The Sweet Stuff Ministry

Monday, February 29, 2016

Is your forgiveness from the intellect or from the heart?

Matthew 18:35   "This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from you heart".

The word of focus in today's scripture is "heart".

Think of times that you have heard or maybe said the words, "stop fighting and forgive each other".  I remember telling these words to my children.  I have had them declare their forgiveness of each other with words.  I recall a time when the forgiveness seemed force fed and what I heard from the child's mouth did not reflect any change of heart.  The forgiveness seemed like more of a statement of compliance to avoid trouble with Mama.  There are likely times as adults that we offer forgiveness as lip service and there is no involvement of the heart.  

Forgiveness must come from our hearts.  Intellectual forgiveness only reflects that we are aware that forgiveness is a Christian duty.  We learn of the expectations for forgiveness from scripture study.  We hear about forgiveness from the preacher on Sundays.  We are taught about forgiveness in Sunday school.  Knowing about forgiveness does not equal a desire in our hearts to forgive.

Forgiveness as a spoken word indicates that we know right from wrong.  If forgiveness is only a matter of words coming across the lips, then we have not shown an involvement with the heart.  When we have a genuine desire to live in righteousness as God expects, then our hearts can seek out forgiveness.  God is the only one who can prime our hearts for forgiveness.  He is the only one that can show us how to forgive from the depths of the heart.   

Forgiveness does start with the knowledge and understanding of its necessity.  Forgiveness must  progress into a change of heart toward a person and the situation.  The emotional transformation includes a releasing of negative, destructive emotions and replacing those feelings with love.  Within that transformation, forgiveness will enhance ones character by adding strength and closeness to God.  
Difficult situations, that involve deep emotional wounds, require deep levels of forgiveness.  A quick, "I forgive you" does not always release the hold of unforgiveness.  Raw, ugly emotions must be brought to the surface and dealt with.  A deep level of understanding of God's forgiveness of us is the beginning of this process.  By coming to the realization in our own heart of the level of forgiveness that God offers, we can then can experience the depths of His love.  Humility and submission to his love and forgiveness is the only avenue which will lead each of us into the process of forgiving others from our hearts. 

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Gestures of Encouragement

1 Thessalonians 5:11  "Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just in fact as you are doing".

The dictionary defines encourage:  (v.) to inspire with courage, spirit or confidence.  Encourage is an action word; a verb.  It requires us to act in ways which will build up others.  

God continues to show me the link between encouragement and love.  Love and encouragement are directly proportional.  When one increases, the other increases with it.  If one decreases, so does the other.  Love builds us up.  Love helps us to remain encouraged. When we love others, we want to encourage them and fill them with confidence. 

President Theodore Roosevelt said this, "No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care".  I have seen this to be true on many levels.  Caring and loving, also actions words, are directly related to encouragement.  Of course, we all seek encouragement during those periods in our lives when we feel extra discouraged or when we are going through rough times.  But honestly, we want to feel encouraged and loved all the time. 

Encouragement comes through love and support.  When we value things that others hold dear, we are showing encouragement.  For example when we attend sporting events, recitals,  and science fairs with our children, there is an unspoken display of encouragement.  We love them enough to value what is important to them. 

Calling family members and friends regularly, especially the older members that live alone, is a huge source of encouragement.  We often minimize the effects of loneliness in elder people. They can easily become discouraged and begin to feel as if no one loves them.  Taking 10 minutes to call and talk to someone may completely turn the day around in a positive way.

Encouraging others is a type of service.  Offering encouragement to people is an easy task when our hearts are filled with love for others.  Deep in the hearts of people there is a desire to know that others care about them.  Encouragement does not have to include "doing" something because most of the time we cannot fix the source of discouragement.  Instead, encouragement can fill a person's  heart with love which in turn may lead to a heart that turns to God for all its needs.

Random compliments, texts or messages filled with love and kind words are encouragement in action.  Phone calls and visits relay encouragement to a person. Seek a way each day to encourage someone.  Send a random card, note, e-mail, or text that will be uplifting.  Take a few minutes and make a phone call of encouragement.  Small gestures of encouragement produce large results in the life of someone that is discouraged. 

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Prayer is more than a list of petitions

Jeremiah 33:3    Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.

"Prayer is the primary vehicle of growth in the spiritual life" (McMinn, 2011).  Prayer is a spiritual discipline.  It is something that we should commit to daily.  It is important to express our needs and desires to God.  It is how we communicate with him.  However, prayer can become regimented to the point that it may seem like we are petitioning our lists of wants and needs without recognizing the importance of worship through prayer.

To worship God in prayer means that we take time to celebrate his goodness.  Worship is an act of acknowledging God's character and sovereignty.  Quiet time in prayer allows us to deeply worship.  Worship filled prayer should not be pressured for time. It is difficult to absorb all God's goodness while blessing the food quickly so that everyone can eat before it is cold.  If we only pray in the sanctuary on Sunday morning, we miss what God has for us every other day of the week.  

I encourage you to take time, much time, to worship God in prayer.  Leave the list of petitions to another prayer session and spend time in solitude focusing on God's character and what he has to say to you. Practice the discipline of prayer in a different way at a different time than you normally pray.  Make an appointment to go to a place of solitude, peace and quiet and worship.

God wants to know that we have a longing for him.  When we speak to him with our hearts and submit our weaknesses to him, we will see great results.  Pour out your hurts, your frustrations and your disappointments.  Share your brokenness straight from your heart into his.  Let him know that you need him in all areas of your life.  Allow him to show you great and mighty things.

He will listen! 

You will be amazed at what you will hear!

God wants more from us than just our list of needs and wants.  He wants a deep relationship with us that includes a desire to seek his heart; a desire to love and serve in the way that he has planned; a desire to see his will accomplished.  When our hearts earnestly cry out to God, such as David did in Psalm 63:1-11, we express that longing for an intimate relationship.  We can absorb God's character through a deep, intimate relationship.   

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Pay it Forward

2 Corinthians 1:3-4    Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.

God is not the author of conflict and crisis in our lives.  However, when trouble and problems do arise, he will use these occurrences to develop trust and dependence upon him.  He is a teacher in the midst of conflict and crisis. 

When we allow ourselves to learn sovereign lessons, we emerge with growth as a Christian.  We move onward and upward.  We develop godly character.  We have the opportunity to emerge as a leader; a leader that can then teach others through comfort, compassion and encouragement. 

God expects us to teach one another about Him and the things He has done for us.  He expects us to comfort one another by using the same measure of comfort and compassion that He has shown us.  Take some time to reflect upon the comfort that God has afforded you in times of trial.  Look for ways to pay it forward to others that may be in a crisis or conflict.  Practice teaching what you have learned about God so that His greatness and glory may be spread into all the world.  Be a leader within your own circle of friends and family; a leader that shows others what God has taught you. 

Monday, February 22, 2016

Trust Him

Psalms 22:10  From birth I was cast upon you; from my mother's womb you have been my God.

God has loved us even before we were born.  He designed us with love and he designed us to trust him.  As babies, we are helpless and cannot live on our own.  He allows us to be cared for and to thrive.  God reveals his trustworthiness early in our lives.  We take all that for granted.

As adults, we are equally as helpless, even though we want the think that we are very much in charge.  We cannot control the world around us.  We cannot control what others around us do.  We must put our trust in God to provide for us.  We must trust in him in order to thrive and survive. 

He has loved us since he created us.  He will continue to love us long after our time on this earth is finished.  Put all your trust in Him.  He designed it to be so. 

Friday, February 19, 2016

Patience to overlook offenses

Proverbs 19:11    A man's wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense.

" overlook an offense."   Sometimes this is easier said than done.  When offenses are complex and involve hurts and losses that are life altering, it is difficult to immediately overlook what has been done.  Some offenses can be overlooked right away, forgotten about and never brought up again.  Other offenses require time to sort, heal, and forgive.  Complex offenses are breeding grounds for bitterness, anger, and resentment.

Dealing with bitterness can provide a great opportunity to develop patience and wisdom.  Both patience and wisdom are key aspects in dealing with offenses and moving forward.  Gaining wisdom from God about how to handle our emotions equips us with knowledge about how we should react. 

Reacting to offenses with anger and bitterness is unhealthy for our relationship with God as well as our relationships with others.  Bitterness invades the mind and body much like a cancer that has metastasized to all areas of the body.  When we allow offenses to breed bitterness and resentment, even people around us that were not involved in the offense will begin to suffer. 

A real turning point in dealing with my bitterness was the moment that I realized how it was affecting my children and husband.  None of them had in any way been a part of the original offense, yet each of them was suffering from my bitterness.  That was heart wrenching for me.  How I wish that I had possessed more wisdom in the beginning and could have avoided the bitterness altogether. 

If you are dealing with bitterness in your life, it is my prayer that you may realize the effects it has on your life and those around you.  There is much peace when you rid of bitterness in your life.  I pray that you will take the steps to grow in wisdom which will in turn give you patience to understand the overall picture of life.  Overlooking offenses involves forgiveness which is healing for the offended much more than for the offender. 

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Set aside self-righteous pride

Ecclesiastes 7:8  The end of a matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride.

Self righteous pride is basically the largest obstacle to forgiveness.  Pride doesn't want to  let go of hurts and disagreements.

Pride wants to always be right.

Pride wants to be smarter or better.

Pride wants to be more righteous. 

It is difficult to admit to one's own pride.  It is equally as difficult to set it aside.   Holding on to pride causes us to miss the sweetness of God's grace, both from Him and between us and others. Setting aside pride, experiencing forgiveness, and fore bearing all things in love puts an end to all matters of conflict and exposes us to sweet grace.              

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Forgiveness is included in self-control

2 Peter 1:5-7  For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.

Along with our faith in God's sovereignty, we must strive for discipline and self-control.  Self-control encompasses more than regulating food and drink that we put into our bodies.  Self-control also involves our emotions and how we allow our minds to process those emotions.  Obedience to what God expects of us requires us to control our emotions in order for us to produce kindness and love toward one another. 

Self-control of our emotions includes the need to regulate the feelings that accompany unforgiveness.  Feelings of anger, resentment and bitterness are connected to unforgiveness.  Harboring anger and holding onto grudges will soon void the mind of any feelings of love toward the person(s) which we need to forgive.  Emotions can easily become out of control when anger and resentment are present.  

It is common for us to think that by forgiving someone we are empowering him/her.  The truth is quite opposite.  When we hold unforgivness in our heart, we are empowering the offender to have control over our emotions.  The memories of the offense can quickly overpower our thoughts of goodness and godliness.  Unforgiveness allows the offender's actions to affect us in a negative way. The negativity within our emotions has a far greater effect on us as the offended than it does on the offender.  In other words, we suffer most when we fail to forgive.

Forgiveness does not mean that we decide to agree with the offense.  Deciding to forgive does not mean that we will forget the offense.  We will always remember the events, the hurt and the injustices. Forgiveness means that we have decided to rearrange the way in which we remember the offense.  When we decide to forgive, we then decide to reflect upon those memories with grace instead of hatred.  Forgiveness gives us self-control over the emotions of anger and resentment.  When we forgive, we empower ourselves to be in charge of our feelings.  When grace replaces bitterness, forgiveness is not emotionally fueled, but instead it is nourished with love and goodness.  

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

May we be real

1 John 4:7-8  Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.  Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.  Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.

We seek realness in others.  Others seek realness in us.  When we say we want "real" friends or a real relationship, what does that mean?  It means that we want "real" love from others.  The same steadfast, unconditional realness that God offers us.  People seek to be loved by others with the same love, mercy and grace by which God loves us.

We have the opportunity to offer this "realness" to others in an tangible way while on this earth.  When we recognize the real, steadfast love that flows freely from God, we then have a model for how to love others.  1 Corinthians 13: 4-8 is a reference point for that love.

Let us be "real" to others.  May our walk match our talk.  May love not only be lip service, but may it be a service that comes directly from a heart that loves God.  May we all get to know God well enough to love others as he expects.   

Monday, February 15, 2016

Peace Offerings

Psalm  29:10-11 The Lord sits enthroned as King forever.  The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace.

I recall hearing a phone conversation between my husband and our oldest daughter.   She was worried about a friend of hers who was having a really bad day.   The friend was upset and her peace was disturbed.  My daughter wanted to know what she could do for her friend.   What my husband told her has remained in the forefront of my mind and has prompted me to evaluate myself as a peacemaker.    He told her to offer her friend peace.  He said, "let her find peace in you."    Let me repeat:  "Let her find peace in you."

I began to ponder this and I asked myself if I offer people the opportunity to find peace in me.  What does this mean?   It means that we will offer comfort to those that are hurting.  To offer peace is to offer someone to confide in us and to bear their burdens and deepest feelings without fear of exploitation.   Others may find peace from us when they see us at peace with both God and the situation at hand. 

The Bible tells us that we are to love one another and bear one another's burdens.  Peace is a blessing.  Peace is available to each and every one of us.  At times our peace will be interrupted or disturbed and we will need to take a moment and find our bearings.   We can always seek peace from God.  It is also comforting to have people that offer us peace and comfort. 

Share the peace that is within you.  Lend an ear of sympathy.  Hug someone that is hurting.  Offer your friends a safe harbor of confidence and rest from their worries; "Let them find peace in you."

Friday, February 12, 2016

Trials can lead to healing

“Anger and bitterness are two noticeable signs of being focused on self and not trusting God’s sovereignty in your life. When you believe that God causes all things to work together for good to those who belong to Him and love Him, you can respond to trials with joy instead of anger or bitterness.” ~ John C. Boger

The largest trial in my life thus far left me with a great deal of anger and bitterness.   Within those emotions, I was constantly asking, "Why did this happen?"  I felt as though since I loved God, was making sacrifices for him, and serving him that he would never have allowed such events to cause me such distress.  

Let us unpack that paragraph.  Why did God allow it to happen?   He did not allow it to happen, nor did he approve of the damaging details.  Humans have free will and they are not afraid to use it!  

Next is the issue of my "feelings".  I was focused on what I felt I was doing right instead of things that God wanted me to improve upon.  Instead of drawing near to him and gaining strength, I began to question him. I had many things to learn!  Until we are ready to commit as students, God will not allow us to move forward in the situation.   The main point within that lesson was that serving at church and "doing" things for God is not the complete relationship that God expects us to have.  I needed  a bit of surgery on my heart to understand that I could not serve away the anger and bitterness.  My service to God did not take away what I was feeling.  However, his love for me did lead to healing.  I was so focused on my feelings and circumstances that I lost sight of God's sovereignty.   I was saying that I trusted him with my mouth and serving him with my hands, but my heart did not reflect that trust. 

Ridding of anger and bitterness requires a sincere desire to be rid of it.  When I reached the point of being so tired of those feelings, only then could I be healed.  I have not experienced a trial of such magnitude since, but believing that God will bring all things together for my good allows me to view trials and struggles in a more positive light.  I am better equipped to deal with any trial that may come my way in the future. 

We must believe that God does not bring about bad things in our lives.  He only wants the best for us.  However, he can bring us out of the bad things in our lives when the free will of others causes us pain and suffering.  He will use those times as opportunities to allow us to grow in our relationship with him and strengthen our inner constitution.  We truly can come out of trials better and stronger than ever before when we completely turn to God for healing and strength. 

Thursday, February 11, 2016

A Costly Perspective

Colossians 3:1-2  Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God's right hand.  Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth.

When our son was still at home, he had the chore of reading our water meter.  We live in the country and are required to read our own meters.  He began this chore when he was around eight years old at which time I gave him a quick "how to" demonstration.  We allowed him to read it from the beginning without supervision, after all I had given him a tutorial.  When we received the bill after his first reading, it was $655 and some odd cents.  We were sure we did not have a leak anywhere so I began to try to figure this out. 

Then this word came to mind:  PERSPECTIVE.  I called upon the boy and we walked to the water meter.  I had him show me how he was standing when he read it because I had not told him that there was a "right side up" to the meter.  He had read the meter upside down.  At the moment of his reading, the numbers happened to align so that there were enough sixes that from an upside down perspective, were nines.  Hence, the $655 water bill-a costly perspective.  The misreading was easily corrected by sending the correct numbers to the water company.

What about our perspective on life?  Do we view things with an upside-down perspective?  Are our sights set on too many worldly things and not enough heavenly things? 

It is easy to become caught up in the cycle of life that views things from a material perspective where time is spent in efforts to succeed and obtain.  We can soon waste much of our lives chasing worldly ambitions-a costly perspective! 

All of our endeavors in this life should be approached from a heavenly perspective.  We should ask ourselves if our activities and actions will allow us to store up our treasures for heaven or are we satisfying treasures on earth.  An earthly perspective can be a costly perspective, much like reading the water meter upside down.  Much like the correction to the misreading of the water meter, we can change our perspective of worldly things by looking at what heaven has to offer.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Change the "W" to "Y". From Wield to Yield

1 Peter 3: 8-9  Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another;  be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble.  Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.

Change the "W" to "Y".  From Wield to Yield.

Have you ever known someone in your life that seems to constantly oppose the projects in which you are involved?  Have you worked around a person that is quick to to offer contradictions to your thoughts and ideas?   This type of person is difficult to be around, to say the least.  We may come into contact with such people in our families, at church, or in the workplace.   Sometimes it seems as if the person does not necessarily oppose the idea or project but rather you personally.   It is difficult to understand why people behave this way but I have come to realize that usually an internal battle exists between their own ears.

When we are criticized, insulted, excluded, and ignored it hurts.  Period.    It is especially hurtful and confusing when we do not know the reasons why a particular person feels such strong opposition to us. 

Our flesh wants to respond. We desire to defend our position and opinions.  It is tempting to allow our minds to wield actions for responses that are equally as hurtful.  We may plot retaliation with double barreled weapons, especially of the tongue.   Our arsenal may contain remembrance of words spoken or lists of criticisms and insults.  We may wield pride by storing up thoughts of our own righteousness and their wrongdoing.  This type of situation can escalate into a battlefield of emotions, bitterness, and destructive actions.

Change the "W" in wield to "Y" and begin to YIELD.    Lay down the arms of destructive thinking and defensiveness.  Allow self-righteous pride to yield to compassion, mercy, forgiveness,  and humility.  Relinquish insensitivity and begin to offer genuine affection.  Chances are that the person truly needs to feel loved and cared for and that the battle really has nothing to do with you.  

The battles of the flesh are tough and require daily attention much like caring for our bodies physically.   I encourage you to seek out any "W"s (wields) in your life that can be changed to "Y"s (yields).  If there be any wielding in your heart, convert those thoughts to yieldings. Relinquish the desire to add fuel to the fire.  Surrender all temptation to open the arsenal of retaliation.  Yield to compassion, humility, mercy, and love. 

Tuesday, February 9, 2016


1 John 3:18  Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue, but with actions and in truth.

"You cannot make a commitment to uncommitted people and expect to receive a commitment from them" John C. Maxwell.  

Relationships are tough.  A great deal of give and take exists in a any relationship.  Friendships, marriages, work relationships and family relationships require us to give much of ourselves.

True love is an action verb, not merely an emotion.  Words that are spoken can relay our feelings of love to one another, however it is through our actions toward others that a commitment to love is displayed.  It is through serving and giving of ourselves that we put love into action.  Consistently doing for others reflects a commitment to a loving relationship.

Relationships require commitment from all involved.  Uncommitted parties within relationships do not put love into action.   Commitment involves risk.  The risk of rejection may cause people to love reluctantly.  Commitment, whether within marriage, friendship or vocation requires us to be vulnerable.  It can be tempting to withhold a total commitment in order to feel safe and secure.  Real commitment has nothing to do with feelings.  John C. Maxwell said this, "true commitment is not an emotion; it's a character quality that enables us to reach our goals".

Take time to ponder your relationships.  Think about your marriage, your friends, your work and family.  Are you fully committed to true love?  Even when there is a risk of your emotions, are you willing to risk and experience true love and commitment?  Do you enjoy giving and serving others with true love?  Is your love put into action?

May we always love in truth and in action.  If each of us gives love in its truest sense, then our commitments will be strong on both sides of the relationship.  May we forever be committed to loving with actions. 

Monday, February 8, 2016

Dealing with anger

Ephesians 4:26-28  "In your anger do not sin"  Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.  

"I have every right to be angry!"  "If that person did to you what he/she did to me, you would be angry too."  How many times have you heard someone say these things?  Maybe you have said them yourself trying to justify your feelings of anger and thoughts of vengeance. 

Anger is not an entitlement.  It is a by-product of hurtfulness.  Anger is perhaps the strongest emotion that the human heart ever feels and is a feeling that can lead to destructive words and actions.   The Bible does not tell us that we cannot feel anger, but it does tell us that we are to handle it properly.  We are expected to control our anger in spite of our hurts. 

Released thoughtlessly, anger can destroy relationships.  If left bottled up inside, anger can cause bitterness and resentment and destroy us from inside.  If anger is allowed to "fester" inside us, we give the devil opportunities to cause disruption and division.  As I read somewhere, ANGER is one letter away from DANGER!  

In Ephesians, Paul instructs us to deal with our anger promptly and properly.  Are you angry with someone right now?    Examine the situation, take a look into your own heart and seek ways to resolve the anger.  Anger belongs to the beholder.  No one else causes you to be angry.  The emotion of anger is one over which you have complete control.  It is not an entitlement because of another person's transgressions against you.    Yes, transgressions do hurt and they are going to happen but anger is not the response that God expects from us.                               

Friday, February 5, 2016

Offer to help with bitterness

1 Samuel 1:6-7  And because the Lord had closed her womb, her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her.  This went on year after year.  Whenever Hannah went up to the house of the Lord, her rival provoked her till she wept and would not eat. 

Hannah was bitter.  She was so bitter that it affected her physically to the point that she would not eat.  Hannah was bitter because God had closed her womb.  That was devastating in and of itself because in Hannah's day, barrenness was looked upon as failure.  Not only was she dealing with these feelings, but she was also bullied and ridiculed about her situation by a mean spirited person. 

There are many points to make about bitterness in this story.  First, bitterness takes root in people for MANY reasons.  Those reasons involve loss, injustices, hurts, and disappointments.  Hurts come in all sizes and flavors.  Secondly, bitterness can cause severe emotions and reactions within a person.  Thirdly, bitterness can last for long periods of time.  Lastly, bitterness within a person should bring about compassion from others, but sometimes others delight in seeing people tormented by bitterness.  The three sentences in this passage tell us so much.

I wish to focus on the part of this passage where Hannah was provoked and tormented.  We should never enjoy another person's suffering, no matter the reason.  We are called to lift others up, to bear their burdens and to help them overcome suffering.  Bitterness is a type of suffering.  Grief, worry, and other strong emotions can bring a person to a point where physical effects occur.  Torment only makes the emotions stronger.    

If you know someone suffering from bitterness, offer comfort.  Provide friendship, a listening ear, or a Bible study in order to help someone overcome bitterness.  It is easy to overlook bitterness as suffering but I can tell you from my own experiences, much internal suffering occurs.  Compassion, love and friendship offer much encouragement to a person struggling with bitterness. 

Thursday, February 4, 2016

God will fight for you

Psalms 3:3-6  But you are a shield around me, O Lord; you bestow glory on me and lift up my head.   To the Lord I cry aloud, and he answers me from his holy hill.  I lie down and sleep; I wake up again, because the Lord sustains me.  I will not fear the tens of thousands drawn up against me on every side.

David's son Absalom was rebellious.  He stole the hearts of the people of Israel by standing at the city gate and stopping the people that were seeking to see the king.  Absalom would tell the people that the king was unavailable.  He also proceeded to tell them that if he were king, he would ALWAYS be available to hear their complaints and provide justice. In other words, he claimed that he could do a much better job as king than the current occupant of that position-his father.  Politics at its finest right there!!  He turned so many of the hearts from the king that a conspiracy formed in order to get rid of king David so that Absalom could rule.  Absalom sought the people closest to David, turned their hearts away from the king, lending more determination to the conspiracy.   

David's enemies were not just people that did not not like him.  They were his followers and counselors and had worked along side him. They were people that were fooled by Absalom and his apparent concern for them and for justice.  They became a group of people that actively sought to harm king David.  Thousands of people that were in hot pursuit of his life.  

Psalms 3 refers to the David's battle involving his son.  Think about what it must have felt like first of all to have your own son betray you as a traitor to your throne and secondly to deal with the need to protect his city yet have his heartstrings tugged because he surely loved his son.  David's circumstances were completely going against him.  Did David blame God?  NO!  David realized that he could not change the circumstances around him.  He cried out to God and God heard him.  David slept peacefully instead of worrying all night and fearing for his life.

In the last verse of Psalms 3, David's attitude of humility is shown.  8-"From my Lord comes deliverance.  May your blessing be on your people".  David gave it all to God.  He could neither fix the situation nor could he change the hearts of the people.

Do you have a circumstance in your life that you cannot fix?  Maybe it is that you are in conflict with a family member.  Perhaps there is a  broken relationship due to some form of betrayal or jealousy.  These situations can feel as if there are 10,000 enemies surrounding you in hot pursuit.  Call out to God as David did and allow him to work in the situation.  There are many battles that we can choose to fight or allow God to fight for us.  God will take them all and fight for us if we allow it.    

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

We cannot pick and choose what to forgive

Matthew 18:  24-27  As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him.  Since he was not able to play, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.  The servant fell on his knees before him. 'Be patient with me,' he begged, 'and I will pay back everything.'  The servant's master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.

This passage of scripture is about compassion, mercy, and forgiveness.  The king had mercy on the man who owed him.  The man owed him 10,000 talents which, in today's currency, would be several  million dollars!  It was many years worth of wages that the servant owed the king.  The king quickly forgave the debt and sent the servant and his family on their way.  Let us take a look at the next part of the story.

Matthew 18: 28-30  But when the servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denari.  He grabbed him and began to choke him, 'Pay back what you owe me!' he demanded.  His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, 'Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.'  But he refused.  Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt.

A hundred denari is but a few dollars.  It was mere pocket change in comparison to what the servant had owed the king.  The servant expected to be forgiven of his debt of a millions of dollars, yet how quickly he had forgotten that act of mercy toward his debtor.  When a man that owed him a small amount asked for mercy, the servant refused to show him any.

If we intend to live righteously, according to God's commands, then we cannot pick and choose what debts we forgive.  God does not pick and choose which debts of ours to forgive.  He forgives them all!  If we accept God's principles, then we do not have the option of assigning weights and measures to forgiveness.  We must forgive the large, heavy offenses, just as we forgive the small, lightweight misdeeds.  In regards to forgiveness, there should never be a scorecard.  The gospel should flow out with mercy and compassion.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

God may change things in your journey

Job1:21  "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart.  The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised."

Things change in our lives and sometimes we do not desire those changes.  If you look at change in your life as God "taking away", then perhaps you discount his sovereignty.  Change can be viewed as God moving you along to where he needs you to be in order to fulfill his purpose within you.

For example, if you lose your job, what is likely the first thought you would have about it?  You might ask, why did God take this away from me?  Then you might begin to justify why you should have been able to keep your job.  Perhaps you would say, "I have been here for 15 years, I should not have been let go".  Other changes in our lives can also be viewed as losses or we can view them as changes in our opportunities.

God is a giving god.  He does not desire to take things from us and cause us to suffer.  However, in order to get our attention or in order for us to move into the direction that he has planned for us, sometimes he changes the gears for us.  If he is trying to lead us down a different path and we do not listen in order to follow, he will send a situation that well get our attention.

If we look at everything that God takes away as a loss, or a punishment then we discount His sovereignty.  To believe that God is sovereign requires us to trust in his provisions and decisions in our lives.  Just as Job did in his time of great loss, we should praise God for the things he takes away as well as the things he gives.  When the details in our lives change, we should look for new opportunities that allow us to travel the journey which God has planned.  I have come to learn that the journey that we might have mapped out in our own minds can be very different from the journey that God has planned for us.    

Monday, February 1, 2016

Instead of punishment, focus on purpose.

Psalms 3:7-8       7-Arise, O Lord!   Deliver me, O my God!  Strike all my enemies on the jaw; break the teeth of the wicked.   8-From the Lord comes deliverance.  May your blessing be on your people.

In verse 7 David is calling out to God for justice against the people that were persecuting him.  He wanted equal treatment.  He wanted justice.  When we have been beaten down, insulted, persecuted, we want justice from God.  When we feel as if enemies are surrounding us with intentional acts of maltreatment, we may dream of vengeance.  We might think that our enemies should receive equal treatment. 

In verse 8, David reveals humility and patience for God's timing.   He realized that victory over his enemies comes from God's perfect justice and judgment.  He can see that revenge is not the answer.  He leaves the matter in God's hands.    

In times of persecution from our enemies, it is easy to fall into a state of focusing on their punishment, especially how we think the punishment should be carried out.  Our minds may become filled with vivid details of how we think revenge would be best served.  Vengeance is not ours to distribute and focusing on such is non-productive. 

Instead of focusing on punishment for our enemies, we should focus on our purpose.  What does God want us to learn from our enemies?  How might we gain strength from situations in which we are persecuted?  What is His purpose for us from day to day?   These are questions to ponder while leaving our enemies in the hands of our victor.