April 28, 2017

Peace I Leave You

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But as He came closer to Jerusalem and saw the city ahead, He began to weep.
“How I wish today that you of all people would understand the way to peace.
But now it is too late, and peace is hidden from your eyes.
Luke 19:41-42 NLT

Jesus really had emotions. Sometimes He wept and other times He danced with joy.  And there were times when He truly grieved.  In the Scripture passage above, Jesus wept because the city had refused Him.  And not only Him but the peace that only He could bring them.

As a parent, I truly want the very best for these precious children that I have been blessed with.  When I am no longer here, I hope that they have joy and peace and a faith that cannot be shaken.  Those long nights on my knees, praying over each one of their hearts and the days that were spent investing in their eternal future will pay off because, no matter what, they will know about their Savior.  I hope that they know that the things of this earth are so temporary and that only Jesus and a relationship with Him will give them eternal life. And while they wait on Him to return, that they will claim the peace that Jesus came to give them.

Isn’t that what Jesus wanted for us?  Right before His crucifixion, Jesus promised something so valuable—peace.

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

He didn’t leave us fame or fortune or tangible things…although He can provide those things.  He left us something more beneficial. And if we are to be a Jesus follower and lead others to Him, we must have peace and joy to share with this struggling world.

What do you need from Him today?  Is there an area of your life where you find yourself needing peace?  I know that I have to be reminded daily that He doesn’t want me to worry about the cares of this world, so I write this verse so many places.  Maybe you have been struggling with something that you have been asking God to take away.  Don’t lose hope!  God may not choose to take your thorn just yet; however, you will still receive His peace.  And remember: regardless of the trial, Jesus will give you your inheritance…today, and everyday, He offers peace.

*   ~   ♥   ~   ✞   ~  ♥   ~   *

Do you know Jesus?  Do you need His peace today?  If so, I ask that you pray this simple prayer with me….

Dear God, I know that I am a sinner.  I am struggling today with so much and I just want to be free.  I believe that Jesus is Your Son and the Savior of the world.  He died for me so that I can live forever with You.  Help me to know more about You.  Thank You for loving me.  In Jesus’ name, amen.

“I AM” Chapter 7 – Day 4: I AM…The Root and Offspring of David

2Samuel7_IAMI am where I am because of my family.  Faith in Jesus and a strong relationship with Him is a legacy that has passed down from generation to generation.  I am so blessed to have known Him all my life.  My grandparents on both sides were faithful Jesus followers.  My parents made sure that above all else, my salvation and my relationship with Jesus trumped all.  I want to make sure that my children know Him and will spend eternity with Him.  To follow only Him and to faithfully see His word.  It’s true that we cannot choose our family, but God did choose them for us.

Have you ever looked at Jesus’s family? Did you know James was His half-brother? Did you know that James did not believe in Jesus until after the resurrection? The Book of James is written as a letter addressing many issues about how faith in Jesus needs to affect the way we act. It also addresses some misunderstandings about the relationship between salvation by faith in Jesus and the need for believers to live a godly life.  James 1:2-4 says “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.  For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.  So let it grow for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.”

The scripture from today’s lesson is Hebrews 11.  It has been called the “Hall of Faith” because it mentions a long list of people who were used by the Great I AM because of their faith.  No doubt the author of Hebrews confused the readers by calling it this.  These mighty Jewish people, heroes if you will, never received all that God had promised them because they died before Jesus came.  In God’s plan, they would be rewarded together for enduring much testing.  Old Testament faith was also a heartfelt trust in a personal God.  Many before us faced difficult times and persevered by faith.  Notice that in every illustration in this chapter, it starts with “It was by faith that….”

Hebrews 12 begins “Since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily hinders our progress. And let us run the race that God has set before us….”

Maybe the weight that slows us down is our past or maybe it is what we are dealing with right now.  You and I both have had the awesome privilege of meeting Jesus and have formed a real relationship with Him.  Now, what are you going to do with Him? Don’t you love this question that Teresa asks in this book?

It is God’s will for us to win this race we call life, for us to lay down our recurring sin that weighs us down sometimes. There will be pain from exertion, but we are told to pace ourselves and bear the pain with grace and with patience. And remember that others, who have run the same race and finished, will be cheering us on!

*****

Let’s Pray:

Dearest Lord,

Thank You so much for all those who went before us to show us that all Your promises do come true and if we trust You we will be rewarded.  What a day that will be when we see Abraham, Isaac, David, Mary, Martha, Peter, Noah (and the list goes on and on), rejoicing when we cross the finish line all together.  You are our great reward and You are worth it.  I end with a prayer from 2 Samuel 7:25-26, “And now, O Lord God, I am Your servant: do as you have promised concerning me and my family.”  In Jesus’ Name I pray.

AMEN

Glorious Living w/ Coach Megan: Restoring Broken Relationships

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Dear Coach Megan,

A very horrible situation happened several years ago between one of my family members and I.   Ever since then, we have not had any contact with each other.   I am very unsettled in my heart and spirit about this and I feel God pushing me towards reconciliation with this person. My question is in how I know if this is something I should pursue or not. I hope you will be able to help me with this.  Bless you, P.S.

Hello, P.S.!

My heart aches for you, knowing how grave the pain is when any relationship {family or otherwise} is ripped apart.  Not much makes me happier than to see relationships restored to even better than new, but you and I both know that sometimes, that isn’t what ends up happening. Reconciliation is the act of settling or restoring differences.  While a relationship will not always be salvaged, the spirit of reconciliation will ALWAYS reflect the heart of God.  Read with me Romans 12:18.

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

Most people do not know the when for reconciliation, but the Bible does state two specific times:

  1. When you have wronged another {Matthew 5:23-24}
  2. When you have been wronged {Matthew 18:15-16}

In order to pave the road for reconciliation, you must 100% sincerely commit to forgive and be reconciled in the relationship.  This does not need to go both ways, but your heart must be pure in motives and sincere.  1 Peter 3:9 says: “Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.”

With this in mind, use the following as guide in beginning to pave your road for reconciliation….

Prepare your heart for seeking reconciliation. Be willing to:

  • view the conflict as an opportunity for growth
  • learn what God wants you to learn
  • discover that you are partly at fault
  • expose your weakness
  • be open with your feelings
  • risk the relationship
  • accept a negative outcome
  • pray for God’s will to be done

Colossians 3:15

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body
you were called to peace. And be thankful. 

 Know that the refusal to seek reconciliation affects the intimacy of your relationship with God. Humble your heart and pray:

  • “Lord, I don’t want to be prideful and unbending”
  • “Lord, I want Your favor in my life, not Your disfavor”
  • “Lord, I want to reflect Your character and be open to reconciliation”

Matthew 5:9

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

Seek forgiveness and apologize for words that have hurt the other person

  • “I have tried to see our relationship from your point of view”
  • “I realize I have been wrong in my attitude of _______”
  • “Will you forgive me”

Proverbs 6:2-3

you have been trapped by what you said, ensnared by the words of your mouth.
So do this, my son, to free yourself, since you have fallen into your neighbor’s hands:
Go—to the point of exhaustion— and give your neighbor no rest!

Recognize the ground rules of communication:

  • Offer unconditional acceptance
  • Confront the problem, not the person
  • Listen without interrupting
  • Verbalize your feelings
  • Use words that build self-worth
  • Aim for mutual understanding
  • Give more than you take

Ephesians 4:2

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.

Be kind and gentle

  • Don’t harbor resentment
  • Don’t make excuses for yourself
  • Don’t get drawn into arguments
  • Don’t fail to pray
  • Don’t have expectations of immediate acceptance

2 Timothy 2:24-25

And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome 
but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. 
Opponents must be gently instructed, 
in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth

Reflect the character of Christ in ALL you do.

In order to prepare your heart to reflect the character of Christ, pray:

  • “Lord I die to my personal rights” {Galatians 2:20}
  • “Lord, I die to defending myself” {Psalm 28:7}
  • “Lord, I die to relying on my own abilities” {Proverbs 28:26}

Enlist a mediator if necessary

  • Pray for God to prepare the heart of your opposer for mediation
  • Seek a person whom your opposer can respect
  • You can say, “At times an outside person can have a different perspective that is more objective. Would you consider having a mediator help us think through our problems with the hope of reaching a successful end?”

Matthew 18:16

But if they will not listen, take one or two others along,
so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’

Do not hold yourself responsible for the outcome

  • When reconciliation is refused, do not live with false guilt.
  • You cannot force reconciliation to occur
  • Everyone is individually responsible to God

Romans 14:12

So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God.

Rest in the knowledge that you have done all that you can do to seek peace

  • Continue to show love and treat the other person with forgiveness
  • Thank God for giving you the desire to be at peace with everyone
  • Praise God for His commitment to orchestrate your own spiritual growth

Romans 12:18

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

Dear P.S., if your efforts are refused, remember that if your heart has been repentant, you have God’s total forgiveness {1 John 1:8-9}.  Be sure to pray for those who refuse reconciliation and for their unmet need {Matthew 5:44}.  Know that God never leaves you when you suffer the loss of a close relationship {Psalm 34:18}.  Be careful to control what you say about those who refuse reconciliation {Romans 12:14}.  Do not be vengeful toward them.. in time, God deals with those who do wrong {Romans 12:19}.  Know completely that God will bring something good out of the pain {Isaiah 43:18-19}.

In closing, my friend, please keep in mind that reconciliation is restoring a relationship based on restored trust. It requires repentance and is to be extended only when earned. Pray to God for discernment on this and I so hope that you will be able to use this as a guide when preparing your heart, mind, and spirit.

Blessings,

Coach Megan 🙂

“I AM” Chapter 5 – Day 2: I AM Family

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Furthermore, because we are united with Christ, we have received an inheritance from God, for he chose us in advance, and he makes everything work out according to his plan. 

Ephesians 1:11

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Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.

Colossians 3:12 

Chose. That word says so much. Here are a couple of definitions that I found for this word; looking at the definition helps me to better understand the full impact of the meaning of a word.

  • To want; desire.
  • Make a deliberate decision: to make a deliberate decision to do something

We can’t choose our earthly family, we are gifted (doesn’t always feel like it but yes) with them by God; they are genetically ours.  We love them for their good characteristics and pray them through their bad; as my son says “you get what you get and you don’t throw a fit.”   This principle can be easily applied to our earthly families because, like Teresa said, these relationships are tangible, we can see the connections and they are sometimes easier to grasp than the concept of a spiritual family, whose connections we cannot see with our eyes.

Our spiritual family is different. It’s a family chosen by God; we’re related by blood,—but not flesh and blood like siblings are related—but by the blood of the Lamb.

We don’t choose our family in this life, but God chose us.  He picked each and every one of us.  If nothing else this gives us reassurance that we are part of the I AM’s family; take confidence that He wanted us!  He knew our past, present, and futures and still chose us.

He desires to have a relationship with us.  He made a deliberate decision to call us into His family.

There’s something that Teresa wrote that truly touched my heart: “When it comes to our spiritual family, we like to pick and choose.”  We walk around life looking at those around us, questioning why we have to accept them, and questioning why God chose them.  They may have hurt us, we may know things about their past, and we may wonder why we have to accept them.  I know I have been guilty of this.

Look at Colossians 3:12 again…and see how we are to interact and love our spiritual family:

Tenderhearted – Merciful – Kind – Walking in Humility – Gentle – Patient

 Why?

Because He chose you.   Because He chose me.
Because we are the family of The Great I AM.

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Let’s Pray:

Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank You for choosing me despite my past, despite my present, and despite what my future holds that does not live up to Your word.  Lord, please give us the hearts to accept our spiritual family as You have accepted and chosen us.  Lord, please guide us and give us the opportunities to walk with a tender heart, with mercy, in kindness, with humility, gently, and with patience. Help us to embrace that we are a part of Your family.  Thank You, Father.  In Jesus’ name we pray.

Amen

“I AM” Chapter 5 – Day 1: Who I AM in Christ

Memory Verse:

Heb4_16

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I AM Accepted…

I have a dream that burns within my heart.  I was very young when I first felt the fire of that dream.  Its warmth has kept me going down a different path that separates my way from the world.  Even in church circles I am different.  A square peg trying to find my way through the round hole.  Maybe you are too…and never realized it.

As a Christ-follower I never really understood why there were “denominations” of believers. To me, a denomination is a mathematical term used to quantify or an English term used as an adjective to describe the more superior word (noun).  Why do we need denominations in the family of God?  My experience has been that denominations are exclusive, divisive and, well, negative.  You must join, perform, and perpetrate the belief for that church  to flourish.

A few years back, my “word of purpose” was Unity.  There should be unity in the body of Christ.  Unity in the Church (with a capital “C”).  Does this thought ever cross your mind?  Look at what the Apostle Paul tells us in Ephesians 4:4-6:

“There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”

UNITY means we are all ONE.

Jesus established the Church.  The members of the church were followers of the Way (John 14:6).  The Way is a person: JesusJesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the Lord of All.  When we each stand before God we will be asked  ”What was your relationship with Jesus?”  The question will NOT be “What denomination did you belong to?”  The question will be “Who do you belong to?”

When Paul stood before the council of Jews (as reported in Acts 24) he talks about his experiences and commitment to the Way.  He was asked about his beliefs because they were radical.  Paul lived his life following Jesus’ example.  He was “All In.”

There is another word that describes someone who strives to live like Jesus:  Christian.  Because Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah and the Son of God, He is known as Jesus Christ.  Those who choose to live life by His example can call themselves Christians.

Unfortunately, the world hears the term “Christian” and thinks “Pharisee,” “Hypocrite,” and “Judgmental.”  Do those words describe your walk with the Lord?  If we truly live our lives like Jesus, we will show love and compassion, grace and mercy, and generosity.  The world will want to know us and our Savior.  Jesus’ life changed the world.  Jesus living in you will change the world also.  Let’s change our world in Jesus’ name and live it by His example.

Jesus gave us a gift.  Have you accepted it yet?  Just like with any new gift, we have to learn how to use it properly.  Apply yourself to learning who Jesus is and what His life was about.  Jesus will Rock your World!!!  So, back to denominations…

Paul, in his letter to the church in Corinth addresses the division in the church over which leader they were going to follow (1 Corinthians 1).  The man leading the church was not as important as Jesus Christ as the head of the church.  The Corinthians received correction over their wrong thinking.  We need to check our allegiances, too.

If this topic of Unity of the Body of Christ has sparked an interest for you, please read First Corinthians Chapter 1, ask God to give you an understanding of being “One with Christ,” and a part of a larger body of believers (The Church).

Look at these words of beauty and warning:

“Every word of God proves true.  He is a shield to all who come to him for protection.  Do not add to his words, or he may rebuke you and expose you as a liar.”

Proverbs 30:5-6

“And I solemnly declare to everyone who hears the words of prophecy written in this book:  If anyone adds anything to what is written here, God will add to that person the plagues described in this book.”

Revelation 22:18

These words are from the book of wisdom and the best friend of Jesus.  Follow the Great I AM.  Accept His Gift, it’s free.  Learn the Truth, follow the Way and let Him show you how to LIVE.    You have been chosen by Jesus.  You have been ACCEPTED into the family of God.  What is your response to Jesus?

We are a City on a Hill.  We are to be shining the Light.  We are ONE.  United we will Stand. Divided we will FALL.

Let’s Pray:

Dear Jesus,

You are the Christ, the Messiah, the One who gives us Life and Love, Grace and Mercy.  Teach us to love like You.  Help us to accept our place in Your Church body.  We all have a part to play as we reach the lost for You, Lord.  Open our eyes so that we can see where we have gone astray.  Give us the desire to be one with our brothers and sisters.  May our love for You bind us together and the divisions be erased.  We want to be the Church—Your Church, ONE CHURCH.  Father, gather Your children home.  Thank You for making us that City on a Hill leading the lost to You.  We love You, Jesus.

AMEN

“I AM” Chapter 4 – Day 1: Jesus is the “I AM”

 

Memory Verse:

John15_11

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I am full of questions today.  Why is it important for people to know us?  What difference does it make if people REALLY know who we are?  Does it hurt us when people get the wrong impression of us?  If I needed someone to write my life story, what kind of person would I choose to do that for me?  How would I go about finding someone who could accurately portray Who I Am to other people?

If you are still following along with us after three weeks of learning who the Great I AM is through the Old Testament, then hold on to your seat, because Jesus is going to ramp up the study!  Jesus was like that, you know.  Wherever He found people, He would push them outside their comfort zone, challenge their beliefs and get them to really see themselves for who they really are.  Have you begun to look at yourself a little differently yet?

As we cross the Bridge from the Old Testament to the New Testament we walk across 400 silent, unholy, mixed-up years.  God is preparing the world stage for the coming Messiah.  The people were living life the way they wanted to, making gods of whatever they found valuable to them at the time.  The Bridge crosses a silent ocean of godlessness.  The picture of the Bridge in my mind sags in the middle.  The first part is downhill, bottoms out at a very low point and then there is an uphill climb to get off on the other side.

Look at our memory verse for the week.  It is John 15:11.  If you notice in your study guide, there is a typo in the “I AM’s” of Jesus.  It should read John 15:1 for that section.  As I began to prepare for the study, I had all these questions, so I took them to Jesus.  He turned that typo into our memory verse for the week and the answer to ALL my questions.  He will do that, you know.  There are no dumb questions when you seek Him with ALL your heart.  He will give us the answers we need so our JOY will be FULL.

  • Why is it important for people to know us?  We were placed on this earth for a purpose.  If we don’t share ourselves with others, we are missing our purpose.  Don’t miss your purpose for living.  Share your life with others.
  • What difference does it make if people REALLY know who we are?  If you do not show them who you really are, they will make up their own story.  Some of it may be true, but it cannot ALL be true.  Truth is important!  Let others into your life so there is no question where you stand on important matters.
  • Does it hurt when people get the wrong impression of us?  Absolutely!!!  There is nothing more painful than having someone tell a lie about us and have others believe it.  It hurts even worse than when the story is true.  We can grow through that pain, too.
  • If I needed someone to write my life story, what kind of person would I choose to do that for me?  I would want someone who was known to be truthful, honest, and fair.  Someone who had taken the time to get to know me and my heart.  Someone who would not back down when others had a different story to tell.
  • How would I go about finding someone who could accurately portray Who I Am to other people?  I would take the time to reveal myself to others so they could make up their own minds about me and let them write the story based on their own experiences with me.  Each story would be different and unique—just like the relationship between us.  By reading the stories of each writer, others would be able to get a fuller picture of who I really am.

Who did Jesus choose to reveal His character to?  He chose to share His life with strangers who HE turned into disciples.  He said, “Follow Me” and they did.  The disciples got to see the good, the bad, and the ugly of living life as Jesus.  Just like us, Jesus had best friends.  John was Jesus’ closest friend and gives us our first seven “I AM’s.”  If I truly want to know who Jesus is and what He is like, I want to talk to His best friends.

You are writing your life story RIGHT NOWWhat would those closest people to you be able to reveal about your character?  It matters, you know.  If you aren’t showing them the example you had hoped, there is time to make changes and reflect the Light inside you.  You can open the Door and offer Bread.  You can point people to the Way, the Truth and the Life.  Your story isn’t finished yet.  Finish it well!

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Let’s Pray:

Dear Jesus,  Messiah, Lord of ALL,

We thank You for making Yourself known to us.  Thank You for loving us in our sinfulness enough to give Your life for ours.  Thank You for showing us what it means to develop friendships.  I pray for each person seeking You today.  I pray they find You right where they are.  We allow You into our hearts so that Your Spirit can change us from the inside out.  We want to reflect Your Truth, Your Light, and Your Way.  We can feel that JOY welling up now.  Help us to reach the overflowing mark.  We love You, Jesus!

AMEN

“I AM” Chapter 3 – Day 1: The Great I AM in the Books of the Minor Prophets

Memory Verse

The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
    he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
    he enables me to tread on the heights.

Habakkuk 3:19

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As we begin our week examining the books of the Minor Prophets, we begin with Hosea and Amos.  Do not be fooled by the size of their writings because their message is mighty.  Through Hosea’s life we see God revealing Himself (for the first time) as a Faithful Bridegroom and the children of Israel as His bride.  That imagery runs all through the New Testament.  What a legacy!

For thousands of years and many generations, God has been patient with His people.  God demonstrated His love for His people using marriage as a metaphor.  Ouch!  If our life was a metaphor for our relationship with God (and it is) what would it say to the people around us?

In looking at Hosea’s story, I noticed seven ways God used Hosea’s life as an example to the people around him.  Let’s see if they might pertain to our lives as well.

  1.  Our relationship with God is like a marriage.  From “Will you…” to “I do”… to “?”
  2. God uses our struggles to display His POWER through us.  Not what we can do on our own.
  3. God uses our challenges in our relationships to reveal His LOVE to others.  We have a choice.
  4. God calls us to love the unlovely – even those who have hurt us deeply.
  5. Our disobedience to God brings judgment and severe consequences.
  6. God calls us into a covenant relationship with Him. He WANTS you!
  7. God expects us to live in a manner that would connect others to Him.

From the moment we say “I Do” to a relationship with the Great I AM we are in a committed, monogamous, covenant “marriage.”  Why does God use marriage as an example of His relationship with us?  Marriage is that object or state of being we have sought after (in one form or another) most of our lives.  When we were young, we would dream of our perfect wedding to the perfect person and we would live a perfect life.  Happily Ever After, right?

Then maybe we found that perfect someone, promised a perfect “forever” and began to live that dream.  Then…that “perfect” life hit a few bumps along the way.  Our perfect marriage gets rocky…then what?  Dreams are shattered, hearts are broken, eyes are opened.

Look at God’s example.  He used Hosea’s life and Hosea’s marriage and Hosea’s service to speak to the Israelites about their “marriage” relationship with God.  Just as those “perfect” dreams were shattered, our relationship with God becomes broken.  It is at this moment of broken dreams that we find we have a choice.

We can choose to honor our marriage vow or walk away.  We can choose to love the unlovely one or cast them aside.  We can stand firm when the going gets tough or we can faint in the face of struggle.  We can choose to OBEY or expect the consequences of our actions.

We can break our promise to God.  We can leave those “other people” out there in the dark instead of leading them to the Light.  We have a choice.  Because we chose to say “I Do,” we get the blessings of a life in relationship with the Creator of the Universe.  Because we said, “I Do,” we have a Helper, a Leader through our struggles.  Because we are “one flesh,” we are loved when we are un-lovely.

So how can God use us  –  You and Me – to lead others to Him?  How can God use a broken heart and a broken spirit to shine its LIGHT?  He changes our heart.  We were born with a heart problem, but God is our Healer.

The prophet Amos (who studied under Hosea) told the Israelites their words were empty without the right heart.  They needed the heart of a worshipper and the heart of a servant.  Oscar Wilde once said,

“Every Saint has a PAST.  Every Sinner has a FUTURE.”

God showed Hosea how to love his wife, Gomer, the way God loved Israel; the way He loves you and me.  Hosea forgave Gomer, rebuilt the marriage and taught others to follow God.  Hosea’s struggles did not disqualify him from service.  Gomer’s wicked ways did not prevent Hosea from being used by God. Their children, who were given very unfortunate names by God, were restored and dearly loved in the end.

We were born with a heart problem, but we have a choice.  We can choose to live with a bad, broken heart, or we can give the pieces to God and let Him make something lovely.

Let’s Pray:

Lord, We bring You the pieces of our broken hearts and our broken lives.  Thank You for loving us when we are un-lovely.  Thank You for making a way for us to go from an unfortunate name of “I am not your God” to “I AM your God.”  You asked us “Will you?”  We want to say “I Do” and live under Your Protection all the days of our lives.  We love You, Lord.

AMEN

 

Girls with Swords: Chapter 14: Our Cross-Carry (pgs 214-220)

Going through this book I have loved the various crosses that we are to carry. I have loved learning of the true power that we have as girls with swords.  I have loved learning about the true power that those swords possess.  We are instructed to wield different kinds of swords, to possess different characteristics; and, yes, I have asked, “How, Lord? How do I do this and do it the right way?”

Two words:  “Follow Him.”

Jesus spoke the truth, fed the hungry, cast out demons, healed the sick, confronted religion, and raised the dead. He did this to show love, forgiveness, healing, freedom, and redemption.

Christ:

Loved the people

Matthew 4:23 (NKJV)

And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people.  

Forgave the people

Matthew 9:2-8  (NKJV)

Then behold, they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you.”  And at once some of the scribes said within themselves, “This Man blasphemes!”  But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said,“Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”—then He said to the paralytic, “Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.” And he arose and departed to his house.  Now when the multitudes saw it, they marveled and glorified God, who had given such power to men. 

Freed the people

Acts 10:38 (NKJV)

How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. 

 

Redeemed the people

Psalm 107:2 (NKJV)

Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom He has redeemed from the hand of the enemy.

 

One of the things that stood out to me the most is the need for us to follow Him, for us to model our lives, words, actions, and thoughts after Him. Lisa said more than once that this generation, the world we live in today, needs these things more than ever. We need love and forgiveness, we need redemption and freedom. We need miracles, and we need signs and wonders. We need to follow Him in His actions, in His efforts to draw others closer to Him. We need to show that the Cross was the “ultimate display of His unconditional love for us” (pg. 214).

The Cross is our sign and you are His wonder.”  We were placed here to pick up our swords.  We were placed here to follow Him and to build the kingdom of Christ.

The final verse of this section touched my heart:

Hebrews 10:23-25 (NKJV)

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.

Love. Forgive. Free. Heal. Redeem. Encourage.

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Let’s Pray:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for the example You offer to us.  We see so much hurt and pain in our world.  We know that we have the sword and we know that we have the power, but how to use these sometimes escapes us.  Lord, remind us to follow You, remind us to model after Your example.  Most importantly remind us to love.  Through love so many other tasks can be accomplished.  As You instruct in Hebrews 10:23-25, let us stir up love, let us stir up good works, let us lift one another up.  In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

Girls with Swords: Chapter 13 – “The Sword of Forgiveness” (pgs. 200-205)

Working as a hospice Bereavement Counselor, I have heard and seen stories like Lisa’s numerous times. These stories do not cease to touch my heart. But I have seen stories of forgiveness have two different outcomes as well.

There are two decisions that can be made in a situation such as the one depicted in this chapter.

1.  Forgive 
2.  Don’t forgive

As a Bereavement Counselor I have the opportunity to speak with some of the most interesting individuals I have ever met. Our patients have lived full lives, raised families, and created legacies. When working with our patients and their families all too often we are faced with issues of unforgiveness—either on the side of the patient or on the side of their family.  I have seen unforgiveness lead to children not visiting their parent as they die. I have seen unforgiveness breed words of hurt and hate; open wounds that were thought closed; and cause those wounds to go unhealed…opportunities gone.

I have also seen forgiveness build bridges, heal hearts, and create new beginnings and new opportunities. Relationships restored and mended. Forgiveness is a beautiful thing!  It is a beautiful gift that we are given by God to have relationships with others after our flesh and the world has tried to corrupt them.

Forgiveness is the remission of sins.
For it is by this that what has been lost,
and was found, is saved from being lost again.

–Augustine (pg.205)

Lisa questions how forgiveness impacted her father that night she went to go see him, she doesn’t know exactly what happened, what he was thinking? But, she did know that God moved that night. Her willingness to forgive, her willingness to pick up that sword and walk forward with God by her side made a difference in her father’s life. It made a difference in her life and it made a difference in the life of the social worker who cared for her dad. She didn’t know what forgiving her father would do but she knew that it was something that needed to be done.

We don’t know what events will follow after we choose to say ‘yes‘ to God, we don’t know what will happen after we pick up that sword of forgiveness and carry it with us on our journey. We don’t know what will happen after we forgive that mother, that father, the brother, sister, friend, whomever it may be. But what we do know is after we forgive, after we lay the issue at God’s feet and allow love to fill the space where the unforgiveness lived, that God will take over, He will fulfill the promises He made regarding those relationships before they were even formed.

Lisa’s forgiveness of her father and his actions was a gift—a gift to her father and a gift to herself. Like Lisa said in this section “God is faithful.”  We are to forgive, and He will handle the rest.

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Let’s Pray:

Dear Heavenly Father,

Forgiveness is at times made to seem to sound so easy; but, Lord, You know that it can be hard. Lord, it takes faith and strength and trust in You.  Stories like Lisa’s are beautiful and heartwarming. Please touch the hearts and lives of the women here who are dealing with the issue of forgiveness.  Please soften our hearts and give us the strength to lay the pain at Your feet, the strength to pick up our sword of forgiveness and walk forward with You by our side.  In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

Girls with Swords: Chapter 13 – “Sword of Forgiveness and Restoration” (pgs 191-198)

There is a cultural, learned pattern in our home the last several years which has been terribly hard to correct.  The concept of “stooping beneath” someone else is seen as subservient and undesirable.  Pride is prized above personal relationships.  Grudges are held until the reason for the anger can no longer be remembered.  Stubbornness and pride are not virtues in God’s economy; humbleness and forgiveness are.

My Bible tells me that All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).  None of us will get out of this life without making a mistake, hurting someone, needing to ask forgiveness— and through grace and mercy—be restored to a right relationship with the one you hurt.  We have only one life to live, so we should learn to live it well.  We need to realize our faults and failures before we hold the faults and failures of others up for all to see.

If we consider another person’s feelings above our own, we will not find ourselves with the “wrong motives” Lisa talks about on page 192.  It is one thing to be ‘against’ something, but what are we really “FOR?”  We have to be devoted to a greater cause than our individual rights and opinions.  Lisa says, “Though we are entrusted with a sword of the Spirit, we are not armed to harm.”  The Spirit within us will not strike out to harm another person.

The purpose of the Holy Spirit in our lives is to lead, guide, and direct us on the path of right living.  The Spirit will reveal the areas in our lives needing to be cut away and pruned so that we may continue to grow in the Lord.  Cultivate a soft heart so the work of the Spirit will be quick and less painful.  A tender, caring heart is a vessel the Lord can use.

I was stunned at the anger in the heart of a loved one the first time I heard the term “stoop beneath” used.  There was hurt and bitterness.  Even after hearing the one-sided details of the story she was angry about, I knew there had been wrong on both sides.  Neither party was willing to “stoop” to offer an apology or forgiveness.  A record of wrongs was being kept and that pattern was taught in the home for many generations.  We are still struggling to break down these generational “curses” with unconditional love.  The Bible will lead us to a right definition of LOVE in 1 Corinthians 13.  Make it your guide as you break down these family curses.

Lisa shares with us, “We do not fight to tear down but to build up.  The authority heaven lends to us on earth is to destroy evil by doing good.  Just because I have walked with the sword of God’s Word on my hip for more than three decades doesn’t mean I have always worn it well” (pg. 192).  When we lift our weapon in anger we leave a wound that needs to heal.  Without the soothing balm of forgiveness, the wounds begin to fester and leave scars.  Be quick to ask for forgiveness, grant forgiveness, and begin to restore the damaged relationship.

After the lessons on keeping silent last week, it is only fitting that we focus on WHEN we should speak, HOW we should speak, and for WHAT purpose we should speak.  In 1 Peter 4:11 we find this bit of wisdom, If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God.  If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.  To Him be the glory and power for ever and ever.  AMEN.”

The story Lisa shared about the relationship with her own father struck a chord in my heart.  I was emotionally abandoned by my father and I replaced him with God when I was twelve.  The new girls in our home were neglected and abandoned by their father and my husband has taken them in.  I totally related to the feeling of abandonmentand then of JOY at realizing my God was my Father and He would not leave me or forsake me.

In our family we are all adopted by each other.  We choose to be a family and love each other.  Our story gets told over and over, but we are still hard for some people to understand.  When Lisa shared that God spoke so vividly to her that the rejection by her father was an overwhelming ADOPTION by her Heavenly Father I totally understood.  It was at that moment that I released my earthly father from his “duties.”  I began to rely on my Heavenly Father for nurturing and support.

Like Lisa, I find comfort in the words of Psalms 45:10-11

“Hear, O daughter, and consider, and incline your ear:

Forget your people and your father’s house,

And the king will desire your beauty.

Since he is your lord, bow to him”

Our earthly families are fallible.  Our earthly families can hurt us and we can hurt them.  We MUST show love like our Heavenly Father and offer forgiveness and restoration wherever possible.  Where stubbornness and pride live and flourish, Satan rules.  Do not give him a foothold in your life.  Keep your heart tender and soft, eager to forgive and be forgiven.  We are here to serve each other.  Someone will eventually need to “stoop” to show love.

I pray there are more great examples of fathers out there than neglectful ones.  We have a choice to show love like our Heavenly Father whether we had a good earthly example or not.  Choose today to reflect your Father.  It’s worth it.

Let’s Pray:

Heavenly Father,

Thank You for Your faithful love.  Thank You for seeing the beauty in my life and leading me in Your ways.  I thank You for my earthly father, because through him, I see You more clearly.  Today I choose to love others the way You love me.  AMEN