Self-made Misery

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Have you ever really repented of your sins? Or are you just sorry about the mess you’re in because of them? Right now you’re probably thinking, “And good morning to you too, Susie Sunshine!” I know – you much prefer the nice, gentle devotionals, but I speak as He speaks to me through His Word, and sometimes it’s not always pretty. This came into my heart this morning as I read in Hosea. You may recall, Hosea was a prophet of the Lord with a beautiful story of redeeming love. But the love story is just two chapters out of fourteen where the prophet is declaring God’s anger toward and coming judgment over the nation of Israel. He is calling them to repentance so that He might restore them. But they refuse. Even though they are in misery from God’s punishment, they will not turn away from their sin and turn back to the Lord. Listen to Hosea 7:14 – “They do not cry out to me from their hearts but wail upon their beds.” They were crying about their miserable situation, but they would not cry out to God in repentance. Jump back just a bit to 5:15 where the Lord said, “I will go back to my place until they admit their guilt. And they will seek my face; in their misery, they will earnestly seek me.”

Here’s a hard truth Friend, sometimes we create our own miserable situations. We sin, we wander away from God and like sheep grazing with our heads in the grass, we are unaware of the danger we’re in. All the while God is calling us to turn back to Him. When we find ourselves tangled in the briars of sin or weighted down from falling into the creek, we wail and whine, but we don’t confess and repent.

John said, “If we confess our sin, He is faithful and just as will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Beloved, in the kindest, most loving way I know to say it – maybe it’s time to stop whining and start repenting.

 

A Real Love Story

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Hosea is a beautiful love story. God instructed His prophet Hosea to marry Gomer, a prostitute, as an example to the people of Israel of how He took them out of their former life of wickedness and made them His own. As expected, she was unfaithful to Hosea, again a living example of Israel’s unfaithfulness to God. The Lord declares that He will punish Israel, banishing her to the desert and revealing her wickedness. But He also promised to restore Israel. In the desert where He sent her, He will “speak tenderly to her” (2:14). In the same place where she knew only trouble, God promised that “she will sing as in the days of her youth” (2:15) He will restore their relationship and send her enemies away.

Here’s what I find so wonderful. God said that He would “betroth” or commit Himself to her forever in “righteousness and justice, in love and compassion, [and] in faithfulness” (2:19-20). Then He says “You will acknowledge the Lord” (2:20). At first, I thought that acknowledging the Lord was her part in the restoration. That she would have to acquiesce to Him. But the word used means “to know” and pictures a husband and wife in their most intimate moment. So the truth is – “acknowledging the Lord” it isn’t a demand God is making, it is a promise He is proclaiming. After the season of discipline, God will pour out His righteousness and justice and love and compassion and faithfulness, and He will lavish her with love. And she will know her beloved in the most intimate, unifying, and satisfying way. She will know Him because He loves her.

That is true for you Beloved. God calls you into a deeper knowledge of Him, not so you can fill your head with facts, but so that you can know – in the very deepest part of your heart – that He loves you. No matter your past, no matter your sin, no matter how far you’ve run or how long – God wants you to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that He loves you. Listen carefully and you will hear His tender voice in your ear. “I love you, Child, you are mine forever.”

Caring for the Wounded Body (of Christ)

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“But God has combined the members of the body . . . so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other” (1 Corinthians 12:25)
Have you ever noticed when one body part suffers, your whole body becomes invested in the healing process? When I had a severe infection in my leg a couple of years ago my whole body had to be committed to rest and elevation and medication for my leg to heal. My whole body was flat of my back for four weeks.  My arms didn’t grumble about it. My other leg didn’t resent it. My heart and lungs kept doing their job so that the wounded part could heal. No part of my body forgot about that leg for a second.
I think, in our modern “personal” and private religion, we’ve forgotten how to take care of one another. How to give attention to the wounded parts of our body – the wounded people in the Body of Christ. We throw a half-hearted “praying for ya!” in their direction and maybe even take them a meal if we have the time to spare, but I feel like we’ve lost something. Commitment to one another? One part of my ministry is listening to hurting people. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard someone say, “When my life became difficult, my church forgot about me . . .ignored me . . . overlooked me . . . gave up on me.” I know they’re telling the truth because it has happened to me too.  What would our Head think of all this?
“If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it” (v. 26)
Am I rambling or is any of this resonating with anyone?

Dirty Hands

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“Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin” (Psalm 51:2)

“Why won’t this thing come clean?” I muttered as I scrubbed the water reservoir for our coffee maker. I had washed it twice and still felt a film on the surface. Then I realized that I had grease on my fingers. The problem was me, not the container. It wouldn’t come clean because my hand wasn’t clean.

King David sat on his royal throne as Nathan the prophet told him about two men, one rich and one poor. The rich man had large flocks and herds, the poor man had one ewe lamb that was like a child to him. When the rich man had an unexpected guest, rather than taking a lamb from his own flock to serve, he took the poor man’s beloved ewe lamb and slaughtered it to feed his guest. David was incensed. The rich man must be held responsible for his actions! That is when Nathan turned to David and said, “You are the man!” David had taken the wife of one of his soldiers and had her husband killed to cover up his wicked deed. David was the problem. His hands were very dirty. (See 2 Samuel 11-12)

When I find myself grumbling and complaining about things going wrong in my life, God often gently points to my dirty hands. Honestly, the vast majority of the struggles in my life have my own fingerprints all over them. I am quite often the problem. Now I don’t know about you. Maybe you are darn near perfect and you don’t make foolish mistakes or give in to sin. But for me, I have to own my actions – from my finances to procrastinating with my school work to my weight and a lot of other things.

That’s why I’m so grateful for new mercies every morning. I run into trouble every day, but God is faithful to forgive me and wash my dirty hands. Beloved, do you need clean hands? Do you need a fresh start? David and I found cleansing with the Lord. You can too.

“I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean: I will cleanse you from all your impurities” (Ezekiel 36:25). That’s a promise.

Welcome to the Family

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I was never popular in school. I had a weird name, I was tall, clumsy, and awkward. I wore hand-me-downs and homemade clothes and every school picture looked like I didn’t own a hairbrush. I wasn’t one of the smart kids and wasn’t part of the “in” crowd. Oh, but I wanted to be. I wanted so much to be accepted by the pretty girls who dressed in the latest fashions and carried themselves with an air of confidence I could never master. That carried over into my adult life. I always felt that, wherever I was, I didn’t belong.

But God says I do belong. With Him. Paul wrote, “You are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household” (Ephesians 2:19). No, it’s not because I’m less awkward or because I dress better or finally found a hairbrush. It’s because of Jesus. Jesus made me acceptable to God. He made me part of the family. He died to cover all my sins and to take away my shame. Because of Jesus, I’m part of the “in” crowd – because I’m in Him. But it’s not a popularity contest. In God’s Kingdom, everyone is the same – rescued, redeemed, restored and joined together as one holy dwelling place for the Lord (2:21).

My friend, God’s hand is stretched out to you too, to welcome you into the family, to be “in,” and to never be rejected again. It doesn’t matter what you wear or where you live or work or whether your hair is neatly brushed. It doesn’t matter if you never finished school or if you have a string of letters after your name. It doesn’t matter if you made all the right choices in life (like anyone has) or if you made every mistake possible. It doesn’t matter if you are rich or poor, live in a mansion or a tent, come from the right family or the wrong side of the tracks. God says to you “Come.” Take Him up on His offer. There’s more than enough room at the family table for you. You can sit next to me.

But I Don’t Feel Forgiven

 

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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, 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?

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. 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 sexual 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. 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.

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.

And Who Is My Neighbor?

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This week our Ladies studied the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). I ran across this modern adaptation of the parable and it spoke volumes to us. (Disclaimer: This has been edited for space and application.)

[Jesus is speaking to a group of Southern Baptists:]
An elderly couple was mugged and robbed by a group of thieves outside a restaurant. As the couple lay dazed and bleeding on the sidewalk, a Methodist preacher walked toward them on his way to Bible study, but instead of stopping to render aid, he crossed to the other side of the road and continued on his way. A short while later, a couple of Baptist preachers came along, but since they were running late to their prayer meeting, they also crossed over and hurried on their way.
Finally, an atheist came along and felt compassion for the couple. He rendered whatever medical aide he could, then helped them into his van and drove them to the nearest hospital. He paid the deductible cost of their insurance and made arrangements to further pay any amount not covered by their policy
[Jesus then asked], “Which of the people who came upon the couple acted as a neighbor to them?” The Baptist replied, “The one who had mercy on them”. [Jesus then commanded] “Go and do likewise”.

The man who asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” wanted to know whom he was required to “love” according to the Law. Jesus said the point is not the limit of the Law, it is being the one who goes above and beyond in compassion. Beloved, who needs you to be a neighbor today?

Of Black-Eyed-Peas and Forgiveness

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I got up early this morning and put the black-eyed peas on to soak. I remember when Mama gave me the important task of sorting and washing the peas for their overnight soak. “You have to pick out the bad peas (the ones with rusted spots or bug holes) and rinse off the good ones, then I’ll put them on to soak.” An hour later she found me still at the sink with only half the package done. I was taking out each individual pea, inspecting it all over and washing it off – one by one. “You don’t have to do them one-at-time,” she said. “But Mama,” I replied, “what if I miss one?” I thought letting even one bad pea through would be awful.

As a child I was taught 1 John 1:9 – “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” So when I wanted to ask Jesus to be my Savior, I started thinking and confessing. And confessing. And confessing. Six weeks later the pastor asked if I was ready to be baptized. I said I was still confessing my sins. Knowing that a child couldn’t have much to confess, he asked what was taking me so long. I said I was trying to remember everything I ever did. “What if I miss one?” I asked. I thought I had to remember and confess every single sin or it would not be forgiven and Jesus would not be my Savior.

Paul said that when we receive Jesus as Lord, God “forgives us all our sins” (Colossians 2:13). Hebrews says that Jesus, our great high priest “offered for all time one sacrifice for sins” (2:12). That means all our sins – the ones we remember to confess and the ones we don’t. That means all the sins of our past, present, and future are under the blood of Jesus. Confession is indeed “good for the soul,” and vital to our relationship with God, but Jesus doesn’t have a tally sheet of your sins to mark off only the ones you confess. He has written “FORGIVEN” in big red letters across your entire life. Confess as the Spirit brings things to mind, and trust in God’s faithfulness.His mercy is a wide, wide ocean Beloved, and all your sins are buried there.