy that will truly satisfy you. Walking in obedience may not always feel fun or joyful but living with a lifetime of regret from sinful choices is far less enjoyable that doing life God’s way.   I’m writing from experience on this one for sure!

 

STOP DEFENDING YOURSELF!

“The Lord will fight for you, you need only be silent.” Exodus 14:14

Ever argue with a narcissist or someone who has extreme hatred toward you? The arguments tend to look this: The hater is very accusatory, demanding and threatening. Their accusations usually come out of nowhere. You feel stunned by such a sucker punch (metaphorically speaking) and backed into a corner. While your head is spinning from the lies being hurled at you your immediate nature to defend yourself kicks in. This only fuels your accuser to push back harder and in the end you’re left wondering if what they’ve said about you is actually RIGHT?!

I have had my share of said arguments both personally and professionally. Each time I’ve felt a deep hurt and confusion asking myself why someone could say such things, tell such lies or treat me the way they did. I would turn to God in prayer seeking truth but also seeking justice. More often than not, I would get the message to just be silent and let God fight this battle.

I’m a woman of many words. I have a sarcastic sense of humor and am very quick witted. Growing up my momma would say “Her mouth will get her into trouble someday.” And it has, far too many times. Obviously, God’s “be silent and let Me take care of this” answer has never been an easy one for me to follow. In fact, there were times that this answer infuriated me. It’s not easy to let someone slash your character and remain silent. It’s taken much practice and I’ve still a long ways to go. When I put silence into practice, this is what happens:

  1. My accuser cannot argue with me if I’m not saying anything back.
  • 2. My accuser can hurl harsh words at me but those words can only deeply hurt me if I let them.
  • 3. My accuser cannot define my character. Only God can.
  • 4. Silence allows me to listen to my accuser, think about what’s being said and decipher between truth and lies.
  • 5. Silence is a form of humility. Defense is a form of pride.
  • 6. God is faithful and always keeps His promises. If He says He’s fighting for me, I believe Him even when I can’t see His work in action.
  • 7. For every verbal tearing down I’ve experienced, God has sent someone to build me back up.
  • Here’s an example of what I’m talking about: I’ve seen two movies recently where refusal to argue (a form of silence) was put into action. Both of these scenarios stood out to me as signs of true humbleness. Here’s the scenario of one of them: In the ending of this movie two women, who’s friendship had ended over a man, cross paths. One is carrying the man’s shirts that were just picked up from the dry cleaners. The other notices and says; “I bought him that shirt!” The other says nothing but then apologizes for hurting her. Instead of accepting the apology, the jilted woman responds with “you were always jealous of me, even when I was accepted to Notre Dame.” Now if you’ve seen this movie you would know that a discussion takes place earlier between the woman who ends up with the man and another person. Basically they draw a conclusion that the jilted woman actually lied about being accepted to Notre Dame. At the moment she then calls her ex-friend out on jealousy, the other woman could’ve called her out on the lie but instead responds (in a soft caring tone) with, “you’re right…”
  • The jealousy statement was an open door for the accused to defend herself but she chose to let her accuser think she was right instead.
  • If you’re character is being attacked right now, if you’re battling with a narcissist perhaps or just being bombard with false accusations take courage in knowing that you’re not alone in this kind of battle. Saul hated David and hurled a spear at him. Jezebel hated Elijah and hunted for him. The Pharisees hated Jesus and nailed Him to a cross. Even Judas sold Jesus out. Just like God fought for and protected David, Elijah and Jesus, He is fighting for and protecting you. God knows the outcome of your circumstance and no matter what, He IS fighting for you (and me.) When your accusers rise up, be silent and let God fight the battle for you.
  • O Death, Where Is Your Sting?

    This week I watched my mom and her siblings walk a heart breaking journey that ended with saying goodbye to their younger sister. At 57 years young, my aunt lost her battle with lung cancer. Her final days were spent in a hospital, hooked up to a machine that aided her breathing surrounded by family who hoped, prayed and waited for a miracle.

    Some will look back and think that God did not answer our prayer. Some may even get angry with God. The day before she passed, I found myself questioning God’s purpose in her suffering. But God is always faithful and instead of doubting Him, I chose to cling to my faith. I chose to trust Him confessing that His ways are not my ways. He called her Home the very next day.

    God’s timing is always perfect. My aunt had been on a ventilator since Sunday evening and didn’t pass away until Thursday afternoon. She passed away on her mother’s birthday. Her mother, my grandmother, passed away in 1987. I believe the timing of my aunt’s death was God’s way of reminding us that as a believer, death can be something to celebrate. What a blessed birthday present my grandmother received this year welcoming her baby girl into Eternity!

    In our humanness, we will grieve. My mom and her siblings as well as my aunt’s children will most long for my aunt to still be on this side of Heaven-not suffering, but still living. But in our faith we can rejoice through the sadness, celebrate through the heartbreak and be reassured that my aunt did get her miracle. God did heal her. Rather than heal her here, He chose to heal her with perfection.

    The day my Aunt died, I woke up with two thoughts-The first was this: “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” I Corinthians 15:55. The second was the song No Matter What by Kerrie Roberts. The chorus kept swirling in my mind.

    “No matter what! I’m gonna love you. No matter what! I’m gonna need you. I know that you can find a way to keep me from the pain but if not (if not), I’ll trust you. No matter what!”

    The best way to walk through grief is to know that death has no victory over us and to choose to trust God even when we don’t understand His ways.

    Be blessed and please keep my family, primarily my mom, her siblings and my aunt’s children in your prayers as they grieve my aunt’s Earthly absence and experience this side of life without her.

    Stainless

    “Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.”

    Psalms 51:2

    I am neurotic about clothing stains.  If I catch one on my clothing before I leave my house, I will quickly change into something else that is stain free before facing the public.  If I spill something on myself during the day I will do my best to get the stain out or try to make it unseen.  I will also obsess over it fearing people can see it or worrying that the clothing item is ruined because of the stain.  I count it a great success when I am able to launder the item and permanently remove the stain.

    My son is a three sport athlete.  Throughout the year he busies himself with american football, basketball and baseball.  Two of three sports are notorious for creating many stains on his uniforms.  It’s most challenging when his uniform is white.  Within in minutes of a game his jersey and/or pants are adorn with grass and mud stains.  I’ve spent many late nights soaking uniforms and buying all kinds of stain remover sprays to return the uniform back to its unblemished look.  Again, I’m usually successful but sometimes, the stain simply doesn’t wash out.

    Sin is an ugly stain we walk in daily.  God sent His son to cleanse us from all sin but we still struggle with the stain of sin every day.  Christians are not free of trials, tribulations and most definitely not from temptation.   We have an enemy who waits and watches just looking for the perfect opportunity to lead us into sin.  Some believers even have strongholds they continue to be slaves to even after choosing Christ and saying the prayer of Salvation.  Just like an impossible stain on a clothing item, a stronghold can seem like an impossible stain of sin in our lives.

    Jesus’ blood is the ultimate stain remover.  1 John 1:7 explains it this way; “…if we walk in the Light as He Himself is the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.”  Christ’s blood was shed to cleanse us from every sin possible.  He died before you and me ever existed.  In a sense, Christ’s crucifixion was a pre-treatment sort of scotch guard that doesn’t protect us from sin but protects us from the stain walking in sin brings. Even though we are born into a sinful world, every sin stain is removed when we give our lives to the One who died to save us.

    Here’s a better explanation.  Imagine salvation like a white fur coat.  You’re so in love with this fur coat that you don’t save it for special occasions, you proudly adorn yourself with it every day.  After all, Christ does call us to take up our crosses and live out our salvation daily.  Satan is like a fur protester waiting and watching to throw red paint all over your fur coat while your running errands, heading to work or engaging in some other ordinary routine part of your day.  I’m not a dry cleaner, but I cannot fathom that red paint all over a white fur coat would be easy if even possible to remove.

    That’s what satan wants for our lives, to be so stained in sin and strongholds that we think it’s impossible for Jesus to ever wash us clean.  When we are in this mindset, we feel hopeless, ruined and beyond repair.  If we think Jesus can’t fix us or make us clean, how will ever strive to seek Him or walk in His ways?  How can we ever recover from mistakes and addictions if we believe we cannot be saved.  The enemy uses sin and strongholds to fool us into believing God cannot and will not redeem us.

    How do we combat the enemy’s lies?  Very similar to how we combat clothing stains. With the best stain removing tool out there.  In the Christian world, our best stain remover is God’s word.  The Bible is full of promises that remind us of what He has done and how He cleanses us from all our sins. In fact, that’s exactly what 1 John 1:9 tells us: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us of all our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”  Unrighteousness is a stain that God promises to purify (cleanse) us from.  Isaiah 43:25 explains it even better; “I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.”

    Stain removers for clothing have come a long way.  There’s even a laundry stick called Tide To-Go that one can apply to clothing as soon as something is spilled in an effort to be proactive in preventing a stain.  In faith we don’t have a Tide to Go, but we do have a God to go to every time we are tempted to sin (stain prevention), when we get caught up in sin (similar to a coffee stain on a shirt sleeve after accidentally spilling it on yourself) and especially with every stronghold we are chained to (those continuous sins we can’t seem to get free from.)

    Just like with clothing stains, we can be proactive against sin stains too.  For clothing, we may carry a stain stick for anticipated spills.  For sin, we can carry our Bible, download a bible app to our smart phones and tablets and especially memorize scripture.  To combat the enemy’s attacks and in anticipation for whatever “red paint” he throws our way, standing on God’s word and reciting the right scripture will protect us from being permanently stained.  If you’re struggling with the idea that God cannot fix you, buy yourself a Tide to Go and on the back side of the package, write down Isaiah 43:25.  Carry it with you and confess it aloud as often as it takes for you to believe that Jesus made you stainless!

    What’s Your Worth?

    “For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

    Colossians 1:13-14

     

    In today’s world people are desperate to feel valued and scrambling to find their worth.  Popular magazines write articles about value and self-love.  There is a plethora of self help books covering this same topic.  Music apps are full of songs with lyrics revolving around finding one’s worth.

    There are many ways people define their worth too.  Some chase after success.  If they are successful in their career, their relationships, athleticism, etc. they feel worthy. Others define their worth solely in romantic relationships.  If they’re dating or married, that means someone loves them and that person’s love, makes them feel worthy.  Then there are those who define their worth in their looks.  Physical fitness, perfectly coiffed hair, daily make-up regimes that are professional grade and wearing designer labels makes them feel as valuable as a rare diamond.

    Working hard and having a successful career is a good thing. Being a top performing athlete is a great thing.  Doing the work for a steady and trustworthy relationship is definitely something to celebrate.  Even taking care of your body and valuing how you look is important.  But-none of those things make you anymore or any less valuable that someone else.  That is a sentence that may be quite upsetting for some to read.  Upsetting or not, the truth is, success, marriage, dating, having a super model body, even being an Olympian athlete, does not make you any more valuable than someone who doesn’t work, isn’t into sports, may be overweight and perhaps single, divorced or in a bad relationship.

    We wear ourselves out placing our worth in material things and in human beings.  When our worth is defined through the success of our business, what happens when that business fails or we lose our job?  Does that make us a failure?  Not at all.  When we define our worth in our relationship status, what happens when our spouse wants a divorce, our partner cheats on us or we’re chronically single for a decade?  Does being single with an empty date card make someone less valuable that a married couple who are celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary?  I certainly hope not because personally, I’m on year nine of that “chronic singleness with an empty date card” path.  How about overweight people?  Are they less valuable than someone who works out hours a day twelve times a week and eats like a caveman? The answer again is NO.

    Defining our worth in things, status or relationship can lead us to feel unworthy when things don’t work out the way we think they should.  I am firm believer that suicide has been attempted and completed when someone is at their lowest point feeling unloved, unwanted and unworthy.  Young kids have taken their own lives after being told they should kill themselves by their peers.  Adults have killed themselves after being rejected by their spouse or lover.  There are others who have taken their lives after losing their business or career. When we lose what we think defines are value and worth it’s inevitable that we are going to wrestle with despair and feel lost.  It’s also inevitable that we will believe we aren’t valued or worth anything. People struggle to choose life when they feel they are have no worth.

    Personally, I am guilt of defining my worth in my career, relationship status and my physical appearance.  I worked a dead end job for 10 years and felt completely devalued on a daily basis.  I have been dumped more times than I count and tend to chase after the guy who only sees value in what my body can give him or wants to control me.  I have felt more worthless in a few romantic relationships than I have felt these last few years of singlehood.  Physically I have struggled with weight gain for years and am currently at my heaviest weight I’ve ever been (even heavier than when I was 9 months pregnant with both of my children.)  I look in the mirror and see minimal glimpses of my youth but more and more changes that occur when one is considered “middle aged.”  I dress to hide all the bulges that are present with being overweight and out of shape.   I have spent many years feeling completely worthless.

    If success, relationships and our physical appearance do not define us, what or who does?  There are only two things in life that can define worth. One is the dictionary.  According to Google, worth is defined as “the value equivalent to that of someone or something under consideration, the level at which someone or something deserves to be valued or rated.” Deserving is the key concept in that definition.  Worth is dependent upon what is deserved.  This definition makes it natural to get caught up in the idealogy that we get what we deserve so if we are getting failure, rejection and heartache, we must’ve done something to deserve it.

    The second definer of worth would disagree.  The other definer of worth is God.  His definition of worth is simply this, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but will have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

    God is the defines our worth because He is our creator.  He created space, Earth, the planets and galaxies, the sun, moon and stars, and every creature that roams the Earth, including you and me.  When an artist creates a painting, they know how much the supplies cost and how much sweat and tears went into making the artistic piece. Thus, they can set a price for it because they created it.  The same goes for you and me.  Because God created us, He knows us inside and out.  He defines our worth and sets a value to each of us.  The price He set for us is this-while we were still sinners, He sent His son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross for you and for me. (Romans 5:8)  Christ’s death and resurrection is was the ultimate sacrifice made for those who live before Jesus, walk with Jesus and for those (including you and me) who came along after Jesus.

    The Bible is full of examples of God’s love, deliverance and redemption.  No greater story defines exactly what we mean to our Heavenly Father than Jesus’ crucifixion.  Christ was nailed to cross and crucified in order that we can be cleansed from all sin and spend eternity with Him. Second Corinthians 5:21 explains it best, “God made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we would become the righteousness of God.”

    If you belong to God, you are His pride and joy.  His love for you is endless and He pursues you daily. Your worth is defined in Him and Him alone.  There is nothing, not your past, not your definition of failures, NOTHING, that can separate you from His love. (Romans 8:38)  If you don’t yet belong to Him, I pray this message moves you to seek more about Him, His love for you and exactly how He defines you. I want to encourage you to attend a Easter church service or watch a sermon on YouTube to learn more about Jesus’ ministry, death and resurrection.  I pray you choose Him, become a believer and seek His truths.  But whether you know God already or not, know this-whenever you feel worthless or devalued, God says you are more precious than rubies (Proverbs 31:10) and He thinks you are to die for!

    From my family to yours, Happy Easter.  May God’s redeeming love penetrate your heart and His love overflow in you and through you today and always.

     

     

     

     

     

    Why Do We Cry

    Why do I cry when you speak harshly?

    As if your words could ever define me.

    Your violent words seem to shred me

    But God’s Love continues to heal me.

    Why do you cry when he doesn’t come home?

    As if it’s a worse feeling to be alone?

    It’s not your fault he has a want to roam,

    God’s love makes you whole, even as one.

    Why does she cry when he doesn’t respond to her chase?

    She looks in the mirror and thinks it’s because of her face.

    His interest in her is a game at his pace.

    But God’s interest in her is a lifelong love, not just a phase.

    Why do we cry when the world is mean?

    When nobody cares is what it seems?

    There’s a God above who sees our pain,

    And brings sunshine in every season of rain.

    Dry your tears and I’ll dry mine.

    For there’s a love far greater than any human can define.

    There’s a man who pursues you and me every minute of the day.

    He keeps His promises and never goes astray.

    His name is Jesus Christ and He died for you and me.

    He showed His unconditional love on a cross at Calvary.

    The only names He calls us is “beloved” and “grace”.

    He only sees beauty when he looks at your face.

    He says we are fearlessly and wonderfully made.

    And when we believe in Him, we are saved.

    He chases you and He chases me.

    He longs for us to chase Him daily.

    His love is not a game,

    It is more fierce than an endless flame.

    So dry your tears and I’ll dry mine.

    The love that we long for is easy to find.

    It’s in Jesus Christ

    And His Love makes us refined!

    Pride, Punishment and Futile Prayers

    “But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: ‘God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.'”

    James 4:6 NIV

    It’s a good thing I am not God.  If it were up to me to judge the world we would all be spending eternity in the fiery south if you know what I mean.  I’ve been called “judgemental” a few times in my life and while I have taken offense to hearing this, I’m realizing that label is a correct one.  Thankfully, with the awareness and confession, it’s not a label that I will keep.

    I have sinned against many people in my life.  Sometimes it’s been accidental.  Often times, out of spite, it’s been completely intentional.  Yet somehow, God has extended more grace than I ever deserve.  I’ve sinned against God more times than I can count, often times even praying belligerent prayers.  Yet God still takes care of me, provides for me and guides me, no matter what I mistake I make.  I, on the other hand, have completely cut certain people out of my life all while striving to live “Christ like.”  Sounds like an oxymoron, doesn’t it?

    Recently I had a disagreement with someone I considered to be one of my best friends.  Things said to me cut deep.  I spent the day alone crying and stewing over what was said.  It also emotionally threw me back to a time when I endure a lot of verbal abuse.  A time I don’t like remembering or going back to.  In this recent disagreement I set a boundary asking to not be spoken to in such a manner.  However, the next message I received was an ongoing response of cuss words and accusations.  Rather than continue to argue I chose not to respond at all. A mature choice, right? I also chose to block this person from communicating with me ever again.  I had resonated in my heart that I was done with this person and the friendship.

    Since that time, my path has crossed this person’s path a handful of times.  Each time I have done an excellent job at completely ignoring their existence.  To be honest, I have actually been proud of this behavior.  Why?  Because in my past I was the doormat type who would allow people to be verbally aggressive to me and actually believe their angry words were my fault.  I spent too many years allowing others’ opinions to define my character.  The past four years I have flipped this unhealthy behavior but gone to the opposite extreme.  I’ve confused boundary setting with total disconnection.  This too, is an unhealthy way to handle conflict and definitely does not build or maintain relationships.

    Last Sunday, at the new to me church I’ve recently joined, the minister gave a calling to pray for others to know Christ’s love and shepherding.  He asked us to think of one person we could commit to praying for daily.  Guess who’s name immediately popped into my head.  I knew it was from God but I mentally argued and literally asked God to send me a new name.  He of course, is far more stubborn than I could ever be and I resonated with the fact that He was still calling me to pray for this friend.  I reluctantly agreed.  However when Monday morning hit, my heart was almost too hardened to pray.  In fact, I expressed great impatience with God’s timing as I have prayed for this person for several years.  I did soften and pray. I stuck to my commitment and have prayed for this person every day, with a stubborn, stony heart. I also ignored this person again when our paths crossed just a few days ago.

    Yesterday I felt a stirring in my spirit that I was not walking in love or acting Christ like. I finally broke down and confessed this to two friends asking for help in processing the right way to handle this situation.  Here’s what I’ve learned.

    As painful as this disagreement and separation of friendship has been I have learned that I am full of pride.  My choice to block this person, to completely ignore them when I have run into them, even some of the prayers I have prayed for them have all been done from a heart filled with pride and pain.  You know how God handled me during my own sinful time this month?  With more grace and blessing than I could ever deserve. I’ve been a jerk and God has continued to lavish His love and provision over me and my family.  If the real Judge of the world chooses to love me in spite of my bratty behavior, why do I struggle with choosing to love others in spite of theirs?  If Jesus chooses to pursue me even when I am acting my worst, why do I just give up on someone when he or she shows me their worst behavior?

    The truth is, in my own human strength there are people I do NOT want to love.  They are toxic, untruthful, vengeful, and abusive.  Who wants to love any of those qualities, right?  Surely God doesn’t love those qualities.  But God DOES love the person/people who display these behaviors. God also calls us to love everyone, in spite of their behaviors.

    There’s another person I don’t always choose to love.  She’s impatient, undisciplined, unkind and at times, hateful at others.  She cusses and thinks really mean thoughts when she’s mad.  Her temper has embarrassed her more times than she can count.  She doesn’t always keep her word. She can hold a grudge for a decade or longer.  Her list of faults is endless really.  But God-He loves this woman more than she could ever comprehend.  Which means, I need to love her too.  That woman, is me.  I even judge myself.  I went from refusing to let others judge me to judging myself.  I can be really harsh on me too!

    Pride and punishment do not come from God.  Yes, the Old Testament is full of stories of God wiping out entire nations with leprosy, plagues, famines and wars.  Yes, the New Testament tells us we will all face judgement day. However, the New Testament also reminds us of what Jesus did on the cross.  Scripture depicts exactly how Jesus handled toxic behaviors and personal attacks.  He took it and He prayed for his offenders.  He did not walk in pride nor did He seek out punishment for His accusers.  In fact, Luke 23:34 tells us that while Jesus was hanging on the cross, nearing death, He prayed for those who were screaming “CRUCIFY HIM”, for those who spat on Him and beat Him.  He prayed “Father for give them for they know not what they do” as people were casting lots for His clothing.  God calls us to do the same thing, to pray and forgive those who have offended us.

    The advice my two friends I spoke with yesterday and today, gave me included this: Instead of blocking someone, pray and ask God to give you eyes to see them the way He sees them and a heart to love them the way Jesus loves you and me.  They both also talked about forgiving this friend and asking myself how would Jesus handle this situation. If you’re going through something similar, I want to encourage you to study what God’s word says about pride, recognize what is and isn’t Christ like and ask the Lord to remove your heart of stone, replacing it with a heart of flesh.  Most importantly, confess your own sins, be reminded of God’s grace and forgiveness extended to you and always choose to walk in love.  One last thing, just this morning I confessed to the Lord there are people in my life that I want to hate (the friend described in this post is not one of them) especially if hating meant they would change their toxic behavior.  God answered me with this: Hate is not what changes the world.  Love and intentionally choosing to love those who are hardest to love is what brings about the change I desire, within them and within me.

    Don’t choose pride.  Never choose punishment. If you do, like I have, expect your prayers to be futile.  Instead, choose love and choose forgiveness.  Then watch how effective your prayers will be!

    Can We Change God’s Mind?

    “But Moses objected. ‘What will the Egyptians think when they hear about it?’ he asked the Lord…”

    Numbers 14:13a

    I’m currently on my second round of reading through the Bible in its entirety.  Right now I am in the middle of the book of Numbers.  It’s not one of my favorite books to read.  I find all the census stuff and statistical information to be boring.  But when I start reading about Moses and the Israelites, God gets my attention.  Chapter 14 is a prime example.

    In this chapter, the Israelites are complaining about God’s way of rescuing them.  In fact, they don’t feel rescued at all.  They not only grumble, but they question if God is even helping them.  The chapter begins with the Israelites saying, “If only we had died in Egypt, or even here in the wilderness!…Why is the Lord taking us to this country only to have us die in battle?…” (Verses2b-3a)  This grumbling makes God’s anger boil.  Enter Joshua and Caleb to intervene by reminding them of what the Promised Land looked like.  The Israelites want nothing to do with their encouragement.   Instead, they actually discuss stoning Joshua and Caleb.  Now, God is enraged.  He appears before all of them but He speaks only to Moses.  This is where the passage gets interesting.

    God is so fed up with the Israelites doubting Him that He declares He will disown them.  He is ready to wipe them out with a plague and make a new nation “greater and mightier than they are!” (verse 12)  But Moses objects.  Now if you’re familiar with Moses, then you’re probably aware He questioned God’s calling for Him to even lead the Israelites.  He ended up with Aaron as a helper because He doubted God’s ability to make Him an effective leader.  Now He is in the wilderness with this same group, they’re mad and grumbling, ready to stone Joshua and Caleb.  God is enraged and Moses is caught in the middle.  Suddenly he gets a bout of courage and objects, TO GOD!  Here’s a paraphrased version of how Moses responds to God (and by paraphrase I mean my own modern day terminology of Moses’ rebuttal to God’s wrath.)

    Moses musters up courage and responds to God with,

    “Dude listen-I get it.  You did all these amazing acts of rescuing them from slavery, providing for them every step of the way and defeating every enemy they crossed paths with.  I mean You’ve literally made it rain with bread (manna) and foul (quail) just to prove Your power in their lives and again, to shut them up from all their whining.

    “Here we are again dealing with their doubts, lack of faith and grumbling.  But the Egyptians are still around.  I’m just curious, and I mean no disrepect in asking this question, what do you think the Egyptians would say if You wiped out the Israelites now, here, in this wilderness?  What message would this send Your enemy?  They know the power You displayed rescuing Your people from their land.  They know You’ve appeared to us face to face and that it’s Your cloud that hovers over us.  They know that You go before us by day and by night.  If You destroy Your people now, Your enemy will say, “The Lord was not able to bring them into the land He swore to give them, so He killed them in the wilderness.” (Verse 16.)

    Moses continues by asking God  to prove His power once again and even reminds Him of His own words that He is a God “slow to anger and filled with unfailing love, forgiving every kind of sin and rebellion…” (verse 18.)  God responds by agreeing to pardon the Israelites as Moses requests, but denying all who have grumbled against the Lord access to the Promised Land.  Their death sentence is secured right in that wilderness.

    If you read this passage at face value, it could be interpreted as Moses changing God’s mind.  In fact, it’s almost as if God is being irrational and Moses steps in and says, “Ok God, before You bring the plague, let’s take a deep breath and see if there’s another solution that won’t ruin Your reputation with the enemy.”  Seriously, it almost looks like God is flying off the handle and Moses is like, “Calm down! Let’s rethink this.” Did Moses actually change God’s mind?  Can you or I change God’s mind?  The answer is, ABSOLUTELY NOT!

    God is not a being who can be reasoned with or who’s mind can be changed.  God is also not a being who gets irrational.  God is God.  He is omnipotent and omnipresent.  He always was and He always will be.  He ordained everything that has happened and will happen throughout the entire world’s existence. He is the Master of the Universe.  Therefore, nothing that happens, not even an entire nation grumbling against Him, surprises Him.  Before God even ordained Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, God knew most of them would be faithless and never see the Promised Land.  But He chose to rescue them anyway. I don’t believe He ever intended on destroying them with the plague he threatened either.  I believe God said what He said to Moses in chapter 14 to test Moses’ character and to sharpen his leadership skills.  God already knew how Moses would respond to His wrath against the Israelites.  He knew yet He made the threat anyway.  He did so, giving Moses the opportunity to intervene for the people God called him to lead.  I also think God did this to remind Moses of the kind of Power God really has and that His word is not void.  God always keeps His word.

    Numbers chapter 14 is a great reminder of God’s faithfulness and His ability to test our character.  If your character is being tested, God is simply sharpening you for the position He’s called you into.  If His direction or response seems irrational, step up and speak out His own word to remind yourself that He is in control, He is all powerful and His word is never void.  Don’t try to change God’s mind.  If you or a loved one is messing up, do intervene, with prayer, concession and confession.  Like Moses, your confession and intercession could be the game changer in their life or your own.

    Who’s Your GPS?

    “…whether you turn to the right or the the left, you ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it.'” Isaiah 30:21 NIV

    Recently I had to attend a work conference that was in a city a few hours south of my home town.  I’ve traveled to this city on many occasions and tend to get lost every time.  Knowing I would be doing a lot of traveling during my three day stay, I planned ahead and fully relied on my phone’s map app.  Even though it took me a different route each day of my commute, surprisingly, I never once got lost.  I did however yell at it and tell it to “shut up” on one occasion when it was insistent upon me turning left through 8 lanes of heavy traffic with icy road conditions.  It did not like my decision to turn right and then safely turn around to the proper direction when traffic allowed me to do so. HA! HA!

    My favorite feature of this app is the notification it gives you of how long you will travel on each road before having to turn onto a new road.  It’s not just one notification either.  You could travel on one road or highway for fifty miles (or 80 kilometers) and receive several notifications that you are approaching your next turn, lane change, etc.  It even gives you warnings about detours and road construction before you’re near any of them.  It’s definitely been a useful tool for me for many traveling experiences since owning this specific series of smart phone.  I’ve even personalized it by giving it a male Australian voice and nicknaming it Jarryd (after Australian rugby player, Jarryd Hayne.) So yes, when I “yelled” at it, I actually said, “Shut up Jarryd, trust me, I know what I’m doing!”  LOL

    Navigating life can be just as confusing and challenging as driving through a big city.  You’re apt to get lost a time or two.  For the directionally challenged like me, you may get lost over and over again.  This can lead to feeling like you’re reliving the same journey or spending your life walking in circles.  Been there.  Done that.  My entire 30’s felt like I was on a hamster wheel running a marathon that led absolutely nowhere and left me feeling defeated and completely worn out.

    Did you know there’s a life GPS?  His name is God and His map is the Bible.  In fact, I’m feeling so creative today I think GPS should really stand for God’s Placement of Situations.  Is life not merely a series of situations?  How many times have you heard sayings like, “She was at the right place at the right time?”  or “He was at the wrong place at the wrong time?”  Funny, I don’t think I’ve ever heard someone say, “She was at the wrong place at the right time” or “He was at the right place at the wrong time” though.  Have you?

    God’s GPS doesn’t work like iMaps, Google Maps or even Garmin.  God definitely uses the Holy Spirit to warn us when we’re going in the wrong direction or about to make a poor decision.  However, God’s direction doesn’t always instruct us on how long we will be on a certain path or in a certain situation before He changes our circumstances, delivers us from the struggle we are enduring or even before He advises us on a major decision we are seeking His wisdom on.  In fact, there are times when people believe they are walking in the direction God told them to go and everything in their life seems to be going completely wrong.  In times like these, it’s human nature to question if we even understood God’s leading or if we took a wrong turn somewhere, right?

    Joseph is a prime example of someone who could question God’s leading.  God told him he would be a leader over even his family some day.  He traveled through abandonment, slavery and false imprisonment before that ever happened (Genesis chapters 37-47). Daniel followed God’s direction and ended up in a lions’ den.  On another occasion, Daniel fasted for 21 days before an archangel showed up with a response to his prayer.  The archangel admitted the delay was due to spiritual warfare (Daniel chapter 10).  From Elijah, to David, and to Paul, the Old and New Testaments are full of examples of God’s direction leading to questionable circumstances.

    Often times, people get a word from the Lord, respond with an obedient heart and willing spirit and then nothing happens.  I’ve read numerous devotionals and stories of how God spoke to certain individuals, they complied with His direction and then waited sometimes years for the results of their obedience.  This is similar to driving through a detour that seems endless, isn’t it? God doesn’t always make the directions clear and He doesn’t always give us forewarning to obstacles or detours we may face.  He also doesn’t give us a time frame as to when we will reach our destination.  When there appears to be a delay as to what He told us would happen and when it actually does happen, we can feel like we’re wandering aimlessly or even hopelessly lost.

    That’s where relying fully on His word comes in to play.  The enemy will plant doubts in our minds. Impatience may take over and pressure us to give up or go in another direction.  We may even try to speed up the process and interfere with God’s actual timing.  No matter what, I firmly believe God will remain faithful in His word.  If you’ve received a word from the Lord, if you’ve especially taken an action in obeying this specific word and are experiencing a detour, trust in Him, remain faithful to His direction and believe His timing is always perfect.  While you’re waiting and wandering, stand on these two passages:

    “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” Proverbs 3:5 NIV)

    “…At the right time,  I the Lord, will make it happen.”  Isaiah 60:22 (NLT)

    Lastly, remember this, if God places you in a situation, He will guide and direct you through it.

     

     

    Love Actually

    When you look in the mirror what do you see?

    Do you see the man Jesus made you to be?

    Or do you see who the enemy has fooled you to believe?

    How do you not know that you were made for love actually?

     

    When you greet an old friend what are you thinking?

    Are you happy to see them or do you fear they may judge you?

    When meet a new face you keep many things hidden-

    Afraid of letting most see the real you.

     

    When you look into the mirror what do you see?

    Do you see an aging face and life enslaven?

    Or do you see yourself as Jesus sees you-

    A royal heir to His Kingdom of Heaven?

     

    When someone shows you love, how do you feel?

    Do you open your heart and receive it?

    Or do you reject what doesn’t seem possible?

    How do you not accept that Jesus’ love is unconditional?

     

    You let your mistakes define you.

    Jesus longs to let His love refine you.

    You hide behind jokes and forced smiles.

    You embrace a false positivity instead of a healed lifestyle.

     

    When you look in the mirror what do you see?

    You see a monster living with pain, regret and infidelity.

    This view overrides what Jesus is showing you.

    You are forgiven, accepted and loved actually.

     

    When  I look at you  I see eyes that glisten

    with a hope that you will be healed from this brokenness.

    But your smile tells me you feel empty and lonely.

    Your embrace says you fear you will never know wholeness.

     

    My heart wishes I could change your view

    Of yourself, your life and who you are meant to be.

    But all of my efforts just get rejected

    because you aren’t ready to accept love actually.

     

    We love because He first loved us.

    This piece of scripture means you were made for love.

    The enemy longs to keep you thinking you’re a monster.

    As God keeps showing you you’re worth fighting for.

     

    When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

    A man of God fully redeemed-

    That is my prayer for you for 2019.

    When you look in the mirror  I pray you will see

    That you are a man filled with His love actually.