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Someone once said, “Yesterday is a cancelled check, tomorrow is a promissory note, today is cash, spend it wisely.” One of life’s greatest tragedies is missed opportunities.. who knows how many great books go unwritten, how many inventions are unseen, how many great songs go unsung because thier authors never got around to it; didn’t believe they had anything​to offer, or had no one to encourage them to go forward. Worse today! Make every moment count to the glory of Christ who indwells, empowers and sustains you.


“If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back. Matthew 18:15

conflictEach of us have gone through those periods of time when relationships fail. Those relationships that are closest are the most painful to lose. Some translations leave out the phrase “against you”. Others include it. In reality, as followers of Jesus it doesn’t really matter if the wrong is committed against you (most painful) or against others. Either way, the offense is destined to hurt a brother or sister in Christ and others!

So what do we do? It’s easy enough to say we need to pray. Sometimes prayer is a scapegoat and can be better paraphrased as “I don’t want to get personally involved” or “I hate conflict” or “It’s really none of my business, it’s God’s job to do the work.”

There is some truth to each of these excuses. But, the reality is, Jesus never shied away from involving himself in the ugly part of ugly people’s lives. Aren’t we called to do the same?

Here are some suggestions for what may help. I’ll say up front that I’m still working on these in my life and it’s not easy. I have a long way to go! Praise Jesus for grace!

Pray: This is the obvious but be specific. Pray for your wisdom. Pray for the welfare of the one who wronged you or who is in danger of hurting themselves or others. Pray FOR them, not ABOUT them. Remember prayer is a two way conversation with the wisest, most loving being in the universe!

Reflect: This mixes in easily with prayer. As you are praying ask God to reveal anything YOU may have done to bring on this situation. Rather than focus on what the person did, try to ascertain why the person may have acted as he did. Most of the time, actions are a symptom, not the disease.

Ask: This is a tricky one and must be used with the utmost care and wisdom. If you have a close friend you can trust to make sure this goes no further, ask them for insight into the situation. Be careful not to turn this into a gossip session!!

Restore: Restoration demands action! To be done well, restoration is done with love. It can’t be hurried. First attempts often fail. Compassion and patience are the two best tools to use. If at all possible, refrain from step four until steps 1-3 are firmly in place!

Rest: The Psalmist states that during the storm we rest in the arms of almighty God. Remember that once we have done all we can to lovingly, gracefully and compassionately strive for resolution, the Holy Spirit is the ultimate source of healing.

PRAYER: Father God. Right now, I pray for those with whom I am in conflict and those I’m concerned about because they are in danger of destroying themselves or others. Give me wisdom to know what I need to do to begin the healing process. Help me follow you. Amen.

 


the easy pathThere is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death. Proverbs 14:12

When I was in high school I remember leaving my girlfriend’s house and heading home. I was one of those first nice days of early spring and even though it was well past sunset, I decided to take the long road home. There was a road, well, more like a path through a section of woods that I decided to try. This path was a favorite ‘stopping point’ for high school couples. I was never plowed, so it was closed in the long winter months.

I noticed some tire tracks so I decided it must be open and turned cautiously down the road. At first, it was nothing but mud and ruts. The tire tracks stopped and it was obvious that whoever had been down this road had turned back…but not me.

As I rounded the curve I began to have second thoughts. Then my headlights showed what appeared to be clear sailing over a smooth level bed of snow. What I didn’t know, but would soon find out, is that the snow covered a thin layer of ice incapable of supporting the weight of my car. I came to a stop. There car refused to go forward or backward. I realized I was stuck so I opened the door to get out. When I did so water and chunks of ice flowed in. I closed the door, opened the window, climbed over the car and jumped to safety.

The next day we called a tow truck and had the car removed from the water and ice. I learned a valuable lesson that day. The road that looks smooth isn’t always what it appears to be. Sometimes the rugged road of ruts and mud is much safer.

Life is a lot like that road I traveled. Sometimes we struggle to get through the mud and ruts and shout with glee when the road ahead appears to offer smooth sailing. Then, we find out that smooth sailing isn’t all it’s cracked up to be!

It’s no wonder that Jesus warns us about tough times ahead. It’s no wonder that New Testament writers encourage us to rejoice when we go through trials. The narrow, rugged path is often best because it forces us to rely on God to see us through.

The world screams at us to look for the easy way out. The age of entitlement tells us what we deserve and it’s always good…at first. But God’s ways, even though they are hard, are always the best ways.

Be encouraged. Whatever struggle you are going through now isn’t meant to defeat you. Rather, it is brought into your life to make you stronger and to show you how strong your God really is. God’s way isn’t the easiest way, but it’s always the best way.

PRAYER: Father God. Even though it’s hard to do, I thank you for the ruts in my road because they remind me I’m much safer with you than I am on the road the world tells me is easiest. Thank you for the strength I receive through Jesus Christ and your Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

 


The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him. Revelation 12:9 (NIV)

The worst kind of deception is the deception that catches us unaware because it is partially true. Like an apple with a worm in it, what we hear and believe looks good until we make a commitment to it and bite into it. Only then do we realize that it is rotten to the core. Deception robs us of life. Deception robs us of trust. In the spiritual realm it’s like rape because when our naivety is revealed it humiliates us.

Too often, those of us who call ourselves Christ-followers have been duped into slavery by deception. The Apostle Paul, when writing to the Galatians asks the question, “Who deceived you? Why have you returned to the very slavery Christ has set you free from?” (Galatians 3:1; 5:1). He’s not talking to unbelievers here. He’s talking to the church, the body of Christ, disciples of Jesus.

We as believers in Jesus Christ must realize that we are at war. Anyone steeped in the understanding of warfare realizes that there are three things necessary for victory. First one must know his enemy. By that I don’t mean we know the enemy simply by name. We learn his weapons. We memorize how he uses those weapons. We look for weaknesses in his armor, his plan and his tools. We search for the holes in his defenses.

Secondly, we strategize. We come up with a plan that realizes our limitations and utilizes our strengths. Going into battle without a plan is suicide, not to mention just plain stupid. A well formulated plan allows the David’s of the world to defeat Goliath.

Thirdly, the battle is won when, after learning all we can about the enemy, and formulating our plan we go into battle resolved to stick with our plan. Many a battle has been lost because those who have been defeated stray from the plan and are lured into playing the game on the battlefield of the opponent. When we play the game at his level, the enemy knows he has us beaten. It’s only a matter of time before we defeat ourselves.

It’s time to sound the battle cry. The war for our souls was won on the cross once and for all, but we fight daily battles in which the enemy tries to destroy the freedom we have in Christ. Our enemy is Lucifer, the great Satan, the once beautiful and glorious angel of the most high. He was defeated at the Cross. His defeat was finalized when Jesus rose from the dead, but he’s not finished yet. His goal remains the same, to lure us from all the best God has for us.

Satan knows that the best way to keep us from living victoriously is to attack us in our most vulnerable place, the heart. If he can get us to feel badly about ourselves he knows he has a foothold into the other areas of our lives. After all, even Jesus tells us that the two most important commandments are to love God and to love others. What measuring rod does he use for that love? How we love ourselves.

When we feel good about ourselves we take care of ourselves physically, emotionally and spiritually. When we feel bad about ourselves in those areas it affects how we see God and others. Strong relationships with others begin with a strong understanding and love for ourselves.

Don’t be deceived any longer. Refuse to listen to the lies that Satan tells you. Listen instead to the words of a loving Creator God who is passionate about seeing you through the battles of life victoriously.

PRAYER: Father God. I’ve listened to lies long enough. I’ve bought into what Satan has to say about me. I ask that you would empower me to see myself as you see me. Protect me from enemy attack through your Holy Spirit. Amen.


Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1

Imagine what it would be like if you were caught red-handed in a crime. You were arrested and brought to jail, and then before the judge. There was no way out. You were guilty. The judge knows it, everyone knows it. Your crime carries the punishment of life in prison with no hope of parole. In essence your life is over. All the freedom, all the dreams, all the hopes for your future have been dashed by this one desperate and stupid decision.

Now imagine that while you are standing before the judge he stands up, comes around the bench and stands beside you. He states to all in the court room that He, Himself, will take full responsibility for your actions. As a result, you are free to go. The judge not only removes the penalty for your sin, but, with the power vested in his position he removes your criminal record as well. You are free to go with no record of any wrong doing. Awesome!

You leave the court room that day and go directly to the local office supply store and by a lanyard to hang around your neck. You hang a sign from your neck that says, “Guilty. Sentenced to life in prison” in big bold letters. Everyone you come in contact with sees the sign and avoids you. If, by chance they don’t see it, you point it out to them, making sure they are aware of your despicable crime.

Everyday that lanyard reminds you of your failure. Some days the weight of it is almost more than you can bear. It keeps you from pursuing your dreams. It affects the relationships you have now, and keeps you from moving ahead to build new, vibrant relationships.  Eventually, the weight of the lanyard is too much. You lose it all.

One day you are sitting on the curb and you hear a voice behind you. You turn to see the judge who pardoned you. He has a completely shocked look on his face and asks you what you are doing here. You show him the lanyard and explain how its weight has completely destroyed your life.

The judge sits down on the curb beside you. Gently he reaches around and takes the lanyard from your neck. The relief you feel when the weight of the lanyard is gone is unbelievable. “Thank you!” You say to the judge. He puts his arm around your shoulder and looks into your eyes. “You were never meant to bear this burden,” he says as he looks you straight in the eyes, “I took this from you once. Why take it back. You are free. Now, go! Go enjoy the freedom of life!” With that he takes the lanyard and destroys it before your very eyes and you feel freedom like you have never felt before.

That’s what it means to be free of condemnation. When the apostle Paul penned Romans 8:1 he wanted us to know that we are free. We don’t need to be tied to the sins of our past. They are done. They have been removed by the judge. You are free because of Jesus Christ to enjoy life, to pursue your dreams and to grow healthy strong relationships with those around you.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus. Thank you for taking my sin on the cross. Thank you that I no longer have to be burdened by the mistakes of my past. You know I have made many mistakes, hurt people and destroyed the trust of many. Please forgive me for those sins. I praise you that I am no longer condemned. Empower me to live life free of the feelings of condemnation. I hereby give you my lanyard. Amen.

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