Just Thinking on Forgiveness and Obedience

Matt 6-14-15

I am privileged to be a part of two Bible studies this year.  One of my favorite things about these studies is the discussion time that we have as a small group, following our personally studying of God’s Word.

I love hearing how other people answer the questions.  Sometimes it’s the way they word their answer that helps me to understand the Scripture passage in a fresh or clearer way.  Sometimes it’s an example they share; a story, a parable or something from their own life that helps me to understand the Scripture.

In this week’s lesson we studied the passage from Matthew 6, which includes God’s commands about forgiving others.  One question had us answer what we would advise a person who is struggling to forgive.

One response that was given was an example that many of us may have heard.  Unforgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.  That’s a good example on the harm that unforgiveness does in our lives and just how crazy it is to not forgive.

But that got me to thinking about forgiveness, especially for believers in Christ.  Why should we forgive someone when they have hurt us, either purposely and intentionally or by accident?

First and foremost, God calls us, no He commands us to forgive others.  That alone should inform my actions and cause me to obey Christ.

But if it doesn’t cause me to forgive, what might prompt me to obedience?  I can look at my own life, my sin, my deceitfully wicked heart apart from Christ and see how much God has forgiven me.  When my huge sin debt has been wiped clean by holy and righteous God Himself, how can I hold onto an offense by another and refuse to forgive them?  When my grievous sin is weighed on the scales against the offense I’ve suffered, there is no comparison.

I may need to remind myself, especially if it’s a fellow Christian, Christ has forgiven them.  He died on the cross and paid the penalty for their sin, even the sin that hurt me.  Their sins are forgiven and cast as far as the east is from the west, as are mine.  How can I put myself over and above Christ and not forgive someone whom Christ died for and forgave?

If it’s an unbeliever, well Christ died to pay the sin debt all humanity.  He stands ready to forgive them and embrace them if they repent of their sins and receive Christ Jesus as Lord.  His righteousness will be applied to their account and their sin debt will be wiped clean.

God doesn’t say, “Forgive someone if they are a fellow Christian.”  No, He doesn’t make my forgiveness conditional on their repentance or if they are saved.  He tells me to forgive.

I have no solid ground to stand on when I choose to be unforgiving.  None!

Is it easy?  No, absolutely not.  But God can help me to forgive.  It’s a choice that I need to make every day.  When the enemy comes along and stirs up hurt feelings, I can choose to remind myself about what God has already spoken about forgiveness.  Speak the truth from God’s Word into my life, my heart, mind, will and emotions.  I can ask God in prayer to help my feelings catch up with my will to obey Him and forgive.

Another thought I had was about obedience to God.  I’m a little concerned about things I see in the church today.  It’s seems like we have a tendency to make it about us and not God.  We may focus on how we feel.  We talk about the benefits we may experience as a result of obedience.

But there seems to be a lack or reverence and obedience to God.  He is Holy and Righteous and Just and deserves nothing less than our full obedience.  Not because we feel like it, but because He is God!

That doesn’t mean that our feelings are always in line with obeying God as an act of our will.  When that’s the case, we can confess that and seek God’s help to heal our hurting hearts.  We can strengthen our minds with truth from God’s Word.

Lord, help me to love You more with each passing day.  Help me to know Your Word, to hunger and thirst for it.  Help me to hide Your Word in my heart so that I may not sin against You.  Help me to obey You, as an act of my will and out of love for You.  In Christ’s precious and saving name I pray…Amen!


It seems Your hand of providence
Is best understood when looking back

As I move forward in faithful obedience
I see that You have prepared the way

I feel Your gentle hand guiding me
Directing my footsteps

With each step taken I can clearly see
That You have gone before me and prepared the way

Lord, I must confess that I don’t understand
The whys and wherefore of this new chapter

I’m not certain what You will be doing in me
Or how You might use me as part of Your plan

When I feel weak and overwhelmed
Help me to cry out to You for strength, wisdom and peace

Help me to not hesitate in fear of the unknown
But unwaveringly follow Your lead

by Susan Wachtel
July 10, 2014

Just Thinking

If I take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, if I guard my heart and mind in Christ Jesus, if I hide God’s word in my heart so that I won’t sin against Him…how will that change how I live? 
If I truly choose to think on that which is true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous and praiseworthy…how will that change what I choose to think about?  How will that change my speech?  How will the impact what I read, listen to or watch on TV or in the movies?  How will that influence my conversations with both believers and unbelievers?  Will it motivate me to choose to keep company with people who love the Lord with all their heart, mind, soul and strength? 
Is my love for the Lord be manifest in my thoughts and my words?

Finally brethren whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy, meditate on these things. – Philippians 4:8

Thy Kingdome Come

It seems like each day God continues to work on me and challenge me.  It’s easy for me to pray the Lord’s Prayer…and say “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”  But the real work starts in my heart.  Am I ready, willing and able to let God’s will be done in my heart, my mind and even my mouth?
One area that God has challenged me is when I see something unlovely in the life of another Christian.  When that unattractiveness is displayed towards me or others….I find it so easy to want to go to God and complain about them.  But God is challenging me, instead of complaining or building a case against a brother or sister in Christ…I need to remember that this side of heaven, none of us is perfect…that includes me. 
Instead of complaining…God is challenging me to be in prayer for them.  That God would reveal to them an area of weakness or sin or an attitude that He would have them to repent of.  That they would have a heart that is tender and yielded to the Lord.  That they would have the ears to hear Him and a heart that responds in loving obedience and repentance.
When I see that area of weakness in another Christian…it should be a reminder for me to be praying for them.  That neither they nor I will give the devil a foothold by having a wrong attitude or response.
We are on the same team…I need to help build up the body of Christ, not tear them down and pray that they will do the same for me. 

The Lordship of Christ

Do I submit to the Lordship of Christ in my life?

How does that effect my thoughts, words and actions?

Is my will conformed to His?

How does that look in any given day?

Do I recognize that I am a slave to Christ?

Do I recognize that Jesus Christ bought me off slave market of sin…that I belong to Him?

Do I serve Him and submit to Him out of love and gratitude?

Am I conformed to God’s will, my will or the worlds?

Does Christ’s Lordship in my life effect what I read and listen to? 

Does it dictate how I spend my money and time?

Am I living for myself of for Christ?

Am I filled with the fullness of God or with myself?

Do I seek to glorify God with my life?

Is there any area of my life that is off limits to God?

Is there any area of my life that shouldn’t be brought into submission to God’s will?

Is my disobedience to God evidence of my lack of trust in Him, reflective of my lack of a true knowledge of God?

Contemplating Sin

The following comment was received by “Imma Hypocrite”:

We view sin as entertainment when it comes in the form in movies, books, TV and music.

I, too, believe this. My question for God is… what are my options?

Do I completely shun worldly entertainments and give up time with my husband and friends who love movies?

Tho my circle of family and friends are dedicated Christians, workers in the church they are not as contemplative of these things.  It is contemplation which grows the hatred for sin simply because…it is not something the one I love foremost, enjoys, likes, tolerates, etc

The only way I can condone ‘Hollywood entertainment’ is to engage in it for the sake of developing a friendship with a lost one or newly saved one—the meeting at the well or the eating with Zacchaeus?.

It’s a lonely place to be.

Dear Friend,

In looking at your blog…I see that you too contemplate the things of God. 

Indeed Jesus reached out to those who were unsaved or those young in their faith.  He would talk or dine with sinners whom society or the religious leaders shunned.  Praise God…He is still the same yesterday, today and forever.  Because Jesus is still reaching out…I was saved from the consequences of my sin.
When Jesus met people…He challenged them, He confronted their sin, He caused them to, “Choose this day Whom you will serve.”  He encouraged them to repent, to turn their back on their sinful ways and walk in a manner worthy of their high calling.
Some examples that come to mind are the woman at the well, Zacchaeus, the rich young ruler, Nicodemus, and the woman caught in adultery.  Not everyone repented…but it didn’t keep Jesus from confronting them with the truth from God’s Word.  It’s ironic that it was the religious leaders who couldn’t see past their own self righteousness and recognize their own sin. 
Jesus may have dined with them or talked with them, but He never joined them in their sin.  Instead Jesus confronted sin…be it overt sin or the sin hidden in the thoughts and intentions of hearts. 
One reason it’s hard for Christians, including me, to feel comfortable talking with someone in a very straightforward manner about sin is due to our own sin and past failures.   We feel like damaged good…but praise God He uses broken vessels to accomplish His purposes and plans.   God can use those who walk in obedience to be salt and light where He has placed us. 
We will never regret walking a life of obedience and holiness.  But there will come a day when we will regret not taking a stand, or compromising what we know is right.  It may not be easy and sometime even lonely, but compared to the rich rewards in heaven, to quote the Apostle Paul…it’s not even worthy to be compared.
Jesus gave His all…what should I withhold from Him?
We are cleansed by the washing of the Word.  It’s there we are confronted with our own sinfulness and with God’s perfect standard and the requirements of the law fulfilled only in Jesus Christ.  It’s through prayer that our relationship is strengthened and our love for God grows as we come to know Him more.   
The more I read God’s word…the harder it is to look upon that which Hollywood and the recording industry try to pass off as entertainment.  What’s funny about adultery?  What’s amusing about women or men displaying their bodies in a way that is meant for private intimacy within marriage?  What’s entertaining about murder, or stealing or drug use and alcohol abuse?  What’s edifying about filthy language? 
It’s hard to see the sin that Christ died for as entertainment. 
My dear friend…surely you aren’t the only one in your circle of friends that feels uncomfortable with Hollywood’s entertainment.  I’ll bet if you voiced you feelings….not in a condemning or arrogant manner, but heartfelt…you might find others feel likewise and are just looking for someone to stand with them. 
Thankfully these days, we are offered more choices in the Christian community.  I’m so grateful for the work of Christian filmmakers like Provident Films which offers good Christian entertainment.  Perhaps a place to start is by finding some good, clean entertainment alternatives for family and friends.
It’s my prayer that we will have the courage as Christians to live each day in the light of eternity.

In Light of the Cross – Submission to God’s Authority

As a Christian, is there any area in my life that should not be brought in to submission under the authority of Jesus Christ?  Is there any area that I can hold back?

Does liberty and freedom mean license to sin or is the power to live in obedience to Christ?

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! – 1 Corinthians 5:17

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. – Ephesians 4:22-24
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. – Galatians 2:20

Does submitting to Christ’s authority influence the choices I make each day?   Does it touch the root level and impact what I choose to think about?

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.  I am to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. – II Corinthians 10:5

For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?”  But we have the mind of Christ. – I Corinthians 2:16

Does Christ’s authority impact my words and what I say?  Does it impact how I treat my husband?
The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks. – Luke 6:45

Does it influence what I read, what I listen to, and what I watch on TV or in movies?  Does it impact what I choose to wear or how I spend money?
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. – Romans 12:2

Then He said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. – Luke 9:23

For it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” – 1 Peter 1:16

Is there any area in my life, anything at all, that should not be brought under the authority and submission of Jesus Christ?

What did Jesus Christ withhold on the cross? 

If Jesus Christ, Who is God the Son, equal with God the Father, chose obedience how much more so should I? 

Christmas Reflections..Faithful Obedience

There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah. His wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.  But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both well advanced in years. – Luke 1:5-7

When I read about Zacharias and Elizabeth in Luke 1, I’m mindful that it had been 400 years since the Lord had last spoke to Israel.  400 years of silence.  Think about it.  Have you ever experienced a time of silence in a relationship?  It’s hard, isn’t it?  Nowhere more so than when that silence involves God. 

For Zacharias and Elizabeth there were untold years of silence when God did not answer their prayer, yet they remained faithful.  God tells us that they were upright and blameless in His sight.  They went about their daily lives faithfully serving the Lord and obeying all His commandments and regulations. 

Even though the Lord was silent, they didn’t use that as an excuse to go off and live according to their own will or take things into their own hands.  They didn’t become slack or lazy in doing what God had commanded.  Their obedience and faithful service was not contingent on God blessing them or answering their prayers for a child. 

In their culture, a couple that remained childless would likely bring judgmental speculation by others.  Speculation that perhaps God had not given them a child because of hidden sin in their life.  I think that Zacharias and Elizabeth’s commitment to walk upright and blameless before the Lord brought a measure of peace.  Peace with God…a peace that passes all understanding.  Peace that remained, no matter what others thought.

Instead of focusing on what they didn’t have, instead of listening to what others said about them, Zacharias and Elizabeth, kept their focus on God.  They trusted that God was good…that He is exactly who He revealed Himself to be in His word.  They believed that God was worthy of worship, praise and adoration because of who He is, not because of how He answered their prayers.  Nor was it based on what He did for them. 

I’m challenged by the faithful obedience of Zacharias and Elizabeth.  Do I remain faithful and obedient to do what God commands even when He is silent?  Am I willing to serve Him, bless Him and praise Him when God, by His perfect will and plan, chooses to withhold something that have I prayed for?  Do I continue to pray, watch and wait expectantly for what God will do?

In the Silence

In the silence
God is at work
Attending to details
Of which I’m unaware

Will I be anxious
Worry and fret…when and how will it all work out
Or will I trust Him
Confident that God is faithful and more than able

Will I try to be in control
Get out ahead of God
Or will I be obedient
Take only the next step that God has directed

My peace during times of uncertainty
Is found in the presence of Christ Jesus
My security is found
When I walk hand in hand with my Savior

By Susan Bunts Wachtel
April 22, 2009

A Today Thing

Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.” – Numbers – 13:30

Despite fatigue following a draining and trying day…I was eager to go to Bible Study Fellowship. I’ve found in the past the more difficult the day…the more reasons I have to make an excuse not to go…it’s all the more reason I need to be there. God always rewards the effort to study His word by giving just the right word of encouragement, correction or guidance.

I mostly listened to the other ladies share this evening. I had answered all my questions and was prepared with an answer in case Sheryl called on me…but I needed to hear what God was saying to the other ladies.

This year we are studying the life of Moses. We are now in Numbers and the last two weeks have been particularly good studies. Some meaty and convicting chapters. Mostly about the Israelites grumbling against God in unbelief. About their failure to trust God or be grateful for what God had already done.

I took those lessons to heart. Being in a state of transition in very uncertain times…makes me more willing to endure circumstances and people that are less than desirable. As such…it can be very tempting to grumble and complain. Add the influence of people I encounter who have a habit of complaining…or being critical and condemning of others. With very little effort…I can be going down that road too.

It’s only by the power of the Holy Spirit and some well timed conviction and early warning I’ve been able to rein in my tongue. Sometime more successfully than others.

Even though tonight’s lesson encompassed the Israelites complaining and grumbling…I found that my attention was drawn elsewhere. It was almost as if God drew my attention to Numbers 13:30. In the passage Caleb encouraged the Jews that indeed they should go in and take possession of the land. He knew that they could accomplish this feat because God Himself had promised He was going to give them the land.

That verse spoke volumes to me…and applied to so many areas of my life right now.

As the discussion continued…my thoughts were stirred. I realized that obedience is a today thing. When God requires us to trust Him, believe Him and act in faith…it is a now choice.

When I choose to shrink back in the face of giants…or tremble and not set foot on the path where God has called me to go…I have no way of knowing what cost will be extracted by my act of disobedience and unbelief.

Even the act of grumbling is not so small after all. That’s where the disobedience and unbelief started. It cast aspersions on God’s character and His faithfulness to do what He has promised and his ability to do so.

But obedience is the outworking of faith. It’s submitting my will to God’s will…even when I don’t fully understand it. Courage that stands in the face of giants is what God calls me to do. Obedience when all around me tells me to do otherwise…is what God rewards. It reflects trust and faith in the One who is more than able to do abundantly more than we ask or imagine.

The best part about it is…that God will strengthen and enable me to do that which He requires. But I need to ask in prayer.

If the Israelites had known what their disobedience would cost them…the 40 year wandering in the desert, that all but two of them would die and not enter the Promised Land, that their children would be impacted and suffer as a result of their unbelief…would they have chosen to obey?

But just like the Jews…I won’t necessarily know the consequences and ramification of my lack of faith and disobedience until after the fact. There’s no mulligan’s in the walk of obedience. Obedience is a today thing.

Because my God is merciful and compassionate…as long as He permits me another day to serve Him…I will have another opportunity to choose to obey Him and follow His will.

I won’t fully know the rewards and fruit of obedience until I get to the Promised Land of heaven. But down here on earth…in this one life…this is where I sew. It’s in heaven I will reap the eternal rewards.

Hold on to Jesus

If you had told me this morning, that tonight I’d be reaching to someone whom I hadn’t talked to in over two years…I would have told you, “You’re just plain wrong!” But in fact, it is I who would have been wrong.

You know how God has a habit of chipping away at things in our lives. Sometimes…He does it in one fell swoop…and a whole big chunk is gone. Other times…He does it bit by bit…until finally I’m being conformed into the image and likeness of His Son. That chipping away can be painful…especially when the chip that falls away feels more like a piece of my body as He works on my heart and mind…or even a wrong attitude.

Did I have a wrong attitude regarding this person? Maybe? Perhaps a little pride…and a whole lot of hurt thrown into the mix.

The last two years of my life were very difficult. A time…where God whacked off big whole chunks all at once. Chunks…that when I found them missing made me feel quite unstable, uncertain and unhappy.

Of the pieces that were missing…one was my friend. One in whom I took much delight. But as circumstances would have it…just when I needed him the most…he pulled back. That pulling back caused a boat load of hurt in the middle of some very turbulent seas. But God has a way…doesn’t He? He likes to get me in a place…where I have no place to turn but to Him. He had a plan and purpose for allowing what happened.

When I’m the middle of circumstances that seem so uncertain…there is no way I can have perspective and understand what God is doing. I’m not sure I fully understand even now. But at least now I have some distance…and perspective and can see God’s hand in the middle of my mess.

Even with that perspective…I wasn’t overly receptive when God first prompted me to call…to reach out to this friend who has been MIA from my life. I rationalize with God, “I’m sure he would have taken my call…if I called him. But God, he hasn’t called me in over two years…doesn’t that tell me everything I need to know?”

I should have known the answer to that…because in God’s economy…what someone else does or doesn’t do…isn’t an excuse for not obeying God’s direction. But God was gentle…and gave me more time to “work it through”.

But today was the day for obedience when He gave me a couple of promptings…that were too hard even for me to miss. When I heard what was going on in my wayward friend’s life I thought…I really should call or send an email. Reach out. But then I dismissed that prompting. That is…until I got home this evening.

In my in-basket was an email from my friend and author Krista Beth Driver. She had sent an email updating people about what had happened to one of her beloved horses, Misty. Tragically Misty had colic…something quite deadly to horses. This poor horse that had once been abandoned by her owner was rescued by Krista Beth. Once deserted, now greatly loved and well cared for…she was now gone. At her passing the other horses Bo, a blind gelding, and Grace were missing their friend Misty. As Krista told of events from the past week…she applied the lesson learned…from her own emotions and watching these beautiful animals…to friendship. She asked some penetrating questions about what kind of friends we are. Do we come alongside, encourage or challenge our friends?

“Okay God…I get it. You want me to reach out. Alright…I’ll send an email. As I wrote it…I discovered that God had mended…and healed some hurt that remained in my heart. I found that more than wanting to be justified in my hurt…I valued our friendship more. “That indeed it is water under the bridge. Today is a new today…and I value you and miss you. I miss your sparkling blue eyes…and the way you make me laugh. I miss your passion for people and for doing the right thing.”

After re-reading and proofing my letter several times…I hit the send button.

I don’t know how it will be responded to…if at all? I might come away disappointed and a little bit hurt. Or I could have my socks knocked off and have a friendship restored. I don’t know. But I do know this…God called me to obey His direction and reach out. To say I love you and care about you…and miss you. And indeed I do. If I get no response…or find the friendship is just dead…well I guest that’s something I need to take to Jesus.

More and more…with so much of life…I’m find that the looser I cling…and the less expectations I bring to the table…the better. I love the Steve Curtis Chapman song, “Hold on to Jesus”. There is one lyric that holds a truth I need to keep reminding myself about. “Cling loosely to things that are fleeting and hold on to Jesus for life.”

Sometimes the things that are fleeting are people. When that happens…my grip on Jesus must grow tighter.

So is there anyone God is prompting you to reach out to? In reading this…does their face come to your mind? Obedience to God’s direction is always the right answer. What will it take to bring you to the point of obedience?

To learn more about Krista Beth Driver’s work with children and neglected and abused horses please go to the Serenity Center for Change.

Hold on to Jesus
by Steven Curtis Chapman

I have come to this ocean
And the waves of fear are starting to grow
The doubts and questions are rising with the tide
So I’m clinging to the one sure thing I know

I will hold on to the hand of my Savior
And I will hold on with all my might
I will hold loosely to things that are fleeting
And hold on to Jesus
I will hold on to Jesus for life

I’ve tried to hold many treasures
They just keep slipping through my fingers like sand
But there’s one treasure that means more than breath itself
So I’m clinging to it with everything I am

Like a child holding on to a promise
I will cling to His word and believe
As I press on to take hold of that
for which Christ Jesus took hold of me

Hold on for life

The Desires of My Heart

Even as I reflect on the as yet unfulfilled desires of my heart to be married…I am reminded that God has placed that desire deep within my heart. He did not place that desire within me to be cruel and never see it come to fruition…but instead to fulfill it with a godly man who will be a suitable mate to a godly Christian woman.

In the past I allowed my desire for marriage to override anything remotely resembling commonsense much less obedience to God and His expressed will for a Christian woman to marry a godly Christian man.

Even though I regret the years I wasted seeking to fulfill those desires my own way…instead of God’s way…I do have a better idea of what characteristics and personality I would like in a husband.

In a discussion with my friend Ruth about my desire to marry she inquired if I would make sure when that time comes that I would allow her and my other Christian friends to meet and give their approval and blessing. I eagerly agreed that indeed I would be most grateful for that godly council from wise Christian friends. Because my own judgment in the past has a very poor track record I absolutely need and desire that double check…insuring that any man I marry is of God’s choosing.

When I look back…on those men that once caught my eye and made my heart go pitter patter…I know without a doubt that most wouldn’t even pass muster. They would be disqualified from the get go. Rather than a strong godly Christian man who would be the spiritual head of my home…I’ve sought men who at best darken the door of church on Christmas and Easter…and some not at all.

A man who seeks God through daily reading and study of His word, one who prays daily…without ceasing, one who seeks friendship with fellow Christian men so they can spur each other on to the high calling of Christ Jesus, one who is mature in the love of his wife and family…that is what I desire. One who aims for 1 Corinthian 13 kind of love. While not perfect…daily striving to be a man after God’s own heart.

As I’ve grown in my Christian walk…and have seen examples of what a good Christian marriage is…that is what I desire…and that is what God calls me to and desires for me. There is no room in the life a Christian woman for man who does not know Christ. A wise Christian woman does not seek marriage with a man that has a weak and ineffective Christian walk.

Seeing that godly example where the husband is truly the head of home…where he loves his wife as Christ loves the church…is now my standard. Not some settled for standard based out of desperation. Seeing the right example of what God meant for marriage has spoiled me for a lesser, cheaper imitation.

Now it may seem as if I can kiss any chance of getting married goodbye with those high standards…but to those who say that…I say…you don’t know my God. Ultimately…it will happen if it’s His will. If not…at least my desires are conformed to what He desires for me. There’s no better place to be than that now is there?

My God is a God of miracles. He created the world by merely speaking a word. He parted the Red Sea…protecting His people and killing those who sought to destroy them. My God held the sun still in the sky so His people might win the battle. My God pursues a relationship with those who love Him with all their heart, mind soul and strength. My God devised a plan to save all those that would believe in His Son who paid the price for their sin. My God is a God of mercy and grace poured out in abundance. My God takes a band of defeated discouraged disciples into men who would not back down and willingly go to their death in order to preach the Gospel to a lost an dying world. My God enables His people to walk on water…and soar on wings like eagles. Nothing, no nothing is impossible with my God. Amen…so be it…preach it sister!

8/8/07 At the End of the Day…A Gentle Answer

God counsels us in His word that a gentle answer turns away wrath. It is with that knowledge that I pray that God will work in the circumstances that concern me today.

When worried or concerned about a situation…my usual response is to confront the persons involved. Sometime diplomatically…but probably more often than not…stepping on a few toes in the process.

When I’ve done that in the past…God has worked in the circumstances and hearts of me and others involved. But I always feel quite anxious right after I leave that message or sending that email in my attempt to confront and resolve the situation.

I’ve learned that my view and perspective is quite limited…myopic. I don’t see the full picture. I don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes in the life of another person. I may be inaccurately reading their actions and misconstruing it to fit my own insecurities and past experience. That’s not a good or wise course of action. Thankfully I am a work in progress and God is not finished with me yet.

The wisest course of action is to take my hurt, confusion, anger and pain to God. Forgive and ask Him for wisdom. If indeed I have been wrongly treated…I can be sure that God is working in the heart of that person if they are a Christian. God doesn’t let me get away with much without confronting me and brining me to repentance when I’ve acted wrongly. Why would I assume he acts differently in the lives of other believers?

If perchance God gives them a pass…it may be an area in which God is working on my character…or bringing to surface something that is quite unlovely in me. God frequently likes to use “sandpaper people” to work out those rough areas in my character. I must be mindful…that for someone else I am their sandpaper person. When I realize that…it brings me up short when I would rather take the easy road and be critical and condemning.

It’s funny…but I don’t know exactly how to pray in this circumstance. I’m puzzled, confused and a whole lot more. But I am assured that the Holy Spirit intercedes for me at such times.

So tonight…I will choose to follow God’s sage advice and not respond as I once would have. Hum…I wonder…will I ever get out of God’s spiritual kindergarten this side of heaven?

At the End of the Day…A Holy “No”!

Just a few quick thoughts or observations at the end of the day…before I in obedience and wisdom…and even a little common sense…head off to bed.

Time…sometimes it seems like a gift…and sometimes like an enemy. It’s an area in which the enemy likes to attack us.

As Christians…sometimes our best answer is “No”. It can be the most holy and right answer…when it helps us to seek God, follow Him and obey. Yet…there are times…it’s hard to discern when it is right to say no.

Some needs and demands to our time, schedule, commitments and money are very worthy…but they may not always be God’s will for us. Thus…we require discernment. A knowledge that comes from a close walk with God…and a listening ear and an obedient heart towards our Lord.

Sometimes it’s a holy “yes”…when it’s offered in obedience to God…when everything in us wants to shout “no”.

In thinking about wisdom…wisdom comes from God. Wisdom that He will make available to those who seek Him and the wisdom that He offers. Only those that obeyed God’s will and plan…truly received and lived out the wisdom that God provided. It’s a gift from God…that is available as we implement it according to His will and follow His leading.

In Bible study tonight…as Pastor Joe Rispoli taught us from the book of Thessalonians…it was jammed packed with great stuff. But there was one thought that hit me hard. The reminder that God desires that we love Him…and not just His word. That we seek to know Him…and not just His word. It’s a part of Him…but if I just seek Bible knowledge…without knowing and loving my Lord and Savior Christ Jesus…then I’ve missed the target, the end game…the most important Person.

Lord…help me to love You…and know You more. Give me discernment so that I might hear You and obey You first and foremost. Seek wisdom and discernment…and have a listening ear and heart to obey the One that I love. Amen!

At the End of the Day…Obeying God in the Little Things

For one who is at times amazingly slow on the uptake…or painfully slow when it comes to learning lessons…I’m grateful that God continues to work with me. That He doesn’t give up. But instead He takes the time to pound home the message into this hard head of mine.

It seems as if one of the areas of frequent and successful attack from the enemy lately is with regards to time. Time…where I’m busy from the moment I get up bright and early…even before the dawn of the morn. To the moment my head hits to pillow much too late at night for one who rises early.

Six days a week…my alarm clock wakes me up just a little before 4 AM. Most days…I struggle with getting out of bed when I first hear the alarm. Due in part because I head off to bed, ever so late. That little sin doesn’t seem like much does it…in the scheme of things. When in fact…it’s quite impactful.

Not only with the obvious consequence of being tired all the time, but I find it hard to concentrate because I’m so tired. The time I do spend working on projects may take longer because I’m not able to give 100% …because I’m tired. I get distracted easily…led from one task to another simply because it catches my eye.

That’s the practical everyday consequences. More import than those is the consequence that impacts my relationship with God. By time I head off to bed…I find it hard to spend a lot of time in prayer or devote time to reading my Bible. That is why I think this time thing is an effective instrument of the enemy. He is quite crafty…and will do whatever he has to do to distract the Christian from what God has called them to do.

So even now…I will heed God’s to me…to obey Him and head off to bed. Albeit…a titch later than I intended. Nighty, night!

Obedience Yes…Happiness No

Sometimes I stumble across a website where I admire the author’s work. Perhaps I feel a connection because we have similar backgrounds or maybe we are going though a certain stage in our lives and God uses their work to touch me. One such person is Janna at Bread Crumbs. I love to read her work…and she always evokes much thought when I read her blog/devotional. She is open and transparent…has a high or proper view of God and is spot on in her theology. She loves God…and people too.

On a recent visit to her blog…found an article in which she talked about her occasional struggle about not wanting to go to church on Sunday. When struck by that temptation…she did in fact go to church out of obedience to God. She put God first, not her feelings.

Occasionally I’ve done the same thing. I wake up on Sunday morning…and for whatever reason…I’m not feeling good…or I’m too tired…and I think “Gee wiz…I don’t feel like going to church today.” But when I lay back down I can’t fall asleep. I’m restless and try as I may…sleep evades me. So I get up, get ready and go to church. Each time when I’ve struggled with that desire and but choose instead to obey God instead…I am thankful that I did. Choosing to obey God’s command that we not forsake the assembling of one another.

The few times I’ve allowed the part of me that wants to withdrawal and stay home to win…I find it very empty. I don’t have my emotional and spiritual tanks filled for the week ahead. Even if I listen to a ministry or two on the TV or radio…it’s not the same as being in church.

The people on the TV or radio don’t know me…they don’t care about me…and they don’t hold me accountable. There is no interaction with those I care about. No hugs from Al…no bugging Mike, Norm and Merilynne at the tape table. There is no Ruth and prayer team to greet Kindred members and follow up on the prayer requests that they’ve so diligently prayed for. There are no hugs for my favorite Kindred girls Ramona and Lisa…and no updates from Doreen on the latest happenings at the Apple household. The worship is just not as sweet unless it’s in person when led by the likes of David, Lou, Kristal and Dave. I’m not moved as much by some anonymous choir as I am when I see my beloved Kindred choir raising their voices in praise to Christ Jesus.

Bottom line…I’m not spiritually equipped for the battle ahead. I don’t enjoy the time…in fact I feel guilty. Not guilt from God per say….but guilt because I knew the right thing to do…but intentionally chose to override the right thing…and replace it with that which is wrong. Those times I’ve chosen to stay home…not because I’m sick…but just because I don’t feel like going to church are the times where I’ve put myself over God. When I have a high view of Susan…which is in essence a low view of God which allows me to put my will over and above God’s will?

I think that when Satan tires the hardest to keep me from church is the time I need to be there the most. Those times when God has a message that He has prepared for me. Something special…to minister to or correct me when and where I need it most.

I find it amusing and self deceptive when I hear a Christian’s taking a wrong action and then try to justify it by saying “But God wants me to be happy!” The truth be told…that’s not accurate. God desires our obedience over our happiness any day of the week.

That’s not to say that God does not want us to be happy. To be more precise…God desires that we will have joy in the Him. When our joy is in the Lord…happiness may be a result thereof. But more importantly…when we delight ourselves in God…we will more likely be obedient to His will and calling on our lives. He desires that we put Him first…that we love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind soul and strength. The second is like unto it…that we love others as ourselves. It’s hard to do that when I only watching TV preachers or listening to ministries on the radio.

When I do that…I do have joy and peace with God…and indeed that contentment and happiness is not dependent on my circumstances.

Not only do we deprive ourselves of fellowship with other believers when we fail to go to church…but we are not a contributing member to our local body of Christ when we stay home.

Don’t get me wrong…I love the amazing resources that are available to the church of Christ today. We have an amazing plethora of ministries available to Christians and others today. Most definitely we should partake…but not if it means that we will forsake the assembling of one another in corporate worship of Jesus Christ.

Obedience to God’s word will spare us from suffering the result of our sin and living in regret. No matter what hard times we encounter…we have the unbroken fellowship of God and fellow Christians when we walk in obedience to Christ.

God desires our obedience over us being happy. He wants us to have joy…to take joy and delight in Him…our Lord Christ Jesus. A natural by product of that joy of the Lord will be living lives that are clean and don’t bear the weight and burden of sin from bad choices outside of God’s will for our lives.

No where have I seen God declare that he wishes for me to be happy. Especially being happy at the expense of obedience to His word. But I do see instruction from God that I am to delight in Him and obey Him. Through His grace and mercy and my obedience to His call I will one day enter into the joy of my master.

Daily I can choose…obedience God and His word…or choose Susan’s happiness as I put my feelings over and above Christ. One will result in joy, peace and eternal rewards that will never fade. One will result in temporary happiness that easily fades and is dependent upon my circumstances and whims of my fickle feelings.

Uhhh…”choose this day Whom you will serve!” The Lord or me…will I choose wisely today? Will I recognize my choices for what they are? If I choose to serve me and my feelings…how am I any different than the rest of an unbelieving world?

I need to be mindful…on my own power I will always choose me. But through the power of the Holy Spirit living within me…when I yield to Him…I will choose wisely. “Choose this day Whom you will serve!” Lord I choose You!

1/24/07 At the End of the Day…Regrets?

Tonight while studying the book of Ezra in Bible study…I was surprised by the verse that I found thought provoking.

At Kindred Community Church on Wednesday night one of our Elders, Dave Dunn teaches a Bible study. Dave is a wonderful Bible study teacher. His knowledge of the Bible, history and his heart for God help him to paint memorable pictures that remains with me each time I hear him teach. Sometimes listening to Dave teach…I feel like I could step right into the passage we are studying and be there. He makes the Bible come alive and the people of the Bible seem real, not just characters or names on a page…but real people.

For a couple of months now…we have been studying the book of Ezra. While I’ve read it before…it now means more to me as we’ve gleaned spiritual nuggets along the way.

Tonight’s passage was from chapter eight, verses 24-36. From this passage…the verse I want to remember and take with me is from verse 31b, “The hand of our God was on us, and he protected us from enemies and bandits along the way.” To always remember and never forget…that our God, my God is faithful…and He is good and He loves His own and provides for us.

But the verse that struck me was verse 31a, “On the twelfth day of the first month we set out from the Ahava Canal to go to Jerusalem.”.

Why that verse you might ask? Well when I read that…I started thinking about what we had studied earlier. When the call went out to the Jewish exiles living in Babylon…not everyone wanted to return to Jerusalem. Some had grown use to and were comfortable staying in Babylon. So instead of returning to Jerusalem…they chose to stay in the foreign pagan land of Babylon.

But what I really wonder about…was on that day that the Jews, about 8,000 in number, chose to set out and return to Jerusalem…what were the Jews that remained in Babylon thinking? After all the preparation leading up to their departure was quite visible as they assembled by the Ahava Canal. It was obvious that God’s hand and favor was with them…even moving through King Artaxerxes.

Were they relatively oblivious to the Jew’s leaving? Or were there any folks looking on with a feeling in the pit of their stomach realizing that they made the wrong choice. That they missed their shot to return to the land that God had given them? And now it was too late. Or was it too late? Would Ezra have accepted anyone who made a last minute decision that they wanted to return with the rest of the Jewish exiles?

I think of the phrase that Charles Stanley frequently uses. “I can choose to obey God and see what He will do, or I can not obey God and spend the rest of my life wondering what God would have done in my life.”

It seems like the daily obedience in life prepares me to be obedient to God in the big decisions. I must have a listening ear towards God…with a mind, will and spirit willing to obey. That means trusting God…even when things don’t seem to make sense…from a human perspective. Leaving room for a work of God…not always planning everything out according to my handiwork.

I think one of my biggest challenges is having a listening ear towards God. I fill my days to overflowing. I love Bible studies, church and meetings…and listening to podcasts from my favorite pastors. Goodness knows there is enough of the everyday chores to eat up any remaining time. I find it hard to just be still…and listen to God.

I think there is something patently different about reading God’s word…than meditating on God’s word and waiting for God to speak. God doesn’t always do things quickly or on my time frame. It would also require me to choose to tune out some of the other distractions…some that are even quite worthy. I guess this is one that I will have to ask God to help me and guide me on.

“Be still, and know that I am God.” – Psalm 46:10

What would my choice have been if I had been one of the Israelite exiles in Babylon? Would I have stayed in Babylon…or returned to Jerusalem?