I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. ~ Philippians 3:14

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Years ago, while training for a marathon, I managed to get shin splints, plantar fasciitis and some of my toenails even fell off. But none of this mattered. I thought only of the goal – to complete the 42 km race. Once, my non-runner husband joined me for a run. Halfway through, he questioned why I love running when it’s so painful. But it was a passion, and I put up with the pain during training when I remembered the reward of finishing well.

Recently, I described to my daughter that anything worth doing – even those things you enjoy –  will have some dislikable elements. It takes a great deal of hard work to accomplish worthwhile things. There will be uphill climbs, pain to push through, difficulties you must rise above, moments when you wonder if you should give up, and why you ever wanted it in the first place. But in the end – once you are passing through the finish line – you know it was worth it.

Jesus understood this struggle all too well. He endured pain, rejection, shame, betrayal and beatings. He did so knowing He was moving forward toward a much greater purpose. The cross was His finish line and he dragged himself uphill, bone weary and brokenhearted so we could be fully forgiven, have an intimate relationship with His Father, and have abundant, eternal life. He was fully aware of His purpose, and though exceedingly difficult, did not allow Himself to be dissuaded from accomplishing it.

Jesus understood the enormity of His purpose: that He was sent to take our sin on Himself and die in our place. No small or simple task. And though it may have appeared final, the cross was not really the end. Jesus also conquered death when He rose again. And now, He is at the right hand of the Father cheering for us.

“Christ Jesus who died–more than that, who was raised to life–is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.” ~ Romans 8:34

And so, we too have a purpose and must not lose sight of the finish line. We must press on toward the goal. We may face uphill battles, rocky terrain, storms, and pain. We may suffer rejection, betrayal, and feel beaten down – in all these ways we partake in Christ’s sufferings. We may run with others for a time, and then at times utterly alone. But we don’t allow ourselves to lose sight of our destination and the One who allowed us passage there.

Our finish line is our final heavenly home gifted to us by our ransomed Savour. Like a substitute in a relay race, when a runner is absent or injured, Jesus is our substitute. He went in our place making a way so we can reach the finish line. Through Him, we are forgiven, redeemed, and accepted. Our passage is paid in full.

But though it appears so, the cross and heaven secured is not the end for us. We need to share this good news, pass the baton, cheer other runners on, and encourage them to the end so they too can cross the finish line to eternal life.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

~ Romans 12:1-3

May you run the race well and cheer others to do so too.

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  1. In what ways are you struggling to run well? Ask Jesus to help you regain ground.
  2. How might you encourage a fellow “runner” to keep on?

“And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus. ” Ephesians 2:6

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In 2010, I had the privilege of painting murals in a small village in Cambodia. The tiny, rough shacks lining the dirt road comprised a community that was the most notorious brothel district in the world known for the trafficking of very young children. We painted inside a former brothel and a pedophile hotel that was now being re-purposed as a school, church, medical centre and housing for the vulnerable in the community.

Devastatingly,  many children in this community were victims. Some of their parents were even willing to sell them for a TV or a new wardrobe. You cannot imagine the feeling of singing, playing, and laughing with these little ones knowing that later that day, some would be sold to service a sex tourist.

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I’ve since heard many stories from survivors, both from abroad and North America, of their experience being trafficked. It is difficult to comprehend the enormity of damage that is inflicted on an individual who has experienced this degree of abuse and trauma. The amount and duration of healing that must occur, and the courage it takes such an individual to face such trauma, is immense. But this journey takes them from victim to victor.

Most of us have not had to face this level of trauma, but it is impossible to pass through life and not have some degree of trials. There may be days where we fall victim to the sin of another, where an unjust act will be dealt us, when we feel like the world is against us, or that the life we imagined is crumbling apart and not worth saving. Jesus tells us, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

Like those who have been trafficked and are on their healing journey would prefer to not be called victims, so we too should not succumb to a victim mentality. We do well to remember that for those of us who have made peace with God through Jesus, the battle is already won. We are victors – present tense – not victims! And not only that, we have been raised up and seated in the heavenly places with Jesus! Though the battle is real and rages all around, we can rise above it and look down as spectators knowing God is for us and working all things for good.

And though you may not feel like a victor, understanding that you are is a game changer. You have access to God’s unlimited resources and help to face and fight any battle today. Sure, the enemy would like to ransack your heart and soul, and trample you to pieces (and you may feel as though you already are), but the truth is no matter what you have been through – or what you are facing right now – you are a victor. Jesus had the last say. And since He won, you do too!

So get up fellow sojourner! Remember who you are and whose you are. You are a child of God and a victor! You have been raised up and have all you need to take a step, however difficult, and even thrive for whatever purpose God has for you today, and the next, and the next!

May you see that you are a victor – an overcomer – in Christ!

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  1. In what ways has the enemy tried to convince you you are a victim and can do nothing to change your circumstance?
  2. Ask God to show you the truth and move on to the victory Christ died to provide!

 

 

 

May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ. ~ 2 Thessalonians 3:5

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There was a time where when things broke, we fixed them. I can recall my dad dismantling our broken hair dryer and tinkering with it until its heated airflow was again restored. Once, he even had a car engine – in all its metallic glory – in pieces on our kitchen table!

But we have become a disposable, dollar store society. When something has either broken or lost its purpose, we throw it away. Is it because of the “click” mentality of the internet, the advent of inexpensive Chinese goods, or the plethora of fast food options that we are generally hasty and impatient in our impulsive acquisitions and our ability to take care of them?

This disposable demeanour has spilled over into many aspects of our lives. You see it in the mismanagement of our planet and its resources, in the alarming commodification of human beings and the thriving pornography industry, in the wife who says, “I’ve fallen out of love with you”, or the husband who trades his wife for a newer version. We have grown accustomed to the idea that things, relationships, and even people are dispensable.

But I can’t help wondering whether we might still be equipped with the fortitude to fix. That we still possess the steadfastness needed to put aside our selfish desires, and to put up with some unpleasantness for a time in order to mend what is broken. Could we stop thinking that the next best thing is better and instead stick with – even be satisfied and thankful for – what we have? Could we reach into another’s mess and walk with them for a time rather than turning away? Could we again value and celebrate human life?

I think we can.

I’m not beyond believing that broken can be mended.

Sometimes broken things need to be completely and painstakingly dismantled before they can work again. That’s where it gets messy and many give up. The process of fixing takes too long, appears impossible, is too hard, too painful, and too unpleasant. It’s so much easier to trade it in for something else, or someone else, or to ignore it completely than to roll up our sleeves and get our hands dirty. But whether a broken system, a broken relationship, or a broken life, with the patient love only God provides – and the added steadfastness of Christ – it’s possible for broken things to be restored.

It may take time. It will require patience. It may not look the same once put back together. There may still be cracks or places where the grace glue from the Invisible is still visible, but it will be beautiful in spite of it all. And the beauty won’t merely be in the remaking or the remade, but also in everything else that came as a result.

When things break we learn to:

glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” ~ Romans 5:3-4

And we learn not to give up but instead:

“Count it all joy when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-4

Like the engine my dad restored, let’s be repairers and restorers – using all our God-given tools to patiently mend the broken bits while never giving up.

May you grow in your love of God and the steadfastness of Christ, and may your relationships become perfect and complete, lacking nothing. 

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  1. Is there a broken relationship or person in your life? Look for any ways to be a repairer.
  2. On the verge of giving up? With God’s help, nothing is impossible! Keep your eyes on God and continue in steadfastness!

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  ~ 2 Corinthians 12:9

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By eighteen years of age, I had a parenting file. In it I kept all the Dr. Dobson tips inserted into our church bulletins, along with any other scraps of wisdom I stumbled across. I even read parenting books with all sorts of helpful advice. I was going to be an amazing mom – practically perfect, I thought.

But the books didn’t account for a few things.

There was never a mention of those days when you’re beyond tired and patience prematurely packs its bags. When circumstances shift so fast and hard that life takes a disorienting sharp turn for the worse. When you’re sick so long it starts to look like you’ll never get better. When all your “yes’s'” catch up with you and you’re running ragged, or just barely hanging on emotionally, physically or financially. No, there were no chapters dedicated to how to be an outstanding parent when the bottom drops right out from under you.

No book noted how to respond when a little voice calling mommy interrupts mid-sob, and you make tidy work of wiping tears gushing from a soul rubbed raw by the events you protected them from and some you couldn’t. When everything you did was motivated by love and most of the time that love was far too much or not nearly enough. Mostly, parenting felt like you were feeling in the dark with the occasional scrap of light.

But somewhere between the tickle fights and hair tangles, missing socks and math problems, untold bedtime stories and late night pacing, you managed to be a mom who, despite all her flaws, flips outs and failings was real and kind and good. And all you ever wanted was to raise kids that were too. And that had to be enough because though you didn’t feel nearly enough, you were the one God assigned for the task. And you look at these human beings God gave you to raise and think: they are kind and good and miraculously more than enough. More than you could have dared to dream.

Fast forward twenty years. The parenting books are now untouched. I still lament that I wasn’t a good enough mom, think of the ways I could have, should have, done it differently. I drag my failed self-wisdom and aching heart to the One who is good enough. And in those quiet moments – the moments in between the dinner making and the driving – I thank Him for trusting me with a job that was far too big for my credentials and self-education. Far too big for me alone.

And I realize, it was all because of GRACE.

Heaps and heaps of it. It filled in the cracks I missed, saturated the gaping wounds life inflicted that I couldn’t have hoped to patch, it spilled over the top in healing brimming over beyond measuring.

Grace. The free gift the books missed mentioning. The part where peace takes over and you rest knowing God knew all this and it’s still okay, because He loved so completely He died and made a way to eternity for the likes of those who feel undeserving and not nearly enough. And in His arms you understand that He never asked for perfection anyway – just like you never asked for it from your kids. And you, like they, feel loved…and that covers a multitude.

And this amazing Grace, like a love-blanket, wraps itself around us, pulls us close and declares:

You are enough. You are loved. 

And you realize, it was enough, because He is enough.

He is the One who saw all the not-quite-enoughs, the beautiful sacrifices made when you were on empty, the way you looked into your child’s eyes when you could barely keep your own open, the way you laughed when you could have cried. He knew the mountains you were scaling. And with Him, it is all more than enough. Because somehow, together you were making beauty far beyond anything you could have learned from a book.

“Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

May you receive God’s grace and love freely today. 

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  1. How do you feel unworthy? Tell God about it and let Him heal those areas.
  2. In what ways have you controlled the parenting process? Chose to let go and let God do the heavy lifting.

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In the fall of 2014, I had an idea. I would make a list of important things I wanted my children to know. Being a serious list-maker in general, this idea posed a fun and interesting challenge. Before I knew it, the list grew to over thirty items. Then, each day I posted a thought for them until they were all used up.

This week I’m branching off slightly from my regular devotional to share my “Thirty-three Days of Thoughts” in hopes that it might inspire you and your loved ones as well. Enjoy! 

  1. Every day is a gift; enjoy the unwrapping.
  2. Dreams are the flight path to beautiful realities.
  3. Be merciful; you never know the mountains others have scaled.
  4. Whether insult or praise, linger briefly on what others say of you.
  5. A well-timed hug removes the need for words.
  6. Spend time with those you love, even when you have no time.
  7. Do what is right, even if no one else is.
  8. Finish what you start; it builds character.
  9. Be kind and expect nothing in return.
  10. Words are powerful; use them wisely.
  11. Nothing worth attaining is easy.
  12. Smile at passing strangers, especially children, teenagers, and the elderly – you make them feel less invisible.
  13. Respect yourself and others in word and deed.
  14. Be gracious to everyone whether they deserve it or not.
  15. Believe in miracles.
  16. Stop and smell the roses; literally and figuratively.
  17. Forgive AND bless your enemies.
  18. Try difficult things.
  19. There is no suitable substitute for hard work.
  20. Keep your word.
  21. Things need to be broken in order to be fixed.
  22. Joy can be found even amid the darkest days.
  23. Choose to be thankful; especially in trials.
  24. Be a faithful friend.
  25. Do good when no one is looking.
  26. Be honest, even if it hurts.
  27. Say I love you, often.
  28. Say I’m sorry when you are wrong.
  29. Listen more than you speak.
  30. Be slow to get angry and quick to forgive.
  31. Be polite.
  32. Be willing to go last.
  33. Put God first.

And one more thought written as a blessing over you:

May you measure your worth not so much by who you or others say you are but rather by Whose you are! 

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  1. Pick one of the Thirty-three thoughts you think presents the most challenge to you and be mindful of it this week.
  2. Try a Thirty-three Day Challenge and each day incorporate a “thought” into your actions and responses that day.

 

The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms. ~ Deuteronomy 33:27

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A friend of ours has his own carpet cleaning business. Sometimes he posts pictures or videos of the disasters he has to clean up (think flooding from a burst sewage pipe). It helps that he has a sense of humour – wading through fecal matter requires that kind of character and internal fortitude!

How do we respond in the midst of life’s messes? How do we react when the floods come and the water grows murky? It’s easy to buy into the lie that if you are a good Christian, you’ll simply pull on your rubber boots and dance through the dung. Or you may believe the opposite – that it will never get cleaned up. But don’t.

It’s true that swimming in rising water is exhausting, and sometimes circumstances threaten to overwhelm us. People sinning really does hurt. Sickness is daunting. Loosing a loved one can bring us to our knees.

But during, or even after a crisis, take comfort in these:

1. God never leaves you or turns away from you. 

Be strong and courageous, Do not be terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; He will never leave you or forsake you. ~ Deut 31:6

God is not mad at you. He has not turned his back on you. Nothing you can do, or fail to do, will make Him love you any more or less. He is there for you with open arms. You are accepted.

2. No matter where you are or what is happening, God loves you and desires an intimate relationship with you. 

Before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking, I will hear. ~ Isa 65:24

Just knowing God longs to be with us gives us hope and courage. Being with Him reminds you of who you are. And you are loved by Him! Sit with Him and your soul and spirit will be revived and renewed.

3. You can tell God all about it. Your disappointments, your feelings of betrayal, your deep wounds, your broken heart. He knows anyway. He won’t judge; He’ll heal you.

Cast all your cares on the LORD and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous fall. ~ Psalm 55:22

God wants to carry your burdens for you. It is not His desire that you struggle alone. So go ahead and pour out your heart to Him. Hand over your heavy weights and grow lighter and more free.

4. He can give you the strength to forgive. 

Be kind to each other, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. ~ Eph 4:32

Forgiveness is tough. It’s a journey. It takes diligent effort. It can’t be done on our own strength without God’s help. When we understand how much we have been forgiven, when we agree with God’s plan for forgiveness, we can accept His help to forgive.

5. It’s never too late. When you turn to God, He will restore and redeem all that you thought was lost.

God, your God, will restore everything you lost; He’ll have compassion on you; He’ll come back and pick up the pieces from all the places where you were scattered. No matter how far away you end up, God, our God, will get you out of there…He will cut away the thick calluses on your heart and your children’s hearts, freeing you to love God, your God, with your whole heart and soul and live, really live. And you will make a new start, listening obediently to God… ~ Deut 30:3-6

Sometimes we think a circumstance, a situation, a relationship, or our life is beyond broken. Don’t believe it. God can do anything! It may not look the same, may never be the same, but God has a way of restoring lives beyond what we could ever ask or imagine.

6. You can exchange anxiousness for thankfulness.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. ~ Phil 4:6

Try giving thanks in the midst of crisis. Thankfulness doesn’t mean denying that what you are going through doesn’t exist, but rather the proclamation that God is good and there is always something to be grateful for.

7. You will come to deeply understand the goodness of God.

Praise the Lord! Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! ~ Psalm 106:1

Those who have walked through crisis, and hung on to their mustard seed faith with whitened knuckles, know beyond a doubt that their God saw them through it and never ceased to help and love them.

8. You will come to live in His abundance. 

I have come that they may have life and have it to the full. ~ John 10:10

It’s true, after the crisis, nothing will look the same. The past is gone, but God miraculously makes things new. He heals and helps your heart align with His. Your desires begin to line up with His and you begin to recognize His overflowing goodness and love, even in the midst of the circumstances, but especially when you look back on them.

Don’t give up or give in! These present trials will not remain forever, but you can be sure God’s love for you always will!

I bless you that you will know that God is with you no matter what!

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  1. Which of the above truths resonate most fully with you? Which one the least?
  2. Ask God to help you grow toward greater freedom and understanding in your areas of doubt or struggle.

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. ~ Matthew 11:29

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I’ve begun trimming my life like a much need haircut. It’s taking shape…somewhat. It’s starting to look more manageable again – beginning to once more have room for the makings of beauty.

Making beauty –

because there sure is enough ugliness in this world, and if by chance a reflected choice, a quiet decision, or an intentional action can birth some beauty, it will be worth it.

A kind word, a timely compliment, a patient response, a smile to a stranger, a giggle from a child, a quiet cuddle, a shared lunch, a work of art, or spring flowers. All beauty. But like anything, beauty can be missed if not cultivated.  And cultivation takes time. And time is easily mismanaged.

So I saw the need to be intentional.

That meant giving up a few things. It meant looking candidly at those things I was doing and asking myself why I was doing them. Did this truly line up with my gifts? Had that passed its expiration date? Was this distracting me from more critical, life-giving things? Could these activities be considered lesser? Were they crowding out space for the basis of beauty – intimacy with God.

There are so many activities we can be doing, but just because we can, should we? Like all over-consumption, we can add too many activities to our life. So many distractions that lead to detractions. And it takes its toll.

What we really need is to rest our weary souls.

It’s not popular to say no; to intentionally choose less. We’re programmed to want more, bigger, better – enough is never really enough. But it just might be that this purposeful distraction is where it goes all wrong – where we, and all those around us miss out. Where the possibility of simplicity and beauty become a distant memory instead of a usual occurrence. Where we become distracted from our God, ourselves, and those around us.

Beauty making happens in the open spaces, in the quiet places, in the expanse of God’s love. It is stifled in the crowed places that allow little room for rest, reflection, prayer, and thanksgiving. It’s difficult to hear God’s gentle whisper when there’s too much noise and haste. We need to be intentional about quieting ourselves, resting, listening and receiving God’s peace. It’s in this space where true beauty begins.

May you make space to see beauty flourish in your life and in the lives of those around you!

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  1. Do you regularly put aside time to refuel with God?
  2. Are there any ways in which you may be filling your time with too many things? Are those activities taking away precious time from your family, friends, and most importantly your relationship with God?
  3. Is there anything you recognize you need to intentionally remove to make room in your life for beauty?

We have been set apart as holy because Jesus Christ did what God wanted him to do by sacrificing his body once and for all.  ~Hebrews 10:10

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When my eldest daughter was eleven, she decided to keep chickens. We took her to our friend’s house in the country to handpick three hens. Along with two healthy-looking ones, she chose a third that had no tail feathers. I asked if she was certain she wanted to buy that one. She assured me she was. Later, when I asked her why she chose that particular hen, she told me she felt sorry for it because it was getting pecked by the others, and she wanted to rescue it.

For a long time, it appeared as if nothing would ever again grow on that chicken’s unsightly, raw back end, but a little over a year later, that hen grew beautiful, full feathers on her formerly exposed derrière. The previous lack of plumage made its unexpected appearance even more beautiful.

There are times when (excuse the upcoming word picture) our lives might look a little like that chicken’s bottom: barren, raw, ugly and seemingly ruined for good. Even though our lives may appear permanently damaged and show no signs of improvement, just like those missing feathers, it too can be made whole and beautiful again. And when it happens you appreciate it even more.

We may look and see barren ruin; God looks and sees room for growth. We may see ugliness; God sees the makings of beauty.

It’s a bit like my daughter peering in the chicken run and intentionally selecting a damaged chicken out of the flock. God looks at the wreckage of our lives and thinks we are worth saving, worth being set apart, and worth nurturing.

We have been set apart as holy because Jesus Christ did what God wanted him to do by sacrificing his body once and for all. (Hebrews 10:10)

It’s because of Jesus’ sacrifice, we get a second chance at life – both here and now and in the life to come in heaven.

Even so, as we walk with Him day-to-day, there may be times when we feel barren or come up against a situation that rips out a few “feathers” until we question whether our life will ever bear the resemblance of beauty again. It can be unnerving – even disheartening – to see bald patches, but somehow, despite that we never thought it possible, God takes the ruin and makes beauty once again blossom.

Don’t despair if you life is looking a bit barren. It just might be the fertile ground needed for new growth!

And remember this:

Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see. (Hebrews 11:1)

May the barren places in your life once again blossom and flourish!

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  1. What is your barren place right now?
  2. Pray with thanksgiving that despite how it appears, God is making beauty even though you cannot see it yet.

 

 

 

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“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” ~ John 10:10-11

I’ve noticed a pattern. Maybe you have too. It is regular and systematic and happens daily without fail. It is assumed by our sworn enemy who is bent on our destruction. He slinks around, enticing us with the promise of false happiness. He offers calculated suggestions, deceptions, and rationalizations in an attempt to entrap us. He doesn’t particularly care how long it takes, but if we partake, the full impact of the action has immediate effect.

As we reel in remorse, the ever-ready accuser begins his second assault by piling on condemnation. Now he comes with a flood of lies of a different nature. They are no longer laced with temptation, but are a soul-searing arsenal of words whispering things like: You’re a fool! You don’t deserve grace. Why don’t you just give up? Any of those sound familiar?

There’s a vast difference between the way that Satan comes at us and the way God approaches us in our sin. Satan arrives as the condemner. He is a thief bent on nothing short of our destruction. We are advised to “be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8) Jesus tells us, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:10-11)

Satan would take your life; Jesus gave His in your place.

With this realization, you have a choice to repent and be rescued from sin’s grip. It’s surprisingly simple. You confess your sin, ask to be forgiven, and choose to follow, or continue following, Christ. The promise that “you may have life and have it abundantly” remains, and Satan’s power is defeated. God provided a remedy through Jesus. Because of this, the battle is already won.

Just in case you’re feeling as though you’re already partially “devoured”, take comfort fellow sojourner. You are never too far from God’s reach, never too messy for His grace, never too spoiled for His loving touch. You can be pulled from the mouth of the lion, healed and made new again. His love, forgiveness and grace is limitless.

May you be reminded, through the words of John 3:16 paraphrased here, that God loved you so much he gave his one and only Son, so that if you believe in him you will not perish but have eternal life.

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  1. Where are you most tempted? Invite God’s help, strength, and strategy to stand firm.
  2. Where have you fallen short? Remember that, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

 

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?” Matthew 7:1-3

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How difficult it is not to judge! I was reminded of this recently when two of my children pointed out this propensity in me. Though not nice to hear, I’m glad they did or I, once again, may not have even noticed that particular plank.

Speck finding is easy. Locating planks…not so much.

In thinking about it, when playing judge, we take on a role we were never offered. Worse, whatever measure we use to judge, the same is piled back on us. This self-proclaimed loftiness reeks of self-righteous pride and turns the gospel upside down. Sitting in the judgment seat leaves little room for the miracle of mercy and the gift of grace. It’s like lowering a partition to make grace unreachable for those who are in desperate need. I hazard a guess that many more people would desire kingdom living if its citizens reeked more of love.

Jesus loved the ones the Pharisees judged to have missed the mark. He had a beautiful way of loving people in spite of their ‘junk’ and in the midst of their sin. He didn’t embrace the sin, but instead the person. With Jesus there was no shaming or making people feel they were unfit to be in His company. Amid His loving actions, a gently deposited word – or no words at all – there remained no condemnation. Instead there were changed lives.

Matthew gives this account: “When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’? On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:11-13)

When we spend time with Jesus, being renewed and reminded of who we are, our inclination to judge others recedes. After all, we are among those He reached out a mercy-filled touch to heal while we were still sinning. Just being with Jesus softens our critical, hard hearts. We don’t have to agree with the choices or behaviour of others in order to love them. A person is not the sin; the sin is not the person. We can love the person in the midst of their junk. Jesus did – and does – on a daily basis for us.

Won’t you join me in using those extracted planks for bridge building?

P.S. I love the story recorded in John about the adulterous woman. If you want a smile or need words of forgiveness, take a moment to read it now. (John 8:3-12)

I bless you that you would find your strength to love others unconditionally in the One who loves you that very same way!

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Take a moment to think of a person(s) you may have judged. Ask God for forgiveness and instead pray for that person.

 

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