Sunday, October 22, 2017

it's not Me

Do you have an old sin, the one that was so dog-gone awful you have hid it from everyone? It was long ago and you keep telling God you were wrong and you're sorry but you just can't get any peace. And when the topic comes up or that song comes on you think about it. It haunts you. You get peace for a while but then it's back.

The Lord has sworn by Himself,  
“I will never forget anything they have done...
In that day...they will fall, never to rise again...
I will kill with the sword. Not one will get away, none will escape. 
Though they dig down to the depths below, 
from there My hand will take them. 
Though they climb up to the heavens above, 
from there I will bring them down. 
Though they hide themselves on the top of Carmel, 
there I will hunt them down and seize them.
Though they hide from My eyes at the bottom of the sea, 
there I will command the serpent to bite them. 
Though they are driven into exile by their enemies, 
there I will command the sword to slay them. 
I will keep My eye on them for harm and not for good.” 
(Amos 8:7, 9, 9:1-4)

This was my devotional for today. I had never read this before and it is horrifying. I wondered, does this apply to our nation? Worse, does it apply to my life, my sin, my future? Is there something I need to do, something I must repay to heal my soul and make me free?

Often this is how I feel. I think about my day and mourn over the harsh words, the missed opportunities to do good, the wasted time on frivolous things. Or I think about the past and blame myself for things I had no control over. Surely I should consider my day and repent of sin, but I forget to rest in my Savior and His peace.

Today, Jesus made me stop and hear His heart:

The voices that are reminding you of your sin, it's not Me. It may be Satan the accuser. It may be your unbelief.  But you can be sure it's not Me. 

Those of us who have accepted Jesus and as our Savior and Lord have been forgiven all sin. Past, present and future. He has thrown them away as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12). There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). Jesus had already completed everything needed for my complete forgiveness. There is nothing left undone, nothing I need to do, it is finished! Reading the rest of the chapter shed light on the true purposes and heart of God.

But all the sinners will die by the sword—
all those who say, ‘Nothing bad will happen to us.’ (Amos 9:10)

God will judge. He will punish those who reject Him, who assume He is powerless or that He does not exist. God loves us but we have the power to choose to trust in Him or not. Those who choose God have a much different future as the last part of the chapter shows. 

“In that day I will restore the fallen house of David.
I will repair its damaged walls.
From the ruins I will rebuild it and restore its former glory.
And Israel will possess what is left of Edom and all the nations I have called to be Mine.”
The Lord has spoken, and He will do these things.

Hoping the house Jesus is building for me has a back yard
looking like this...
“The time will come,” says the Lord,
“when the grain and grapes will grow
faster than they can be harvested.
Then the terraced vineyards on the hills 
of Israel will drip with sweet wine!
I will bring My exiled people of Israel 
back from distant lands,
and they will rebuild their ruined cities 
and live in them again.
They will plant vineyards and gardens; 
they will eat their crops 
and drink their wine.
I will firmly plant them there 
in their own land.
They will never again be uprooted 
from the land I have given them,”
says the Lord your God. 
(Amos 9:10-15)

Thank you Father for reminding me of your faithful forgiveness. All I ever needed to do was to say YES, I am Yours and You are my God. Amen!

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Dealing with Your Very Draining People (VDP)

How do you deal with a very draining person? Maybe they are demanding or destructive; or maybe they are merely disappointing or difficult. What is your usual reaction?

Do you bark back in anger? Or do you silently fume? Do you change the subject or cut the phone call short? Or do you try to please and accommodate so they will stop the rampage? Do you try to talk it out and explain your position? Or do you deem the conversation as hopeless and complain to your sister instead?

Maybe your tactic changes depending on the person in front of you. Do you accommodate your boss but later take your pent up emotions out on your kids? Do you vent on your mom but are sweet as pie to your boy friend? Do you have a new friend who you talk things out with but that old friend from high school, well, you know how that discussion will turn out so why bother?

This was our discussion this week at church and also in our small groups. We talked about the people we experienced as draining and our reactions to them. What was the right reaction? For the answers, we searched the gospels and read some of the interactions Jesus had with draining people in John 3:1-21, Matthew 12:1-15 and Luke 14:1-14.

We saw Jesus' reaction to people wasn't a reaction at all. Jesus knew what He was about and He was not deterred by other's questions or actions towards Him.  He spoke to people from the heart about the real issues (John 3:3, Luke 14:7). He used illustrations to help others understand His position (Luke 14:6, Matthew 12:11). There were times when He walked away (Matthew 12:14-15) but that was due to His being obedient to the timing of His Father. It was not intended to avoid conflict. Actually, He invited conflict at times, and used the conflict to point to truth (Luke 12:3).

Jesus listened to the people who came to Him with questions, no matter what their motives were. Jesus knew when their real plan was not to obtain answers but to trap Him. Nevertheless, He did not back away, but answered them directly with truth and used the opportunity to reveal important information regarding the kingdom of heaven (Mark 10:2-9, Matthew 22:16-22, Luke 12:13-21, Luke 15:1-10, Luke 18:18-30).

When the time came for Jesus to face the most destructive people, He prepared Himself with prayer (Luke 22:41-43). He did not do what would come naturally as a human man, but what His Father wanted. He prayed and received not only direction but also supernatural strength.

Why do you react as you do to the draining people in your life? Do you act as your parents modeled or are you doing the exact opposite because of how it worked out for them? Were you hurt or rejected at a prior time of life and swore to yourself never to be hurt like that again? Do you act to avoid conflict and anger because "Christians don't get angry" or do you confront others harshly because "Christians must stand for truth”?

I confess I usually assess the situation and try to use the approach that would work out for the best (read: "for my benefit").

Like the ocean can be raging or calm
depending on the wind,
so we must allow the wind of the Spirit
to control our reactions to others.
Jesus did what He saw the Father doing. Jesus was controlled by the Spirit. Nothing anyone else did controlled or deterred Him. And the really good news is the very same Spirit lives inside of us when we commit our lives to Christ.

I came to the conclusion there is no specific right or wrong way to deal with difficult people. Each person, each situation, each time is different. Sometimes it is best to confront with love. Sometimes it is good to try to understand and be understood. Sometimes it is best to walk away and cool off. Sometime it is good to submit to another's ways. Sometimes it is better to say "this time, I want to decide." Sometimes it is even best to be harsh (Matthew 23:1-36, John 3:13-17). God knows which is best and He desires to tell us, moment by moment as we walk with Him, pray to Him, listen to Him. And we can count on His angels to strengthen us as well so we can do His will.

Sometimes as we obey God we find things don't work out exactly as we would like. That is where faith comes in, when we learn to trust God will work all things together for good (Romans 8:28). We obey God and trust the results to Him.

And of course, we need to ask ourselves (and God) the important question: in this situation, is the draining person ME?

Just saying.

And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. (1 Thessalonians 5:14)

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Fire and Floods

Fire and floods
Earthquakes and hurricanes
Mass murderers and maniacs with nuclear missiles

And our reactions is to point fingers at each other
We criticize, we rally, we march, we carry cleverly worded signs
We tear down statues, we tweet and troll
As if anyone is at fault, as if anyone of us could fix this.

We need to fall on our knees
We need to mourn and repent
We need to cry out to the only One who can heal our world in the ancient prayer:

Lord have mercy
Christ have mercy
Lord have mercy
Christ have mercy and grant us peace.