Wherever You Go

Hagar was an Egyptian slave, serving as handmaiden to the wife of Abram and as a surrogate mother to bear a child for the barren Sarai.  This caused much strife between Sarai and Hagar, as you can imagine and Hagar ran away from her mistress, into the unforgiving wilderness where, “The angel of the Lord found Hagar…” Genesis 16:7.  The Hebrew word for “found” means “to cause to encounter.” God purposefully put Himself in Hagar’s path to cause her to have an encounter with Him. That means He didn’t go on a seek-and-find mission, He set Himself right where He knew she was going, because she was His wounded child and His heart was tender to her. 

One of the most precious promises in the Bible to me is “The Lord your God will be with you where you go” (Jos. 1:9).  I have found myself in some difficult places and very hard circumstances, often of my own making, but I have never been out of my Heavenly Father’s sight.  In the margin of my Bible I have written these words that God spoke to my heart: “Child, there is no place you can go that I will not be.”  Whether they are physical places or emotional pits or spiritual dark caves – God has promised “I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Joshua 1:5).  If He willingly went to the cross, and into the dark grave of death for us, then we can trust that He will never abandon us, no matter where we are. 

Beloved, I don’t know where you find yourself today but this I know for sure – God was there for a frightened, lost Egyptian slave girl, He has been there for me and He is there with you.  The truth is, He was there – waiting for you – before you ever arrived.

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Praying With Faith

“But when He asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind” (James 1:6)
 
The old preacher announced from the pulpit – “Come out tonight as we gather to pray for rain to ease this drought.  And bring your umbrella, or don’t bother to come.  We need prayers of faith, not doubt.”
 
What are you praying for today?  Are you believing God will answer – or are your prayers empty petitions?  Oh I’m so guilty of this.  I’m going to be honest here – I have prayed while doubts dug deep ruts through my mind.  “God I ask this of You, but I really don’t expect it.”  Sometimes my doubts were caused by the size of the problem, or the pain of the circumstance.  Sometimes I doubted because it just seemed too much to ask; like I was weighing God’s faithfulness against my failures.  And sometimes my prayers are empty because the enemy has filled my mind with fear.
James calls me “double-minded” and “unstable” (v. 8).   Jesus said it only takes a “mustard-seed” of faith to move the Father’s heart on my behalf (20-21).  Do I believe in God’s goodness – even a mustard seed worth? Has He ever done anything to warrant my doubts?
Beloved, it’s time to put real faith behind our prayers.  I’m praying for some big things from God – for myself, my family and my ministry.  Oh, and I’m gonna grab my umbrella on my way out the door!

I Can’t Forgive Myself

“Therefore I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven” (Luke 7:47).

She is the town tramp with a well-earned, shameful reputation.  Women whisper about her when she walks past and pull their children close lest her degenerate nature somehow infect them.  Men look at her with disdain – on the outside at least – and lust for her on the inside.  No self-respecting religious authority would publicly be seen near her.  Yet here she is kneeling at the feet of Jesus, weeping tears onto His dusty feet, tenderly drying them with her hair and anointing them with expensive perfume – no doubt funded by her illicit acts.  She is a sinful woman.  And Jesus loves her.  He who alone has the authority to judge her, instead forgives her.  The sin she carried into the house is left in a heap at those perfumed feet and she walks out forgiven and free from the weight of her shame.

David said it beautifully – “Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, who sins are covered.  Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord does not count against him” (Psalm 32:1-2).  This woman is blessed.  She has been forgiven, her sins are covered and the Lord does not hold them against her anymore.  Jesus has spoken His forgiveness over her.  I cannot image that she spent the rest of her life wrapped in a shawl of shame grieving her past.  So why do we?

Through many years of serving in women’s ministry, the most oft-repeated statement I hear is: “I just can’t forgive myself.”  The weight of shame and the burden of past sins and failures seems to be the most popular accessory for Christian women today.  What if I told you that you didn’t have to carry that over-stuffed bag around anymore?  Sweet friend, if you have accepted Christ as your Savior, your past – regardless of how ugly it is – is covered by the all-sufficient, all-powerful, perfectly-cleansing blood of Jesus.  Hear what the Lord says: “I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more” (Hebrews 8:12).  If God doesn’t remember your sins, why do you need to?  They are gone. Done. Washed away.  If you continue to carry the weight of your sins around, you are saying that Jesus is not a sufficient Savior and that God is a liar.  He has declared you forgiven through the blood of Jesus – why would He say it if it were not so?  Why would you continue to hold onto something that is no longer there?

That fashionable bag of shame you are carrying is empty of all your sins.  Oh, there is still a heavy weight there, but it is not your sin – it is stones of false guilt put there by the enemy – the accuser who wants you to feel the weight of a sin that no longer exists.  He wants to weigh you down with your past so you cannot walk confidently into your future.  Beloved, do not let him steal your freedom.  But you say, “I don’t feel forgiven.  Here is where you are going to put faith in action.

I want you to grab 2 pens – one of them with red ink, and go to an empty page in the back of your Bible.  One by one, take out those stones from the bag – yes, your sexually promiscuity, the abortion, the affair, the failed marriage, the crime you committed, the stupid thing you can’t believe you did – and write it down.  Now beside every entry write in red ink “1 John 1:9.”  This verse declares, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”  Confess it, thank God for His forgiveness and claim it as a truth, not just a feeling.  If something new comes to mind, write it down and add your declaration of forgiveness.  Then when the enemy tries to throw that rock back in your bag, point to your written confirmation of freedom and own what Jesus did for you. [1]

Here’s the bottom line my friend: you don’t have to forgive yourself.  God has already forgiven you through Jesus’ sacrifice.  There is nothing left to forgive.  Now pick up your empty bag, fill it with the joy of freedom in Christ and claim the new life you have been given.

“There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” Romans 8:1.

[1] There are times when we must also confess our sins to someone who has been wronged by our actions.  Prayerfully ask God if this is something you should do.