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Archive for the ‘Observations’ Category

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I stood with my head bowed at a seminar entitled, “Forgiving Forward.” I’d come with a friend who I thought might need this seminar, not that I didn’t need it, mind you. I’m always the one who tries to anticipate what God’s going to ask of me. I’m type A, after all, and I didn’t want to be caught off guard. I thought I’d forgiven everyone I could think of, but regardless, God knows our hearts better than we know our own heart.

I heard these true statements at the seminar: Jesus’ blood is sufficient to forgive all my sins; Jesus’ blood is sufficient to forgive all the sins of the whole world; and Jesus’ blood is sufficient to forgive all the sins that others have sinned against me. Unforgiveness breeds bitterness and gives Satan an opportunity to trip us up. Most of all, it hinders our relationship with God. In fact, in the Lord’s prayer we are told that we must forgive our debtors (those who’ve sinned against us), so that we will be forgiven by our Heavenly Father. 

The seminar speaker illustrated how seriously God considers unforgivness with the familiar story Jesus told in Matthew 18:34. The king calls in a man who owes him a great deal of money. The man begs for forgiveness and the king shows mercy and forgives the man. The forgiven man then finds a very poor man who owes him a small amount and demands he repay it all. The poor man can’t pay and begs for mercy. The forgiven man refuses to show mercy and throws the poor man and his family in prison. Hearing this, the king calls in the man he forgave the huge debt and the story says, the king turns him over to tormentors and puts him in prison until he pays everything back. Jesus concludes the story with, “And so will my Father do to you if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”

It was near the end of the seminar when the band began to play an unfamiliar song. I only recall part of the lyrics, “forgiving the deepest wound”. It hadn’t occurred to me that I still had unforgiveness toward the person that came to mind but it was the deepest wound that apparently, I still held onto. And that’s when God caught me off guard! After praying and forgiving the person, through a flood of tears, I felt the peace of God. I’d asked God to show me anyone I needed to forgive and He answered that prayer loud and clear. I have been forgiven so much and I must forgive.

I don’t know where you are in your faith walk but I do know that Jesus takes forgiveness seriously. He forgave us all our sins, past, present and future and does not hold them against us when we ask for His forgiveness. He asks that we do the same, that we forgive others when they hurt and mistreat us. Forgiveness frees us! It doesn’t mean we overlook the sin or wrong or that the person isn’t responsible. Instead, we release them to the Lord and allow Him to work on them. And freedom through forgiveness is worth it! It cost Jesus everything! Let go of whatever it is that holds you captive.

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In trying to understand this scripture in Psalm 91:1-2, I have imagined myself hiding behind the Lord as a frightened child clings and hides behind their mom or dad’s legs.  I wrote this from that perspective and, perhaps, you can relate…

In the Folds of His Robe

I fearfully peek out from behind the heavy fabric. I am hiding. I have hidden myself securely and I’m too afraid to come out! I tremble in fear. The fabric isn’t musty like old fabric but smells of a sweet fragrance – other worldly. I know the One that stands in front of me is shielding me from the storm that has driven me to my hiding place. I want to wrap myself in the fabric that drapes around Him like a child hides behind a parent. I know what I’m seeing in front of me, it is frightening, but it can’t touch me. And suddenly, the calm settles on me. I am safe, I am safe in the folds of His robe. He stands between me and the storm, the uncertainty of this day, the looming fears of an uncertain future. I am holding as tightly, grasping, clinging. Now, feeling safe I wipe tears of relieve on His robe. This One who stands for me is none other than my Savior. The very name Savior, one who saves only describes a part of who He is!  He stands for me and you and prays for us. He speaks peace to the storm and it obeys. The storm must obey His voice. If I must walk through the storm, He walks with me, in front of me, surrounding me with His love. 

I often can’t sense the calm in the storm or the peace until I hide myself in the folds of His robe. The enemy can’t reach me or touch me there, the enemy has no access when I’m in the folds of His robe. It is the secret place. The pure light that radiates from my Savior blinds the enemy. I am hidden, I am safe and I am strengthened until He bids me come out, it is safe. If I had a choice I’d stay in the folds of His robe. He takes off a robe, one He’s made just for me and says, “Put this on, it is mine. Now you can go on.” I timidly take it, I know I don’t deserve His robe but as I touch it and place it around me, I am free of the gripping fear.  I’m renewed to walk today through whatever comes my way.  And then He says, “Now let’s walk on. Do you know how much I love you? Let me tell you…,”and as He speaks He begins to lead the way. I am reassured and know I can run to the folds of His robe again, and again and again. He is the Savior, He is my Savior and my secret place, my hiding place, He is Jesus! 

Psalm 91:1-2 He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.”

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Does your life feel impossible and overwhelming? This video might very well refresh you and give you God’s answers to our problems. God says, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.” Mt. 11:28

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crossroads

Almost without exception, every person that God greatly used in the Bible, N.T. and O.T., had a crisis of faith.  Adam and Eve did, and we know how that ended! Abraham did; Jacob did; Isaiah did; John the Baptist did; and each of the disciples did. Peter did!  It is usually where your faith faces your fears, doubts, and great disappointments. And if you haven’t had a crisis of faith, you will, if you’re following Jesus. It may come crashing in all at once, but more than likely it will come ever so subtly, and doubts will attempt to erode your faith, one little nagging thought at a time. You’ll come to a crossroads where you must decide whether you’ll believe God, what His Word says and His love for you. You’ll have to commit to follow Jesus, no matter what, or if you’ll retreat and pull away from Him in distrust. It may come after the death of a loved one. It often follows the death of a dream. It may come as a deceptive temptation that appears better than what God wants for you and leads you farther away from God than you’ve ever been before. He is the One who sees all, knows all, infinitely loves us, and wants the best for us. At the crossroads, you must decide whether you will follow and obey Jesus and believe He is who He says He is or if you will shrink back and stop trusting Him.

Following Jesus has a cost. It is the cost to daily lay down our own will and trust our life to Him. None of us do things perfectly; we are all flawed and sinful. It is a daily decision as much as there is a one-time decision to accept Jesus as Savior and Lord.  Our faith is often weak. But God meets us at the crossroads, and we must decide whether to follow wherever He leads or not. Jesus challenged his disciples when many others who had been following Him turned away. He asked them, “You do not want to leave too, do you?” (John 6:67) When I have pulled back, I have almost sensed him asking this same question of me.  I want to respond as Peter does, “Lord to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” So, I, like the disciples must choose how I answer Him. It is always His love that draws me back as I place my trust in His will for me.

The Bible is full of testimonies of God’s faithfulness to meet us where we are in crisis. He will welcome sincere doubts. He is bigger than your doubts, and there are those who can help you with doubts, questions and disappointments. Seek Him and seek someone you know that knows Him well. Jesus will not turn you away. The question is – “Will you trust Him and follow Him today?”

Luke 9:23  – Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me.”

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There’s a gift under my tree that was never opened. It’s a gift for my Daddy. He passed suddenly but peacefully in his sleep Christmas morning. He took his last breath here and entered into Heaven. I have thought back about these last few years with Dad and the struggles he had to remain independent, his struggles with dementia and his good attitude about it all. In the last 2 years as his dementia progressed, I would go once a month and spend the weekend with him. Each of his kids helped in his care along with wonderful caregivers who took care of his daily needs.  Sometimes it was hard to see him struggle to remember or watch him drift off when thoughts escaped him. It was hard not to talk to him about the things we used to discuss. He was so full of knowledge on so many things, full of down to earth wisdom. I missed that part of him but was privileged to see glimpses of it up until the end. In Dad’s last years, there was no hurrying, no more worries, no more fretting about today or tomorrow. God, in His grace, had left the very essence of a good, kind loving father. Dad would often reminisce and we’d talk about things like his childhood, his grandparents, trips to Colorado and fishing.  Some weeks it was hard to go, especially when my life seemed too busy and it was easy to think what I wanted to do was really important. I’d pray on the little more than an hours trip and the Lord would give me peace as I went knowing that Daddy’s memory might be less each time. Life had slowed down for him and I’d have to remind myself to slow down my pace to walk with him. The Lord often reminded me to treat him as I would treat Jesus but I must confess, I didn’t do that nearly as well as I wish I had.

This life, every breath, every heartbeat, every second is God’s gift to us to do His will. I have no more days here on this earth with my Daddy. But Daddy’s gift to me is one of the best gifts, a priceless gift – I had these last few years with him. We had good times together, sometimes we’d just sit in silence as he gathered his thoughts. He told me precious memories, things he’d never shared and I was able to ask him many things. He always appreciated me being there and looked forward to time with each of us kids. He was pleasant and didn’t complain. He had plenty of time these last few years when life had slowed to an ebb, unlike when we were growing up. During his 55+ years of working to make a living, time was scarce as he worked long, hard hours. He loved working and accomplishing something each day. But we have eternity to share and rejoice together and all the distractions will be gone. Time doesn’t exist in Heaven’s eternity. We will know each other. The gift of his love lives on, it lives in his twinkle I see in my sons’ eyes, in the humor we share, his funny sayings, his laughter, his strength I see in each of us and our children. He taught us to be strong, to face adversity with courage, to be faithful, to love with actions, not always words. But he will go on in each of our DNA and in our lives. It all lives in my heart and mind as I remember the life lessons he taught me.  It lives on in the hope I have in Jesus’ limitless grace, for it is by grace that we are saved, not by any works we’ve done when we put our trust in Him as Savior.

Daddy’s parting gift was the best of all – the precious time with him and deep abiding love. These last few years I’ve been unwrapping are his parting gift.  It is these last few years that I will cherish. I didn’t truly realize the inestimable value or treasure it was to me. He taught me many, many things but maybe most of all that time is a gift. Daddy doesn’t need my unopened gift but I will need his from now on. Daddy, it will take a lifetime to unwrap the gift you gave me.

We all know we have an expiration date. Daddy’s was December 25, 2018, but his spirit is very much alive in a glorious place called Heaven with our Savior. Our days are numbered and we don’t know when our time here will run out.  Life is God’s gift and we’ll never have this moment back so cherish your loved ones. I will always, always love you, my Daddy!

 

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63870495-dirt-road-in-winter-time-next-to-villageIt seemed a lifetime since he’d turned down the old dirt road and passed the old graveyard where most of his relatives were buried.  The neighbor’s old farmhouse had some strings of Christmas lights around their window and he remembered today was Christmas Eve but he’d lost track of how many Christmases he’d missed with his family. Was 7 years or maybe 8? He couldn’t recall how many years had passed since he’d been home.  Would anyone recognize him after all these years? He scarcely recognized himself. He looked a mess with his scraggly beard, long matted hair, filth-caked clothes and his leathery line-etched face. He left in a hurry, he had places to go and people to see, no reason to stay and with no goodbyes to his mom or his dad, he’d just walked out and never looked back. He’d said cruel things to his dad the night before, unforgivable things he thought. Maybe his mother would be glad to see him. Surely, she would have missed him and forgive him for leaving though he had nothing to offer her. He had no gifts, nothing. He was flat broke. He was a broken man with lost dreams. Was there room for him at his father’s table?  He’d had to eat out of trash cans and beg for food when he fell on hard times. His stomach growled at the thought of food. He couldn’t remember when he’d had his last real meal and his mother’s cooking was so delicious he could almost taste it. Was his father still alive? Would his father turn him away? Maybe he would not be welcome.  Would his father lecture him and tell him – I told you so? Whatever he had to do to make amends, he’d made up his mind that he’d do it! He just wanted to go home!

As he rounded the last bend in the road, his feet felt like lead and his heart pounded wildly in his chest.  What if something had happened to his father or mother? What if there was no one there who’d let him come in out of the cold.  Why had he stayed away so long? Regrets filled his mind and he found himself wanting to turn back, go back the way he’d come but that way was a dead-end. There was no where to go, no one who wanted him or would take him in if he turned back. He clasped the tattered, filthy coat around his neck to block out the bitter cold north wind and prayed a prayer of desperation – “God please, please let them forgive me and let me come home again.” 

It was nearly dusk as he dragged himself up the steep winding road toward the house on the hill. He could see the glowing lights in the windows and his steps sped up in hope they’d show him mercy.  He could just make out a shadowy figure on the front porch. He squinted but couldn’t tell who it was that stood watching. And as he increased his pace he saw the figure moving quickly toward him. The figure was now running to meet him. It was his father! The father he’d disappointed, that he’d disrespected and dishonored! His father held out his arms to his son and as his father wrapped his arms around his son, he heard his father say, “Welcome home, son. We’ve watched for you everyday since you left.  Thank you, Lord God, for bringing our son home. You are my son, who I thought might be dead but is alive. It’s Christmas and we will celebrate your homecoming!” And just as this father welcomed his son so God the Father will welcome you, even if it’s been a long, long time since you’ve come to Him. He welcomes you with open arms and longs to talk to you. He loves you as you are no matter what you’ve done or where you’ve been. As long as you have life and breath it’s never too late to come back to God. Find your way home to God the Father this Christmas! Come home!

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3AF78E1900000578-0-image-a-11_1480704960331While the small town slept He entered into our world. Angels proclaimed the good news to shepherds and told them where to find the newborn King. Only the shepherds were looking for a King born in a stable, lying in a manger, a feed trough for animals in a little, obscure village called Bethlehem.  Yet, His birth was predicted over 600 years before, and scriptures even pinpoint the exact town and region in Micah 5:2. He existed before the world began, and created all things but He chose to come as a helpless infant.  Philippians 2 tells us that Jesus willingly humbled himself and came as a human being. Even those who knew that a King was to be born in Bethlehem were unaware of His birth. How did they miss it? 

They didn’t expect a king to be born in a stable. The religious leaders were looking for an earthly king, one who would free them from the tyrannical rule of Rome. Maybe they expected a grand entrance, with all the regalia of an earthly king and with a great show of strength. But Jesus came humbly, as a Servant King to set us free from our slavery to sin and to overcome death as foretold in Isaiah 53. Few took notice that God had come to live among men, although even His name means “God with us”. The scriptures tell us the story as recorded in Matthew 1:20-22

“An angel of the Lord appeared to him (Joseph) in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus,[a] because he will save his people from their sins.”22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means God with us.” 

 Do we recognize Jesus for who He is and why He came? What are you looking for this Christmas? Are you looking for a Savior? We may only see the baby in a manger and may miss the truth that the cross is at the heart of the Christmas story. God chose a stable which seems a very unlikely place for the birth of His Son, unless we recognize Him as the one whom John the Baptist proclaimed, that Jesus is “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” John 1:29, Isaiah 53:7 

God reached out to us through time and eternity by sending His Son to give us eternal life through Jesus, His Son.  Jesus Christ will come again and when He comes everyone will see Him as the King of Kings in all His glory and He will reign for all eternity. Still He came first to us as an infant in Bethlehem to save us from our sins. God gave His best gift – His Son to be with us. He’s here among us in our hearts and lives through the presence of His Holy Spirit if we trust and accept God’s greatest gift, His Son as our Savior. Will you accept God’s greatest gift? He is Here with us.  

Please take a few minutes to listen to this song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EosUH0orVUg

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