Two Points..

Last week I had the privilege of sharing a worship thought with my daughter’s middle school basketball team. I’d love to also share here…

Fouls are part of the game in basketball. More than likely, you won’t play the season or even a game without getting fouled or fouling someone else. Sometimes they are intentional, you know that player. But most of the time they are accidental. Nonetheless, fouls will get called and a free throw will be given because of it. Two free points available…

In life, we also foul each other and get fouled. To forgive these fouls keeps us moving forward in peace and love. Don’t be that person who fouls on purpose, you just gave your opponent two possible free points. But, know that when you’re fouled, you’ll get those two free points too. We can’t out foul God’s grace. Scripture says it is sufficient. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Sometimes the free points are received and sometimes they are not, but they are always offered. Isn’t this also so much like the grace of God? We are allowed a swish of grace each and every time we foul. But, this grace isn’t cheap. It was bought by His death. His grace was given when He walked this earth and died for us. I am SO thankful for this gift! Because as long as I’m on this earth, I know I’ll foul others. May they receive His grace. May I. May we know that even if the two points are not scored, it was still offered.

What about those fouls that happen and don’t get called? No free throw doesn’t equal no grace. God still sees. And, His grace is still there. Trust Him in that and offer forgiveness anyway. He sees that too. Even if the referee doesn’t. Offer him grace too. Us humans miss things. We just do.

No harm, no foul takes on a whole new meaning when it comes to life. But, just like in the game of basketball, fouls are a part of life. May we give and receive grace as often as those fouls are given and received. This is God’s will for us.

Jesus said: “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you.  But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Matthew 6:14-15 (NLT)

When we see a free throw taken in the game of basketball, may we always think of the grace God offers after a foul. And may we offer it to others as freely as He offers it to us. So that ours will also be forgiven.

The ball may miss the basket, but His grace never does and we all need it.

 

Vengeance is Mine.

When we are deeply wounded, we are changed. God knows this and the devil knows this.

If someone hurts you deeply, ask God how to forgive every day, every hour if necessary. If we don’t have the desire to forgive, we will continue to suffer in the bondage of resentment and bitterness from the pain inflicted which is exactly what the devil wants. This pain can affect every relationship we have, even and especially those who are completely innocent in it, which is also what the devil wants. He loves to watch the collateral damage ravage lives and generations.

Knowing this, it just makes sense to forgive rather than suffer. Haven’t we already suffered enough? But how?

Healing comes gradually… as does relief. We can stay mad at the person for hurting us or we can ask God to help us forgive and view them as He does. Over and over again. We can blame them for our situation or ask God to help us forgive and see where He wants to take us from here. We can obsess over what they are doing or why they did what they did or we can turn our focus to those who do love us and desire us in their lives.

We can HOLD ON or we can LET GO. And that includes revenge. Letting go has got to be one of the hardest things we do in this life. To let go of a person, a dream, a life, is painful. There’s no getting around the pain. We can mask it, avoid it, cover it, downgrade it, but it’s still there.

To let go of the desire to avenge and seek justice on our own is hard. It’s only natural to want to do so. So letting it go helps us. I love how Max Lucado explains…

“Forgiveness doesn’t diminish justice; it just entrusts it to God.”

The person who says they feel no pain or dismisses yours has not dealt with their own. The ones that have get how hard this is and God knows too. He created us to love and be loved. Our hearts are fragile.

 Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:19-21 (NASB)

Not only has God promised to take care of it, whatever “it” may be. He asks us to leave it to Him so that we can go in peace. Forgiveness restores our happiness and loving by forgiving and leaving them to Him may even open their heart to Him in a way it never has been before. No matter what, it frees us. Over and over again.

It’s a beautiful thing to hand it over. I thank Him for taking it! Once again, it’s a command given out of His love for us. Let Him carry that too. Let Him have it. That’s what He asks of us and it’s for our own good. To lighten our load and make way for joy.

 

Amazing Grace

I think, more often than not, the grace that people are afraid of, is the grace that sets them free. Being scared to be honest, taking off the mask, openly admitting struggles, voicing the bitterness, expressing the misunderstanding. These are all hard and they all take grace.

We tend to think “GRACE” means happy go lucky, peaceful, even “easy”…I know I did. But, now I view “GRACE” as strength, courage, the ability  (only way) to do the “hard thing”. Cheap grace is easy. God’s grace is power.

If we are called to a life of grace, God will allow a lot of pain. How else would it show? Showering those who have hurt us with grace is straight from God and goes against our flesh. When we allow ourselves to admit hurt from others and recognize the need for grace in ourselves, the power of grace is revealed. Showing grace to those who have hurt us, frees us and surprises others in today’s world. Just as I know that I don’t deserve God’s grace, they know they don’t deserve ours. It’s a gift we decide to give. Like God’s grace to us.

If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink, for you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you. Proverbs 25:21-22 (ESV)

I’m thoroughly convinced that the ONLY way to do this is by grace. Now, that’s power! When you think you’ve been hurt one to many times, when you think you can’t take one more lashing or bloody heart. When the person you never thought would or even could hurt you, does. Because we all fail each other. Remember, the grace of God, is not cheap. It’s the only thing that will heal your heart. Receiving it and sharing it.

Do you need grace? Give it.

I can think back on those I have hurt and I praise God for the grace they’ve shown me after the fact, I knew I needed it and that they didn’t have to give it. But, oh the sweet picture of Jesus we get to see when they do. It’s truly a gift.

Jesus bled and died for us because of His grace towards us. When we run out, He is our never ending source.

That person that comes to mind, that situation that won’t go away, that conversation that scares you, that hidden struggle….May God grant us the GRACE to forgive, release, lean in, and admit. That all takes a supernatural courage and that comes from His power. The power of grace. It truly is amazing.

Signed, Sealed, Delivered…

God builds us up to send us out.

It’s only in the stories that hurt that we can experience His comfort. Have you ever listened to someone share their story and think “How on earth could someone have to go through that much on this earth”? These are the stories that glorify Him most. Because, “if THEY can lean into God through THAT, surely I should be able to.” He comforts us to send us out and comfort others.

He corrects, teaches, and shares wisdom for our own healing and then to share with our children and others. May we learn something from others so that we don’t have to experience everything first hand.

It’s the hard stuff in our lives that is most likely to impart wisdom or recklessness. Anger can wreak havoc on our lives and loved ones. Are you asking for strength, His power to forgive, wisdom?

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. James 1:5 (NIV)

That’s a promise! It WILL be given to you.

When we feel the full expression of God’s forgiveness for ourselves, we can’t help but offer it to others. When He corrects us, someone else needs to hear.  When He changes our desires, it’s to align us with His will.  When we choose to love anyway and in spite of, it’s because of Him. If it’s HIS love that helped you, it’s HIS love you will share.

God builds us up to send us out.

The way He has worked in your life, the courage He has summoned in you, the ways He has renewed your mind, the healing from that specific brokenness, the relationships He has replaced, the hearts you can touch, all come from your specific story. Each one of ours is different and I would LOVE to hear yours…

He meets us right where we are so that we can assure the next person that He will too. Our God LONGS for us.

He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us. 2 Corinthians 1:4 (MSG)

In each of your hard places, God has a special purpose. When our faith is tested, it is also strengthened. And, it is strengthened for a reason. Through Christ, we could be used to break a generational cycle, reach others across the globe, touch a heart across the cubicle or our own table, raise a warrior for Christ…all and only through Him. (Philippians 4:13) Who knows how He’ll use you?  That’s part of the adventure. No matter what, giving Him the glory, regardless of the outcome, turns our ashes to beauty.

He doesn’t need us to accomplish His plan, but what an honor to be used in any way, shape, or form for His purposes. This is His desire for us. To turn our lives into living testimonies. Your story may seem too ugly to share, but check your return address…There’s a place with your name on it.

There are many rooms in my Father’s house, and I am going to prepare a place for you. I would not tell you this if it were not so. And after I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to myself, so that you will be where I am. John 14:2-3 (GNT)

Signed with the blood of Jesus, Sealed with His love, and Delivered into His arms…

Can We?

Can we give thanks for opportunities to forgive? Can we give thanks for the times we’ve felt the loneliest? Can we give thanks for the times we’ve been betrayed and felt the most hurt? The ultimate thanksgiving.

For the joy set before Him, Christ endured the cross. (Hebrews 12:2) Mentally, physically, spiritually, it took all He had and He did it for us.

God is the Giver of all good things. (James 1:17) He is also with us when things and people are taken away. (Joshua 1:9) When we can see these difficult situations as times to deepen our relationship and increase our dependence on Him, we can view them through different lenses. The lenses of thankfulness. Thankful that our God never changes. Thankful that our God is the same God in the good times as in the bad. Thankful that He still died for us. And thankful that He is coming back to take us home.

Can you, like me, look back on your worst times and think, “Wow, I lived through that and I came out closer to Christ. Leaning on Him harder than ever.” I have different trials now. We all do. Can I look at each of these and say “Thank you, Lord.” “Thank you that You hear me and although You have the Power to remove them completely, You may not. You may walk beside me instead.” Either way, Lord, I say thank You.

Those “opportunities” to forgive mean someone has wronged us. That’s never pleasant. Can we, instead, view them as opportunities to catch a glimpse of how much grace God lavishes on us? How often we let Him down and how His love never fails or wavers? Can we forgive someone and say thank You, Lord, for forgiving me…?

Can we say “Thank you God, for what you give. And, thank You for what You do not.” It takes great faith that God IS love to do that.

Be thankful in all circumstances. This is what God wants from you in your life in union with Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 (GNT)

When our child turns away, runs away…..When our spouse leaves, when our health fails, when our job is uncertain, when money is tight, when tension is high. As tears roll down our face, can we say, “Thank You, Lord, for never forsaking me.”

Because, no matter what, I have this blessed assurance that Jesus is mine…’O what a foretaste of glory divine’…

The Gift of Forgiveness

For anyone who has blown it and felt the grace of forgiveness, to anyone who has known a forgiver, to anyone boggled by someone else’s forgiveness, we know it’s a supernatural gift and can only come from above. It’s the exact opposite of what the devil wants for our lives.

Do you realize the gift forgiveness is for ourselves? Not just to receive, but to grant. When Jesus tells us to forgive, it’s because He knows it’s the only way we can live the abundant life He died to give us. Forgiveness is a choice. Refusing to do so adds more pain, heaviness, bitterness, anger. It poisons us and affects the people around us.

When we choose to forgive, it’s not natural. For me, the process started with “Lord, I want to forgive. I have that desire. Will you help me?” And, every day, sometimes every twenty minutes, I’d ask Him…”Help me forgive”. The alternative hurts too much. Take this pain and burden. It’s not immediate, but over time, if we humble ourselves and ask for His help, He will show us how and start clearing out the pain and bitterness, making room for more of Him. The forgiver will start to feel relief like never before. This is a gift Jesus wants to help us receive through His strength alone. For our own good on this earth.

Through this process, He opened my eyes to my own sinfulness. To what He’s forgiven in me. To how we all fall short. To how the person who wronged me may be completely unaware to the amount of pain they have caused. “Jesus forgive them, they know not what they do”. To the fact that I’m sure I have harmed others without knowing the extent. To the fact that forgiveness frees us. To how sweet it is to be forgiven. Ask and you shall receive. Give and it will be given to you.

This entry is to let you know that forgiving someone else is as much a gift as being forgiven. The deeper the pain or betrayal, the harder it is to do so, but the sweeter the reward. I don’t wish pain, loss, or betrayal on anyone, but the gift of forgiveness after the fact is something you can’t learn or experience without it. When you feel the kind of pain that can alter the trajectory of your life and make the decision to forgive instead, you will be moving in God’s will for your story rather than the devil’s. He has a path he wants you to take as well and that’s as far away from God as possible. He wants us to follow our pain, Jesus wants us to give it to Him through forgiveness.

Jesus knew what He was doing. He knows that without offering forgiveness for the wrongs others do to us, we carry more pain than He died to remove. When you can honestly love them in Christ and wish them the best, you know you’re on your way.

Forgiving is not condoning. Forgiving is loving and forgiving as Jesus loves and forgives us. It’s not easy, but it’s a gift waiting to be unwrapped. Ask Him for the scissors today.

 

The Love We Crave

 

mercy

The love we crave is merciful. The love we crave is consistent, compassionate. The love we crave is unconditional, accepting, understanding. This is the kind of love we crave in all our relationships. Whether our parent, coworker, classmate, friend, or spouse is a Christian or not, we all crave this kind of love. Because, it’s respectful. It’s kind. It’s real.

If you’ve been raised or surrounded by the alternative (critical, rude, exclusive, controlling, demanding, or apathetic) you may not realize that you weren’t witnessing real love. If you’ve respected and loved someone with these characteristics, you’ll think you deserved the behavior because you loved the person dishing it out. You’ll find yourself drawn towards people like it because you think it’s love. If it’s all you’ve known, it’s all you know. Until someone polar opposite comes along and shows you or Jesus grabs a hold of your heart and shows Himself, your perspective is skewed.

Truth is, the character of Christ is where you find what true love is.

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NLT)

If a person is not patient or kind, don’t blame yourself. If a person is rude, guard your heart. If a person is controlling or demeaning, protect yourself. And, I’ll be the first to admit, this person has been me. When I act this way it is because I’m feeling depleted of love, tired, angry, over it. I’m needing refueled. I’m feeling unappreciated, unhappy, unloved. Many people who act this way, don’t realize this is the case. They don’t want to talk it out. They don’t want to be friends. They don’t want to share or trust. They just want to be left alone. If this is someone you love, respect, and admire, this is extra hard. Especially as daughters, if it is our dad, we crave this so much that we may inadvertently date and marry guys with similar characteristics in hopes of breaking a barrier that shouldn’t have to be broken in the first place. Trying to earn their love, approval, compassion.

Learn what love is and what love is not. Learn from Jesus. Watch their fruit. Pay attention to how they treat others. Be forgiving and merciful yourself. Most people are doing the best they know to do on any given day. Try to be a friend/coworker/sister/mom/spouse who displays this kind of love. How else will your children learn if they don’t see it for themselves? You can find that answer in the last sentence of paragraph two.

Perfect love does not come from our human relationships because we are all imperfect. But, by leaning into and immersing ourselves in the perfect love of God, we can have healthier, closer, and more genuine relationships with each other. Real love opens the gates of mercy, honesty, understanding, forgiveness, grace, and endurance.

The ultimate love we crave comes from Jesus who bled and died for us. Jesus, who when asked, loves to give love advice and has. Read about Him and how he treated others. All races, all sins, all diseases, all professions, all intellects. All social classes. He loved them all. And, He still does.

His love is why I write. His love is how we give and receive the love we crave to and from each other. His love is how we love ourselves properly. His love is why we’re here today. His love is why we’ll be in heaven forever. His love has been there all along. His love is the love we crave.

Forgiveness….

forgive

Forgiveness has weighed heavy on my mind the past couple days…The reason God asks us to forgive isn’t to excuse the hurtful acts done to us, it is to free us from them. It’s to put what was done to us back in His hands in order to move forward with our lives without the burden of constant bitterness and resentment. I think some people get so used to carrying the bitterness, they don’t even realize they carry it. It’s a painful poison.

“Forgiveness doesn’t make what the person did right, it just makes your heart right.” — Beth Moore

I wouldn’t have understood this quote until I had a doozy to forgive. The weight we carry by harboring unforgiveness can affect generations. It can also promote a cycle of bitterness, anger, and resentment that God does not intend for us to carry much less pass on. In my own situation, I couldn’t prevent the cycle of divorce no matter how hard I tried. But now, I want to do everything in God’s power to prevent bitterness, resentment,  and consistent conflict in our situation. This doesn’t excuse the behavior or erase the pain. It changes me. It humbles me over and over again as I seek His way to handle daily situations. Extending mercy and grace while handing over the need for revenge is one of the hardest things God asks us to do. But, just like everything else He asks us to do, it’s in our best interest. He is a loving and just God.

Forgiving someone doesn’t necessarily mean reconciliation either. It depends on the relationship and the two involved. It comforts me to trust that God knows exactly what happened. He knows the hearts involved and He will deal with it. Forgiveness takes faith because we have to believe God in order to take this giant leap. Forgiveness is not “letting them off the hook”, it’s letting ourselves off the hook to go in peace by leaving the offense in God’s hands.

If there is someone you feel like you need to forgive on a daily basis and you can’t seem to avoid like a mean spirited coworker or a critical family member or spouse, pray for them and ask God how to respond to them. In these situations, I tend to get back in the doormat position by turning the other cheek over and over. God’s will is that we love others, but not that we forget to love ourselves as His children in the process. We all deserve respect. These people may be the sandpaper in our lives that God is using to refine and test us. Love them in the process of standing up for yourself. I know that’s also not easy….none of this comes naturally to us.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27

His peace is priceless and His peace is worth handing our situation over. It is a process that He will help us with once we have the desire to forgive. He alone can soften and strengthen our hearts after what they’ve been through. Once our desire is to forgive, He will take the reins. Let Him have them…Forgiveness is the final act of love. Jesus proved that to be true.

Love Them Anyway

love

We are called to love others as God loves them…and that means to love them anyway. Because we are not perfect and will fail each other, we will need to choose to love anyway and in spite of. We are studying the various fruits of the spirit in our women’s Bible study and the lesson on love hit me hard. Not because I have a hard time loving necessarily, but because of how Beth Moore explains why we tend to withhold love or are afraid to in the first place. The reason is rejection and fear of further rejection.

When we offer love and it is not returned, it can be the most painful experience known to man. Jesus felt the pain of rejection personally. When we experience that pain, we subconsciously protect ourselves from ever feeling it again….because it hurts. This is why we withhold or withdraw love. What we fail to realize, is that God sees our attempts. He catches and rewards our attempts to love even when they are rejected, ignored, or go completely unnoticed by man. This frees us up to go ahead and love anyway…because He sees.

For singles, this doesn’t mean to fall in love with anyone and everyone. Guard your heart. Be prayerful about who you fall for and commit to. But, we can still show brotherly and sisterly love to all in the process. Show love to potential mates by respecting them enough to be honest, polite, and direct. Every ex doesn’t need to turn into an enemy, wish them well and keep moving. One of my best friends reminded me that the one God has for you won’t leave. I believe this to be true! If they leave, let them go gracefully and be thankful that you are one step closer to the one that won’t.

We are called to love our enemies. This feels completely unnatural, but it is for our own good. Loving our enemies removes the enemy title. It doesn’t mean we hang out with them on a regular basis, call them when we have a problem, or have play dates (unless we feel led to). It also doesn’t mean we continue to put ourselves in hostile or harmful situations. There are some people in our lives that we will need to ask for God’s guidance on how to love and do it from a distance. To love our enemies is to recognize that they are fellow humans that Jesus also died for.

Forgiveness will lead to another blessed fruit…..peace. Peace that passes all understanding is a fruit that we don’t want to miss out on! This allows us to move forward in our lives without the weight of pent up bitterness, anger, and resentment. Remember, if God sees our attempts to love, He also sees those who reject it. God is merciful and just and it is His job to judge. It is our job to love.

By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another – John 13:35

Some of us have an easy time saying “I love you”. Others, really struggle with saying it all. What it means, is I love you…anyway. I love you after all we’ve been through, what we will go through, regardless of what you do or don’t believe, in the midst of our failures and distances. It means as a brother or sister in Christ, I love you.

Forgiveness is the final act of love. Jesus forgave us all as He hung on the cross. He loved each one of us enough to die for us…..anyway and in spite of.