“Forgiven…”

“For by that one offering he forever made perfect those who are being made holy. And the Holy Spirit also testifies that this is so. For he says,

“This is the new covenant I will make with my people on that day, says the Lord:
I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.”

Then he says,

“I will never again remember their sins and lawless deeds.”

And when sins have been forgiven, there is no need to offer any more sacrifices.

Hebrews 10: 14-18

I had the most wonderful weekend. I was incredibly blessed to attend a Third Day concert with my friend, Jennifer. I love the music Third Day creates, so I had been looking forward to this weekend for a long time.

So there I was, singing, praying, worshiping, and generally having a magnificent experience. And suddenly, right in the middle of the concert, I was overcome with feelings of guilt and remorse over and event that happened years ago. The thought kept rolling through my mind, “How can you stand here and worship God with so much unresolved sin in your life?”

That was a downer. So I sat down in the middle of this huge crowd and began to pray through that situation. The truth is, both when it occurred and many times since then, I have prayed and asked God to forgive me for my part in the situation. But the problem is, I keep hanging onto it and feeling somewhat guilty and unresolved.

So I prayed through it some more, not really getting anywhere. But right before the concert ended, Mac Powell, the lead singer introduced the following song, and encouraged us to look at the person next to us and to affirm that we were indeed children of God.

Friends, I took one look into my friend’s eyes, I heard her say the words, “You are a child of God,” and I knew that I had been forgiven. It was a powerful experience. When someone speaks profound truth into your life, it changes you.

So I take this opportunity to share as much truth as I know with you. This is your time to get as close to our Lord as you possibly can.  Don’t allow any barriers, especially those you create yourself, to stand in your way.

If you have any doubts about your salvation; if you have any worries about God’s intent to forgive your past mistakes, please take the time to let this truth sink into your soul:

When Christ sets you free, you are free indeed.

  • When we pray and ask forgiveness for those things for which we are sorry;
  • when we repent and do our best to turn away from our mistakes;
  • when we ask the Holy Spirit to lead us, instead, down paths of righteousness

That is all it takes friends. Jesus says “It is finished.” And He means it. So live into that truth today and do not let the enemy of your soul convince your otherwise.

Heavenly Father,

I come to you asking for your forgiveness and mercy. I confess that I have sinned in the following ways: ______________________________________ . But I believe in your promises of grace and redemption. Create in me a clean heart. Fill me with Your Holy Spirit and show me any offenses I have committed against You or my brother. Change my heart and cloak me in humility. And I trust You to lead me down the paths of righteousness.

 In the name of Jesus Christ, my Savior, I pray,

Amen

Song for the day: Children of God – Third Day

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1pn6Ry46KOc

Lectio Divina Passage for the Day:

“I am counting on the Lord;

    yes, I am counting on him.

    I have put my hope in his word.

 I long for the Lord

    more than sentries long for the dawn,

    yes, more than sentries long for the dawn.

 O Israel, hope in the Lord;

    for with the Lord there is unfailing love.

    His redemption overflows.

 He himself will redeem Israel

    from every kind of sin.”

 

Psalm 130:5-8

“The Unknown…”

“Don’t you know? Haven’t you heard?  The Eternal, the Everlasting God, The Creator of the whole world, never gets tired or weary.  His wisdom is beyond understanding.”

Isaiah 40:28

It is easy to praise our Lord and Savior when things are going well isn’t it friends? It is easy to speak of His grace and mercy when we feel we understand His plan and can see what He is doing. But today our deep work begins.

We cannot speak of our faith unless we have examined all aspects of it. Oh, how I wish that things always worked out the way I prayed. And I wish that I could see God’s plan clearly for every circumstance I encounter. But that is not the way life is.

So let’s think about this and stretch ourselves a little over the weekend. What are those issues that you don’t understand, or can’t reconcile with your understanding of the Almighty? They can be personal, or global in nature. Maybe, you have never had those conversations with God and don’t know where to start. Try beginning here:

“How could a loving God _______________________________________________________?”

Spend some time in deep prayer over these issues and ask God to reveal himself to you. Maybe He will. But the primary goal of this exercise is not to hear from God, but instead to build our own comfort level with the “not knowing.”

For our faith to grow and get strong, we have to be able to have peace in our hearts with the unknown. We have to be able to trust God, even if we don’t understand what He is doing. Peace isn’t real peace if we only have it when we are in control and everything is working the way we want.  And the longer I walk with the Lord, the more I realize that I almost never see the whole picture.

Most of the important parts of life are unknown aren’t they? Let us spend a few days wrestling with our expectations and may we find ourselves in a deeper, more intimate conversation with our Creator. And may His grace fill you with the peace that surpasses all understanding about the questions that take up residence in your soul.

Peace be to you friends.

Song of the day: What Do I Know of Holy? – Addison Road

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N6J5TzSE_18

Lectio Divina Passage for Today:

 Then Job replied to the Lord:

 “I know that you can do anything, and no one can stop you.

 You asked, ‘Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorance?’

    It is I—and I was talking about things I knew nothing about, things far too wonderful for me.

 You said, ‘Listen and I will speak!  I have some questions for you, and you must answer them.’

 I had only heard about you before,  but now I have seen you with my own eyes.

 I take back everything I said, and I sit in dust and ashes to show my repentance.”

 Job 42:1-6

“Very Funny, Lord…”

So I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” – Mark 11:24

An excerpt from my prayer journal – dated yesterday:

“What am I to do, Lord? Please give me an answer. Would it even matter? “ ………

“Very funny Lord. You are just sitting up there chuckling at me aren’t You? Thank You for that text. You are a good and faithful God.”

Here is what happened. I have been seeking God’s answer for over 6 months on that question. And I have really taken it to heart, and prayed for direction. It has been a very serious daily endeavor for me. And to be honest, I have felt the presence of God through it, but I haven’t received the ANSWER. You know, the big, flashing neon sign saying “DO THIS!” But I keep asking because I really want to know what He wants me to do. It is so important to me that I know I am in His will, that I won’t make a move until I am sure of what He wants.

So, I am sitting in my prayer chair, once again fervently praying for Him to give me an answer. This is serious stuff. But, dang it, my phone keeps beeping at me! I try to ignore it, but it continues. No, it can wait. This is my time with the Lord, and it is precious. Nothing is going to interrupt us.

Ding, Ding, – “answer me” it taunts me.

“NO! I am listening for an answer from God”

Ding, Ding…

“Aargh… I only have 10 more minutes until my kids get home. I am staying right here.”

Ding, Ding… It might be your kids needing you…

“OK!! I guess I can pray later (angrily stomping over to the phone)…”

Can you imagine my shock, friends, when I saw a text from an old friend, completely out of the blue, with very much part of the answer I was seeking in my prayer? It was amazing. It wasn’t the whole answer I am looking for. But it was definitely an affirmation that God is listening and that He is fully engaged with me. In a one-line text, He didn’t tell me where to go, but He told me to keep walking in this direction. He affirmed that He is with me, and assured me that I will get my answer at the right time.

What an awesome God! And I am so thankful to that sweet friend for following her instincts and sending me that much needed message.

What did I learn from this?

Don’t put God in a box!

  1. Don’t pre-determine how He will speak with you. Don’t close your eyes to the possibility that He might just interrupt your carefully constructed plans to give you what you need.
  2. If you are asking for something, have faith that He will answer. It might not be when you want, or even what you want – But He has promised to answer. And we need to hold on to that.
  3. And above all else, never underestimate His sense of humor. He delights in us, and I believe has much joy in helping us to find our way. Whereas I might be overly burdened with my approach to finding Him, His ways can be light and carefree.

Most gracious Father,

Thank You for Your continued presence with me. I know You are here, even if You are not giving me what I want in this moment. I trust that You are giving me what I need. You surprise me, Lord, and never do what I expect. You delight me in the ways You reveal yourself to me. You are my King, in whom I place my trust.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen.

Lectio Divina Passage for today:

 When he entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, appealing to him  and saying, “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, in terrible distress.”  And he said to him, “I will come and cure him.”  The centurion answered, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only speak the word, and my servant will be healed.  For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and the slave does it.” When Jesus heard him, he was amazed and said to those who followed him, “Truly I tell you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith.” – Matthew 8:5-10

 Today’s song: (An oldie but goodie!) Come Thou Font of Every Blessing:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ax_NMWLEb6U

 

“My Iniquities…”

“But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed.

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have all turned to our own way, and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

Isaiah 53:5-6

There are so many different ways to connect with God. Finding the one way that works for us is sometimes a bit difficult. We have mentioned many different ways over the past few days, however, one channel of communication that seems to work powerfully for many is music.

As I have watched over the years, for some, music is their worship and a very tangible experience. The variance is so great that I could never touch all the different sources, however, over this Lenten season I will endeavor to share a song of the day from many different styles and time periods. Maybe one will speak to your spirit.

Spend some time today either listening or watching the attached video, and let it sink down into your soul. How do you respond to the message? What kinds of emotions do you notice as you contemplate the words?

May God’s presence surround you this day, friends.

Lectio Divina Passage for today:

“Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common. With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all.  There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold.  They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.” – Acts 4:32-35

“A Sacred Encounter…”

“In you, O Lord, I seek refuge; do not let me ever be put to shame; in your righteousness deliver me.  Incline your ear to me; rescue me speedily.  Be a rock of refuge for me,a strong fortress to save me. You are indeed my rock and my fortress; for your name’s sake lead me and guide me, take me out of the net that is hidden for me, for you are my refuge.  Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God.”

 Psalm 31:1-5

I had the most incredible, tangible encounter with God yesterday. I just had to share it with all of you. I am a part of a new Sunday morning group that has begun for Lent, Praying with the Psalms.

Yesterday, we took the above scripture and used it for a lectio divina exercise. I urge you to try it today. You might find it fruitful.

Lectio Divina (Sacred Reading) is a centuries old practice of reading and meditating on scripture. Created by St. Benedict, it helps us to let God’s word sink into our hearts, and therefore, become part of our prayer experience. Here is how it works:

 

  1. Find a place free of distractions and set aside at least 15-20 minutes of time that you can remain uninterrupted.
  2. Read the scripture slowly. Or better yet, listen to it. https://www.biblegateway.com/resources/audio/ This particular audio version covers much more than the verses we are studying today. The final line of our passage is “ you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God.”
  3. Pay attention to any words or phrases that particularly stick out to you
  4. Read or listen to the passage again.
  5. Meditate on it; turn it over in your mind. Reflect on why these particular words catch your attention.
  6. Read the passage this time. Let it sink into your soul. Consider what God might be saying to you through this passage.
  7. Read or listen to the passage for a fourth time. Relax into the presence of God and contemplate what the scripture means for you and how you will respond. Will you respond with thanksgiving or a song? Will you draw a picture? Are you being called to do something specific? Or do you need more time to pray and seek its meaning?
  8. Consider making the relevant passage part of your ongoing conversation with God today. Seek His presence continually.

Lectio Divina can be a powerful form of prayer for many of us. For the remainder of Lent, I will always add a “Lectio Passage” to the end of our devotion for the day. If this form of prayer works for you, please enjoy using them.

May God’s presence reside tangibly among you friends.

Amen

“Building the kingdom…”

“We are convinced that you are made for better things, the things of salvation, because God is not unjust or unfair. He won’t overlook the work you have done or the love you have carried to each other in His name while doing His work…” – Hebrews 6:9-10

How do you experience the presence of God? There is no right answer. For many of us, we don’t know how to answer that question, however, it is critical that we understand our relationship with Christ. We all connect in different ways, and that is the way He wired us.

For some of us, music is the channel. For others, the Word. Nature has a way of speaking; as does art. Oh, and don’t forget the counsel of faithful friends. The truth is, God speaks in more ways we can count. The key to our relationship with Him is figuring out how we are individually tuned to hear. We all work on different frequencies.

My good friend, Michael, goes faithfully to Nicaragua each year to build homes for people that have none. He blessed me once by sharing his motivation for spending his vacations in a hot, bug-infested jungle while eating only beans and tortillas 3 times a day.

In all honestly, that sounds perfectly wretched to me. (I never said I was the model Christian.) But for Michael, it is so much more than a mission experience. He explained how this was the place where he most powerfully connected with God. If I recall correctly, his words were, “I never feel the presence of God more powerfully than when I have a hammer in my hand.” – BEAUTIFUL! What a testimony. I am so thankful that he shared that experience with me, because I most likely, would never have thought of that as a way to drawn near to my Savior.  But he would never miss it.

As we invest each day of this Lenten season seeking to connect and know Jesus more fully, maybe we can try some new experiences. Maybe we can take in the full realm of God’s glory by stepping out of our comfort zones and seeing Him at work in a different place. Perhaps, in addition to focusing inward, we should try focusing outward in the service of others. And just maybe, we will find a brand new means of grace for our journey.  Where is it that He might call  us if we are willing to go?

Grace to you friends.

Heavenly Father,

Blessed is He who comes in the name of our Lord. He is the Christ. The One who binds up the broken-hearted, heals the sick, cares for the orphans, and sets the captives free. Give me a heart for those You care about my king. Create in me a longing to love those in need of Your healing touch. Lead me to be a servant for Your kingdom and Your glory. And through Your grace, may my heart and mind be transformed.

In the name of my Savior I pray,

Amen

If you are looking for an opportunity to serve others during this season, there are several opportunities being made available through our church, Liberty Crossings. Most notably, we will be hosting another Habitat for Humanity Build Day. On March 12th, we will gather (no experience necessary,) to help build a home for a family in need. For more information, please contact Mark Harmon: mharmon@renasant.com

“For God So Loved…”

“For this is how God loved ______________: He gave his one and only Son, so that when ________________ believes in him _________________ will not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:16

Last week I had the wonderful privilege of assisting with the imposition of ashes at our Ash Wednesday service. It is my most favorite service of the year and I was so overjoyed to be a part of it with my church family.

This morning, a kind church member shared with me how much she enjoyed the service as well. I was delighted to hear how much she appreciated my using her name while sharing the ashes with her. She said it made her experience much more personal.

Well, that is the whole point – of everything we do. Our relationship with our Savior is a personal thing. It is the most personal, intimate and fulfilling relationship we should have.

Our Lord is not some cosmic force out in the nether regions that we have no contact with. He is real and as close as a whisper. He dwells with us and in us, and knows everything about us. Much more so than any human being ever could.

But because He isn’t here “in the flesh,” this is a hard concept to grasp sometimes. It doesn’t make sense on its surface that the King of the universe knows, cares, and walks close beside me on a daily basis. That is an idea too big for me.

However, just because I don’t fully understand it, doesn’t make it any less true. God’s word is full of His promises to remain with us at all times. But even more so, we are assured that He knows each one of us in detail. And laying claim to that reality is a wonderful place to begin our Lenten journey.

So we are going to try 2 exercises today. One is short in nature, the other longer and more complex. But both can be incredibly meaningful in our efforts to draw closer to Him.

First, take the above scripture from the Book of John. A very famous verse, you may even know it by heart. Spend the next 24 hours repeating it to yourself, but take the faceless mass out of the picture. Instead, insert your own name in the blanks. Try it. And really focus on what it says to you in that time.

Second, you might try this prayer. I pray often that God will let me see people as He sees them. It makes it easier for me to understand and, sometimes, love them. God sees us for who we really are, and He loves us, sometimes in spite of ourselves. Our flaws and shortcomings do nothing to diminish His love for us. In addition, He deals only in truth. So He can see the not-so-lovely parts of us, but He also sees our great potential to be who He created us to be. He rejoices over us and sees the best in us. He is our loving Father.

So, if you really want to know how much God knows and loves you personally, you might try this.

Heavenly Father,

You are my Creator and Sustainer. I cannot hide from You. You know and see everything about me. And You love me anyway. Lord, in Your grace and mercy, help me to see myself through Your eyes. Reveal to me, what You see when You look at me. I want to believe that You truly know me. Help me to hold on to that promise.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen