In a recent exchange of emails with a friend who lives in Texas, he confessed he had not attended church for years.
He added, “After being on fire when I discovered the teaching of The Word at Calvary Chapel in a converted strip center, several years down the road I watched us grow and move into a large new building and, to me, the church became a stranger to me…a victim of its success you might say. I know The Lord. I crave The Lord. But I have been absence from audience with Him, deceived I’m sure by The Enemy into thinking that I’m doing just fine by my own self-righteous indignation. Perhaps I am, but that has separated me from The Word as well. Psalm 119 tells us to hide God’s Word in our hearts so as to not sin. The characters have faded because of my absence.”
God will never forsake or abandon His children.
I can relate. I, too, drifted away from my Christian upbringing, which began in Lake Charles, La., where my sister and I grew up walking to a small church just a block away from where we lived. We attended faithfully. After leaving home, my church attendance was sporadic until my sons were born. I wanted them to have the same foundation so I returned only to leave, once again, in my late 30s.
It wasn’t until almost 10 years later that I realized what was missing in my life. It wasn’t just the fellowship of Christian believers but a relationship with my Savior and Lord. So, in 2001, I recommitted my life to Him.
Posting encouraging sayings and Bible verses on Facebook is part of my ministry. The responses I receive from others about my posts encourage and bless me too.
Recently, I posted the following: “God’s mercy is bigger than your mistakes.” I received the usual responses like “Amen” and “Praise God.” However, one response baffled me. The woman who responded is not a “friend” on Facebook but can still see my posts. She wrote, “I don’t know about that.”
When I answered with, “Yes, it’s true,” she replied with “I hope you’re right.”
Don’t let poor choices and sins define you.
I encouraged her to read the Bible. Later that day, I decided to search for scriptures to reassure her. After locating 37 different verses about God’s mercy, I posted several below her response in hopes it would help her. I wondered why she felt God’s mercy could not overcome her mistakes. I also wondered about the mistakes she had made.
We all make mistakes. None of us are perfect. It’s how we learn, and if we are willing to admit we made wrong choices, we grow in wisdom.
Paul reminds us in Romans 3:23-24 that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”
“Day by day the Lord observes the good deeds done by godly men, and gives them eternal rewards”— Psalm 37:18 (TLB).
Barefooted and clad in a sheet, the man shuffled across the street. With head down, his demeanor suggested someone who was lost. This photo of humanity had been captured by a Tulsa World photographer and was plastered across the top inside page of a recent Sunday newspaper.
After snapping the photo, the curious photographer wanted to know the rest of the story. Why was this man walking across the street with a sheet around his shoulders? Upon approaching him, the photographer discovered the man had just been released from a criminal justice center early that morning, wearing nothing but a pair of shorts.
There are no limits to God’s amazing grace.
The man had called an ambulance in an attempt to get a night’s hospital stay. In addition to the ambulance, the police showed up. According to the man’s story, authorities then arrived and gave him a sheet to protect him from the cold until he could eat breakfast at a local soup kitchen and food pantry when it opened.
When the photographer first spotted the sheet-clad man, he said, “(It was) incredible for me because of the religious implications, but it was unusual to see a barefoot man walking down the street wrapped in a sheet.”
“Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one”—Colossians 4:6 (NKJV).
Hello.” No answer. “Anybody there?” More silence. If there had been a button to push, I would have pounded it with my fist. Yes, I was in a hurry. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have been eating fast food for breakfast. The cars in the other drive-through lane had arrived after me. What was wrong with the woman taking orders? It was my turn.
I said, “Hello,” again. This time, a male voice answered. “I’m sorry for your wait. What can I get you this morning?”
I ordered an Egg McMuffin then pulled forward to pay for my breakfast. When the young man pulled the window open to take my money, he said, “Since you had to wait so long, I’m going to give you two Egg McMuffins.” He smiled. I didn’t. I wanted to reply with a snarl, “Why don’t you just give me a free one? I don’t need two.” But I didn’t. Instead, I handed him my money and thanked him.
As I drove away, that still, small voice convicted me. Others, like me, were also in a hurry. Yet, my impatience with the woman taking orders had surfaced and my attitude needed an adjustment. In my spirit, I heard, “It’s all about grace.”
We deserved punishment, but God graciously gave us the gift of His Son, Jesus Christ.
I had not reflected God’s grace toward the people who were serving me. Yes, it is their job. However, they were doing the best they could during the morning rush hour at McDonald’s.
“Let’s take a good look at the way we’re living. Let’s return to the Lord”—Lamentations 3:40(NIRV).
Yuck! How long had it been? I didn’t know, but I knew it was long overdue.
When I found myself in the mood to do some serious housework, I wasn’t looking forward to cleaning my refrigerator. While I had kept up with wiping down the inside surfaces I could see, I wasn’t excited about tackling what I knew was probably a mess in the hidden places.
If you’ve ever cleaned a refrigerator, you know what I’m talking about. Those spills you wiped off of the shelves made their way to the bottom underneath the veggie and fruit drawers. Maybe you planned to get to it later but forgot. Maybe, like me, you’re a procrastinator.
I was filled with insecurities, doubts and secrets.
How often do we procrastinate when it comes to doing things we’d rather avoid? I know I’m guilty. In the past, I very seldom put things off. It just wasn’t in my nature. However, as I have embraced each birthday, I’ve started to examine what is important. Evidently, I’ve decided cleaning out the deep recesses of my refrigerator is not a high priority.
Before Jesus got ahold of this woman, I could tell you my priorities didn’t line up with His. Instead, I was more concerned about how things appeared on the outside. For example, my house was always clean, so clean you could have eaten off the floors most days. My now-grown sons can tell you I wasn’t the easiest mother to live with when it came to keeping our house clean.
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”—Romans 3:23 (HCSB).
If you’ve ever seen a wisteria vine, especially in bloom, you know its charms are almost impossible to resist. That’s what drew me to purchase one about four years ago. When I first saw the beautiful lavender flowers on the vines wrapped around an arbor in a neighbor’s yard, I knew I had to have one.
I succumbed to the beauty of the blooms dangling from the vines. Mesmerized, I couldn’t wait to have one growing over the arbor in my own backyard. After purchasing one at a local garden center, I hurried home to plant the woody, climbing vine. However, I soon discovered this invasive plant has a mind of its own.
In an article by Jeanne Rostaing called, “Wisteria: A Dangerous Beauty (Are You Tempted?),” she says, “You are not the first to succumb. Marco Polo was an early conquest. He brought wisteria seeds out of China in the 13th century. But you would be wise to take the time to get to know this beauty before you commit to her. Like a Jezebel, she will steal your heart and then, after you are weakened and besotted with love, she will set about to dominate your garden and, if possible, your house. Take this caveat to heart: she is fully capable of attempting to murder your other plants.”
Does God need to do some pruning in your life?
While the wisteria has not taken over my house, it dominates my arbor and the corner of the backyard where it is planted. Even if I had known how much work this plant takes to maintain, I would still have planted it because I love working in my yard. The resulting beauty of my labor is worth the efforts I expend.
“Forgive, and you will be forgiven”—Luke 6:37 (NRSV).
Upset she had cheated my son out of $30, I didn’t want to forgive her. I was also mad at myself because I had been used in the process. I guess it’s because I trust too much, trust others to do unto me as I would do unto them. However, I failed to remember not all people are trustworthy.
My son had agreed to purchase two items through an online site where people buy, sell and trade merchandise. Because the seller lived in a community closer to me, and because my son works odd hours sometimes, he asked me to contact her, set up a time to meet and pay for the merchandise. I agreed.
We met nearby in a public place where we made the exchange. Because I trusted that my son and this woman had made the deal, and he knew what he was getting, I got into my vehicle without checking the merchandise. Placing them in the cup holder beside me, I noticed a small part had fallen off one of the items. Picking it up, I discovered the part could not have broken off just by my handling it. It had been broken when she handed it to me.
“Forgiveness doesn’t make the other person right, it makes you free.”
I knew the seller hadn’t gone too far up the highway so I called her. I was trying to be gracious when I said, “The merchandise I just purchased from you…something is wrong. A piece fell off.”