Greater

After these things and this faithfulness, Sennacherib king of Assyria came and invaded Judah and besieged the fortified cities, intending to take them for himself.
2 Chronicles 32:1

After these things…after this faithfulness…they were about to be invaded.

Really?! This is what they were going to get for serving God?

I must confess this thought popped into my head as I read the above verse. And I’m guessing it may have crossed the minds of the men and women of Judah as well at the news of the looming invasion. How could it be? They had just completed a 180 in their walk with God. Were they really going to lose it all so soon?

No. No they weren’t. God had a plan. But I’m sure we can all relate to what the men of Judah must have been thinking. I’m sure we’ve all been there. We are going along our way seeking God, serving God, loving God, and then disaster appears out of nowhere. Death, destruction, and turmoil invade our world. Or maybe we were going the wrong way but then repented and turned our eyes back to Jesus–yet just when we thought we could breathe a sigh of relief, everything begins to unravel. That new life of service to God begins turning into a nightmare.

And although such circumstances are often unpleasant and seemingly unfair, we must take with us the truth exhibited in the story of Hezekiah: God is stronger. He is stronger than our circumstances. Stronger than our struggles. And definitely stronger than our enemy.

Let’s look at King Hezekiah for a moment. When Hezekiah became king of Judah, the spiritual well being of the nation was in shambles. Nothing and no one was consecrated. No sacrifices or worship was taking place. God was on the back burner. But then Hezekiah did what was right. He destroyed the idols, consecrated the temple, reinstituted and reorganized the priesthood, restored temple worship, and began again the Passover celebration. He was steadfast in His faith, encouraging in his words, and focused on prayer.  The writer of Chronicles says it best: “This is what Hezekiah did throughout Judah; and he did what was good, right, and true before the Lord his God. Every work which he began in the service of the house of God in keeping with the law and the commandment, seeking and inquiring of his God [and longing for Him], he did with all his heart and prospered (2 Chronicles 31:20-21).

Yet no sooner did Hezekiah complete the spiritual reformation than the enemy came. And quite frankly, this is not unusual. The enemy always finds the faithful a threat and determines to take him down. When we love and serve the Lord, the enemy hates it. And he will do what it takes to bring us down and undo what God has done. Nevertheless, we must always remember, God is stronger.  What the enemy intends for evil, God is more than able to use for His good and for His glory.

And Hezekiah knew this. He knew God was stronger. He knew God was able. So with confidence he encouraged the people of Judah: “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be dismayed because of the king of Assyria, nor because of all the army that is with him; for the One with us is greater than the one with him. With him there is only an arm of flesh, but with us is the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles” (2 Chronicles 32:7-8a‭).

With him there is only an arm of flesh. But our God is greater. Hezekiah knew the truth that nothing and no one on this earth can take away what God has done. So even when the men of Assyria began taunting the men of Judah. Even when they ridiculed their trust in God, claiming that the God of Israel was no better and no stronger than the gods of the other nations they destroyed. Hezekiah knew the truth. He knew the king of Assyria had no clue who he was dealing with.

Therefore Hezekiah prayed. Hezekiah prayed for God to be God.

And God answered.

God sent an angel. I must admit I love this part. God could have armed Hezekiah and his men and given them victory through battle. But He didn’t. God could have sent a legion of angels to smite the Assyrian army.  But He didn’t. God wanted to show the king of Assyria that the God of Israel is like no other–the God of Israel is not the work of man’s hands; man is the work of His. So God sent an angel. Not angels. Angel. One angel sent by God “cut off all the mighty warriors and commanders and officers in the camp of the king of Assyria” (2 Chronicles 32:21). And the battle was over–over before it began. The God of all destroyed the enemy.

And what God did for Hezekiah, He is more than able to do for you as well.  Remember this truth today: “you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).  He who is with us is greater than anything and anyone who could come against us. Turning our eyes upon Jesus and remaining steadfast in our faith is never a mistake. No amount of unrest and turmoil threatening our earthly lives could ever undo what God has done within. The God who can change our hearts is powerful enough to change our circumstances as well. Yet I would be remiss if I did not insert here that even if He doesn’t–even if our sickness doesn’t go away, our loved one dies, and that dream job remains elusive–God is still God. He is more than able, and He always has a plan. We must keep believing and keep trusting that although God’s way may not be the way we want, we can rest assured it is the way He wills.

So let God show himself to be God in your life today. Whether He changes your attitude toward the circumstances, the circumstances themselves, or a little of both, let Him show you and show those around you that when God is with you, no one can stand against you.  Let Him remind your heart that the One who is with you is greater than the one with the world, for with the world is the arm of flesh, but with you is the Lord.

Advertisements

God’s Got This; God’s Got You

His Eye is on the Sparrow

Why should I feel discouraged and why should the shadows come?
Why should my heart be lonely and long for heaven and home?
When Jesus is my portion, a constant Friend is He, 
His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me.
His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me.

I sing because I’m happy; 
I sing because I’m free; 
His eye is on the sparrow
And I know He watches me.

Let not your heart be troubled; these tender words I hear; 
And resting on his goodness I lose my doubts and fears; 
Though by the path He leadeth but one step I may see; 
His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me.
His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me.

I sing because I’m happy; 
I sing because I’m free; 
His eye is on the sparrow
And I know He watches me.

Whenever I am tempted; whenever clouds arise; 
When songs give place to sighing; when hope within me dies; 
I draw the closer to Him; from care He sets me free; 
His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me.
His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me.

I sing because I’m happy; 
I sing because I’m free; 
His eye is on the sparrow
And I know He watches me.

“I know He watches me.” What a comforting thought; what a comforting truth. And with them comes both confidence and peace. Confidence knowing God’s got “this”–whatever “this” is.  And peace knowing God’s got you. This very moment you are in the hands of your loving heavenly Father. He’s watching over you. He cares for you. He promises to never leave you.  Yet the words of this beautiful song are not just wishful thinking; they aren’t just the cry of a heart hoping by some chance God will look its way. No. They are truth. They are words of life and love taken straight from the Word of God.

In the tenth chapter of the book of Matthew, Jesus sends out the twelve apostles. As He sends them out, He gives them instructions regarding what to bring and what to do. He also warns them not everyone will receive them and persecution will arise.  He reminds them that if people will persecute Him, then they will persecute His followers as well. Yet in addition to telling them what to bring and forewarning them being witnesses is not going to be a walk in the park,  Jesus gives them an important truth: no matter how bad it looks–no matter how much they are rejected, they are not to fear. Jesus tells them, “So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows (Matthew 10:26‭-‬31).

Fear not, for you are more valuable than sparrows. What a life-giving truth from the mouth of our Lord! When you don’t know what step to take, fear not. When the truth you speak is met with scorn, fear not. When you feel alone in your desire for righteousness, fear not. Fear not, because God’s got you. Not a single word spoken to you or against you is a surprise to the One who watches over you. Not a single deed done has not been foreseen by your Father in heaven. Even though you may not like nor understand why people come against you or why your future appears rocky, you can trust that the God whose eye is on the sparrow is also watching over you.

And this is my encouragement to you today: God knows. He knows your heart, your hurt, your confusion. He knows what you’re going through. He knows it all.  And He’s got it all.  He’s got you. Even if you feel unnoticed and unloved, God sees you and God loves you.  He sees your desire to follow Him. He sees your desire for truth. He sees your determination to speak in the light what He has told you in the dark. And whether or not people receive you–whether or not circumstances go your way–God’s got you. He’s got it all.

Fear not what man can do to you, my friend.  Fear not the uncertainty of what may come. For no man has the power to send you to hell. No one and nothing on this earth could ever change your eternity if you are a follower of Jesus. So walk out the words of our Lord today with confidence: Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. Walk with Him. Trust in Him. Follow His lead. And know that there is no need to be afraid–no need to dwell on the “what ifs” of this life. For the God who watches over sparrows is watching over you.

 

Beautifully Complex

O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
    you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
    and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
    behold, O Lord, you know it altogether….
13 For you formed my inward parts;

    you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
    my soul knows it very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
    intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
    the days that were formed for me,
    when as yet there was none of them.
Psalm 139:1-4; 13-16

Yes, I know, we have heard this passage time after time.   We often use this entire psalm to remind us God knows us more than we know ourselves, God formed us before the foundation of the earth, and God has plans for our lives beyond what we can see with our eyes.  Yet as I conversed with a friend the other day, and as I’ve watched the news headlines in recent days, God has reminded me of another important truth written within these lines, a truth that is key to living a healthy life as God intended. Yet it is also a truth currently being challenged by society. It is affecting our families, our friends, and most recently, our military. What is it?

Gender identity.

Now please don’t stop reading. I’m not one to typically broach such topics, but after recent events, I feel compelled to do so.

During a conversation with a friend the other day, my friend mentioned a child she knows who by physical traits, is a girl, but in all other attributes, is quite boyish.  The little girl likes all things boy–so much so the family will sometimes comment to this little girl, “You should have been a boy.” Now I know the intentions of such a comment toward the little girl are not meant for evil or made in a derogatory manner.  I know this little girl is well loved by her family. I understand they make this comment in a light hearted way simply because she is a girl who gravitates toward all things boy. I’d say their outlook is the equivalent of the tomboy label of years past.

Yet even though I know the good intentions of such a comment, hearing it the other day struck something inside of me. And my heart hurt for the little girl. For it is such comments–no matter how innocently spoken–that are filling the minds of impressionable young lives nowadays. Some boys are being told they “should have been” girls.  Some girls are being told they “should have been” boys.  And some parents are actually choosing to “let their children decide” what gender they desire to be. Yet in all this, young people are getting the wrong message. They end up thinking that if the ones they love believe they “should have been a boy” or “should have been a girl,” then maybe they should have been. Maybe the wires got crossed while they were being formed. Maybe what they were meant to be isn’t who they are. Maybe who they are is a mistake. In fact, some–believing their body a mistake–actually change their physical bodies to reflect who they think they should be.

This grieves my heart, for too many people are starting to think they are a mistake. But God doesn’t make mistakes. I repeat: God doesn’t make mistakes.

People make mistakes. And I believe it is in part our mistake as a society that has led to this gender identity crisis.

What is our mistake? It’s two-fold. First, we assume that just because someone acts in a way contrary to society’s definition of normal, then that person is a mistake.  We think if a boy plays with dolls or acts in a “feminine” manner then he must want to be a girl.   Or if a girl hates dresses and dolls but loves to play war and wrestle with the boys, then she must want to be a boy. We have these preconceived notions about what it means to be a boy and what it means to be a girl.

Yet our notions are just that. Notions. There is a difference between societal expectations and Biblical standards. Going against societal norms doesn’t equate with being out of God’s will. Nor does accepting God’s will always match up with the world. Going against the flow doesn’t make someone wrong; it just makes someone different. And God loves (and often uses) different. God loves (and often uses) unique. God doesn’t want us to act the way society expects; He calls us to be who He designed us to be. And if who we are does not fit the norms of society, then so be it.

It shouldn’t be wrong to be different. It shouldn’t be wrong for a boy to like things typically associated with girls. It shouldn’t be wrong for a girl to like things typically associated with boys. But it should be wrong to convince someone that God must have intended them to be someone else– that God somehow messed up in how He fashioned them.

Which brings me to our second mistake: we think we know more than God. We think that if our physical bodies don’t “fit” our personalities, then God must have made a mistake. And if God made a mistake, then we should fix it. Yet we have no right to “fix” God. We have no right to believe that when God intricately wove someone together that He somehow missed a stroke. We have no right to steer someone in a direction that leads them to doubt their value, their worth, and their God-given identity.

Here’s the deal. This gender identity issue isn’t about being born the wrong way; it’s about a group of people who feel the only way to feel whole is to change who they are. They feel they’re trapped in the wrong body because what people expect of them is not who they are. But God doesn’t want any of us to change who we are; He wants to use us as we are for His good pleasure.

Does the propensity of a little girl to be boyish mean her female features are a mistake? Should a little girl like the one my friend knows have been born a boy?

No! God doesn’t make mistakes. No one is born by accident. No one. God doesn’t create someone then say, “Oops! Why did I make her a girl?” God intricately fashioned each of us. He knew exactly what He was doing when He formed us. As He penned our story, He knew the qualities necessary to fulfill His plan. The One who created us–the One who formed our inward parts–knows the specific purpose He has for us, and it is with that specific purpose in mind He created us. God knows us more than we know us.

This girl my friend knows and those in similar circumstances to her are not mistakes; they are masterpieces. They were created by God for God. They are beautifully complex. In fact, we as people created by God are all beautifully complex. Each of us is unique. Each of us is a purposeful creation of our Creator. This means a female is meant to be a female, regardless of whether or not she chooses to act that way according to society’s standards.  A male is meant to be a male, regardless of whether or not he chooses to act that way according to society’s standards.

This little girl my friend knows, and all those individuals who may be struggling to figure out who they are, have been designed beautifully complex and for a specific purpose. Not one of them is a mistake. I fully believe God can and will use a little girl’s love of all things boy as well as her feminine identity to impact the world for His glory.  She doesn’t need to change who she is; she needs to be who she is.  And my prayer is that those who love her will speak such words of life into her heart so she may know she was designed complex and intricately by a God who loves her intimately.  She is valuable; she is a gift. And she is not mistake; she’s a masterpiece.

So my prayer today, and I hope it will become yours as well, is that every individual will see their worth and their value from God’s perspective–that they will realize and know God doesn’t make mistakes. God is more than able to and will use every aspect of our personalities–even the “unconventional” traits–for His good pleasure.

No one is a mistake; everyone is a masterpiece. And this includes you.  You are a masterpiece, my friend. You are a beautifully complex masterpiece. God did not make a mistake when he created you, when he formed you, or when he fashioned you. God knew exactly who he wanted you to be, and He designed you with that purpose in mind.

So today, whether or not you feel you fit into the mold of society’s standards and expectations–whether or not you live life inside or outside the box–remember whose you are: You are God’s. God created you, God loves you, and God will never let you go. He’s got plans for you, my friend–plans beyond your understanding, beyond your comprehension, yet full of hope and full of promise. You are special. You are unique. And you are loved. Don’t change who you are. Be who God designed you to be: fearfully and wonderfully made.

Heavenly Harvest

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.
Matthew 6:1

I’m sure we’ve all been there: compelled by the Holy Spirit to act, you sent an email or text to encourage a friend. You left a gift for someone in need. You paid a bill for a struggling family. You posted a particular Scripture on Facebook. You did something you knew at the time God had called you to do. You did it, not for human praise, but because you knew not to do it would have been to disobey God. You did it for God’s glory.

Nevertheless, even though your motives were pure, you were still a bit surprised when your act of obedience yielded silence in return. The text was left unanswered. The gift never mentioned. The family appeared unphased. That Facebook post apparently unread and without a single like. Again, you didn’t do it for the praise, but the silence leaves you wondering. Did you really hear from God? Was that really the Holy Spirit telling you to do or to say what you did? It sure would have been nice if someone would have provided a bit of confirmation you were on the right track–a little indication you had really heard from God. But nothing. Nothing other than the conviction you did what you did because God told you to do it.

Well, rejoice in this, my friend. Rejoice in knowing that in God’s kingdom, the silence of today might just be the distance between our faithful service and heaven’s eternal praise. Silence on earth does not mean we missed God. It may very well mean we did exactly His will; He’s just saving the full weight of applause for eternity.

Now I am not implying that confirmation or appreciation on earth negates any eternal reward. It’s okay to be appreciated. It’s okay to be thanked. It’s okay to be recognized. It’s okay to be blessed for being a blessing. What I am saying is that whenever we sincerely act as God commands, we must also remain confident that the God who sees all will one day reward all. We must not doubt we heard His voice just because our eyes see no visual confirmation of His approval. We must trust and believe any act of obedience to God–recognized or not on earth by man–will indeed reap an eternal harvest.

God does not judge based on how people receive or don’t receive what we do; God judges the heart. He takes note of our obedience. And whether or not our obedience is ever rewarded this side of heaven, we must continue the walk of faith–we must continue doing what God calls us to do. We must trust that God promises a harvest in heaven for those who sow on earth–and God’s promises are always yes and amen.

In Matthew 25, Jesus previews the judgment by describing how the Father will gather all nations and then separate them as a Shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He tells the sheep, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25:34). He thanks them for feeding Him, clothing Him, visiting Him, and taking Him in. Yet the sheep don’t understand. They ask God, “When? When did we do all this?” And God responds, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me (Matthew 25:40). This means every act of obedience–every act of generosity and goodwill we do as God commands–is the same as if we did it directly for Him. And whatever we do for God will also be rewarded by God.

I’m sure most will agree we are an instant gratification society. If we want something, we get it. If we put something in, we immediately want something back. Waiting is not something we like to do. Even my kids, when they have a question, don’t want to wait; they just come to me  and say, “Mom, ask your phone.”

But God works differently, for His timetable is eternity. Man’s recognition–or lack thereof–means nothing in eternity. Therefore, I encourage you today: don’t let the lack of human appreciation discourage you from walking the path of obedience. Do not grow weary in well doing. Keep listening. Keep obeying. Keep marching forward in faith knowing your Father who sees in secret will reward you–if not in this age, then definitely in the one to come. The seeds you are sowing now will one day be a beautiful harvest in heaven.

Keep on keeping on, my friend. You are loved.

He Heals the Hurt

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord ‘s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion— to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord , that he may be glorified.
Isaiah 61:1‭-‬3 ESV

Hurt. We’ve all been there. Someone says or does something that hurts our feelings. Or maybe it is something someone didn’t say or do that has hurt us. Regardless the scenario, we’ve all found ourselves in the position of hurt. Wounded. Broken. Crushed by the action or inaction of another.

Yet as I was praying the other day God reminded me about the other side of hurt–the pain caused by our own brokenness. The pain that makes past hurts present hurts again and again.

Let me explain.

Have you ever said something to or done something for another person and instead of receiving gratitude have received bitterness? Or instead of the other person just moving on with life, they fall at your feet in despair because of “what you did”? That innocent comment somehow crushed your friend’s spirit, and you don’t understand why. That email or text you mistakenly forgot to answer or didn’t think needed to be answered leaves the original sender doubting her very worth. A seemingly normal interaction between people ends in hurt–and you are left shaking your head wondering what just happened.

We’ve all been there. And if we’re honest with ourselves, we’ve all been on both sides. We’ve hurt others, and we’ve been hurt. Yet what God has been showing me is that our hurt is not always due to someone else’s actions. Sometimes people hurt us, not because they did something wrong, but because we were already broken.

Let me give you an example. When I was in middle school, silence was used for evil; it was used against me. It hurt me so much so that I began equating all silence with rejection. And since silence is what broke me, silence is what kept hurting me. I internalized the silence of the past–a silence used against me–and applied it to all silence in the present. Because of one season of hurtful silence, I created a lifetime of a fear of silence. Silence hurt me, not because people in my current circle were using it against me, but because people in my past did. Silence hurt because I was broken, not because silence was.

Once I realized the true source of my hurt, I addressed it and readjusted the lenses through which I had been viewing life. And although the change didn’t happen over night–it took counseling, prayer, and a faithful friend who fully understood silence was just that, silence–the change did happen. And the hurt went away.  And silence to me is now, well, silence.

So in my case, the silence of others hurt me, not because they were wrong, but because I was still broken. And it wasn’t until I let God bind up my broken heart that I could truly view silence in a healthy way–that I could truly view silence as what it is: silence.

Which leads me to my question for you today: are you hurt? Did someone say or do something that left you thinking, “How could they?” If so, then I encourage you to take some time to reflect on the reasons behind your hurt. Genuinely examine your heart and ask yourself, “Am I hurt because of what they did or because of what some else did in the past?” Did what they do with good intentions inadvertently touch that already existent bruise? Did what they speak in love grind into powders your already shattered self-esteem? If not, then great. I rejoice with you that your past hurts are not affecting your present circumstances. Nevertheless, I do encourage you to be diligent in your forgiveness of the other person so that this present pain does not influence your future interactions.

If you do see a past hurt affecting your present pain, then I encourage you to address it.  This may not be an easy fear to face, but I promise you it’s worth it. Recognizing that the hurt you feel may very well be your own brokenness is the first step to healing.  So let God heal you.  Yet as He heals you, do not beat yourself up if you cannot just snap out of it. Some hurts are so deep and took so long to develop that they require some time to heal. But as you face your fear–as you address those broken pieces–remember, my friend, God does heal. And He will heal.

So show God your broken pieces today; and let Him make you whole. For a bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench, until he brings justice to victory; and in his name the Gentiles will hope” (Matthew 12:20‭-‬21).

Sometimes By The Hand

“…on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt…” Hebrews 8:9 ESV

Have you ever taken your child by the hand or have had someone else take you by the hand? Maybe you took a child’s hand to lead them forward so they could overcome their fears, or maybe you’ve taken that same child’s hand to lead them out of the room because they weren’t listening. Maybe a child has taken your hand to joyfully show you what they’ve accomplished, or maybe you’ve led a blindfolded friend to the surprise party waiting for her in the other room.

Whatever the reasons you’ve taken someone by the hand or have been taken by the hand, there accompanies with each scenario a lead-follow relationship. Whether the one leading is taking the follower out of trouble or into joy, the one leading does so with purpose, and the one following must do so with an element of trust.

In the passage above we read that God took the Israelites by the hand to get them out of Egypt. The Israelites had been enslaved for years, and for years they had cried out for God to rescue them. But when the time came to get out of slavery and go into the unknown, the Israelites needed a helping hand–God’s hand. They were afraid. And they were actually a bit comfortable in their slavery. No, they weren’t happy being slaves, but the unknowns that accompanied freedom scared them. The what ifs of leaving were outweighing the joys of being free.

So God had to take them by the hand. He  “…struck down the firstborn of Egypt…and brought Israel out from among them…with a strong hand and an outstretched arm…” (Psalm 136:10-12). God had to lead the Israelites out of Egypt as a loving parent leads a tremulous child out of his comfort zone.

It wasn’t easy, and there was a lot of whining and complaining, but the results were worth it. And God knew it’d be worth it from the beginning; “…for his steadfast love endures forever…”(Psalms 136:12b)

That’s worth saying again: His steadfast love endures forever.

This means all God does (or doesn’t do) is done out of love. So even when we’re scared, and even when we don’t understand, we can know where He leads is where we should go.

Now sometimes in our walk with the Lord,  He leads us by saying, “Come, follow Me.” He bids us to take up the cross and follow in His steps. He doesn’t hold our hands. He just tells us to move on our own in the way He has commanded. In Matthew 14, Peter had to get out of the boat on his own. He had to walk out on the water on his own. Jesus didn’t reach into the boat to get him; He called him out.

But then there are other times we see God’s outstretched hand. He reaches out and asks us to grab hold and to let Him lead–or if we are stubborn, He just grabs our hand and commands us to follow. He literally takes our hand and leads us. Sometimes He leads us out of trouble, and sometimes He leads us into freedom. Regardless the reason, though, we must let Him lead and trust in His sovereignty. We must trust that when God takes us by the hand to lead us, it is because His love endures forever. It is because what God knows we need is sometimes harder for us to grasp on our own; we need His hand.

When God told Peter to get out of the boat, he was bidding Peter to follow Him.  And there are times in our life that we must get out of the boat ourselves. We must follow His lead. And we must keep our eyes on Him as we walk His way. But then there are times we need His hand. There are times when we, like Peter may be starting to sink. Or maybe we see the storm around us and are not sure where to go or what to do. Or maybe we are a bit uncertain stepping out of our comfort zone is worth the cost. Well it is those times that God does with us what Jesus did with Peter: He reaches out, takes us by the hand, and pulls us out (Matthew 14:31).  He pulls us out of the miry clay.  He pulls us out of our comfort zone. And he leads us in paths of righteousness for His namesake.

I’m not sure where you are in your walk today. Maybe you are hearing His still small voice telling you,  “This is the way walk in it.” If you do, trust His lead and follow in His steps. Or maybe you are seeing His hand reaching out to you, bidding you “Come. Take My hand and let me lead.” Or maybe you are starting to sink, and crying out like Peter, “Lord! Save me!”  Regardless the situation and regardless the circumstances, let me encourage you today with this: if you sense God’s hand, hold fast to it. Do not fear.  Do not fight it. Trust Him. He is God. And He loves you. He will not lead you astray, and He will never let you go. For His steadfast love endures forever.

Forgiven and Free

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
Matthew 6:14‭-‬15 ESV

Recently a comment from a friend caught my attention. She didn’t mention me or events of the past. It was actually a perfectly innocent comment on someone else’s post. It really had nothing to do with me.

But Satan tried to use it. For as I read her comment, the thought came to me, “I wonder if she really forgives me. I wonder if she still resents the way things went down. I wonder if she sees my posts and thinks, ‘What right does she have to be an encourager? How could she say that after what happened between us?'”

Of course, based on what I know of this person, I highly doubt such comments cross her mind. I fully believe the above thought was a lie straight from hell attempting to throw me off course. I fully believe she accepted my apologies for what happened. But it was as I refuted Satan’s attempt to derail my forward progress that God reminded me there is an aspect of forgiveness we must remember: it is not essential people forgive us; God’s forgiveness is what matters.

Let me explain. Forgiveness is a choice. Bitterness is a choice. Resentment is a choice. Most of us get this. We know we must choose to forgive others–we must choose not to harbor bitterness or resentment toward anyone. For we know the effects bitterness has on us physically, mentally, and spiritually.

But not everyone makes the right choice. Not everyone chooses to forgive. So what do we do when we find ourselves on the other side of forgiveness? What do we do when our sincerest apologies are met with hatred and rebuke?

We must keep moving forward. We must fix our eyes on Jesus and determine not to allow someone else’s unforgiveness to hinder our personal freedom. Jesus died on the cross for our sins. And anyone who has accepted Jesus as Savior and asked for forgiveness is indeed forgiven. Therefore, as Christ followers we are free from the law of sin and death. We may not be free from earthly consequences but we are free spiritually, and we are free from condemnation.

We are free–even if someone on earth chooses not to forgive us. For the forgiveness of others doesn’t save us; God does.

Did you get that? If someone doesn’t forgive you, it is their problem, not yours. It is the one who cannot forgive who will not be forgiven. It is the one who cannot let go who will never be free. Therefore each of us must daily–moment by moment–choose life. Each of us must choose not to let someone else’s bitterness affect our behavior. We must choose to seek first our Savior. We must choose to walk in newness of life. We must choose to pray for the one who harbors resentment toward us. And we must choose never to forget that anyone who is in Christ Jesus is free–free indeed.

So do you know Jesus? Then you are forgiven. You are free. And no matter what someone on earth may choose to do or not do could ever change what God has already done. God has paid the price. He has set you free. And you are forgiven. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death (Romans 8:1‭-‬2).