Are you Cold and Bubbly or Hot and Steamy?

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“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32)

Christianity is more than a mere list of dos and don’ts. God does have boundaries, and we do reap the consequences of our actions here on earth. But when we become wrathful, angry, bitter, and slanderous in how we respond to the mote in our brother’s eye, we need to get the beam out of our own, because those are the works of the flesh and as poisonous to us as what we are attempting to correct in others–in some cases, more so even.

Let our kindness and tenderness be truthful, directed towards encouraging one another to godliness. But kind and tender we must be if we want to be like Jesus–and we have to forgive like Jesus, too. God forgives when we repent and turn from our sin in sorrow, so we must not hold past sins God has forgiven against our brothers and sisters, either–and bitterness and anger against all offenses must be put off (into Christ’s hands in prayer.) So we must forgive everyone in the sense of the word where we are simply letting go of bitterness and anger and leaving vengeance/payback to God. But you can forgive someone in that sense but still protect yourself and not reconcile with someone who is still a threat to you. Only when the person has repented in the sense of turning from their sin and thus ceasing to be a threat does the Bible requires us to forgive in the sense of reconciling with the person and continuing on as if they had never sinned against us.

photo credit: JLS Photography – Alaska Sign of spring . . . via photopin (license)

Being on fire for God is a good thing, but lets remember what was so amazing about the burning bush. The Holy Spirit’s manifestation as fire in the bush was not burning the bush or anyone around it. When we’re full of the fire of the Lord, we should have more in common with a bubbly cold spring that consistently gushes forth sweet and refreshing than a hot, steamy geyser that scalds anyone who happens to be standing too close when it erupts.

Lord, search our hearts. If there be any hidden anger, bitterness, or an unforgiving attitude in our way today, reveal it to us, and strengthen us and grant us the will to share that pain honestly with you and release the offense into your just hands. Show us the path in which you would have us walk and grant us the courage to take those steps with you. Pour into our hearts today grace, love, and kindness that overflows and gushes onto others so we might build up one another and not tear down your work. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.

[tweetthis]Are you Cold and Bubbly or Hot and Steamy? #devotional #forgiveness #kindness[/tweetthis]

Revised version of a devotion originally posted on May 11, 2011

When Grief and Thanksgiving Collide

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November 27, 2014 is Thanksgiving in the US. It is a day when Americans gather around a big turkey feast, thus it is also known as Turkey Day to those who forget this day is about more than food and football. It is about remembering the first settlers’ difficult fight to survive a harsh winter, one many of them lost. The first settlers managed to bring in a successful harvest the following autumn and celebrated this by holding a traditional English harvest festival. It is that event which the Thanksgiving feast commemorates.

The original community who gave thanks to God for their life-saving harvest had buried over half of their loved ones the previous winter, including most of the mothers, who probably died due to giving their shares of the insufficient food supply to their children. This year, it strikes me hard that people who ought to have been still grieving such bitter losses found the strength to rejoice and be grateful for what they didn’t lose. After all, November 27, 2014 is also the one-month anniversary of my mother’s death.

For my extended family, the pain remains quite fresh. We still don’t know why my mother so suddenly lost her life, since her known injuries shouldn’t have been fatal. Gratitude doesn’t come easy. In fact, it’s quite hard.

For me, the first step was definitely acknowledging to myself, God, and others I felt comfortable telling that I feel inclined to react to Thanksgiving daring to come this year with sarcastic anger. How can we be grateful in the midst of loss? It’d be difficult to suffer someone daring to lecture me to be thankful and grateful at such a time. Mind you, something about losing my mother makes me also feel more painfully my loss of being a mother to infertility. Adoption can’t cure it. Any child I do bear later also can’t replace the ones I’ve failed to have, so, yeah, my mind wants to fixate on my losses.

My second step was freely deciding I don’t want to stay in such a bitter frame of mind. This was followed with me freely deciding to trust God enough to feel God is still worthy of praise and asking him to give me a grateful heart.

“Seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you,” Mathew 7:7 says, and God’s promise is faithful and true. I have felt peace in my heart, I am grateful for the comfort of the Holy Spirit, my husband’s support, the prayers of many. I am grateful Mom did live long enough to see her prayers answered and my most estranged relationship with my sister healed. It would’ve been most sad if someone besides Jesus had to die to accomplish that miracle. I am thankful for the two local friends who brought us meals, for the local friend and my in-laws, whose financial gifts helped us pay for our emergency trip back east for Mom’s funeral, which otherwise would’ve been a huge financial strain on my husband and I.

If Thanksgiving and mourning collide for you, let them. Feel the hurt. Grieve the loss. Be honest before God and trusted friends and family. If you want to heal, though, one path is to make the choice to not allow grief to keep you from being there for the living during the holidays, to make the choice to honor the true meaning of Thanksgiving by asking God to help you look up from your losses, to help you see the harvest God has blessed you with, and give you the strength to appreciate it. Know how much it means to God when we offer up a sacrifice of praise. Giving thanks to the Lord for what we have when we’re mourning deeply touches the Lord’s heart.

Balancing Act

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Do not hate a fellow Israelite in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in their guilt. Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD. Lev 19:17,18

Quite odd verses to put together. It appears to be saying: Don’t hate your fellow Christian in your heart, but rebuke them openly, for looking the other way at sin makes you complicit in it. Don’t take revenge or bear grudges, but love your neighbor as yourself. It’s odd to us because we have often been led to believe by the world that love does look the other way, that love is open minded and tolerant and accepting. A love that calls sin what it is and shows others their faults (between you and  him alone) while being gracious, forgiving, bearing no grudge and seeking no retribution leaves heads scratching whichever way we tend to fail in this area.

Narrow is the way? No kidding, sometimes I’m not sure if the Lord’s way is more a balance beam or a high wire act. But I know we are working with a net.

Lord, thank you for your grace. I pray we would not take advantage, but seek to walk in grace and love as you define it. Give us boldness and wisdom to what to speak and when. Show us any anger or frustration or bitterness we need to open up to you about and release to you  today, so we can love others as you love us. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.