Should I forgive God?

This week our preacher talked about the lies we believe – how satan is the accuser of both God and man. While he preached, he reminded me of myself – how quick I am to get angry, how I always believe the conspiracy theory in my head and how I always feel the need to defend myself. I asked God: “What lies am I believing? Where do they come from?” It wasn’t long before I had my answer: I can’t trust God to watch out for me and whenever I am alone, bad things happen.

This came as no surprise. My life has been full of bad experiences, and over and over I have heard myself say, “Whenever I am alone, bad things happen!” It became almost prophetic. In fact, it has gotten to the point where somewhere deep inside of me assumes it will happen. Years ago, I had a hard time going out alone. I was afraid to walk a block by myself or go to the mall alone. I have gotten past those fears, but some still remain. Being alone does not literally mean “alone.” It means being without protection. That can be in a group. That can even mean in church. Or with a group of Christian women. If I am there without my husband, I feel especially vulnerable. The problem is that my husband is not always by my side. He might go talk to someone else, and then, it happens. That panic. I back myself up against a wall and wait. I hope that he will return quickly. And the longer I have to wait, the more upset I get with him. He is doing nothing wrong, but I somehow expect him to understand and never leave me. The problem is – he is not God. God is the only One who promises to never leave me. But can I trust Him?

What about all of those times that I have been hurt? Where was God then? When I step back and look over the events of my life – there is pain, but mostly as a direct consequence of my own actions. I put my hand in the flame – and funny – I got burned! How is that God’s fault? In fact, if I am honest, I should have gotten burned a lot more! I should have lost a hand – I should be dead. But I am not. And that was God’s mercy alone. But what about that main event? The one that changed my life? Where was God then, satan taunts. It has been 28 years. Twenty eight years! And yet the horror of that night still plagues me.

I was with a group of people. People I knew to see and say hello, but didn’t really know. You know…. kind of like church on Sunday morning. There was nothing that would have indicated that I was in any danger. Nothing that would stand out a any kind of warning sign. But as the crowd disbursed, I found myself alone. Well, not alone actually… but alone with people I really didn’t know.

My efforts to defend myself were fruitless. I was powerless against his strength. Did God abandon me? Was He powerless to help me?

No, actually. I was assaulted, but it could have been much, much worse. Was God absent? No. When I closed my eyes and called on Him, He was there. He held me so close. He whispered in my ear that He was with me. He didn’t let me feel the horror. And as I was being strangled – was I afraid? No. The Lord laid there beside me and filled me with peace. He assured me that if this was the end I would be with Him and surrounded me with His love. I did not fear death.

But all of the pain afterward – that must be God’s fault! Well, no. God didn’t tell me to find healing in drugs and alcohol and unhealthy relationships. No, in fact, I did all of that on my own. The pain that came after was a result of my own actions. But the moment that I cried out to Him, the moment that I called His name – Jesus – He was there! Finally, I was ready to let Him bring healing. And He did! How quickly He removed me from all of that bondage! As I release the pieces to Him, He restores, He heals. Now it is time to release the lies that I have held onto for all these years. To finally believe the truth that I have known all along: “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged” (Deut 31:8).

Do I need to forgive God? No. He has not wronged me. He has never left me… and never will.

 

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My Funeral

I have my funeral all planned out. That may sound a little funny, but I really want it to be the way I want it to be. So I have it planned. I want it to be a full-on worship service! Full band, lively music, people standing with hands in the air worshipping God, knowing that I am also worshipping Him. The difference is that I will have been released from the confines of this life and will be in His presence, worshipping at His feet! I want people to join me in that!

I also want the gospel message preached for those that may be present that don’t know the Lord. But as I was thinking about that today, I wondered: is the “gospel” that I am communicating with my life, the same gospel that will be preached at my death? Will the unsaved hearers at my funeral be surprised by the service? Will they be confused by the message of hope? Or will they finally be prepared to receive the gift of salvation because I had planted and watered the seed beforehand? Have I been diligent to keep them in prayer so that their hearts are already tender and willing to be opened up to Him? Is my life one of constant worship in word and deed so that the service will not require explanation or offend, but simply be the cherry on the top of the cupcake that has been my existence here on this planet?

Have I been generous and kind? Have I used every opportunity to present the hope that we have in Christ to the lost that surround me? Have I helped to bind up the hearts of the broken? Have I presented the truth with the love that is required to make the difference? Have I used the time that God has allotted me well? Will my legacy be one that has brought light to the darkness or only added to the grey? Does my life portray someone who has met the living God, who has experienced His presence, and who has been healed by His touch?

I am not sure really…. but I want it to be! God help me to live a life worthy of my calling!

Just to get you all in on the idea, here is one of the songs that I want at my funeral:

The Power of the Tongue

I was getting ready early one day recently. There was somewhere I needed to be. This would normally be one of those occasions where I would treat the children on our way, since I made them get up extra early. But I didn’t. What used to be a special bonding time for me and the kids now only smacks of judgement. You see, probably over a year ago now, someone made a remark that in essence suggested that I was misusing my resources to do such a thing. Of course, they didn’t fully understand and it was an offhanded comment, one that I rejected as soon as I heard it. However, it has impacted me greatly. I can no longer even consider going to this particular place where we used to go treat ourselves without hearing that remark and feeling the sharp sting of judgement.

I thought about how many times I have done the same thing to others. Not intentionally trying to hurt anyone, but in an effort to be funny or quick-witted or included even, I have said something in haste that I regretted as soon as the words were out of my mouth. And no amount of apology can take them back! I remember one particular occasion many years ago, a friend of mine wore a pink jumper to school. She loved it. She felt awesome in it. And she asked me what I thought about it. Me, being an idiot, said, “well, I wouldn’t wear it (because of the color).” Unfortunately, this girl had the same skin and hair color as me and suddenly felt as though it was awful on her. No amount of explaining that I just don’t like pink could make up for what I had said. She never wore it again. I still feel badly about that.

The Bible tells us that “the tongue has the power of life and death” (Prov 18:21a) and “the soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit” (Prov 15:4). I think we can all attest to the fact that this is true. Even in our recent experience of random acts of kindness, we can see that those doing the acts as well as those receiving are blessed – why? Because kindness and love are the starting points of healing.

When you think about it, many of our illnesses both mental and physical can be related to a hurt in our spirit. A wound that never healed. A lie you always believed. But what if we spoke to others with kindness and love. One kind word can ignite a spark in someone that will bring light to a very dark heart. What if we were intentional in letting others know that they are valued, significant, and loved? Couldn’t that give room for God to begin a healing in someone that otherwise would not have happened? Romans 14:19 instructs us, “so then [we] pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.” God wants us to be kind. To build each other up – not tear down. To love – not judge. And in Ephesians, Paul writes, “let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers” (4:29). We need to be ministers of grace and healing. Ambassadors of love.

I can’t take back those things that I have said in the past. I pray that those I have hurt will forgive me and find healing for the pain I caused. I forgive those who have hurt me. But today is a new day. God’s faithfulness is new everyday and I will begin today to focus on using my tongue to speak life into others. Won’t you join me?

PS. And Tammy, if you happen to read this – wear pink, it looks awesome on you! 😉

 

Walk Humbly

I had a great conversation with a friend this morning about my kids. I described what I often tell the kids: these years (14-24) are the most important years for decision making that shapes the course of your life. I tell them that these years are like them going through a dark tunnel and it is my job as their mom to keep them on the tracks until they reach the other side. So, they might feel some push back, but it is only because they are about to fall off of the tracks and I am there to steady them and keep them on. They can’t see what is ahead, but I have been there. My perspective is different and since I love them more than life itself, I ask them to trust me to help them navigate through these important years.

After our conversation, I was taking my kids to the Lord in prayer. I prayed that they would be filled with a passion for the Lord and His purposes. That they would be merciful people and do good. I was reflecting on this “dark tunnel”, how they can’t see what is ahead, then the Lord said to me, “Aren’t you the same?” I realized that it was true. I can’t see what is ahead of me either. There is only One who loves me more than life itself and who knows what is ahead. He is asking that I also trust Him to guide me through the years ahead of me.

The Bible is full of direction when it comes to trusting God. He asks us to put Him first (Matt 6:33), to search for Him (Jer 29:13), and to trust Him with all of our heart (Prov 3:5-6). By doing so we will receive the things we need (Matt 6:33), find God (Jer 29:13) and receive direction for our steps (Prov 3:5-6). He led me to Micah. In chapter 7 vs 8b: “When I sit in darkness, The Lord will be a light to me.” I am in my own dark tunnel and I need Him to be my light. So what do I have to do? Just the chapter before (Mic 6:8), it reads: “And what does the Lord require of you, But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?”

Of course, in all of my interactions, I need to be just and show mercy. And isn’t is easy to stop there? I can be a good person. That’s enough. The enemy would love to have us believe that. But there was more. God requires that we walk with Him. How are we going to get the things we need, see the light, hear His voice or know which way to go unless we are in a close relationship with Him? He has a purpose for us that is so much greater than the mundane life we lead everyday. But there is no way to find it without His direction. There is no way to get His direction without being close to Him. This is a battle for our own minds and hearts that has to happen individually everyday. To purposefully choose to take the time to foster our relationship with God. I ended my prayer praying for myself, that I would be filled with a passion for the Lord and a desire to get closer to Him everyday. To make meeting with Him a priority and not to allow “our time” to be consumed by some distraction of the enemy. The laundry and the dishes will still be there when I am done. They can wait. He is more important.

 

Death to Life

Have you ever felt that time is passing you by? My husband and I have talked on numerous occasions about this. How we feel that there is something else we should be doing, but the day-to-day life stuff always fills our days and next thing you know another year has gone by. We are physically alive, doing the tasks of our days, even enjoying some fun times, but it is almost like we are spiritually dead or numb.

Our spiritual side, the one that provides purpose and meaning to our lives, does not appear to be alive. Both my husband and I are Christian. We are active in our church. We love our God. We know that God has made our spirits alive. So why do we feel dead?

According to Ezekiel 37, a beautiful illustration of what God does when we are filled with His Spirit, the valley was full of dry bones, and the Lord raised the vast army from the dead. The Lord tells Ezekiel to tell His people that He will put His Spirit in them and they will live (vs. 14). So when we came to Christ, our spirits came alive because God filled us with His Spirit. So why do we not feel this way?

Now there are some times when we feel alive. In church, when we are in praise, our spirits are awakened and for the briefest of moments, we see with different eyes. But it doesn’t take long for the business of the week to dull that and again, we find ourselves slipping into a spiritual slumber.

That thought reminded me of a part of Christian’s journey in Bunyan’s Pilgrims Progress:

“I saw then in my dream, that they went till they came into a certain country, whose air naturally tended to make one drowsy, if he came a stranger into it. And here HOPEFUL began to be very dull and heavy of sleep; wherefore he said unto CHRISTIAN, “I do now begin to grow so drowsy, that I can scarcely hold up mine eyes; let us lie down here and take one nap.”

Chr. “By no means,” said the other; “lest sleeping, we never awake more.”

Hope. Why, my brother, sleep is sweet to the labouring man; we may be refreshed if we take a nap.

Chr. Do you not remember that one of the shepherds bade us beware of the Enchanted Ground? He meant by that, that we should beware of sleeping; wherefore let us not sleep as do others, but let us watch and be sober.

“Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.” 1 Thessalonians 5:6

Hope. I acknowledge myself in a fault; and had I been here alone, I had, by sleeping, run the danger of death. I see it is true that the wise man saith, “Two are better than one”.

“Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour.” Ecclesiastes 4:9

Hitherto hath thy company been my mercy; and thou shalt have a good reward for thy labour.
Chr. “Now,” then said CHRISTIAN, “to prevent drowsiness in this place, let us fall into good discourse.”

Hope. “With all my heart,” said the other.

Chr. Where shall we begin?

Hope. Where God began with us. But do you begin, if you please.

Chr. I will sing you first this song.”

That is it! Can’t you hear the enchanted song of the evil one trying to lull you to sleep even now? Satan cannot steal my salvation, but he can make me unproductive for the Lord, if he can entice me into spiritual sleepiness. I read the end of the passage from Pilgrim’s Progress to see what they did to keep from falling asleep. They decide to keep each other awake by talking of what the Lord has done for them and by singing. Doesn’t that make sense? Don’t we feel a spiritual resurrection every time we speak of what God has done, or listen to another’s testimony? And every time we lift our spirits to God in praise? There is no time left to be caught up in spiritual slumber. We need our spirits alive. We need to raise up as a vast army of believers, spiritually alive, ready to do the work of the Lord!

Let’s work together to stay awake. You tell me what God has done for you…. and I will start with a song:

Twas the Night Before Christmas

This time of year always gets me thinking about family and Christmas traditions and favorite memories. I love to tell the stories of getting up in the wee hours of Christmas morning to nab my Christmas sock and see what was inside. Then I would also grab each of my siblings as well. One by one I would take them upstairs, attempt to wake my brothers or sister (usually unsuccessfully) and then proceed to tell them what they got as I emptied their socks on their beds! Good times!

My mom recently added to that memory something that I had forgotten. Apparently once I was done with my sock, she would hear the thud, thud, thud of the orange as I rolled it down the stairs. In her day, getting a big yummy orange in your Christmas sock was a wonderful treat… maybe not so much in mine?? Ha!

But one of our favorite memories is the years we spent with my Grandma. We had the honor of having her in our home for 10+ years and even though she could not express herself verbally, she still had a way of making us laugh! I managed to capture one of those moments in a now favorite family poem. I wrote this on Christmas Eve 1993:

 

Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house

Every creature was stirring, even the mouse!

The stockings were thrown by the computer with flair

In hopes that the dogs would leave them there!

 

Some of the children were nestled all snug in the beds

While the other was visiting with the little girlfriend…

When all of a sudden there arose such a clatter

We ran to the living room to see what was the matter!

 

And what to our wondering eyes should appear…

But a sneaky Grandma with some holiday cheer!

As she scuffles to her room as fast as she can,

We soon hear the opening of the hot Coke can!

 

To the smell of pancakes hot on the stove,

We awake with frostbite on all of our toes!

With Momma cursing the bird in the pan,

We all gather ’round as close as we can.

 

The gifts are disbursed to all of the clan:

One for you and for me, and five for Gram!

Once the gifts are opened and the meal is ate,

We sit and ponder the thought: only 365 more days to wait!

 

Wishing you a wonderful holiday with your loved ones, celebrating the only Gift that brings joy and hope to our lives – Jesus!

Merry Christmas!

Wrong Way

There was a time in my life that I was going the wrong way. It was a difficult time. I was headed in the wrong direction and I knew it. I also couldn’t stop it. I felt compelled to continue down this path. Even though I knew intellectually that it was completely irrational, completely illogical, and not at all me, I HAD to do it. There was no way to stop or to turn around. I was going down a path of self destruction that was not going to end well. I knew I was in trouble and sought help. I knew I needed God to help me, but I didn’t know Him as One who would be able to actually intervene in my life. When I sat with God, my one question was, “Do You love me?”

It was a question that had been in my heart for a lot of my life. I often felt unloved, unlovely, and unlovable. To protect myself from the hurts, I built a very large wall around my heart. I didn’t let anyone in. I kept everyone, and their love, at arms length. Although I heard people, and God, when they told me that they loved me, I didn’t let it sink into my heart. I never really felt it. Or believed it. The only one behind this wall was the devil himself who continued to tell me lies, tear me down, and beat me up.

And now here I was, acting on the lies that I had been told for so long. Being pushed into places I would never have gone or even considered. It was a full on assault and I was powerless to stop it. I remember throwing up a prayer saying, “God , You need to do something, because I can’t stop this!” Thankfully He did. God Himself intervened and pulled me from the quicksand that I was in. That rescued me from the immediate danger, but it still didn’t address the issue that drove me there. It took a very long time for the Lord to crack through the walls surrounding my heart and finally allow me to feel love. First He had to show me the lies that I was believing, and oust the devil from his place in my heart. Then God, with His gentle hand, began dismantling that wall brick by brick. It took a while because my heart had to become adjusted to the light and the warmth that accompanies love.

But now, life has new meaning. I give and receive love.

I am loved.

My heart is full.

John 10:10: The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

Lost and Found

Have you ever felt lost and all alone? Even when surrounded by others? Even when you pray? Sometimes I have found that God seems so far away. It is like I can’t see Him, and perhaps He doesn’t see me. Then all of those things that bother me pile up and become such a mountain of burden that I feel they might crush me. And no one sees. No one knows. No one cares. I am all alone.

Occasionally  I feel  a glimpse of hope. When I am in church on Sunday morning, for the briefest of seconds, while praising God in my spirit, all seems well. Then I head home and the darkness closes in again.

There is something special about worshipping God corporately. But do we need to wait until Sunday morning to do it? No. When we read in Revelation 4 about John being taken to the throne room of heaven to witness the constant praise of the Father that goes on around the throne, we can be confident that we can join that worship at any time. From the confines of my home or car or anywhere, I can begin to praise the Lord and in the Spirit I can transcend this reality and join the throngs of elders and angels in the throne room of heaven just as John did. I can lay at the feet of Christ and there get the love I need, the healing I need, the direction I need, and the perspective I need.

This place is the opposite of alone. This is a place of fulfillment and peace. Here I can find all that I need. Here I am found. All it takes is praise. Anytime, anywhere I can join the song that never ends and never have to feel alone again.

Mortality

I sat with a lady not long ago that was dying. No longer able to respond to me, I held her hand and softly sang hymns that I hoped she would recognize. I sang about the love of God and about His grace.  I was disappointed that I never had a chance to ask her about God while she was still able to talk to me. I had no idea whether she had any faith or not. And now, all I could do was hope that my songs would stimulate her to call on the Lord. That conversation would not be audible to my ears, but still effective, if she already knew about Him. But I had no idea if she had heard the gospel or not.

Evangelism has always been a difficult thing for me. I love God. He has done wonderful things in my life. But the thought of presenting Him to strangers, or worse, people I know, is very unnerving. I tend to avoid rejection, not seek it out. Those awkward conversations where they try to be polite, but tell you off and/or insult your God, your faith and your intelligence all at the same time tend to make continuing a relationship with them difficult. But it never fails that when I am faced with that person dying that I regret not having taken the risk and told them about the Lord.

Romans chapter 10 tells us:

“”Whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” (vs 13-15, 17)

We have all been called by the Great Commission to go out and preach the gospel. It is not left only to those who do it professionally. We are God’s hands and feet to our family, friends, neighbors, co-workers and the strangers we meet along the way. Even though we may not see the person immediately drop to their knees when we present the gospel, we can know with certainty that the word we have placed in their lives will be brought to their remembrance when they need it. Whether that be in those dark days of trial or loneliness, or in those few moments before death, the Spirit Himself will bring our words back to life and lead them to the Lord. But without having heard the hope of the gospel, what can they draw on?

We cannot wait until they are physically dying to decide that we now have an audience ready to hear what we are saying. The likelihood that they will be able to respond is slim. And who knows if we even would have that time? The fact is that without Christ, we are all dying. And salvation is not something that begins in heaven, but here on earth. It makes us come alive to an abundant life of purpose, hope and light.

Take the risk. Present the gospel in love. Live it. Know that His word does not return void, but accomplishes that for which it was sent (Is 55:11).

Live with no regrets.

 

 

Quiet Confidence

I was driving to go visit with my parents today. It is a two hour drive, but there is an urgency lately to spend as much quality time with them as possible. While I was driving I was listening to the Christian radio station and singing along with the praise songs. When I got so far out of the city that I could no longer pick up the station, I turned off the radio and began to pray. There is much to pray about. I started praying for my parents, for my children, for my husband and grandchildren. My prayer seemed to become more like a desperate begging for God’s intervention. I prayed for miracles as I imagined they could be. Then I was reminded that God’s ways are higher than mine and His thoughts higher than my thoughts (Is 55:9). My prayer started to change. Now I was asking God to glorify Himself in all of the circumstances that surrounded us. I asked Him not to limit Himself to the little box that my imagination could think up. I acknowledged that even though things may look bleak, He is ultimately in control and He can use these things to bring about a far greater purpose and victory.

He reminded me of the story of Elisha and the king of Aram. The king wanted to capture Elisha because he kept warning the king of Isreal of his plans. He sent a large army to the city where Elisha was and surrounded him. When his servant saw it, he panicked. But Elisha didn’t. He was calm.

“”Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” And Elisha prayed, “Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.” 2 Kings 6:16-17

Elisha knew God. He was confident that God was with him.

Or what about the story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel. When Elijah finally got up to call on God, his prayer wasn’t a doubt-filled begging for God to appear, it was one of confidence:

“At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: “Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. Answer me, Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.” Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.  When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The Lord—he is God! The Lord—he is God!”” 1 Kings 18: 36-39.

What about Paul and Silas in jail? Were they panic-stricken and begging God for their lives? No. God was with them and they knew it. God had other plans:

 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose.  The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!”  The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas.  He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”  They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house.  At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized. The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole household.” Acts 16:25-34.

God is moving now too. He has big plans. He is calling His people back to Himself. He is readying His church for His arrival. He is answering those prayers that have been outstanding. Do I need to panic? No. God is with me. He will glorify Himself in this. I can be confident and give glory to the One who has it all under control.