One of the Crowd

Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns.
Matthew 14:13 ESV

This morning I asked God who He would say my favorite Bible character is. When I paused to listen for the answer, I heard “Bob.” Yes, you read that correctly. I heard Bob. So of course I smiled to myself (while also thinking that maybe I had a little too much weird food yesterday), and then asked the question again. Yet again, I heard “Bob.” So then I asked why I was hearing Bob when I was asking for a Bible character. And this what I heard: my favorite Bible character is the one who followed God, who followed Jesus, and who faithfully served without being specifically named. My favorite Bible character is found in the masses. She’s the one who was part of the remnant in the Old Testament, the small group of people who never turned aside to idols. She is one of the ones in the crowds who followed Jesus wherever He went, even into the secluded places, which means she was one of the ones who sat down to eat a portion of those five loaves and two fish. She’s one of the thousands who chose to follow Jesus after hearing the sermon in Acts. She’s one of the ones who was in that home praying for Paul to be released from prison.

My favorite Bible character is the one who chose to follow Jesus right where she was. She wasn’t famous. She wasn’t popular. She was faithful. She served her God in everything, especially in the ordinary. She may have been largely unknown to man, but God saw her. And God loved her.

God sees each of us and loves each of us as well. He intimately knows each of us. Sure, we may never “make it” by the world’s standards. But when we choose to follow God right where we are, we will indeed see our name written in a book. The Book. The Book of Life that grants us entry into eternity with God. We don’t have to be popular to be faithful. We just need to serve. So I encourage you to serve the Lord faithfully today. Serve Him, seek Him, and follow Him knowing the One who sees in secret will one day reward in the open. You may not see your name in lights, but you’ll hear it. You’ll hear your Heavenly Father say, “ Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord” (Matthew 25:23).

Forgiveness

“I, only I, am He who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake, And I will not remember your sins. ISAIAH 43:25 AMP
Forgiveness–something gladly received yet often difficult to give. Nevertheless, although forgiving someone is often easier said than done, forgiveness of others is an important aspect of our walk with Him, for forgiveness of sin is what Jesus accomplished on the cross.
As we embark on embracing  forgiveness, we must keep in mind a couple of things. First, God alone is the only one capable of wiping away our sins. We as humans do not have the capability to alter someone’s eternal destiny.  Whether or not we choose to forgive someone does not affect whether that person goes to heaven or hell.  It’s that person’s relationship with Jesus that determines his destiny. This is what made the religious leaders so upset when Jesus told the paralytic his sins were forgiven. By saying such a thing Jesus was putting Himself in God’s position. Obviously He was right and justified, but the leaders of the time did not believe nor understand. 
Second, God forgives us because He paid the penalty for us.  God didn’t forgive us because we earned it. God didn’t forgive us because we deserved it. He forgave us for His own sake. He made us, loved us, and wanted to fellowship with us. Yet a holy God cannot fellowship with sin. Thus He sent Jesus. Forgiveness came through the cleansing blood of the spotless lamb of God.
So how does this the above information relate to forgiving others? Well, one way we show our understanding and gratitude for what God has done is to provide that same grace to those around us. No, this will not affect their destiny, but it will affect our hearts. In Matthew 18, Peter asked Jesus how often he should forgive those who sin against him. Jesus’ reply was in essence, “always.” He then told the parable of the wicked servant. In the parable, the wicked servant, after being forgiven of much, refused to give grace to another who owed far less than he. This lack of grace revealed an unrepentant heart. And the wicked servant paid dearly for it. The parable doesn’t describe what happens to the servant who had owed far less, but I don’t think that matters, because the point of the story is to explain that we are to forgive as we are forgiven. No, this doesn’t save others, but it does show our gratefulness for what God has done for us.
Even Jesus’ model prayer in Matthew 6 contains the prayer that we will forgive others as we have been forgiven. Jesus even expounds on this concept right after that prayer with the following:
For if you forgive others their trespasses [their reckless and willful sins], your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive others [nurturing your hurt and anger with the result that it interferes with your relationship with God], then your Father will not forgive your trespasses.
MATTHEW 6:14‭-‬15 AMP
Forgiving or not forgiving affects our relationship with God. To not forgive reveals an ungrateful heart. It also implies we think we have more authority than God. For we must remember all sin, whether done to us, by us, or around us, is ultimately sin against God alone. We may be hurt by someone’s sin, but the only one with the authority to judge that person is God.  And God sent Jesus to die for all sins–all of them–even sins that hurt us. If He forgives each of us; then He will forgive the one who hurts us as well. To harbor unforgiveness does more than hurt the earthly relationship separated by sin; it also negatively impacts our relationship with God in heaven. For unforgiveness is sin; and sin separates.
Therefore, I encourage all of us today–me included–to forgive and to show grace to all those around us. No one is perfect. All will be judged. Therefore, let’s do our best now to walk in love and grace and encouragement.  This isn’t always easy. Depending on the offense, it could initially appear downright impossible. But praise be to God what is impossible with man is more than possible with God.
So, as God’s own chosen people, who are holy [set apart, sanctified for His purpose] and well-beloved [by God Himself], put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience [which has the power to endure whatever injustice or unpleasantness comes, with good temper]; bearing graciously with one another, and willingly forgiving each other if one has a cause for complaint against another; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so should you forgive. Beyond all these things put on and wrap yourselves in [unselfish] love, which is the perfect bond of unity [for everything is bound together in agreement when each one seeks the best for others].
COLOSSIANS 3:12‭-‬14 AMP

The Work of God

Consider the work of God: who can make straight what he has made crooked? In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider: God has made the one as well as the other, so that man may not find out anything that will be after him.
Ecclesiastes 7:13‭-‬14 ESV

The Slinky. It’s a classic toy that’s been around for decades. It comes in numerous sizes and colors, and it is found in almost every toy section. Yet, no matter the size, the color, or the location of the slinky, one thing is certain: you cannot mess with its shape. If you straighten any coil, the slinky won’t slink. And trying to rebend a straightened coil or untangle crossed coils is all but impossible. A twisted, altered slinky is not good for anything, for the strength and usefulness of the slinky rests in its coils.

Now look at the above passage. When I read it, I thought of a slinky, for in the same way it is impossible to change a slinky without ruining the slinky, it is impossible for us to make straight what God has made crooked. We must trust that what God has made crooked He has done so for a reason. We may not like the uncertainty of the crooked ways in our lives. We may not like the jiggling that comes with such roads. Yet those crooked ways and all that jiggling, like the coils and jiggling of a slinky, are most likely the very things keeping us moving forward and getting us safely to our destination.

Our beginning, our end, and everything in between are no surprise to God. He knows the reason behind every turn and every curve. As God’s children, it is not our place to know the reason behind every twist and turn in our lives, but it is our duty to follow the lead of the One who does know.

God knows the why to it all, but all we need to know and to trust is the Who. If we know God, then we can also know that He can and will use it all–“even this”—for His good pleasure.   (I emphasize here God’s good pleasure; I didn’t say ours. What is good in God’s eyes is not always pleasing to ours.)

Therefore, I encourage you today to trust God’s sovereignty in your life. Trust His infinite wisdom. Walk each step with joy and with peace knowing that God deemed this the best way to go. No, it may not be pleasant; it may be devastating. But God can and will use it if we allow Him to.

The joy of a slinky is watching it “magically” move on its own, and the jiggling as it makes its way down the staircase actually enhances the experience. So today I pray that you may find joy in the jiggling and hope in the crooked. I pray that God will give you His supernatural peace in knowing that when you “trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding,” and,  “in all the ways acknowledge him,” then “He shall direct thy paths,” no matter how straight or how crooked those paths may be.(Proverbs 3:5‭-‬6 ESV)