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The Healing Power of Forgiveness

Lessons from Cherith

21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Matthew 18:21

He’d been a drug addict and alcoholic for at least the 35 years I knew him.  In fact, this lost uncle was my husband’s main reason for why he never touched drugs in his college days.  My husband saw the path of destruction his uncle created throughout their family.  This uncle, my mother-in-law’s youngest sibling, took the road so many addicts follow.  They demand help, make others feel guilty for not rescuing them, promise to do better then start the cycle over and over again.

In my visits to my husband’s hometown, we’d have infrequent contact with his uncle.  But we would hear of his begging his own mother for money and complaining of how “lucky” and “privileged” everyone else in the family were because they weren’t always so down on their luck.  To be fair, this man bore the brunt of being the youngest child of an alcoholic philanderer.  As for my in-laws, they gave money, moral support, food, and more for much of his life.  But after a number of run-ins with the law and intolerable behavior toward my husband’s grandmother, the uncle found himself eventually with backs turned.  Enough was enough.

22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” Matthew 18:22

Let’s face it, we are only human.  We get our feelings hurt.  We often seek to protect ourselves from harmful relationships.  We don’t want to be taken advantage of and have our kindness thrown back at us with vitriol.  Like many of Jesus’ expectations of us the concept of forgiveness is not so easy for us sinful humans.  We get to the end of our rope.  We have no more tears to shed.  

I remember when my loving, caring mother-in-law said to me one day a few years ago, “I’m done.  I’m tired of being blamed for his problems.  I’m tired of being taken for granted that we will always help.  I’m angry how he treats our mother.”  And really, could anyone fault her?  But the thing is, I knew deep down she didn’t mean any of it.  I knew if her brother came again with hat in hand she would help.  Because she knew that Jesus would do the same for her.

25 And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” Mark 11:28

We can be thankful we haven’t been assigned the task of God’s prophets to administer final judgements like Elijah had to (although one day two of us will be called to do just that). In the Old Testament, we see time after time the people turning their backs on God after so many warnings. And he sent his prophets to speak truth and judgement. His final truth-speaker was His Son, Jesus. But this prophet came to tell us when we seek forgiveness and to forgive we receive eternal forgiveness from God, even when we mess up over and over. You see, Jesus doesn’t just want the one who needs forgiveness healed, he wants us, the forgiver to be healed.  Because when we place our own lives under God’s microscope, we each have a heck of a lot that needs forgiving.  We each are blessed with the incredible gift of coming with our own hat in hand to the Lord and asking, “One more time, please Lord.  Forgive me.” And He does.  

I’ve been fortunate to witness the healing power of forgiveness in a few people’s lives.  My friend Andrea will forever be changed simply by forgiving a family member for past hurts and asking for forgiveness for how she has hurt others.  My own relationship with my parents has required me to forgive them.  And although the situation can still be painful, I now have the healing strength which forgiveness affords to help me pray for them each day.

31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:31-32

I started this message about a man so broken from addiction.  A man who most would say was without hope, without the peace from God.  But God is a miracle worker as we all know.  So, after another stint in prison about a year ago, my husband’s uncle finally said, “Enough is enough.”  He turned to God for forgiveness and healing.  When he got the news that his oldest sister was now riddled with cancer he came immediately to be by her side.

I don’t know if I’ll ever have the same opportunity to watch such a beautiful miracle unfold before my eyes.  To see God’s hands work like no other.  To experience the full promise of God’s grace and love descend upon a room.  We met in the lobby of the hospital, just the uncle and I.  His mind and eyes were clear. He looked so healthy!  His demeanor was clearly different.  I took him up to his sister’s room and we sat and chatted.  I felt like I should leave the room and give them some alone time when suddenly he took her by the hand and with tears streaming down his face he asked for forgiveness.  He asked to be forgiven for the destruction he caused, the pain, and for all the lost years that could’ve been different.

My mother-in-law thanked him immediately.  She said, “I needed to hear this.  It hurt so much when you blamed me for your troubles.”  And they wept.  For the next two weeks I witnessed this man stand guard outside her room, praying and participating in her last days.  I listened as he asked the rest of the family for forgiveness.  And saw them weep from the healing love of God.  I watched as he helped lift his sister’s lifeless body onto the gurney for her final road toward home.  He was in pain but was healed.  He was washed in sorrow but cleansed from forgiveness.  And he knew he was loved.

Who do you need to forgive right now?

Who do you need to ask for forgiveness?  

It’s time for healing.

PS: Happy Birthday to my amazing, handsome, loving, forgiving husband 🙂

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I Will

So her husband, Joseph, being a righteous man, and not wanting to disgrace her publicly, decided to divorce her secretly. Matthew 1:19

We left off our study of new beginnings with a cliff hanger of sorts.  There sat Jonah on a hill wishing he were dead.  And God reminding Jonah that He cares for all people of the earth, especially the ones “who cannot tell their right hand from their left.”  Thank goodness for that because there are many days I feel and act like one of those foolish people!  If left to being helped out of my fiery pit by unloving, sleepy Christians, I would surely find myself in the depths of hell.  But for God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit.  And those that submit themselves not only to their will but do so out of love.

So, we leave the Old Testament with many more stories of new beginnings than I have shared.  And with hope that Jonah finally grasped God’s message of works without love is empty and useless.  But here’s the thing about our guidebook for life, the Bible, God’s holy Word, there’s 1000s of connections back and forth between the ancient stories in the Old Testament and the newer history of the New Testament.  Which leads us to the first new beginning we encounter in the book of Matthew.  Another Noah.  Another servant of God who is the way maker for the world’s new beginning.  The connector from the old ways to the new.  A man who, like Noah, was considered “righteous” and faithful to God.  But first, let me share with you a modern story of another righteous man who helped shepherd in a new beginning for one small child.

Epworth’s Children’s Home received this first-hand account from a foster parent in 2017 about his experience in becoming a foster father:

“Our family has been fostering a boy since October 2017. Yesterday our foster child had a court hearing to determine what step to take as far as his custody goes. I haven’t shared a lot about the whole foster experience because I have been afraid, to be completely honest. Afraid because fostering has been a lot harder for me than I thought it would be. Not because the child is difficult – it has been hard because of my heart. Ever since he came into our home, I have been terrified of becoming too attached and having my heart broken when he would eventually leave our home. I have been terrified of giving him all of my love, my energy, my grace and my compassion. I was sitting in the courtroom listening to the different parties discussing and debating the best course of action for the child’s future, when I started shaking. I began to realize this is the moment! The moment I decide to completely expose my heart to the potential of pain, or keep my walls up. It was absolutely terrifying! I started hearing a small voice inside that I could no longer ignore, and it was telling me to fight for this child. I realized I was willing to do anything for him.

“My walls started to crumble around me. Then I heard the judge call my name. He wanted to know if I wanted to adopt this child. I wanted to scream “Yes! He is my son!”, but I think I said something a little less dramatic like, “Yes sir, we are working on becoming licensed for adoption for this child.” I then heard the judge say that he is ordering termination of parental rights and opening this case for adoption. The weight of this decision is not lost on me, but it was one of the most powerful experiences that I have ever had.”

But after he had considered these things, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because what has been conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. Matthew 1:20

Joseph was our Lord’s foster father.  As a devout follower of the Mosaic Law, he had every right to not only publicly shame Mary for her “adultery” but also to have her stoned to death!  Before the angel even spoke to him, however, love, kindness, compassion took over and he decided to quietly divorce her.  Think of how Jonah would’ve responded.  Surely God would’ve had to intervene to save Mary’s life from Jonah’s anger.

After Joseph obeyed God’s urging to complete his marriage vows to Mary, his troubles surely were not over. Like Noah, he would’ve faced public humiliation.  The knowledge of Mary’s pregnancy in the small village of Nazareth would have spread like a wildfire.  And yet he stayed the course.  He stayed faithful not only to Mary but to God.  He didn’t, by all accounts do it begrudgingly like Jonah.  He took up the mantle of “foster father” and protected his family, raised his son as his own.  His new beginning was as father to someone else’s son.  An earthly role model.  A shepherd, like Noah, for what was to be all of humanity’s new beginning.

Joseph and the unnamed servant girl who helped Naaman (2 Kings 5:3) also have a lot in common.  They were faithful.  They had a heart for God.  They stepped up to help when they could’ve taken a different path.  Their small steps were a gift to many.  And they both are but a few lines in our history.  Joseph’s last mention of him doesn’t even use his name.  Jesus is 12 years old, immersed in the teachings at the temple and his parents are frantically looking for him.  His mother chastises him and says, “Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you!” (Luke 2:48)  After that, Joseph fades away.  Most likely, he passes before Jesus begins his adult ministry.

And yet we remember him each Christmas for his shepherding, protecting, and faith.  We should all add a bit of thanks to Joseph each day we pray in Jesus’ name.  Because like so many faithful servants of Christ, He obeyed out of love.  He didn’t ask or require that “thanks.”  He didn’t harbor ill will for having to endure hardship.  He put his head down, his hands out and his heart lifted and said to God, “I will.”

I want to share with you the rest of the letter written to Epworth Children’s Home by the foster father:

“I will end with this. This is especially for you guys and fathers. If you feel God tugging at your heart to become a foster parent, listen! There will always be a reason to not become a foster parent, but if your main reason is that you are scared your heart will be broken, then you especially need to do it. Foster children need someone who will be heartbroken over them. They need someone who is going to stick by them when things get hard. They haven’t experienced that. They need someone to love them and be gentle with them when they come over and hit you in the face with a maraca and break your glasses (not that I have ever had that happen, that is completely hypothetical, of course!). They need someone who is going to be faithful to them and strong for them in their weakest moments. I am by no means perfect in any of those, but I am strong in my faith, and it provides me the love, strength and grace that I need. Fostering has made me more dependent on God, in everything, and that is good. Ultimately, I am a foster child who was adopted into His family, and I am fully loved.”

Amen.

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The Well-Worn Path

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. Psalm 91:1

In the mid-1800s hundreds of thousands of pioneers left the comfort of their eastern homes beyond the Mississippi River and traveled West toward what we now call Oregon.  The result of those courageous pioneers is hundreds of miles of well-worn wagon wheel ruts.  In some places the gouges from the wagons extend four feet deep in the rock.  It became a symbol of being on the right path when your wagon wheels found the ruts for which to follow.  And because they were so deep it meant your wheels would stay true to that path.

And there lies the idea behind “being in a rut.”  A well-worn path that, in some cases, is a good place.  So often, however, the result of creating those paths in our lives leads us down roads we long to escape.  I wonder how many of us Christians find ourselves in a well-worn path that either isn’t to our liking or to God’s?  

The last few weeks we’ve looked at ways Christians are expected to stand apart, be held to a higher standard, and stand resolutely with Christ, not the world.  But for many of us that means climbing out of that four foot deep rut.  The rut of going along to get along.  The rut of living in half-truths such as only expressing love without truth or vice versa.  The rut of an unintentional life.  The rut of sitting in a church where you aren’t convicted or spurred to share the message of eternal life.  The rut of any number of sins.

If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,” and you make the Most High your dwelling,no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent. Psalm 91:9-10

The Apostle Paul was in a rut.  He followed half-truths taught by the Pharisees and then he, himself, passed those false truths along with a vengeance.  It wasn’t until Jesus abruptly entered his life and yanked him out of that four foot hole that he realized his state.  And when he did, he took the message in Psalm 91 to heart.  He pressed on and on staying close to Jesus and the Holy Spirit.  He trusted that although perils would befall him it would not stop him from his mission.  And thank God.  Because he, like you and I, was just a man.  A regular flesh and blood human.  A person filled with sinful ways.  Without his trust in God, without his life of intentionally following Jesus we wouldn’t have his wise words to guide us.  He was like Jesus in a sense that God wanted us to have a fleshly example to model.  Jesus clothed Himself in skin so he could endure our earthly life.  And endure it with full trust in God.  

“Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. Psalm 91:14

Because He loves me just as much as He loved Paul, I know that I can live a bold life in the name of Jesus.  I know that even when hands come against me or when words try to hurt me, I will receive the ultimate promised prize.  And when we live a life in worldly ruts – cowering before our accusers, afraid of speaking our faith, staying in the shadows not helping pull our fellow travelers from the flame – we are saying to God, “I really don’t trust you to work all things for my good.”

The ruts we need to seek are the well-worn paths of the saints, not the sinners.  The paths that Jesus has laid out for us are so clearly defined in His Word.  We need to look for them as parents, as spouses, as co-workers, as sisters in Christ, as citizens.  

He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation. Psalm 91:15-16

We can’t do this alone my friends.  Through praying in the Spirit (not the flesh), through Christian fellowship, good teaching, and constantly living with God just ahead of us as our pioneer guide we can accomplish everything He asks of us.  And He will satisfy us with salvation and the glory of heaven.

Friends, what well-worn worldly paths are you living in?  Is it your parenting style?  Or maybe you’ve flipped the script in your marriage.  Are you in too deep with equating your faith with your politics?  Have you forgotten that God sees and knows every word you speak, every emotion that lies in our heart?  Are you taking advantage of God’s promised salvation and disobeying Him without repentance?   It’s time to stop in our tracks and look up to the edge of the rut.  Stick out your hand and ask the Holy Spirit for a leg up.  You can do it, we can do it.  You are not alone.

Join me starting November 1-30 for 30 Days of Thankfulness!

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The Purposeful Path

Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good.  Anyone who does what is good is from God.  3 John 11

When I was first researching the word “resolute” I came across the tiny village of Resolute in the province of Nunavut, Canada. Back in 1999, Canada created a new province from the original Northern Territories specifically for its native citizens.  And Resolute was one of the northernmost inhabited spots in that province.  Its most famous resident, who put Resolute firmly on the map, was Joseph Idlout, the subject of two documentaries, Land of the Long Day in 1952 and Between Two Worlds in 1990. He was for a time one of the most well-known Inuit and was shown on the back of the Canadian two-dollar bill.

I decided to watch the Land of the Long Day and was treated to some childhood memories of old fashioned documentary film styles.  This little film about a tiny family eking out an existence in the Arctic held my fascination for over an hour.  You see, Mr. Idlout purposefully chose to keep his family close to the old ways of living.  They hunted and gathered what was available each season, storing up for long, dark winters.  They used every available resource to keep their family alive and thriving.   Everyone in the family had a job to do for their survival.  And to maintain this way of life he petitioned the Canadian government to move to a tiny weather station called Resolute and create a home for themselves.  Rather than uprooting their lives and becoming more “modern” they chose to remain true to their culture.  And they flourished. 

It’s perfect that this “most famous Inuit” moved to a tiny town called Resolute because that’s what it took to make his decision for his family.  And I wonder, how many decisions us modern parents make are based on what God really wants for our children? 

As a grandma and parent of two, now grown women, I can easily recall times when I had to make decisions that would set my children and family apart from others.  So many times, when I would go against the norm, others would say to me,  “I hadn’t even thought about that.”  In other words, they were just going along to get along without consulting any moral code whatsoever.

“When you are being taught how to use any machine, the instructor keeps on saying, “No, don’t do it like that,’ because, of course, there are all sorts of things that look all right and seem to you the natural way of treating the machine, but do not really work.”  

CS Lewis, Mere Christianity

It seems so natural to automatically sign a permission slip for your child to go on the 4th grade overnight trip that every single 4th grader in your school has gone on for the last 10 years.  There’ll be chaperones and it’s just down the street.  Everyone is going.  And then you find out boys and girls will be sleeping together in small rooms.  Chaperones include moms and dads – many whom you don’t know.  So your daughter will be spending the night with boys and a dad.   No problem, everyone is going.  Everyone has gone.  No one has ever brought up any issue.   So what’s your problem?  Are you going to set your child apart?  Will you be resolute in what you know is the God-directed answer?

In the verse today it says “imitate evil.”  And I think so often when we read things like that in the Bible we give ourselves little passes to make immoral decisions, especially when we feel it might harm our kids’ social lives.  I mean, it’s not “evil” to let our kids go on a boy/girl sleepover.  It’s not “evil” to allow our daughters to wear the latest fashions that might be a bit revealing.  It’s not  “evil” to let our sons play violent video games.  It’s also not “evil” for all the parents at the birthday party to get drunk. Right?

In a world where parents are pressured into allowing their elementary and middle school children to start dangerous hormones and go under the knife in order to try and change their gender, letting your kids watch R rated movies and TV shows seems tame in comparison. And we let it slide.

“Perfect behavior may be as unattainable as perfect gear changing when we drive; but it is a necessary ideal. Prescribed for all men by the very nature of the human machine just as perfect gear changing is an ideal prescribed for all drivers by the very nature of cars…it would be idiotic not to try; for every mistake is going to cause you trouble later on.”  

CS Lewis, Mere Christianity

It’s interesting that this quote from Mere Christianity involves using a stick shift in a car.  For just about every one of us that process has changed to be an automatic.  But the question I ask is your automatic response to making decisions for yourself and your family set to the world of the flesh or the Word of God? 

For Joseph Idlout, he drew on his people’s hundreds if not thousands of years of history and made the conscious decision to not go the modern route of the world.  And I have to say they seemed to live a pretty content and peaceful life.  Not an easy one by any means.  The harsh Arctic conditions probably led many to scoff at their decision.  They might even have been called any manner of names from savages to crazy to ignorant.  But his children didn’t grow up with drug addictions, suicidal tendencies, endless debt, and more that our world offers.

We can’t all put our families on an island away from the world’s influences.  But we can stop pretending things aren’t “evil” when they go against what God wants of us.  We must be resolute and purposeful in following God’s will for our families.  To be His humble servants, to know His Word inside and out so that it becomes automatic, and to live like the chosen people we are.  Our children’s lives depend on it.

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Walking The Talk

The living, the living—they praise you, as I am doing today; parents tell their children about your faithfulness. Isaiah 38:19

I have a confession to make.  I wasn’t an intentional Christian parent.  Church was often relegated to the backseat during softball season (which pretty much lasts 9 months).  I didn’t make sure my kids were involved in Christian youth groups.  When we did pray at dinner we prayed the same prayer each time until it became almost meaningless.  We didn’t talk about the Bible, we didn’t talk about our faith.  I don’t think I’m alone in this confession.  And I’m sure I’m not alone in saying there was a price paid for our “Christian-lite” stance.

I am thankful that, when my younger daughter went off to college, she was drawn to a Christian athlete organization and then a local church.  Through that program she learned what we had failed to teach – the truth about our Savior and how much God loves us.   My older daughter?  She’s probably like a lot of our twenty-somethings.  She believes in God but beyond that it gets murky.  

“The single most important factor of shaping children’s religious lives is their parents – not society, not youth leaders, but their parents.”

Christian Smith, Handing Down the Faith

In other words, if you model faithfulness, if you live out what you say you believe on Sunday, the chances of your child being a devoted follower of Christ is increased exponentially.  And if, like I did, you lead a lukewarm faith life you’ll most likely create the same fruit. Even worse, if you act or speak hypocritically you may get no fruit at all.

A few weeks ago, our pastor taught on Genesis 18:16-19:29.  An overarching theme in these verses is the concept of being or having an advocate.  Someone who will hold us up and speak for us to God.  Abraham wrangled with God to save just a few people from the sin-filled cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.  In the end, his pleas saved his nephew, Lot, and Lot’s daughters.  It’s a beautiful foreshadowing of the ultimate Advocate – Jesus.  As you can see in these two verses.

Then he (Abraham) said, “May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak just once more. What if only ten can be found there?”  He (God) answered, “For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it.”  Genesis 18:32
Jesus: My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. John 17:15

How many of us, as parents or grandparents or even aunts and uncles, see ourselves as “advocates” for our children?  See being in that role as possibly one of the most important ones we will ever have?  How many of us have prioritized our faith over the sparkling lights of “after school activities?” Their very souls are what we are talking about here.  I’ve heard so many parents grieve their adult children’s faith.  And so we pray as their advocate.  How about we also live as one too?

Abraham was able to plead directly with God.  A back and forth conversation.  How?  From the beginning of his relationship with God, Abraham obeyed and worked to be a faithful servant – with a few hiccups along the way.  What does that look like as modern parents today?  How can we be resolute in not compromising our children’s eternity?

In my next post I’ll talk about opening our eyes as parents to our everyday decisions.  Are they of the world of the flesh or of God’s will?  I recently listened to author Christian Smith about the research he has done in the area of youth and faith.  His current book is titled, Handing Down the Faith.  Here’s few great nuggets from the book.

  1. Teens are actually paying attention to you.  That might come as a shock to many.  He found that even into their 20s our kids are actively noticing how we live and what we “preach.”
  2. Just saying you are a Christian (Buddhist, Jew, etc) isn’t enough.  Kids are learning both positive and negative faith examples.
  3. We aren’t just counteracting world views but some church ones as well.  Many Christian youth programs teach what he termed, Moralistic Therapeutic Deism – act morally, be a nice person, and don’t judge.   That’s great when life is easy.  But as our kids age and the world comes crashing down it causes them to fall away.
  4. Be authoritative – demand expectations, standards, with an abundance of warmth and support.  Note: not “authoritarian.”
  5. Talk routinely about religion.  While your faith doesn’t need to be the subject of each discussion your faith should be woven in and used for handling conflict and decision making.
  6. Walk the talk.  If you live a life of service, humility, forgiveness and worship your kids will have the best example they will ever need.
  7. Channel “internalization.”  Or in other words place your child in situations where they will be influenced positively in your faith by others such as youth groups, religious schools, etc.
  8. Know the Word.  A good teacher is only as good as how well they know their topic!
  9. Play the long game.  None of us are wholly responsible for anyone’s faith and salvation.  But the building blocks you instill are certainly a great cornerstone!
  10. Pray.  And pray some more.  Pray for knowledge, pray for discernment, pray for your children and your spouse. Pray for doors to open for conversations and then walk through them!

I may have missed the opportunity when my kids were younger to instill Jesus into their lives.  But to be fair, He wasn’t deeply rooted in mine either.  Thankfully, how I’ve allowed Jesus to change me and use me is also a great lesson for my adult children.  Until this Age of Grace is over, it is never too late for God to work in our familys’ lives.  As a changed follower I’m asking for His help, so that I can stand resolutely and faithfully in being my kids’ advocate.  

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God’s Guardrails

For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess. Deuteronomy 30:16

I grew up not wanting to have children.  In my isolated world I experienced a parenting style that used harsh, physical, anger-fueled discipline.  I didn’t know there was any other way and knew it wasn’t what I wanted impose on any children.  So often as we become our own people, cleaved from our parents, we take the elements of parenting we don’t like and try to do the exact opposite.  However, I also acknowledged as a new adult that the harsh discipline kept me from a lot of dangerous behavior.  So where was the balance?

If you take a brief walk through the history of parenting you’ll see a modern conflict similar to the one I was having.  The harsh disciplinary view of old was met face on with Dr. Spock and his more “loosey goosey” style.  But as the Spock kids became the radical children of the 60s and 70s parents searched for a middle ground.  One psychologist, Dr. James Dobson took up the challenge.  He brought parents back into the position of authority but done with love.

Discipline isn’t, by definition, a bad thing. Studies have shown that the most effective way to foster healthy relationships with children and give them the ability to learn and utilize self-control is through positive discipline. 

Lauren Steele, Fatherly.com

We humans need fatherly guardrails.  It’s a proven fact since the beginning of time.  We need to remember that when Moses came down the mountain with the 10 commandments they were NEW rules.  New guardrails of how to worship God, how to treat other people, how to be respectful within our families, and how to protect ourselves from well, ourselves.  

The Old Testament has a shadow story woven throughout.  Yes, we follow the woeful Israelites through trials, tribulations and successes.  But put in context God is constantly showing them how to live differently than all the other nations around them.  Nations that He created as well but saw how they overwhelmingly desired to live outside His guardrails – rampant sexual exploits, child sacrifice and more.  He was testing them all, just like today.  Free self-reign or accepting governance by God.

I praise God today for His guardrails.  For the 10 Commandments He gave us to live within.  Because just like our children we prove over and over that without them we can get ourselves into a lot of trouble.  Without His guidance, His narrow path, we wander off into parts unknown, get lost, live in fear and despair, and ruin not just our lives but the ones we love.

When I met my husband and told him why I didn’t want children he assured me we’d figure it out.  He wouldn’t let my past keep me from a full future.  Thankfully as we took the journey, we met God along the way.  I may have pushed up against those guardrails a few times but He always calls me back to the center of the road.  


Bible, bible study, Christian, Christian Church, christian encouragement, christian men, christian podcast, Christian women, Faith, Jesus, Jesus Follower, podcast, Uncategorized

Step 3: The Confident Warrior

The Pharisees heard the crowd whispering such things about him. Then the chief priests and the Pharisees sent temple guards to arrest him. John 7:32

Christianity is not passive.  We are to pray, say and do.  

Joyce Meyer

The other day my husband and I watched an episode of Phil and Jase Robertson’s Unashamed podcast.  We had selected this particular episode because it featured the guest, Dallas Jenkins.  Mr. Jenkins, as some of you may know, has fast become a “name” in the Christian community as the director, creator and writer of the series, “The Chosen.”  This uniquely told story of Jesus’ three impactful years on Earth is one not to be missed.  Jase Robertson asked him about the daunting task of showing both the human Jesus and Jesus the Deity.  On the human side, one episode shows Jesus tending to a cut on his wrist while also trying to start a fire using the “hand drill” method – painful to be sure.

“The criticism we get comes from Christians.  People come to the show from all types of Christianity including Mormons, Catholics, protestants.  And they watch the show and expect it to fit their view of Jesus.  They are like the modern day Pharisees,” said Dallas Jenkins. He was then asked what negative feedback he gets from non-Christians.  His reply?  “None.”

And this got me thinking.  In all of Jesus’ moments of conflict there rarely was a non-religious person at the forefront.  His battlefield, His warrior-moments, came most frequently against the religious leaders.  Those people who decided they knew what God had in mind for a Messiah.  And Jesus wasn’t “it.”

When placed faced to face with His opponent Jesus came prepared.  He came armed with the belt of truth and sword of the spirit.  He had to be prepared because the ultimate prize was not a piece of land.  The prize was not a place on an earthly throne.  No.  The ultimate prize was the heart, mind and soul of the average person.

“Jesus replied, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.” Matthew 22:29

And that statement, my friends, can only be seen as “shots fired.”

The Bible says, “fear not” or “be not afraid” 103 times in the King James Bible.  Jesus, himself, speaks some version of these words about 30 times.  And yet so many of us fear taking the step toward being a warrior like Him and for Him.

We say we aren’t ready.  That might be true.  So, ask God to help you get ready.

We say we won’t know what to say.  That’s probably true.  So, prepare and ask God to give you the words.

We say our church just doesn’t encourage that way of thinking. Maybe so. But Jesus didn’t come to start a denomination.

We say we might lose something in the battle.  You might.  But God always provides.

We say we will be seen as crazy, bigoted, unloving.  The devil does love to deceive.  So, we ask God to give us a loving heart and clear mind and we place our trust squarely on Him.

What does a warrior for God look like these days?  We joke about the person on the corner with the “End is Near” sign.  But while on vacation in Kauai a few weeks ago I saw a man – he looked pretty normal actually, about in his 60s nicely dressed – standing in the same spot on a busy road a few days in a row holding up a sign for all to see: “Jesus is Near.”  Imagine what sort of feedback he must’ve received.  We honked each time and gave him a thumbs up.  He waved with a big smile.  And I thought, “that man was led to stand out on that street day after day waving at people holding that sign.  That’s a warrior for God.”

You know who else are warriors like Jesus?  Moms and dads who go against the “norm” and tell their kids they must follow in Jesus’ steps.  Employees who aren’t afraid to talk about their faith while at work.  Friends who aren’t worried about losing friendships because they won’t “go along to get along.”  People who are aren’t afraid of being “cancelled” because they stood up for Christian morals and values.

Jesus didn’t come to smooth things over with religious leaders.  He didn’t come to make a lot of friends.  He didn’t desire to win a popularity contest.  He came to save souls.  He knows the end of this world’s story.  And so do we. 

“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. 43 But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him. Matthew 24:42-44

Are you keeping watch over your house?  Are you dressed in your God-given battle gear, standing ready to step onto the field?  As Christians we are tasked with increasing God’s glory on this earth.  We are challenged to keep the thief out of our midst.  It is the heart and mind of a warrior, like Jesus, that will accomplish both.


bible study, Christian, Christian Church, christian encouragement, Faith, Jesus Follower, Uncategorized

A Promise of Triumph

The Lord will march out like 
a champion,like a warrior he 
will stir up his zeal;with a shout 
he will raise the battle cry 
and will triumph over his enemies.
Isaiah 42:13

Like you, I’ve dealt with a lot of difficult people throughout my life.  Whether it was at work, my children’s school, youth sports, or even my church, I encountered people who just wanted to be adversarial.  And I am certain I was someone’s “difficult person” at one time or another.  But I think the most painful experiences surrounding adversaries are when they are part of our family.

I was talking with a good friend of mine the other day about our two families.  We both struggle with difficult parent situations.  One day she and her sister had a heart to heart about a disagreement from a few weeks prior.  With my Christian friend’s kind and gentle approach she spurred the revelation that they had become their parents.  Each sister taking on the personality and fighting style of one of their parents.  That revelation started a healing process in both of them.  Truly a small victory.

In my own life I have transitioned through the stages of grief when it comes to my relationship with my parents.  I denied there was a real problem in my family.  When I finally recognized the problems, I became angry and fought constantly with my mother – trying to change her.  I even had my own way of bargaining to try and create a Hallmark-style mother-daughter relationship.  I would do things for her to help her see what a good person I really was.  But my expectations and hopes were always dashed.  I became depressed for awhile when I realized we would never be a family that loved being together. I just wanted to untie myself from my parents and let them go adrift.  All of this was before I finally surrendered.  I raised my white flag.  But not to any human.  To God.

But thanks be to God, who in 
Christ always leads us in 
triumphal procession, and 
through us spreads the fragrance 
of the knowledge of him everywhere.
2 Corinthians 2:14

Paul wrote this to the church of Corinth during a very difficult time for him and his relationship with this church.  They were angry with him for changing his plans about visiting.  Some had started false preaching about him behind his back.  And, as Warren Wiersbe states, “When Christians misunderstand each other the wounds can be very deep.”  Isn’t that true of our families as well?

During the last few years, I have experienced that Christ-given “fragrance of knowledge of Him.”  And as I have done so, I finally had to experience that last stage of grief – acceptance.  For us Christians that acceptance comes, more importantly, with forgiveness.  I stopped trying to change the situation by myself.  And I started to rely on God to handle the situation with my parents.  I hold on to the truth of who loves me for all eternity. And I’m learning how to stay tied to my parents without feelings of hurt and anger. As I spoke of this with my friend she announced very boldly, “And now you have VICTORY!”  

..so you should rather turn 
to forgive and comfort him, 
or he may be overwhelmed by 
excessive sorrow. So I beg 
you to reaffirm your love for him. 
For this is why I wrote, 
that I might test you and know 
whether you are obedient in 
everything. 10 Anyone whom you 
forgive, I also forgive. Indeed, 
what I have forgiven, if I have 
forgiven anything, has been for 
your sake in the presence of Christ, 
11 so that we would not be 
outwitted by Satan; for we are 
not ignorant of his designs.
2 Corinthians 2:7-11

I forgave my parents for not being able to provide me with what I was looking for in a relationship.  I realized they had never been the recipients of overwhelming love.  I stopped being angry and instead became thankful for the life which God has blessed me – a loving family of my own.  Had I given up at any of the other 4 steps of grief surely Satan would have won.  But like Paul, I am no longer ignorant of the devil’s designs.  

Thanks be to God for the triumph He has promised us. We can hold fast knowing that, not only will He have victory over those who would do us harm, but also over our own souls which get injured and hurt by the world.  We can have victory because the Spirit of God rests in us.