Fight for Community

Today I had a conversation with a friend. My heart hasn’t been right, it was hurt. Our relationship  had been affected. I had let insecurities and other people speak their own insecurities and lies into my heart.  People's mandala - 12 handsFor weeks I had allowed the hurt to fester and grow. I was dangerously close to allowing the hurt pour out to others in anger and criticism. I was close to writing him off and being “done”.

But God loves His people. He doesn’t not want His children fighting against one another so He convicted my heart. His Spirit convicted me to the point that I had to make things right. I had to talk to my friend. I needed to share my insecurities, the lies I had believed and the things I had began to listen to from others.

To be honest this was not easy. It was very difficult. I was fearful of how he might react. I didn’t want to hurt him, but most of all I hated the thought of his disappointment. But his response was graceful. There was no condemnation or judgment. He listened as I shared my hurt, and my frustration.

He then walked me through three things. He helped me remember…

What he has done in the past. He reminded me of circumstances, and life decisions that spoke of his character. He reminded me of his consistency in his choices and the living out of his life.

His heart. He shared his heart with me. First he shared with me what I already knew about his heart, then he shared the things God was showing him.

Who our enemy is. He reminded me that we fight the same enemy and that enemy would do anything to stop the work that is being done in God’s kingdom. He reminded me that our enemy loves nothing more than to create friction and undercurrents in order to divide the body of Christ. He doesn’t want God’s people getting along.

There are parts of me that could go to the place I so often go and that is shame. I could beat myself up inside for forgetting who I know my friend to be. I have known him for a long time. We have worked along side together in ministry. Our families have broken the bread of fellowship together. I should know better. I could allow shame to cause me to withdraw, but I will choose to rejoice that Christ’s love won and the enemy was defeated in this battle.

As I have thought about this today it became very clear how easy it is for all of us to do this with our relationships (and with God). We let little things grow into big things. We do not confront and we forget.

So going forward I choose to do better.

I choose to go to my friend (or to God) immediately when I have doubts. No matter how small or petty I may think my insecurities or doubts are I will value relationship over looking foolish.

I choose to always remember who I know them to be. I will always choose to believe they want God’s best for me and would never harm me on purpose.

I choose to remember that our enemy seeks to destroy all healthy, godly relationships among God’s children.

I choose to believe that my friends, just like God, we always respond in grace and love not matter how silly my insecurities are.

Let us all remember to guard our relationship with our brothers and sister in Christ. Let us remember that we all fight the same battle…the same enemy.

What about you? Are you willing to go to your friend, your brother or sister in Christ, your pastor, Bible study leader or church leadership and fight for community. Are you willing to humble yourself and die to pride so that the body of God will be guarded? Will you, at all cost, protect the community of Christ against an enemy that seeks to destroy?

Who do you need to talk to today?

Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves ;  do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.  Phil 2:1-4

So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another. Romans 14:19

Who is in Control?

Who is in conrtolThere is a constant war that takes place inside me. It most likely takes place in you also. At times the war is very evident, it shows in our actions and attitudes that the war in raging inside. Other times it’s less noticeable and almost seems  we’ve won the war.

The war is control. The players are God and self. Self wants it’s own way. It wants to know the next step in life. Self wants to control. God also wants control. He wants to be the final authority in our lives. He wants us to live by faith and trust His will.

Sometimes it’s hard to clearly see who is in control. We think we are allowing God to lead but in reality it is self. We get really good at playing the game so that it appears we are walking by faith, but it’s all a ruse. And before we know it we are in an all out war for control.

Self or God, who is in control? How can we be sure? Ephesians 4 helps us understand how to do a self check to be sure we are walking a life of surrender to God and not a life controlled by self.

Here are 5 things that will be evident in my life if God is in control and not self.

  1. Unity. (1-10) You will have a desire to live in unity with other believers. You will guard the unity of Christ’s Church.
  2. Discipleship. (11-16)You will live a life that desires to teach and train fellow believers ,using your gifts from God, in order to help them grow up in Christ. You will have a deep desire to see other believers to grow  and mature in their faith.
  3. Holiness. (17-24)You will no longer live the life you did before Christ. There will be clear evidence in your life that you are becoming more and more like Christ and the things of the world no longer hold you in bondage.
  4. Fight Sin. (25-29) You will not longer desire to sin but will fight daily to eradicate it from your life. When you do sin it will grieve you and you’ll seek reconciliation quickly.
  5. Seek Forgiveness. (30-32) You will make your relationship with God a priority and will seek forgiveness quickly. There will be a spirit of kindness, love and forgiveness about you. You will quickly seek forgiveness when there has been an offense against God and others.

Of course there are many other things that could be listed, but this list from Ephesians four covers much. Bottom line is that if God is in control there will be evidence of a life lived in the “new nature”. You will desire to be obedient to His word regardless of the cost. You will surrender your will completely to the will of God. The “old nature” is evident when we live a life of self-centeredness, pride, and are defensive and self-gratifying.

Who is in control of you life today? What about tomorrow? Next week? This is a check list we need to constantly hold up to see how we are doing. It’s all too easy to slip into a life of thinking and living for self and not God.

Oh Father I need help to live a life filled with the Spirit. My flesh, my desires can not be denied apart from You. If I am not constantly surrendering my life, my desires to you then my flesh is more than willing to take over. Forgive me Father for living those moments in the flesh when unity has been sacrificed and sin has taken over. Help me to forgive and to ask my brothers and sisters who I have offended to forgive me. Help me to guard the unity of Your church. Show me those places I could use my gifts to help Your people grow. Show me those areas I need to grow up and help me be teachable in those places that I need to change and grow. Thank you for Your patience and that you never give up. Amen

The Truth About Forgiveness

Forgiveness can mean that you must forgive again and again.

choosing to forgiveRecently I’ve had several hurtful things come up to surface again. They were hurtful experiences of betrayal by those that were thought to be on my side. Those that I considered friends. The wound was deep and I must admit caused me to withdraw from relationships once again. My standard in the past has always been to withdraw, build the walls higher, thicker and resolve within to never let hurt come again.

This time God wouldn’t let me build my walls. Instead God came worked on tearing them down. It took a while. He was patiently faithful in helping me see the need to forgive. To forgive not just in this but in past betrayals, past hurts that have caused me to prefer isolation over community.

As I said, He is faithful and forgiveness came. With forgiveness came glorious freedom and healing.

So now as I face this same emotion, remembering the past betrayal and hurt I am faced with a choice. Do I allow the enemy to use it making me angry again and feel the hurt all over? Oh my flesh wants to cry, kick and scream! I want to go back and make this right! I was wronged and there was no apology, no setting the record straight! The emotions and hurt threatened to rise up! In this moment if I would listen to my flesh (my enemy) I would sin.

But I  choose to forgive. Again and again.

Just so you understand, I am not speaking of one who hurt me again but of allowing the memory of a hurtful experience hurt me again. Both would require the same response. That response would be to forgive.  I use to believe that if a hurtful memory came up again and again it meant that I didn’t really forgive the first time. I no longer believe that for I understand that often my enemy will take those opportunities to tempt me to sin.

So when those times of painful memories arise thank our Father for the opportunity to forgive once again.

 

See Matthew  11:25; 18:21-35

I am Prone to Wander

What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? Luke 15:4

Through the years God has shown me the truth of this passage over and over. It seems that for many years my heart was prone to wander greatly. (and at times it can still be prone to do so). But recently I have been reflecting on the truth that God will “never leave nor forsake us” and He brought a life changing event to mind that helped me finally take this truth from my head to my heart.

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At the age of 20 I was not married and pregnant. I hadn’t told anyone for I planned to abort. I was talking with my pastor and for reasons only God know he came right out and asked me if I was pregnant. I had to tell him yes.

He shared his  disappointment but never did he make me feel ashamed. He shared with me God’s willingness to forgive. Over the next few weeks this pastor would call me, but I did my best to ignore the calls. He came by the house, but I pretended I wasn’t home. Then he showed up at my place of employment. He was relentless. He wasn’t going to leave me alone until I talked to him.

For nine months this pastor pursued me to make sure I was okay, that I was not continuing to live in sin. He offered advice, support and a loving heart. He prayed for me and with me, even in those times when I really did not feel like praying. He showed me Christ. And when so many were ignoring and judging me, he modeled the love of Christ.

To this day I believe it is due to his persistence that I am walking with the Lord. Toward the end of my pregnancy I rededicated my life to Christ. I left that path of destruction I was on and chose to follow God with my whole heart.

It was not easy, being a single mom, but God through His amazing Grace and Mercy brought me a godly man when my son was only 11 months old.

God has often used this mans faithfulness in modeling Christ to my mind when I am struggling to believe that God could really love me when, once again, I failed. He uses this man’s example when I look at my sin and think “God is done with me now, there is no more mercy.” Or “He’s not going to forgive this same sin again and again!” God reminds me He will pursue me in an even greater way. He does not give up.

Why does He continue to pursue me when I so easily wander from the flock? Because He loves me, forgives,  is gracious, compassionate, slow to anger and He said that He will never forsake me. (Neh 9:17)

He also says to me

“Be strong and courageous, and act ; do not fear nor be dismayed, for the LORD God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you nor forsake you until all the work for the service of the house of the LORD is finished.  (1 Chron 28:20)

…for He Himself has said, “I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU,” Heb 13:5b

“What do you think ? If any man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go and search for the one that is straying ? “If it turns out that he finds it, truly I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine which have not gone astray.Matt 18:12-13

I may be prone to wander at times but my great Shepherd will always pursue me in order to bring me back to where I belong.

Oh Father how thankful I am for the examples you have given me to remind me that You will never leave or forsake me. I am Yours and You will pursue me just as You pursue all Your sheep. Whether they are lost or wandering, they are Yours and nothing will pluck them from your hands. Keep my heart close to Yours, help me to be obedient and here Your voice. Do what is necessary in order to keep my heart from wandering from Your perfect will.