Jesus, Friend of Sinners

*Beginning note, please forgive my absence for these past three months, I am still getting adjusted to work and school even when I only have the one child at home! ๐Ÿ™‚

As I began my devotion time this morning, continuing to study the word #JOY as it can be found in scripture, I came across a really wonderful verse in Acts. Acts 14:17, here it is in context of the moment being expressed by Paul, insisting that he and Barnabas were mere men just as the people they were reaching out to through their acts of healing and serving the Lord. He told them “We are only men with feelings like yours. We preach the Good News that you should turn from these empty things to the living God.

16ย In the past, he let all nations go their own way. 17ย Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.โ€ 18ย Even with these words, they had difficulty keeping the crowd from sacrificing to them.

Shortly after some neighboring Jews showed up and quickly filled the minds of these same people with the idea to stone them! They did and Paul was drug out of the city believed to be dead. Crazy right? One moment they want to worship these mere men and the next they are stoning them to death!

Then I got distracted.

I often look through my fb news feed before I start my prayer time, so that I can be mindful of my friends and family, those in my community who might be in need of prayer. As I filtered through this morning, I came across a link shared by a mother of an old classmate. It was to a blog, the entry entitled “When she became a he – Walking in love”. My friends reaction was what I might have expected so I too read the entry.

It is written by a woman, a Christian woman, mother of four (I feel her pain ;P) who was shopping with her husband. While in a particular store, she recognized the sales associate as someone she knew from many years before only something had changed. The young man that she had known so many years before, attended church with – was now a woman.

She went on to share the encounter; it was uncomfortable at first. The friend visibly shaken, certainly inwardly thinking about what she must have been thinking about them. Wondering if she was inwardly judging them. The woman recognized this and put him at ease, smiling and expressing genuine excitement about seeing an old friend and they proceeded to reminisce about old childhood friends and shared pictures of their families. She shared that they talked for quite some time and when she left the store how sad she felt for this friend and why. She reminded us that if we are who we say we are. If we are indeed Christians, followers of the Living God; then shouldn’t we love like He did? Shouldn’t our actions be a reflection of Him?

And she’s right, Jesus didn’t stay away from the sinners, he spent time with them; teaching them about the truth in His Father’s Word. He healed the sick, ate with tax collectors andย  even had an in depth conversation with an adulterous woman. I often remind my children that we can certainly not approve of someones actions (especially when we understand it to be sin) but if we are truly Christians and want to “be like Jesus” then we still need to love those friends, the sinners, the lost souls who have undoubtedly been deceived by the lies that Satan quietly whispers into our ears. If we stopped talking to the people we know who make these sorts of drastic life changes, openly displaying behavior that we disapprove of, that is considered to be, by definition sin- who would we talk to? Where would our friends be?

Her post made me think of a friend of my own. I dear friend who helped me get through a lot when I first moved back to Nebraska so many years ago. We were neighbors, both single moms with little ones. I had my three oldest, all under 5 at the time and she had two, both under 6. We babysat for one another so we didn’t have to miss work or school, or if we just needed a night to ourselves! We went shopping together, took our kids to the park together. I shared my deepest hurts with her, and she did the same. I moved to my current hometown and she move out of state causing us to loose track of one another. Then thanks to good ole facebook I found her again a few years ago. But she had changed, she was in a relationship and ultimately married another woman. I was shocked initially and I won’t lie, it made me sad for her. Because in my eyes, her lifestyle is something that will keep her from the same eternity that I wanted to share with her. Yet, my God, the loving God He is wants me to love her still. We chat occasionally, laugh about old times and marvel at the amazing young men and women our children have become. She reached out to me with kind words and her own prayers when both of my daughters were in life threatening situations. I pray for her and her family as well, that they have good health and that they are happy. I pray that she will find Him once again.

Prayer, it is the only tool I have.

I try to use it often.

I hope I use it well.

Then there was an article about the very much heated transgender bathroom issue with Target. Simply put, it reminds us as Christians that we are not in this battle with the people who consider themselves transgender, or even Target. We are in battle with the ultimate enemy, Satan himself! I just finished reading Paradise Lost this past week for my literature class. I had always heard so many mixed things about reading it as a Christian, I think that as Christians, we need to read it! I have to believed that just as the Bible was God directed, God breathed; that Milton, who indeed professed a strong faith was directed by God in the images he creates as he tells the story of the fall of man, once again reminding us that we are all sinners. I enjoyed how he walks us through so many pivotal moments in the Bible, both old and new testaments. It almost seemed as if time intertwined in such a manner that it leads me to wonder if our years here on earth will be but a millisecond in heaven.

Oh the #JOY we will know then.

So whatever your initial thinking on many of the tough issues, we can’t control much in this world beyond our own actions. We need to hold our swords and not in haste cut off someone’s ear just because we don’t agree with their lifestyle. We need to love them like Jesus would. Remember WWJD? We need to reach out to them and without condemnation try to show them what the Word tells us to be true. Pray for them. Pray with them if they allow, asking God to show them His way, to draw them near to Him. How we react or don’t react is important because as we all know we have young eyes watching our every movement. Our children our our future. Let me repeat: Our children are our future! I don’t mean the children you gave life to or raised, but any child you may come into contact with as you work or serve in your church or community. They watch us, as our actions are far louder than our words… In showing compassion, they will learn compassion and our world needs a lot more love and compassion in it.

I’m not saying, that we teach them that the behaviors we understand and believe to be wrong are acceptable. I’m saying we remind them that everyone, even those whose actions we disapprove of should be treated with kindness. Once again asking ourselves:

“What Would Jesus Do?”

luke5_31

Luke 5:31-32 Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.โ€

Luke 19:10 “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.โ€

saveSinners

Until the next moment,

 

 

Advertisements

When the Silence is Deafening

Today has been the sort of day I have not had in a while. One where I feel lost and alone, overwhelmed. And to tell you the truth, I still can’t pinpoint what it really is. Those old recordings are once again playing in my head. Perpetually on “repeat”, only this time I can’t actually hear them. I know they’re playing however because of the sick and heavy feeling I had when I first woke up today. But instead there is just this sick silence; nearly as maddening as the recordings themselves. I got my daughter off to school, oblivious to my state of mind. As soon as she left I set at the table, took a quick peek at Facebook to see if I needed to add anyone to my prayer list and then settled into my time with the Lord. Or, I should say I tried…

I must have read my devotional at least three times, before its words even began to break through the barrier created by the silence in my head. One would think that if you mind is in such a quiet state, it would be free to absorb whatever information you try to put into it. Perhaps, if it’s truly empty and not just masquerading as such. Instead, in my case, “empty” is merely hiding behind a mask of silence. A silent facade, holding in dark moments from my past. My routine is that I read my devotional, look up the scripture with my You Version app and share on Twitter and Facebook. On Facebook, I select one of the scripture references and create an image with it. I then share an abridged version of the part of the devotional that spoke to me that morning. This morning it was Psalm 89:15-16, the devotional itself reminding us to stay close to His Presence. To relax in it, to allow our mind to be molded, our heart to be cleansed. To remember when we keep our focus on Him, every moment can be precious. I was not finding that peace this morning, my heart and mind were fighting with my dark and silent past.

Ps89

I then set here looking at the three sections of my Prayer Board, lost as to where to even start. Normally God just places on my heart a starting spot and I then just move around the board until everything is covered in prayer. I didn’t know where to start this morning, my mind could barely form whole thoughts. Broken fragments of nonsense were bubbling to the surface, finally forming tears. I immediately jumped back on Facebook and asked the women in my Bible Study to pray for me. Then I headed to the one place where I can talk to God when I feel this lost, where I can cry out, even sob to Him and pray that He could get me through this particular moment… my shower. And before you utter “TMI” understand that this has been my safe spot since I was a very young girl. When I was growing up and my father was abusing me, the bathroom was the only room in the house with a lock on it. I would come home after school and take my homework into our bathroom, lock the door and feel safe, at least for the moment.

As an adult, I still retreat to this small quiet room; to be alone, regain composure, to pray… Sometimes, it is in the shower, where the sound of the water can drown out my tears. Where the wall often holds me up as I sob uncontrollably. But just as the water washes away, falling down the drain. So do my tears, they are just gone. The ugliness, sadness, anger, fear, all of it; is gone too. I can step out, feeling a sense of calm, renewed, re-energized; suddenly able to take on the rest of my day. I promise you that the only reason I am able to do this is because He hears me as I cry out to Him in my desperation. He hears me as I cry out and ask Him “Why”? He listens as I repeat everything on my heart that He already knows. He listens and He gives me what I need to move forward. He provides me with my immediate needs and quietly whispers that He is taking care of things. As I was crying in the shower this morning, I realized that I am still worried about money and my finances. I do have a part-time job now, but how in the world am I going to take care of myself and my child on a part-time salary, not to mention catch up on months of unpaid bills, which include months of rent. He knows all that, He knew before I uttered one word, shed one tear.

I continue to read from Max Lucado’s “you’ll get through this”. The story of Joseph and all that he went through; sold into slavery (by his own brothers, mind you), thrown into prison, and all the ugliness and hurt that came along with it. He never gave up, because he knew God had something better planned for him, even as a young boy, he believe it. Today, after a good crying session, I once again believed it too. We are all His children, and He, only He is in control of our ultimate destiny.

You’ll get through this. It won’t be painless. God will use this mess for good.

As I write this my heart is good again, the silence has left my thoughts free to move around in my head, as they see fit. I can concentrate once again. I was able to read from the two books I am currently reading; including being led to some very appropriate and encouraging scripture. Thoughtfully reminded by 2 Corinthians that once we become a part of Christ, we are His, not just for a little while, but always His.

2cor517

Our past doesn’t matter any longer, even though the enemy wants you to think differently. We pinned them (our past sins) to the base of the cross when we trusted our life to Christ. His death on the cross paid for all our sins, the ones we have already done and those still to cause us to fall short. In the book FerVent, author Priscilla Shirer encourages us to use the following strategy when being harassed by Satan. When in prayer we can:

Praise: Thank Him completely for forgiving you, cleansing you, changing you.ย  –ย ย  Repentance: See the foolishness of anything that perpetuates old sin patterns, and by His Spirit walk away.ย  –ย  Asking: Ask for freedom, for release, for the ability to detect lies and embrace truth.ย  –ย  Yes: Because you, by His resurrection power, can now walk a new way of life.

Today, I end with a prayer. Lord Jesus, forgive me for my fear and uncertainty. Forgive me for allowing the enemy to build walls that keep me from you. Thank you Lord for giving me the tools to tear them down before they are fully built. Thank you Lord for loving me, my past imperfections and all; for easing my pain, ultimately healing it with your blood. I am a new creation, beautiful and perfect in you. Amen

Until the next moment,

When Life is Throwing Lemons…

Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is Godโ€™s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. 1 Thes 5:18

This is easier said then done sometimes. When life is handing you, no… THROWING lemons at you, I’m fairly sure you don’t happily start preparing to make lemonade. I know I don’t. I sit there in bewilderment and wonder why I am being pelted, often out of nowhere. That’s when we need to drop to our knees and ask the only one who knows the answer. We need to turn to Him in our moments of despair and disarray and ask for guidance, His guidance to get through that particular moment.

As many of you know there have been a lot of moments, even more lemons that have been tossed my way these past eight months. As I sit here to write this and look back, its hard to believe that it has been that long. That I have been stuck in what seems to be an alternative universe; my life turned upside down in so many ways.

Recap: March 26th I was fired from my job, one that I had been at for nearly four years. May 15th, my middle daughter was in a near fatal car accident. July 20th, I had minor back surgery. August 29th, although released to go back to work, my job (of which I had only been able to work three weeks) is unable to let me return due to lifting restrictions. September passes, marking six months with little to no income from being employed.

October started out being filled with a lot of opportunities and job interviews, with nothing being the right fit. All this was discouraging to say the least. Then, in mid-October, I begin to see the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel and real opportunities begin to arise. It is important to say that this is too when I made one specific change in my daily routine, which in turn helped to heal my hurting heart and changed my vision of the world around me.

What did I do you ask? Well, I signed up for our Ladies Bible Study which was to be studying the book FerVent, inspired by the movie WarRoom. The study was to start on Oct 15th and I had the wonderful chance to see the movie with most of my kiddos the Saturday previous. Inspired cant begin to say what happened to me, or how I felt over the coarse of the next 48-72 hours. The small group I am a part ofย  attended the matinee showing of the movie Sunday afternoon and again I was just “on-fire” for making changes in my prayer life. In the past I have tried to make a decent effort in regards to prayer, but I always falls short; as I allow the enemy to distract me. This time it was different, not only had I been inspired by this amazing film, but I had the opportunity to join women in my church who wanted to grow in this manner too. Our first study night was a wonderful night of fellowship and encouragement,ย  a great stepping stone into this new way of thinking, of spending time in prayer. We were joining together to get prepared for battle, learning how to be specific, strategic, and fervent in our time of conversation with Him.

ferventboard

Unlike Miss Clara, I do not have a spare closet to clear out and call my WarRoom, so I decided to create something tangible that I could move from room to room with me, to still have a visual of the prayers and scripture I was lifting up to the Lord. As you can see in my photo, I purchased one of the tri-fold boards that our kids often use for reports and demonstrations and it works great! *neat side note: One of the other women from our group had a similar idea.

So now, most mornings I sit or stand in front of my kitchen table, and have conversation with God. WHile I am at the end of my unemployed stage, I have unlimited time do to this, and often just pray until I feel like I’ve said all that I am supposed to, no time restraints… just precious quiet time with my Lord. It has changed how I pray for my family and friends, how specific I allow myself to be, being mindful to always ask God for His will, not my own. It has significantly changed the way I was praying about employment. Those changes paid off, in the last 2 1/2 weeks, I had not one, but two second interviews and I will be having a third this week. Two of these three jobs would be in management, with good salaries. I was offered a seasonal psoition at the beginning of this week while on the initial interview! God providing; blessing me for my efforts and I am overwhelmed by His love and generosity.

The last few days have brought me some downtime from school (only because there are some technical difficulties in getting online) so I have started reading the book I received from KROA (My Bridge) just in the last couple weeks; “you’ll get through this” by Max Lucado. The first chapter reminds us of the story of Joseph and how much his brothers despised him; all the really horrible things happened to him as he lived his life according to God’s plan for him.

ย You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. Gen 50:20a

Lucado shares that the NASB uses the word “meant” and that the Hebrew translation is a verb meaning to “weave”; thus the verse could read like this; “You wove evil, but God rewove it together for good.”ย  Also reminding us that God is the Master Weaver, Master Builder. Whatever the situation, HE is in control of it. When we find ourselves in a mess, a struggle, jobless, or stuck in the deepest pit. Don’t despair, Satan will try to trick you. He is fearful of you, because he knows you are a part of God’s plan. When you carry God with you, you carry who He is too; you are noble and holy, you have wisdom, kindness, and mercy. If Satan can stop your efforts, he can keep you from influencing those around you. Let the story of Joseph be a reminder that good trumps evil; that what Satan intends for evil, God will most certainly redeem for His good.

youllgetthroughthis

So look up from the pit, to the outstretched hand of the Living God. It may not appear when you want it to, or when you feel it should. Remember, His timing, His will… not our own. Most importantly, remember: “you’ll get through this”.

 

Until the next moment,