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They search the sources of the rivers and bring hidden things to light.

~Job 28:11 NIV~

I went to the dentist today.  A few weeks ago, I had broken a tooth and although it didn’t really hurt and it wasn’t visible to anyone else, I knew that it would do damage if I didn’t get it taken care of.  Much like the sin that holds us back from true relationship with God, if there is no tangible painful consequence (at least one that is visible to others), we often seek to work around the issue until we have the time and energy to deal with the healing or repair needed.

As I traveled to the doctor’s office this morning, whose name was oddly biblical, I thought about the areas of brokenness in my life that are keeping me from moving forward.  No one else can see them.  No one else really knows about them and they’re really only hurting me or so I believe.  So does this mean that they aren’t really bad things?  Well, no.  It really doesn’t.  Actually, it means that they are probably worse than those things which are exposed for God to work on.  Nothing is hidden from him, but the idea that if no one else knows I’m having this problem, then I’m not causing any trouble is a sure way to put some serious distance between you and God. But it’s not like He’s going to look the other way just because it’s only affecting your walk.  He doesn’t want any of His children to fail.  What hurts you, hurts Him.  Not so much because you are sinning, but because you aren’t allowing His love to cover whatever brokenness exists in you that draws you to that sin.

What is hidden is so much more damaging and insidious than that which is out in the open.  That has been proven time and again.  Of all of the family issues that we see, it is clear that those which someone seeks to cover up are those which do the most damage.  Thinking in terms of my own experience, it was recently revealed to me that I had been molested as a child.  I had always had strange memories of things that had happened to me and had just dismissed them as the product of an oddly focused imagination.  The whole thing was confirmed, however; at the worst possible time.  During a funeral for one of my dearest relatives, the perpetrator approached me and asked me to forgive him.  Now, thirty-five years down the road, the news that someone has violated you comes as somewhat of a shock.  So I did the only thing I could do, I patted him on the shoulder, told him all was forgiven and then quickly got away from him.

The whole thing threw me off base and I spent the time that I should have spent grieving for my relative, grieving instead for the innocence that I had lost so many years before I would have even realized I had anything to lose.  And that brokenness, though no one could see it and it didn’t cause any visible pain, did damage over the years that I didn’t even realize it was doing.  Having been raped when I was in my early twenties, I already understood the pain of covering something up so that no one else would know what had been done to me.  The sudden realization that there was more damage that I needed to somehow hide was almost unbearable.

I think when we have that kind of brokenness in us and we’ve hidden it for so long, we tend to have a reflexive need to continue to have something to hide.  And even if we’ve been delivered from that original brokenness, sometimes we have a hard time accepting that God really doesn’t see it as a huge flaw in His creation.  Some of it is shame, some of it is guilt, and a big part of it is pride.  When we’ve been damaged, we scramble to pick up all the pieces and shove them back into place before anyone notices that something is missing.  We hurt silently, we cry when no one is looking, and we yearn for someone to just make those feelings go away.  Yet the One who can take away that pain, we push away.  It’s something I’m not sure I’ll ever understand.  The only logical explanation for it is that the devil is working so hard to keep us from the healing we need that when he sees weakness in us, he comes at us with everything he’s got because he knows that once God starts doing His thing, we’ll be good as new.  He knows that if he bombards us with things that stir up feelings of guilt and shame that we’ll never feel like we can go before the Throne of Grace and bow before our Father to ask Him to heal us.  He knows exactly how long it takes us to get back on our feet when we’ve been knocked down.  But the wonderful things is, he’ll give up on us eventually.  God NEVER will.

So when that thing you can’t seem to fix just won’t go away, there really is only one solution.  You have to speak God’s word, you have to seek God’s grace, and you have to believe who He is and what He can and will do in your life if you let Him.  You must be steadfast even when it feels pointless to keep trying.  Especially when it feels like nothing is happening to turn things around.  You must trust in Him.  He will not fail you.  He’s here to fix what’s broken.

 It is the Lord your God you must follow, and him you must revere. Keep his commands and obey him; serve him and hold fast to him.

~Deuteronomy 13:4 NIV~

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So let God work his will in you. Yell a loud no to the Devil and watch him scamper. Say a quiet yes to God and he’ll be there in no time. Quit dabbling in sin. Purify your inner life. Quit playing the field. Hit bottom, and cry your eyes out. The fun and games are over. Get serious, really serious. Get down on your knees before the Master; it’s the only way you’ll get on your feet.

~James 4:7-10 MSG~

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I was just listening to Lisa Bevere talk about how we need to change our perspective and start seeing ourselves as God sees us.  If ever there was a message that I was having trouble absorbing, this would be it.  For some reason, I understand it in my mind but I cannot seem to get it to translate to my heart.  And in my confusion and refusal to accept that I am so much more than what I see myself as, I find that I make the same stupid mistakes over and over.  While I’m watching myself do the wrong thing, the devil stands back and laughs and says, “See, no matter how much God blesses you, I can always make sure you don’t have any real joy in your life because you don’t really believe He wants you to be blessed.”

Can that be true?  Do I not truly believe that God wants to bless me?  It would certainly appear so if you watch my behavior sometimes.  Though I like to think I’m on the intelligent side, I’m always amazed at just how clueless I can be when it comes to the strongholds in my life.  And there is no good reason for it other than what appears to be a serious lack of faith on my part.

Now don’t get me wrong, I have faith that God will protect me physically and that He will provide for me and that He is doing something in my life at all times.  I know that whatever weakness I am dealing with is not the product of His lack of love for me.  I know that it is a blatant manipulation by the devil meant to knock me off course.  And it is not lost on me that this manipulation occurs at the exact time that I’m attempting to receive a blessing from God in another area of my life.  Every good thing that He does for me is countered by yet another obstacle that the devil has flung my way.  And as Paul said in Romans 7:15 (MSG), “I can anticipate the response that is coming: “I know that all God’s commands are spiritual, but I’m not. Isn’t this also your experience?” Yes. I’m full of myself—after all, I’ve spent a long time in sin’s prison. What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. So if I can’t be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it becomes obvious that God’s command is necessary.”

That about sums it up.  When I can’t seem to get it right, it is absolutely necessary that I surrender the matter to my God and let Him help me overcome that which tries to pull me under.  In the past, I struggled to make good choices in the area of relationships.  I made choices based on feelings and on hopes that the other person would somehow become what I needed.  And though I know that only God can be everything I need, I still tend to be drawn to those who will never be totally available to me.  Even after so many years of learning and trying to do things the right way, I still make my biggest mistakes in this part of my life.  I’ve had long talks with God about why this still trips me up.  I haven’t actually heard an answer yet, but I know that He must be trying to show me something that He thinks I need to learn in order to get to the next level on this journey.  There is always a reason for these things even if we cannot see it at the time.

The point in all this is that God never stops loving me or being everything I could ever want or need in my life.  He never stops being the unending source of strength, peace, and joy.  It is my unwillingness to accept His love that cuts off the supply of these things in my life.  That power, He has given us.  We unfortunately have the ability to keep ourselves from receiving His blessings.  He knows this, but He also knows that when we’re finally ready to take an honest look at the person He sees in us we’ll stop giving away our peace to those who don’t love Him.  And we’ll stop letting others treat us like we have no value, because we’ll realize that the problem actually lies in their inability to value themselves.  Fix your eyes on the One who knows you best.  He will never make you feel like nothing.  He will never break your heart.  You’ve got a sure thing in Christ.  Love Him with your whole heart and He’ll give you everything you’ll ever need.

 For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.

~Isaiah 44:3 NIV~

Does he not see my ways and count my every step? “If I have walked with falsehood or my foot has hurried after deceit—let God weigh me in honest scales and he will know that I am blameless—

~Job 31:4-6 NIV~

Sometimes it takes hitting bottom to completely convince us that what we’ve been doing is nowhere near what God would want us to do.  He’s given you a life with a purpose and it is the devil’s mission to consistently throw you off course by challenging you with obstacles that are directly related to your biggest weaknesses.  He’s been very successful in doing this to me lately, but I have decided that I’m done playing around.  Though I didn’t realize that I had been playing around, some things have come to light that have made it difficult to deny that my actual actions weren’t matching up with my perception of my actions.  Putting your trust in people who consistently show you that you can’t trust them is just plain crazy.  Putting your hope in anything that professes to be something it isn’t is simply insane.  Pretending to be happy with a life that in no way challenges you to follow His plan for you is just a waste of time and energy.  For a few years now, I’ve been calling mediocrity a life of simplicity.   I’ve been calling the fear to stand up for myself humility.  I’ve been settling for less than what He tells me I deserve as His child and I’m not going to do it anymore.  I’m awake now.  And it’s simply not going to be enough anymore.

Years ago I had a list of about a hundred goals that I wanted to accomplish before I die.  I had people to meet, things to do, places to go and a whole bunch of life to live ahead of me.  But something happened and one day, I put the list away and never got it out again.  Eventually, the list disappeared…just as my desire to do more with my life did.  I’d like to say it was one thing that caused this, but it was the accumulation of many hurts that began to impress upon me the idea that I just wasn’t worthy.  Of course, I had glimmers of hope mixed in here and there.  God tried to give me things to love and appreciate so that I would remember that He was there.  But it took years before I figured out that He was the missing piece of the puzzle.  He gave me friendships and relationships and even great jobs and a little talent for a few things.  But I still lacked confidence and underneath it all, I just couldn’t accept that He meant for me to have these things.  Whether it was shame or guilt or just a lack of understanding that kept me from fully receiving His gifts, I do not know.  The point is that it has been a constant struggle for me to accept what He has been trying to give me all along.

My daughter has been the most effective means He has employed thus far of getting me to understand who I am to Him.  Before she was born, there was absolutely no way I could have understood what it means to love someone so unconditionally.  There is nothing I wouldn’t do for her no matter what happens.  There will always be grace for my child; as there will also be grace for me in God’s eyes.  So, step by step, conflict after conflict, struggle upon struggle, I’ve been learning that He still loves me in spite of all my efforts to turn Him away.  After nearly four years of being back in church and trying to develop and understand my relationship with God, I’m still amazed at how hard it is to not try and make Him let go of me.  For some reason, I still try to convince Him that I’m not worthy.  I still try to make Him see how much of a waste of time it is for Him to work with me.  And He still picks me up and brushes the dirt off of me and says, “You can do this.”  I’m not sure I’ll ever understand that.

So, after a bit of an emotional struggle over the last few months (which I can’t detail now, but will likely blog about later), I was sitting at my favorite spot at a park I like to visit when I can.  I was looking out over the water and thinking to myself, “Are you still there?”  And for the first time in a long time, I wasn’t asking that question of God.  I was asking it of myself.  I’ve been so convinced that there was nothing good enough in me for Him to work with that I began throwing away the parts of myself that I thought were offending Him.  If there was something in my personality or behavior that I thought He wouldn’t want others to see in me, I either got rid of it and replaced it with something milder or went ahead and did it, but made sure nobody knew that I was doing it.  In the process, I forgot to be who I truly am.  I was doing all the right things for all the wrong reasons and some of the wrong things for the right reasons.  And to ensure that I didn’t get too proud of myself for completely cutting me out of my life, I made sure to do a couple of things that I knew He didn’t want me to do.  I was so sure that I had proven myself unworthy and of no value that I had almost decided to lay down and just let the grass grow over me.

But as I sat there looking out at that beautiful sky and the water below, I remembered something.  I’m not who I used to be.  But I’m not who I am yet to be either.  I am a work in progress.  God’s Masterpiece, being painted little by little each day.  I am like that piece of clay that has to be molded and shaped and held in the fire until all of the imperfections disappear.  And one day, I’ll look up and instead of seeing all that I am not, I’ll see all that I’ve been able to become in Him.  But I have to let the fires of this world do their worst to me in order to become my best.  So, even though my heart has been broken time after time by selfish people who only wanted to use me, and even though I’ve struggled with alcoholism and anxiety, and depression, and even though I’ve suffered so many losses of those I loved dearly and those whom I never had the chance to love, I know that this, too, shall pass.  I just need to remember that the question is not whether or not He’s still there for me but whether or not I’m trying to draw near to Him or push Him away.

…let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.

~Hebrews 20:22 NIV~

I will teach you about God’s power. I will not conceal anything concerning the Almighty.

~Job 27:11 NIV~

It is so frustrating to scroll through the Facebook feed and read comments and arguments against Christians. Knowing that this is not what Jesus intended when he walked on this earth all those years ago, seeing what people have done to pervert His message and then seeing how others have so misconstrued His teachings is heartbreaking. Sadly, many of the people who are doing the most damage are sure that what they are doing is fulfilling the Great Commission to go forth and make disciples. Too bad they aren’t equating the lack of followers they are gathering to a serious deficiency in their understanding of God’s word. Or maybe they are gaining followers, but they aren’t seeing how God’s word has positively impacted the people in their lives. I guess it depends on what our aim is as followers. If we truly want Him to live through us, then we can’t possibly be happy with ourselves when we see how far out of step some perceptions of Christians appear to be. We need to speak up and get the right message circulating.

This doesn’t mean that any time we attempt to disciple someone we are automatically going to see a huge improvement in their situation. But we should be able to see that their eyes are opened to something that they weren’t seeing before we brought the word to them. If not, then they are most likely just going through the motions in an effort to make someone else happy. As disciplers, we need to be able to discern the subtle difference between those who have taken a step toward God and those who are merely falling into step with what they are hearing and trying to reach the Promised Land without putting forth genuine effort. I don’t say this to be critical of the new or renewed believer; I say this to reinforce the importance of walking a genuine walk so that when others fall into step with us, they are walking in the right direction. We can’t help anyone if we’re a mess.

Many new believers may not understand that it doesn’t happen like that and if we allow them to continue blindly and we don’t adjust our ministry to fit their needs, they will eventually place the blame for their failure to feel “redeemed” on God. This is why when new believers stop feeling that warm, fuzzy feeling that you get right after you have been saved, they may fall out of step with Christ or backslide, whichever term you want to use. Ideally, when we really get that God wants to save us, we understand that we need to change. We understand that our way is not the right way and that we will only begin to feel the peace His love affords when we are totally committed to following the plan He has for us. We understand that this WILL involve surrendering our will to His and that this won’t always be pleasant. Sometimes I think every Christian should have to wear a sticker that says, “Don’t follow me, I’m still lost.” At the very least, we should have to wear something that says, “Don’t follow me, follow Him.”

This message probably sounds very negative to those of you who feel that your personal walk with Christ is pretty solid. If you’re offended by what I’ve said, well I apologize. However; I caution anyone who is walking with Christ to be aware of how your walk is impacting others. If the people around you are telling you that your Christianity is hateful, you might want to examine the reasons why they are saying this? It could be their own reluctance to accept Christ, but then, it could be that you are not really walking in love. Sometimes we convince ourselves that just because we call ourselves Christians and we go to church every week and we tithe and we do all the things that “good” Christians do, we are automatically setting a good example. It can’t possibly be our fault that anyone has stumbled because we are doing this thing perfectly. Um….if you’re thinking that, you should have a huge red light flashing above your head right now along with some pretty annoying sirens going off. But if you are wondering how people are viewing your walk, then you’re probably on the right track. That’s called humility, and it is good.

I’ll be the first to tell you that I’m a huge mess. I’m not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. My walk has been a series of hills and valleys and most of the time; I walk down the wrong fork in the road. Thankfully, God leaves plenty of breadcrumbs so that I can find my way back onto the right path. The goal is to have a right heart and to attack evil as Jesus would have; with love. If what we are doing to fight the battle causes people to hate Jesus or God, then we are not doing it right. My God is not hateful. There are things He hates, but He would never make the sinner feel as though they aren’t fit to be in the same atmosphere that He rules. And yes, He can put us through some difficult things in order to test us and refine us, but that doesn’t mean that His followers have the right or authority to test one another in that way. Only God has that authority, anyone else who tries to bring that sort of judgment or sentence against his or her fellow man or woman is still working for the wrong team.

For the Kingdom of God is not just a lot of talk; it is living by God’s power.

~1 Corinthians 4:20 NIV~

Whoever has no rule over his own spirit is like a city broken down, without walls.

~Proverbs 25:28 NKJV~

I used to carry myself like a tough girl…always cussing people out and daring anyone to call me out of my name.  I was angry about everything and I wanted to make sure that everyone knew it.  Keep your distance; don’t even think about trying to hurt me.  This was the attitude I had and it was born mainly out of a fear of abandonment.  I was scared to death that someone was going to pretend to love me and then end up leaving me.  The funny thing is that throughout that time, I couldn’t seem to get people to leave me alone.  There were always people who wanted to be close to me and who wanted to show me that I was worth being cared for.  I just wouldn’t believe them and I really wanted them to just back off because the fear of being hurt was more compelling at the point in my life than my need to make a connection.

Over the years, things happen.  You build walls, you tear them down, you put them back up and others knock them down.  You reinforce them and still others come to take them apart; brick by brick.  Sometimes it’s the same people who come back over and over, testing you and looking for the weak spots in your fortress.  And there really is nothing you can do to prevent it.  But there is something you can do to overcome it.  You can pray.  You can come to understand once and for all that the only foundations that stay strong are those built in Christ.  Without faith and trust in His power, anything we try to build will crumble.  Sometimes we’ll see it as clearly as if someone had taken a wrecking ball to us; sometimes it’s like they’re digging through those walls with a teaspoon.  No matter how obvious the damage, you can be sure that it is actually happening.  Even when we are walking with Christ, the enemy never stops trying to destroy what He’s built in us.  The difference lies in how we respond.

So now, some twenty years later, I look back on my reactions to the attacks I’ve suffered.  When I reacted from a place of anger, I got back more anger.  When I reacted from a place of hate, I only bred more hate.  When I reacted in fear, which wasn’t as often as it probably should have been given the situations I found myself in; the end result was something more to fear.  It was only when I began to respond with grace, mercy and a peaceful heart that I began to reap a sweeter harvest in my life.  Yes, I still have problems.  I still run into opposition and difficult times.  I’m still challenged at every turn on most days.  The difference is that now I turn to Jesus and ask Him to guide my steps.  I ask Him what I need to do to bring about the fruit that He has promised.  These things that happen aren’t an opportunity for me to lash out and prove that I can be just as hateful as the next person.  This is not the time for me to sucker-punch someone with my sharp wit.  This is the time for me to prove that God’s way works every time.  It’s time for me to show that I have no fear because my heart belongs to the one who wins every battle.

I look at my daughter and I can see that she doesn’t have a hateful bone in her body.  Her presence makes the world a better place.  I can’t say that my presence always has.  In fact, I know at least a handful of people who might say they wish they’d never known me.  I can’t go back and fix the damage that I’ve done to those relationships, but I can put forth the effort and the energy needed to make all of my future interactions something that will make a positive difference in a world that is so quick to offer up the very worst that it has on any given day.

This means that I don’t present myself as someone you don’t want to mess with.  It means I don’t think it’s cool to tell everyone all of the awful things I’ve convinced myself that I’m proud of doing to myself and others.  It means that I don’t look for any and every way possible to sabotage myself and others.  It means that I don’t take pride in running away from the plan God has for my life.  It means I surrender.  I give my life to the One who made me.  I ask Him which way is up and I avoid looking down.  I move forward with the knowledge that I am covered by His grace and mercy and that no one can take that away from me.  No one has to take it from me because He offers it to all without prejudice; without requirement, without limits.  I don’t have to defend the grace He extends to me by building walls to keep you from seeing what I’ve got.  On the contrary, I want you to know what He’s given me because I want the same for you.

And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.

~Revelation 22:17 NKJV~

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me,
Because the Lord has anointed Me
To preach good tidings to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives…”

~Isaiah 61:1 NKJV~

There is probably no other reason that I have called upon my God more than to help heal my broken heart. I can’t count the number of times that I’ve put myself out there only to be deceived, manipulated and ultimately hurt by those who profess their great love for me. As I was reflecting on this today, I realized why it hurts us so much when someone we love decides that we are no longer what they want. As God’s creation, we are made in His image. His spirit lives in each of us and when we hurt, he hurts. For those who operate exclusively in the flesh, the hurt comes out as an attack on those who don’t deserve to be injured by our injury. So, as we are trying to understand our walk with God, we’re either hurting to the point that we hurt others or we have been hurt so by others that we can’t help but set ourselves up to repeat the mistake time after time.

But is it wrong to hurt? No, not at all. God wants us to love one another and sometimes that love requires great pain and sacrifice that we may never understand. Love always requires some sacrifice, but there are times when it takes everything we’ve got just to move ahead of the things that attempt to drag us back to our Babylons. The more progress you make, the more likely you are to encounter hurt. But the triumph you will experience if you just press on will be amazing. We’re assured of that victory in God’s word.

It’s not that we should just cut ourselves off from all relationship for fear of being hurt again. That’s not what we’re called to either. In my own experience, just when I think I’ve got things figured out something comes back into my field of vision and tries to convince me that I wasn’t finished with whatever I’d already walked away from. Something tries to pull me backward into a mess I’d spent so much time trying to clean up. And there is no good choice available. I can either choose to go back and try it again to see if anything has changed, thus risking all of the healing I’ve done since I walked away. Or I can choose to make my demands plain up front and experience a whole new kind of rejection and heartache, thus proving that what I left behind should have stayed there in the first place.

We can heal from anything with God’s love in our hearts. If we choose to keep letting people break us, He will continue to put us back together. But we have to wake up and see whose purpose this brokenness really serves. The devil knows that if he can get someone to break your heart, you will be in recovery for a time and you won’t be able to fight the good fight until you’ve done some healing. Every little setback that he can throw in your path is worth his effort. But as usual, he’s only delaying the inevitable stomping that he’s going to get when we recover. God wants us to heal. He wants us to be able to love others even when they are unlovable. He also wants us to guard our hearts with the knowledge that it is His love that will always be there for us. It is His love that will never choose the things of this world over us. Even when we fail Him and we choose the things of the world over Him. He forgives…and He loves. And so, when someone you love chooses the things of the world over the love you offer them, let them go. Forgive them, continue to love them and give them to God.

In the same way we fail to love God as we should, people will always fall short in the way they can love us. There is nothing we can do to keep others from hurting us. Sometimes they just have no choice. They haven’t figured out that the love they will experience in the spirit when they finally embrace God is so much better than what any other person will be able to give them here. When we love from the flesh, it will always fail to meet our expectations. Only the love that comes from the spirit of God that lives in us can truly satisfy. When we get that, there is no devil in hell that will succeed in breaking our heart. With that, I’ll just say, “Well played, devil. Nice try. But my God is an awesome God and He’s already fixed what you’ve broken. Move along. There’s nothing to see here.”

Immediately the fountain of her blood was dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of the affliction.

~Mark 5:29 NKJV~

The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.

~John 10:10 NKJV~

The devil is a sneaky guy. Literally. When all of his attempts to pull your love away from God fail, he tries even harder to bring you to a place where everything you associate with God begins to hurt you. Hence the many individuals who have been hurt by churches and congregations that aren’t focused on the message of Jesus, but on gossip and backbiting and judging.  But that’s another post.  In this particular case, he caught me off guard by presenting me with what I thought might be my Boaz. For a long time, I had prayed to God that He would send me a good man. A man who loved Him first so that he could love me as a man is supposed to love his woman. Well, it took nearly three months of hell, but I finally figured out that this was just another one of the evil one’s tricks meant to sway me from my love for my God. Even what I thought God had sent had been used against me to draw me out of His love and toward the bitterness and anger that often accompanies a bad breakup.

Luckily, I look at failed relationships as successful research. If I didn’t, by now I would have sworn off men altogether. I’m not making light of this situation. My time with this man has caused me innumerable problems; many that I can’t even discuss here at this point in time. I’ll be cleaning up after this mess for a long time. In reflecting on things today, it occurred to me that just as the devil was able to sway Judas to betray his friend Jesus, he is able to persuade a desperate man to take advantage of a compassionate and loving woman. After being lured into relationship by a man who was willing to watch Bible programs and pray with me, how can I ever trust another man who claims to be a good Christian? I had never figured that this man would begin playing the very same games that other men had played in my past relationships. I never would have guessed that he would deceive me in the way that he did. But in my enthusiasm for what I thought God had sent me, I forgot what I’ve learned so many times in one Bible study after another; man will ALWAYS disappoint us. God is the only one who will never fail us.

So, even though this one didn’t end well…all IS well. I have not forgotten where my help comes from and I have faith that when it is time, He will send me the man who can appreciate the woman He has made in me. He will provide all that I need at the exact time that I need it and I will not have to wonder whether or not this one will break my heart or try to manipulate me or use me. As for this guy, I’ll pray for him. And I’m not angry. I’m not the least bit upset with him. I’m more upset with myself for allowing the devil to use my love for my God to almost get one over on me. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice…well…you know the rest. For now, with my faith still intact, I must believe that God wants my focus to be on something better than a pseudo-relationship. And so, I press on.

“And whoever will not receive you, when you go out of that city, shake off the very dust from your feet as a testimony against them.”

~Luke 9:5 NKJV~

And Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, “Put away the foreign gods that are among you, purify yourselves, and change your garments.

~Genesis 35:2 NKJV~

At what point do we decide that we’ve dwelt in the past long enough and it is time to really move on? What is it about the familiar that keeps us focused in the wrong direction even when we know that it isn’t good for us? Change is scary. Commitment is difficult and sometimes even resembles work. Funny thing, we have no trouble committing to the patterns in our lives which drag us down, but will go out of our way to avoid establishing habits that will lift us up and propel us into a better way of living.

In my experience, it has always been easier to return to what I thought I knew than to go forward into that which I’m sure I have no clue how to navigate without significant difficulty. Taking that first step toward making those kinds of changes is always the hardest. Like the DC Talk song says, “What if I stumble? What if I fall? What if I lose my step and I make fools of us all? Will the love continue when my walk becomes a crawl?” I’ve felt this way every time I’ve tried to do something new. As though the fate of the world depends on my ability to do the right thing at all times. Thankfully, it doesn’t. So, I can rest easier knowing that I’m not nearly as important as I’d like to think I am.  If I stumble, people will simply do one of a few things; walk around me, walk over me, walk away from me, or stop to help me back to my feet.

The point here is that rather than take the opportunity that lies in front of us, many of us choose to hang back and repeat the behaviors that have kept us in a perpetual cycle of unhappiness. And our only justification in doing so has been that we already know what to expect from the hell we currently occupy. Why create more uncertainty than we already feel? God would say to us, at least I think He would say, how will you ever know what blessings lie on the other side of those trials if you wrap yourself up in them and refuse to come out? Yes, transition is painful. Yes, change is unsettling. And yes, sometimes we have to leave things behind that do nothing but hold us in place. But what happens when we step outside of that comfort zone and follow His leading is amazing…no matter what it takes to get to the other side. If He is in the center of it all, the end result is beauty for the ashes we have been sitting in.

So, my advice to you is to get up, grab a broom and start sweeping those ashes into a neat, little pile. Put them in a little bag and carry them willingly (and only for a moment) to the next stage of your journey. And when the time comes, hand them over to Him and let Him show you what it means to be truly transformed by His grace and mercy. He makes all things new. Let Him take over from here. He does good work.

If a man dies, shall he live again? All the days of my hard service I will wait, Till my change comes.
~Job 14:14 NKJV~

So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.”

~John 8:17 NKJV~

 Holding onto opinions about a person based on something they did in the past is not walking in love. Yet, there are so many who would rather continue to hate someone based on who they once were than to begin to love them based on what God has done in them. Would you consider yourself to be the kind of person who truly understands what it means to forgive others? What if God’s will for your life put you right in the middle of an issue that was not what others perceived it to be? Do you walk away from it because others don’t understand? Or do you continue to listen for God’s voice in the storm and persevere? This is where I find myself today.

Most of my life has been spent trying to live up to the expectations of others. Only in the last few years have I begun to question why it was always so important that I be the person they want me to be, even if what they want for me seems to conflict with what God wants for me. If I hear from God and He is guiding me, then why should I allow others to deter me from what I know He has asked me or told me to do? Life is confusing enough without having the people who are supposed to love you tell you to ignore what God is saying to you.

When I love someone, I try not to place conditions on that love. Even if you have wronged me, if I ever loved you, chances are that I will still love you even though I may not give you the opportunity to hurt me again. Love means being able to forgive someone who hasn’t yet figured out how to love. It means being able to forgive those who don’t seem interested in learning how to love. It means being able to forgive those who cannot forgive themselves or anyone else. It isn’t about doing what everyone else thinks you should do. Those who claim to love you while at the same time doubting every move you make or giving you grief because they do not understand the path God has you on have no idea what love means.

If I say that I love, that means I understand that people will always fall short of my expectations. The only one who will never disappoint me is God and He is also the only one who will ever love me without the condition that I impress Him or do exactly as He wants me to do. Even when I go in the wrong direction, His love for me is perfect and unfailing. Even though He is fully aware of the person I have been, He still loves me as though He can only see where I am headed as I walk alongside Him.

It is so important not to pass judgment on those who are attempting to emerge from their trials. Only when you are in the process of breaking free from your own strongholds can you fully understand how much He loves you. No matter how much I think I know about your situation or about your capacity to change and grow, I will never know you the way God knows you. I have no justification in directing your life. I can only share with you what God has done for me and hope that you will allow Him to work in you. When I do that, I’m showing the most love I can possibly show.

 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.

 ~1 Corinthians 13:1-3 NKJV~

A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume.

~Luke 7:37 NIV~

I used to wonder sometimes, will there ever be a time when I don’t feel like this woman?  Having come through a long period of self-destructive behavior and found grace at the feet of the Savior, it would seem that I would be able to let go of the guilt and the shame that once defined my life.  For the most part, I am.  But the devil is sneaky.  There are still some days when I’m haunted by things that I’ve not completely reconciled and though much healing has taken place, I’m just not where I need to be yet.  Today, has been one of those days.  Thankfully, the grace of my God makes the knowledge of my former brokenness bearable.

Our pastor mentioned something in a recent sermon that stirred a memory.  When I had a quiet moment today, I went back through my notes to find a passage that I had written a couple of years ago.  The pastor had re-written a passage of Scripture to capture the reality of today’s church.  It wasn’t exactly the same subject, but the thought process was similar to some therapeutic writing I had done a while back when I was struggling with grief and trying to make sense of loss.  In any case, I had the idea that if I were to write a story about myself for the Bible, it would look something like this:

1 And there was a woman named Rebecca who had lived a sinful life. 2 Once taught the word of God by false teachers, her knowledge of the Savior held no real understanding of the love He had shown by sacrificing His Son on the cross. 3 She wandered away from her faith and for a period of twenty years lived in darkness. 4 God placed in her life a man who became her husband, and the two lived in darkness together.  5 Having been blessed with one child, they tried in vain to have another, but in that time lost five children before they ever saw the light of day. 6 For ten years, she remained in that place before her brokenness became so unbearable that she called on Him. 7 “God, why have you allowed me to hurt in this way?” she cried out. 8 And she was consumed with sadness. 9 He answered her, saying, “Come home, daughter,” 10 And she found her way to Him, walking away from all that had constrained her. 11 Yielding to His love, she found truth and healing and finally received the beauty He had promised for her ashes.

The purpose of this writing was to help me figure out why I was still experiencing periods of grief when my life had been so completely restored.  What I found was that my tendency is to reject God’s love because I feel so unworthy.  And we are…unworthy…but not in the sense that we cannot and should not accept His grace and mercy.  We will never be perfect and He didn’t create us to be perfect.  He created us to love Him and to love one another with the same perfect love that He shows us.

Having been through a great deal of trauma in my life, some of which was self-inflicted and some the result of another’s brokenness, at times it has been difficult to see through the tears.  But through forgiveness, prayer and faith, I have been learning that my purpose is to accept His love and to then give that love as a gift to others who are broken so that we each become a reflection of the Savior’s unchanging love for all of us.

The farther I walk with Him, the more the devil pursues and attempts to turn me around so that all I’m looking at is what lies behind.  If I still feel like the woman with the alabaster jar, it is not God who is bringing about this condemnation.  It is Satan’s attempt to keep me from receiving the great gift that he once rejected and continues to reject.  So, with eyes forward, I take my steps confidently and with the knowledge that my future will not be like my past.  He has made me new and what the devil doesn’t realize is that now, even if I turn to look back, I’m doing so through new eyes and with a new vision.  And so, he cannot win.

Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

~Luke 7:48 NIV~

Introduction

My name is Rebecca Benston. I'm an author, speaker, and advocate for women and children. My spiritual journey has led me to many questions about what is right and how to live out the purpose that God has set for me.

I am finding that after considering all other possibilities, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that without living a life that acknowledges the blood of Jesus we are lost. Yet, there are many who claim to know Him and understand His teachings who spew hatred and look for any and all opportunities to judge others instead of seeking them out to lead them to Christ. The goal of this blog is to work towards removing the animosity that exists between followers of Christ who subscribe to different doctrinal approaches and beliefs about what is expected of a "good" Christian. Also to draw the unbeliever closer to Christ through practicing His love and patience and to help all followers understand that love and true faith cannot co-exist where hate, intolerance and a sense of superiority live.

I also hope to open a dialogue with people from many different religious backgrounds and to work together with followers of this blog to break down some of the barriers to harmony that exist in our society. I hope you will join in the conversation!

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