Devotionals
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September 13, 2017, 5:00 AM

Do you view forgiveness as an act of liberation?


Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. Romans 12:16-19

 

Forgiveness doesn’t seem fair. Instead of forgiveness, we’d rather have justice. The person who caused us pain must be held accountable for their offense. Our desire for the offender to accept responsibility before we extend forgiveness holds our freedom hostage, unable to live life fully and freely. Forgiving others without witnessing what we believe to be vindication for the offense feels oppressive and even unjust. We don’t see forgiveness as liberation; we see it as an escape clause for the offender.

 

However, extending forgiveness to those who have offended us is a true act of liberation, not for the offender, but for us. When unforgiveness remains in our heart, we wound ourselves all over again.  We are bound by our past. It is impossible to walk in freedom when we are shackled to the need to vindicate ourselves. By understanding the implications forgiveness has on our own lives, we are able to deal with the implications it has on our relationships. Forgiveness is where freedom is found. His wounds bring us wholeness. When we separate forgiveness from reconciliation, we can look at forgiveness long enough and close enough to experience the freedom and the healing we find through it.

 

But, many of us don’t get to this point. Because we don’t know how restoration is going to look, we wonder if forgiveness is even possible.  This is why we must focus on forgiveness first. The restoration of the relationship is secondary. Forgiveness paves the way to trust but it doesn’t guarantee it. It also doesn’t eliminate the cost or the consequence. At its core, forgiveness frees us from the need for vengeance and vindication. We no longer hold the offense against the other person. We wish them no ill will. There will be some relationships where restoration and reconciliation are unattainable. There are others where boundaries must be established. Yet, in all cases forgiveness is available. Where are you seeking vengeance and vindication? Why do you want to be right in this situation? Do you view forgiveness as an act of liberation?

 

This is my Prayer: Father God, help me to no longer demand vengeance, seek vindication, or let my past wounds define my present and determine my future. Lord teach me to lay the burden of unforgiveness down at Your feet. Jesus show me how much forgiveness You have given me and remind me that the same grace You extended to me is given to all. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.




September 12, 2017, 5:00 AM

Regardless of what people might say, to forgive is not to forget.


No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the Lord. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” Jeremiah 31:34

 

Regardless of what people might say, to forgive is not to forget. There is no magic in forgiveness where the moment it is accepted that the memories of hurt are instantly erased from the hard drive of our memory and our deep wounds suddenly disappear. But, what do we do with passages like Jeremiah 31:34? If God forgets our sins when He forgives us, shouldn’t we do the same to those that hurt us? The word “remember” in Jeremiah 31 is not dealing with a memory issue, but rather a promise. God doesn’t suffer from amnesia. He made a covenant not to treat us as our sin deserves. Jesus took the cost of our sins on His shoulders when He was nailed to a cross in order to fulfill that covenant. Debunking this idea that forgiveness is forgetting helps one to better see forgiveness as an event and process.

 

When we show grace to someone it is an ‘event’ as words are expressed in “I forgive you.” There was a time and place when the original act of forgiveness occurred. Yet, every time their hurtful words or actions get brought back to our attention we must continue to forgive and not give in to any desires for revenge or anger. This touches upon the ‘process’ of forgiveness. Failure to see forgiveness through the lens of being both an event and process will cause considerable frustration, disappointment, and guilt for an individual.  A chain reaction will be set off where they try even harder, using sure will power, to erase whatever sin they’ve forgiven from their memory completely. Flipping the off switch on a hot oven doesn’t instantly turn it back to room temperature. Stand anywhere near the oven you can feel the heat radiating. However, over time the warmth of the oven lessens. The same is true with forgiveness.

 

 It does not eradicate the hurt, lack of trust, or anger you hold towards the person you have forgiven. By forgiving someone, you are absorbing the cost of their offense against you. This transaction comes with some requirements on your part.  By counting the sin no more, you are also committing to uphold three promises to the individual whom you have forgiven. These promises are: “I will not bring up this offense again or use it against you.” How easy would it be for us to keep the guilt of their sin in our arsenal for a fight in the future. We very well could use it time and time again as our trump card in an argument: ‘remember the time when you…’ This does not mean it cannot be talked about again.

 

Instead the promise you are making is not to bring the sin up anytime you are angry or bitter as a way of getting back at an individual. “I will not bring it up to others in gossip or bad mouth you in front of others.” Depending on the gravity of the sin, appropriate care may help you handle an offense against you. This promise deals more with not having loose lips around others. We put a clamp on our mouths and do not play the blame game as we gossip about the person to others. “I will no longer personally dwell on this offense.” This promise is at much for your benefit as it for anyone else. You no longer replay the sin on videotape that shows the transpired events on a continual loop inside your head.

 

Rather than dwelling on the past, you look to the future and the change God has in store for both you and the individual. One has to trust they have forgiven even if there is some warmth coming from old wounds. This awareness forces you to have consistent motive checks where you ask God to reveal your attitude towards this person. Of the three promises above dealing with forgiveness, which promise do you most often break? Which one do you believe people find the hardest to commit to upholding?

 

This is my Prayer: Father God, open my eyes to the places where unforgiveness resides. Lord  help me to trust that true forgiveness has occurred in other areas even when I can feel the sting of old wounds. Jesus it brings me comfort knowing that You identify with my pain and comfort me when I am weak. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.




September 11, 2017, 12:02 AM

How has God used moments of loneliness to shed light on your need for Him?


The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:17-18

It’s funny how God brings two complete opposites together. I am a morning person. Wide awake and ready to go as soon as my feet hit the floor. Not my wife, most days she’s like a groggy grizzly bear who has just risen from a month long hibernation. The slightest noise will wake me up. Not her. She has slept through tornados, fire alarms, thunderstorms, barking dogs, and crying babies.  If heavy sleeping were an Olympic sport, she would be a lock for a gold medal. Being a deep sleeper, she devised a trick to see the light of day at a reasonable time. Her iPhone has 5 alarms set and I have mine set as a backup. Those screeching sounds are the only way to shock her system into wake up mode. Without them, she’d sleep right through the day.

 

In some regards, loneliness serve as a similar wake up call. When life is going well, we can sleep walk through our days not realizing our desperate need for connection with God and others. The pain of loneliness rouses us from our slumber. It awakens our eyes to see our brokenness and separation. Colliding with pain forces us to come face-to-face with our deepest spiritual needs. Our natural tendency will be to hit the snooze button, roll over, and try to go back to sleep. But, the alarm ringing again is inevitable.  We’ve got to get out of bed and answer the call. But, more importantly, we have to realize there is a beauty and purpose behind the pain. God is not so much concern with changing our circumstances. He is more focused on mending our heart.

 

God desires to redeem our loneliness. If we lean into the pain, God can use our loneliness to transform our heart and mind as well as bring us in a deeper intimacy with Him. C.S. Lewis  said, “We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”  God wants to speak to us through the pain. The alarm is ringing, are you going to answer it?  How has God used moments of loneliness to shed light on your need for Him?

 

This is my Prayer: Father God, often I struggle to hear Your voice or sense Your presence. Yet, in those lonely moments when I can no longer ignore the pain, I can feel You are with me. Lord during these times when I am all alone I can sense You shouting to me, reminding me that You will never leave me nor forsake me. Jesus redeem my loneliness and let the pain bring me closer to Your side. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.




September 10, 2017, 5:00 AM

What eggshells do you tend to throw out to keep people at bay?


If you listen to constructive criticism, you will be at home among the wise. Proverbs 15:31

Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit—you choose. Proverbs 18:21

It’s been said that you can measure the health of a relationship by measuring the number of undiscussables. Our relational limits are determined by what remains off-limits in our conversations. We tiptoe around the tension, ignoring the rotten smell in the air and hoping not to step on any eggshells. We throw out eggshells all around us in an effort to keep people at bay. With every eggshell we toss, we are attempting to protect our image, our heart and sometimes our pride. Eggshells are the things we lay down that keep people from telling us what we need to hear. One of the biggest tragedies is how isolated and lonely our eggshells leave us. They harm every facet of our lives.

 

When we live our lives walking on eggshells, we are unable to reach our full potential and become the people God wants us to become. The author of James speaks about the power the tongue holds. All throughout proverbs, King Solomon advises his readers to pay attention to the words that come out of their mouths. Both writers understood that our words have the power of life and death. They have the ability to build-up and tear-down. They can cripple as well as breathe life and confidence into another individual. A well-spoken word is one of the best things we can have in this world.

 

Unfortunately, we fail to leverage our words when we avoid conflict. We often see conflict as a negative. If tension exists in our relationship, we view that relationship in a poor light. Each one of us has a default response towards conflict. We avoid it in hopes that if we pretend it doesn’t exist, the problem will go away. Others of us drop hints anticipating the other party will eventually open their eyes to their shortcomings. Then there are those of us who wait out the conflict to see who will go first. If that doesn’t work, we wage war on the conflict by being passive aggressive. And, if all else fails, we simply explode.The moment conflict arises we go into fight or flight mode. We stop thinking and start reacting.

 

On top of these responses, we begin to craft a story about the person on the other side. Since our brains are hard wired for stories, we paint a picture in order to fill loops. This is the only way we can justify our anger, our hurt, our pain and our frustration. The more we personalize and make ourselves the victim in our story, the more likely we aren’t seeing the whole picture. There are more sides to every story than just two. We have our side, the other person’s side, and then there’s the truth. This is why we must assault our own story to see where we are off base. Conflict is an opportunity. We might not see it as such, but it is. This is why we must learn how to communicate in the context of community.

 

If we find ourselves stuck it means there is a crucial conversation that needs to take place. To love someone is to enter into a relationship by speaking the truth in love. We are moving the eggshells to the side and making a clear path for connection. Yes, when crucial conversations exist it does mean there are strong opinions, high emotions, and high stakes. But, what is at stake is our personal growth and the growth of our relationships. We can tell a lot about ourselves by the way we are able to receive correction and rebuke. If we want to be wise, it begins by making ourselves available and developing a listening ear. When you find yourself in a relationship where anything can be said, you have found yourself in a healthy place.

 

Eggshells are what we use to keep people from telling us what we really need to hear. What eggshells do you tend to throw out to keep people at bay? What conversation are you not having or not having well? How is it causing you to feel stuck?

 

This is my Prayer: Father God, when I look around myself, all I see are eggshells. Lord I use them as relational land mines to prevent people from coming close and speaking into my life. Today, may I pick up these eggshells and stop pretending like they don’t exist. Let me be open to hearing words that might sting at first. Jesus give me the courage to be transparent and vulnerable before others and You as well. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.




September 9, 2017, 5:00 AM

How would you describe the condition of your heart?


So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed. That, however, is not the way of life you learned when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 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 4:17-24

 

In this passage, Paul makes a bold statement. He says the Gentiles were “separated from the life of God.” What does Paul give as the reason for this separation? It was due to their futile thinking, darkened understanding, and the hardening of their hearts. The Gentiles missed out on the life God had to offer because their hearts and minds were not right.  However, as Christians we are called to live differently. We must learn to walk by faith. Paul urges us to put off our old self and be made new in the attitude of our minds. We are invited to believe, trust and depend on God. This isn’t something to take lightly. Our very hearts are at stake. 

 

Notice the end of the passage.  Hard hearts create callousness, which eventually leads to indifference in the way we live.  This is a dangerous cycle, especially when you consider the weight of the decisions you often face.  The choices you make not only impact you but your family, friends, and others within your sphere of influence.  Your decisions speak volumes about your belief in God. So, instead of leaning on your own understanding, walk with God. He offers you forgiveness, life and a footing for your steps.  Trust Him and forsake the futility of your own thinking. How would you describe the condition of your heart? What causes a heart to become hardened? What does it look like to be made new in the attitude of your mind?

 

This is my Prayer: Father God, there are so many times when doing things Your way doesn’t make sense.  Lord I confess there are areas in my life where I have tried to get You to operate according to my thinking.  Jesus help me to be aware of those tendencies and reveal to me Your ways so I can trust in You.  In Your name, Jesus. Amen.


Page 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57   Entries 71-75 of 283