Month: September 2019

Heart Transplant

Proverbs 17:9
Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends. 

Written by: Shannon Swenson

Remember when you first received the forgiveness of Jesus? Remember that first rush of pure, unadulterated love and grace? I don’t know about you, but receiving that forgiveness was a heart transplant for me. It was receiving, but not necessarily quite understanding, the love that I can never be separated from. I felt like I had a whole new lease on life; like He had literally begun to work in my heart from the inside out. Sounds a lot like transformation, doesn’t it? It is.

Imagine what forgiving someone does for our own hearts. Imagine what that does for God’s heart. Imagine what that could do for someone else’s heart.

Forgiving can be one of the hardest things we face in life! But the pain of living with bitterness and unforgiveness can poison our soul and destroy us. When we forgive, we are not saying that what happened was okay, but we are releasing them to God and letting go of its hold on us.

Through forgiveness, God heals our deepest heart wounds and frees us from the cancer of hate, self-pity, and self-contempt. Forgiveness frees us from the temptation to be judge, jury, and executioner when we want to be human and make things right by repaying the hurt that was laid upon us.

The Bible says, “seventy times seven,” which seems so daunting and unrealistic if left to our own human nature. But God.

So, seeking love? Yes, seeking the love of Jesus and seeking to be more like Him every day. Humanly speaking, man it is hard to forgive. It’s like surgery. It can be painful.  But God, He is faithful to fill you and I with forgiveness and grace as many times as we need it. It’s on repeat. Forever.

When past hurts rise up, our spiritual lives grow cold and our relational lives grow distant. But God is there.

He is always willing to help remind us of areas where we need to offer more mercy, grace, and forgiveness. We experience the great undoing of the total heart transplant of grace. We find out that forgiveness transforms lives, relationships, and eternities.

9.11Thought of the day: Who do you need to forgive today? Why are you still holding on to bitterness, resentment, or past hurts? Are you willing to take a step towards forgiveness and freedom?

Prayer: Thank You for Your forgiveness and for lavishing me with more grace than I deserve. Help me to let go of the pain, resentment, and bitterness that stand in the way of a closer relationship with You and others. Show me how to take that first step toward freedom. Transform my heart from the inside out for Your glory and my good. Give me courage to walk through the pain so I can be free on the other side. Help me to lead by example so that others will see that I don’t just say I believe in You, but I follow You and they may choose to say yes to you too. In Jesus’ name, amen.

The Mathematics of Forgiveness

Matthew 18:21-22
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”

Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

 Written by: Robert Watson

Jewish rabbis (teachers) of the time had discussed at length the amount of times one should choose to forgive their neighbor. They had come to the conclusion that an appropriately gracious amount would be up to, but no more than three times.

Peter had astutely observed the exceedingly generous nature of Jesus and therefore suggested doubling it plus one. Surely Jesus would be impressed by Peter. Instead Jesus says seventy-seven, or as it is understood in its Greek context: seventy sevens.

70 x 7 = 490 times

Peter only made it 1.4% of the way.

The point is that you don’t have to keep track of the number of times you have forgiven somebody. In reality, keeping track will keep us from truly forgiving. Forgiveness means canceling the debt, which is difficult to do when we keep detailed numbered records of each and every offense.

9.10Thought of the day: Is there somebody in your life you have grown tired of forgiving? It could mean that you need to build some healthy margins to minimize the damage. But it doesn’t mean that you should stop offering forgiveness.

Prayer: Pray for that person who has a tendency to need repeated forgiveness. Pray that God would transform them into the person He desires them to be. Pray for your own heart, that you would be patient and apply the mathematics of ongoing forgiveness as you leave the rest in God’s hands.

He First Loved Us

1 John 4:19-21
We love because He first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And He has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister. 

Written by: Jimmy Leaf

 Never before has the human heart been so accurately described than by Jesus (Mark 7:21-23).  He describes our hearts as being wicked, prideful, and untrustworthy. No other religion reveals the true character of man more than Christianity. Instead of giving a prescription of how to act to be redeemed, Christianity calls on us to humble ourselves to receive God’s forgiveness.

Jesus was innocent and we hung Him on the cross. Even then, He cried out to God to forgive us (Luke 23:34). In a form of poetic justice, the same soil God used to create man was the same soil that soaked up Jesus’ blood. This act gave us the ultimate ability to be forgiven and the ultimate example of how to forgive.

Before you humbled yourself and asked God for forgiveness, you were separated from Him. Likewise, when you harbor bitterness and unforgiveness for others, you separate yourself from them. In the end, all that matters are your relationships with God and people. In your humility, you were forgiven. In that same humility, forgive others.

9.9Thought of the day: Is there anyone in your life you are separated from because of unforgiveness?

Prayer: Jesus, I praise You for going to the cross and giving us the ultimate example! I pray You search my heart and reveal to me any pride that is separating me from those You call me to love. Please grant me with peace and wisdom. Amen!

Stir It Up

Luke 6:35
But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because He is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 

Written by: Chris Moss

And there he (or she) is again. You know the one: the guy you can’t stand, the woman you know is fake, or the relative who rubs you the wrong way.

Suddenly all of your negative emotions start to swirl in your gut. Everyone has an unworthy spoon who stirs up all the reasons you need Jesus, just like a spoon stirs up sediment in the bottom of a glass. These unworthy ones stir up the dregs and swirl them around your life. The dregs look disgusting and make you miserable. Go ahead, take a drink!

Then these spoons walk away, leaving you upset about yourself.

The Bible calls these people our “enemies” and we are commanded to love them and to do good to them. I don’t know about you, but sometimes, I want to shake my own spoon at God and say “Really? You want me to do what?”

Sometimes, you have to start with the third command in that trifecta: “Lend to them without expecting to get anything back.” I think this translates to “reduce your expectations.”

When you have to face an unworthy spoon, a person who requires extra grace, or an “enemy,” and you expect them to act like a normal person, they will fail. You will be disappointed. You will be miserable.

If you expect less, they might deliver. With reduced expectations, you won’t be disappointed. It reduces your own misery. If they happen to, on some rare occasion, exceed your expectations, you are blessed!

If you start by reducing your expectations with anyone who stirs you up, it makes loving them and doing good toward them less of a stretch.

9.6Thought of the day: God promises us a great reward for pushing through in awkward relationships. Are you ready to reduce your expectations and get the blessing?

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I ask for Your grace and mercy as I try to reduce my expectations of the “ungrateful and the wicked.” They are the unworthy spoons in my life. These people stir up all of the reasons I need more of Jesus! I know there are dregs in the bottom of my glass You want to stir up so the Holy Spirit can deal kindly with me. Because really, I can be the ungrateful and the wicked. Thank You, Lord, for dealing kindly with me. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Agreeing to Disagree

Acts 15:36-41
Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us go back and visit the believers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.” Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the believers to the grace of the Lord. He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.

Written by: Sarah Gauer

Sometimes I struggle with people pleasing. Sometimes I will sacrifice what I want or what I know to be right for the sake of avoiding an argument. Maybe you do this too, or know someone who does?

The problem with this is that my voice and my thoughts are important in my relationships. God made only one of me, with my unique experiences, personality, and perspective. If I withhold my ideas to avoid conflict, the other person doesn’t have the opportunity to know the real me or hear a different point of view. I miss the opportunity to be known and can become resentful. Everyone loses out in this scenario.

In the verses above, Paul and Barnabas disagree about whether or not Mark should join them on their next missionary journey. They both have good reasons for their arguments, and I suspect that their personality types contribute greatly to their stances. In the end, they couldn’t agree on how to proceed, so they went separate ways—Barnabas taking Mark as a partner and Paul taking Silas. As a result, the missionary efforts were doubled, reaching far more people with the message of the gospel in two different directions.

In this case, the goal was to spread the gospel to as many people as they could. Paul and Barnabas disagreed about the best way to do this, but they agreed on the ultimate goal. They both cared about the goal enough to go through the conflict to achieve it.

This applies to our relationships as well. If our ultimate goal is to have a solid and healthy relationship with another person, we have to be willing to go through the inevitable conflict to achieve it. We can agree to disagree on the details if we are both committed to the goal of seeing the relationship flourish.

9.5Thought of the day: What difficult conversation have you been avoiding? Is the health of that relationship worth the possible pain of the conflict?

Prayer: God, thank You for creating me to be in relationship with You and with others. Thank You for showing me the way to manage these relationships well. Father, show me any areas where I have been avoiding conflict and give me the courage to have difficult conversations for the sake of healthy relationships. In Jesus’ name, amen.