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Slaves to Unforgiveness (Part 2)

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“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish?” (Psalm 22:1 NIV)

How often, in some form or another, do we, like Jesus–use these words?

It’s okay for us to be mad or upset with God.  But we can’t be overcome with our anger. We have to be willing to go to God, even while we are mad at Him, and literally ask Him to help us to forgive Him. Because He’s the one who can heal our hearts; even when they are hard against Him.

We have to spend some serious time with God, including both some confession time and worship.  Because there might be things that you didn’t even realize you did in your anger against Him that will get in the way of your relationship with Him.  It’s incredibly easy to fall into a place of deep anger with God without even realizing it.

I’ve found myself completely overwhelmed lately, with schoolwork, with planning other things, with just flat out busyness. So I have to spend some time right now, even in my craziness and look back a year or so to where I was so mad at God that I honestly didn’t even want to pray. Because no matter how overwhelmed I am right now, I’m not in a place where my only thought is:

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Psalm 22:1 NIV)

The beautiful thing is, when Jesus said these words on the cross (Matthew 27:46), He knew that God could have saved His life yet God chose not to because Jesus, the sinless Son of God, came to earth to die for the sins of man.

God never abandoned me, He had already sent His son to die in my place before I was born. Any thought that He did just made me angry without even realizing i was angry. That brings me back to this week’s verse of the week:

“A man is a slave to whatever has mastered him.” 2 Peter 2:19 NIV

 

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Slaves to Unforgiveness (Part 1)

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Taken by Akuppa John Wigham: Link to Site

 

Disclosure: In order to fund this blog, this post contains affiliate links.  That means that if you make a purchase using a link in this post, I may make a portion of the profit from that purchase.    

I think it’s funny how God likes to use my own words against me in a “haha, not funny” kind of way.  I’m writing a devotional right now, so I’m going through and editing it and  came to a portion when I discussed forgiveness. I felt like I was getting a smack in the face.  From myself.

 

“A man is a slave to whatever has mastered him.” 2 Peter 2:19 NIV

There is a particular situation that I will not actually go into the details with that I let get into my head way further than I knew it could go.  I played out situations in my head with this person that I thought could happen that I knew would never happen because I thought they were mad at me or would turn the tables on me, when in all reality it was solely a one-way street.  I was the only slave.  I’m pretty sure they don’t have a clue that I’m upset with them, and what I wasn’t getting until now was, it doesn’t matter.

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.  Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walking in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Ephesians 4:32-5:2 NIV

As followers of Christ, we are called to strive to live as Jesus did.  This means forgiving others.  When we hold on to unforgiveness, we’re not truly loving.  We’re not acting as Christ would.

“A new command I give you: Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.” John 13:34 NIV

So, this whole time I just wanted to be heard.  To be listened to.

I had to come to the realization that I wasn’t going to change them.  I had to change my expectations for them.  Because in all reality, they weren’t fair.  I don’t get to expect people to act the same way I expect myself to act.  Nor do I get to expect people to be mind readers.

What did Jesus say about forgiveness? You forgive people over and over if they sin against you (Matthew 18:21-22).  He didn’t say just if they only offend you a little bit, or once you’ve relished in your anger a little bit, then forgive them. There were no conditions. Just like there are no conditions to our forgiveness.

Part 2 will be up tomorrow! 🙂

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Take Heart

941596_596980710311949_1072752366_nCourtesy of Amplify Church

Verse of the week: “I have told you these things so that in me, you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”-John 16:33

I love this verse and always have. It’s my favorite verse. And we can all relate to it.

All of us will have troubles. We are all going to have trials and struggles that will make us say to ourselves, “I can’t do this anymore.”

And that’s when we run away from God. And that is just what Satan wants: for us to run away from God. Satan dresses himself up as everything we ever wanted and tempts us and wants to take everything away from us that we have with God.

And he will.

If we let him.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge Him and He will make straight your paths.”-Proverbs 3:5-6

We need to trust in God because He is the only thing in this world who can help us; the only one in this cruel world that can quench our overwhelming thirst and desire to be heard and have good things come out of it.

“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”-Romans 8:38-39

God is going to love us no matter what. And that amazes me. This unconditional love never ceases to amaze me. A man died on a cross over 2000 years ago so we could live.

So, my question for you is:

Will you take heart?

 

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“Give Thanks to God”

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Verse of the Week: “And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.” Colossians 3:17 NLT

Today I give thanks to God.  It marks 10 months seizure free.  When I look back over the last 10 months, I see a lot but what I see the most is growth.  I have grown in my relationship with God so much as a result of struggling in the past 10 months and can actually say that I am at the point where I can 100% agree with Paul when he wrote:

“Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away.  Each time he say, ‘My grace is all you need.  My power works best in weakness.’  So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may work through me.  That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 NLT

The funny thing is, I found this passage right around the time that I was diagnosed with epilepsy.  Right when I needed it most.  Right when I needed to hear that an apostle begged God to take his pain away from him.  But God didn’t take it, because He knew what was best for Paul.  Just like He didn’t take my epilepsy away when I begged Him to, because God’s perspective is eternal, while mine is momentary, because that’s all I physically can see.

In what seemed like a long time span, that was really was not at all, God has literally used epilepsy to actually be a blessing in several ways that I can already see, including being in the process of writing a book, graduating from high school a year early, and getting my pup (pictured above!)

As a result, I can now see that God put this obstacle in my life to strengthen me and stretch me so that He could use me and therefore I can be thankful for God’s ability to see the greater picture when I can only see what is happening in this moment. When we still give thanks to God in the deepest pain, that witnesses to our relationship with Jesus Christ the most powerfully.

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What Working in Retail Taught Me

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Taken by Kevin Carden.  Direct link to photo on lightstock.

“Honey, appreciate having a healthy body while you still do.”  *Cringes*

I heard this on numerous occasions while working in retail, and I believe one other time outside of working.  Here’s the thing: my body might look healthy, but on the inside there’s a lot going on that’s not particularly good.  At the time, I was taking three different seizure medicines (only two now!) as well as other medicines to balance the negative effects of the seizure medicines.  In two days I’ll celebrate 10 months seizure free and thinking about that I’m actually getting choked up because of the ride that those 10 months have been.  However, the fact that at 18 years old I literally do not have a memory because of medicine terrifies me.  What does that mean for my future?  What does that mean for the business that I want to start?  I wish I could just get something done once in a while instead of side effects of medicine interfering.  So..

“You know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.  And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm, and steadfast.” 1 Peter 5:9-10 NLT

The main thing that working in retail taught me was not to assume anything about anyone.  Those people were wrong in assuming that my young, healthy looking body treats me well.  Oh, do I wish that it did.   They were well-intentioned, too.  But that didn’t mean that it was okay.  We have to approach every situation and every person with open ears and open hearts instead of with our assumptions of their situations, because every person has a story.

Even though this honestly hurt, it helped me to be able to see that I needed to be able to say “You don’t know what that person is going through”and ask why someone is acting the way that they are before responding. 1 Peter 5:9-10 promises that we will be restored from suffering, and we can rejoice in that truth together.   I’ll leave you with this:

“We love each other because he loved us first.” 1 John 4:19 NLT

It is natural for Christians living in true relationship with God to love others, because they have experienced the love of God.  It’s not something that should be painful, it might not be easy but as God molds us into the people that He wants us to be we will show others love more and more naturally.

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That Email!

I got the email a few days ago that I’ve been waiting for!  Approval to post this.  And I’m so excited about it I just didn’t know how to put it into words.  But here we go.

I’m writing a book…(which I’ll give you more details on in the future ;)).  That book is almost complete.  And that book is getting published, thanks to Make-A-Wish® Greater Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

When I was diagnosed with epilepsy, I said something along the lines of “God’s going to use this” to my mom and grandma.  But at the time, I don’t know how much I truly believed that.  Reflecting on the last three years, I can tell you this:

  • I can see many blessings that have come and that are developing from suffering
  • God is using the things that I’ve been through already to shape me and is going to use this to impact the lives of others.

While I wasn’t sure what exactly I wanted to say about this, I was reading Leighton Burley’s post, “Finding God’s Will Where Your God-Given Passion and Talent Collide” where he says

“God’s will is not hard to find; it’s actually very simple: Fulfill the great commission. It’s how each of us does this that differs. Each of us has a platform – It doesn’t matter who you are! God has given you a special skill set, social status, or physical ability or disability that He expects you to use as your platform.I don’t know what this might be for you. Maybe you’ll be a phenom athlete, using your talent for His purpose. Maybe you’ll be a doctor, helping people both physically and spiritually. Maybe you’ll be a great evangelist, filling stadiums with people who are anxious to hear about Jesus. Perhaps you’ll be a politician, standing boldly for what you know to be right. Again, maybe God has planned for you to be constrained to a wheelchair or bed, demonstrating to the world the power of Jesus’ love, as you live your life infused with passion.”

Just as Leighton says, we each need to use the platform that He has given us so that we can share the gospel with the world, as we are commanded in the Great Commission. And here we find ourselves back at the Great Commission (like I promised in my last post!)

“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8 NIV

I obviously now 100% trust that God allowed me to have epilepsy so that He could use it as a way to reach others through me.  But it took me quite some time to also have a passion for it, because I resented it.  Even during that time, though, God was working so that I could eventually stand up, dust myself off, and use it as a specific avenue to be able to reach people.  I now have both the passion and the platform to share Jesus’ love and grace with others via the platform He has given me, and I cannot express enough how excited I am to see where it goes.

Go check out my Epilepsy Awareness page, as well!

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FR Strong

I’ll never forget the morning of April 9, 2014. I was in homeroom and I got a text from my friend Katia. She said to pray for two kids in her school because they got stabbed. I said I would, thinking that they got stabbed on the way to school or something. Then she told me that it was in the school and others were being stabbed. I remember telling my homeroom teacher and him thinking it wasn’t true. He looked it up on the Internet and I remember the look on his face when he saw the truth of what was unravelling at Franklin Regional High School. Teenagers who were standing in the hallways just hanging out one minute and running the next after hearing a kid was stabbing others. I can’t imagine what it would’ve been like years earlier because my mother taught there years earlier. I would’ve been a wreck even more than I already was. I remember crying in my choir teachers office, praying that my friends, Nick, Andrew, Katia, Madi, and Erica were okay. It was later revealed that 22 people were stabbed. And what I find amazing is that not one died as a result. And if that’s not God watching over, then I don’t know what is. He was watching that school that day, over 1200 students. I know that those days events will forever stick in the mind of me and everyone else. Can we ever thank God enough for that rescue? #FRStrong

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Fear of Fulfilling the Great Comission

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This week’s Verse of the Week is Acts 1:8- Stop.  Do you know what this verse is?  Before I include it, (I’ve linked to it, so you can look at the whole verse at the bottom of this post!) this should be one of the defining verses of our faith. So why isn’t it one that we know by heart?  It’s been on my heart a lot lately that we do not know this enough and therefore fail to act on it, so you’ll probably see this verse popping up a lot.  And when I say a lot take my word for it. 🙂

Acts 1:8

How come this statement of Jesus isn’t written everywhere? I’m going to break it in half, because I believe there are two reasons that have are also one in the same.

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you.” Acts 1:8a NLT

To be completely honest, I think we’ve gotten really good at focusing on God the Father and Jesus Christ in the church and shying away from truly talking about the Holy Spirit.  Why?  We’re scared.

We’re scared we might scare people.

We’re scared we might say the wrong thing (we probably will and we do all the time about other things too which is okay because we’re humans, too.)

We’re scared people might get too spiritual.

Yep, I said that.  What if people actually started doing crazy things in the name of Jesus instead of sitting in church on Sundays and Wednesdays and went and did something about what they believed.  What if they started saying people were going to be healed and believed it? What if they started a new business that was completely and totally honoring to God?  What if that drew them away from the amount of time they spent at church?  I think the church is afraid of that.

“‘I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father.’ You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father.  Yes, ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it!'” John 14:12-14 NLT

Why?

We’re scared that the this “radical” faith might scare people that are totally comfortable not living that way and they might stop coming to church.

We, as in the Western church, might actually face some sort of persecution.  People aren’t particularly bothered by others going to a meeting on Sundays and Wednesdays.  When they start to get annoyed is when they actually defend and live out their beliefs.  That’s when we’ll run into some road blocks.  Here’s the thing.  Jesus said we are supposed to be persecuted, right?  So when we’re not being persecuted I think we need to look around and say, “We’re doing something wrong.” John 15:20

The Holy Spirit is a gift.  Why would we not appreciate and focus on such a gift?

“If you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.” Luke 11:13 NLT

My second point still revolves around fear, but more around the fear of literally going and fulfilling the Great Commission which we are empowered to do because of the Holy Spirit.

“You will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:8b NLT

We shake at the call to tell people about Jesus, especially if it means going out of our comfort zone as Jesus was saying we are to do here.  Sometimes that might mean moving halfway across the world.  To others it may mean staying where you are but going way beyond yourself in your ministry.  Reaching out to someone you would really rather not. Moving to that area of town where no one else really wants to go but you know that that’s where Jesus have you.    Whatever it means for you personally the function of the church as a whole depends on each individual member? Don’t believe me?

“The church is his body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself.” Ephesians 1:23 NLT

Can’t one body part being out of commission mean the whole body is as well? We don’t want the church to walk with a limp, do we?  We want it to thrive and for that to happen, it must be one, depending on each individual part to function as intended by God.

We have to trust that God has a plan for each individual member of the church.  We don’t get to choose that, as much as we might like to.  (When I was in high school I always hated writing, but it’s literally one of my favorite things to do now.  Why? Because I’m doing it to glorify God and it gives me joy.)

 

 

“But you receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere– in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8 NLT  This is the Great Commission! Jesus’ last words; we value all of Jesus words but we should especially value these.

Back to the Top?

“Since they persecuted me, naturally they will persecute you.” John 15:20 NLT

Finish Reading?

Church

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Salty?

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This world is a dark place, but I don’t have to tell you that because all it takes is picking up the remote and turning on the news or looking at Facebook to remind you just how dark it is.

With the terror attack in Brussels last week, more local events and so many other things going on I’m just bringing myself to posting this now.  For several reasons, but mainly because I had to first wrap my mind around what I had to say about it before I said it.

When events like what happened in Brussels happen I grieve over the lives lost, especially over those not saved.  This is my immediate response.  Why? Because Jesus died to redeem them of their sins, yet His gift was not accepted.

Because of this, my next thought and feeling in a situation like that is always hurt for the families.  The families of victims and the families of suspects alike.

My next, and final thought, is where is the church in this?

“You are the salt of the earth.  But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless.  You are the light of the world–like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden.  No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket.  Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly father.” Matthew 5:13-16 NLT

I haven’t heard much about churches stepping up in helping to address the Brussels attacks, and maybe that’s a good thing.  Maybe that just means its the churches not calling attention to themselves.  Maybe they are.  That’s actually not what I’m talking about, let’s talk about a broader picture.

Here are a just a few of the startling statistics given by Evangelism Is by Dave Earley and David Wheeler:

  • “Recent research indicates that there are now more than 200 million nonchurched people in America.”
  • “Only three other nations–China, India, and Indonesia–have more lost people.”
  • “The George Barna research group did a survey in 2007 asking Catholic and Protestant believers if they felt a responsibility to share their faith with others. Eighty one percent of Catholics said no; 53 percent of Protestants said no.  Barna also found that 75 percent of American adults who said they were “born again” could not even define the Great Commission.”
    [^1]
    These all blew me away.  We have to stop and say “Wait, something needs to change.”  First of all, if Jesus has actually changed our lives, how can we not want to share that? Second, the Great Commission is something that Jesus commanded for all of His followers.

    “Jesus came and told his disciples, ‘I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth.  Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you.  And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20 NLT

    In this, Jesus is essentially leaving His disciples, with the Holy Spirit, to spread His message throughout the earth.  He’s saying I’m giving you the Spirit and the responsibility to teach the entire world. Did they listen? You’d bet they did.  They were receiving a command from God in the flesh.  They’re going to listen.

    What’s our problem? Why aren’t we?  Have we forgotten about the Great Commission?  Nope, I don’t think that’s our problem at all.  Our idea of salt and light has gotten completely distorted and we just push the Great Commission aside.  Let’s look at Jesus’ teaching on this again:

    “You are the salt of the earth.  But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless.  You are the light of the world–like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden.  No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket.  Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly father.” Matthew 5:13-16 NLT

    Our saltiness and light are not to glorify ourselves, but so that God will be glorified.  This, particularly, is where the church is getting it wrong.  We lose our flavor and our light when we strive to glorify ourselves.  We fail to reach those that are hurting in the times when they desperately need the members of the church to step up and help.  We have to use our light to shine in the darkness of this world for one purpose: to glorify God.

    References:

    [^1] Earley, Dave, and David A. Wheeler. Evangelism Is–: How to Share Jesus with Passion and Confidence. Nashville, TN: B & H Academic, 2010.