You are currently browsing the monthly archive for January 2012.

A few years ago, on a very cold winter day, I waited with a young man, his sister, and her toddler son  for help to arrive for their broken down rental truck.  As we shivered in the cold they told me about the sermon they’d heard that past Sunday in church.  Their pastor told them that it’s during the long, cold months of winter that the roots of trees and perrenial plants have the most growth.  It’s during the winter when the world seems cold and stark, and trees are bare – showing no signs of growth on the outside, that their roots are growing deeper and stronger.  The strengthening and deepening of the roots will yield to growth in the spring, and will also enable the trees to better withstand storms that are sure to come.

The Bible says there is a season for everything under heaven…and also a purpose.  Bring to mind the song “Turn! Turn! Turn!” from the Byrds?  That song was written as an adaptation of scripture found in Chapter 3 of Ecclesiastes.

To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven…He has made everything beautiful in its time…for there is a time for every purpose and work.     ~ Ecclesiastes 3:1-17

We go through ‘seasons’ in life, too.  We have seasons when things are going well, seasons of growth and seasons of joy.  We also have seasons when we feel we’re in a winter stage of darkness, difficulty, and sometimes even dormancy, when things seem cold and bleak.   Remember that it’s during the winter seasons of our lives that God can work within us to help our roots of faith grow deeper and stronger!  He allows us to have these seasons so that later we’ll be able to flourish and grow, and when the inevitable storms of life come blowing through, we might bend and sway, but we won’t break.

Knowing that God has a purpose for the times and seasons of life – especially the hard times, encourages me and gives me hope as I trust in Him.  I hope the same is true for you.

On the cold, chilling days of winter, remember that God is at work doing unseen things that will bring bring forth great and wondrous things in His perfect timing – just like the colors and joys of Spring!

“But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him.  He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream.  It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green.  It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”      – Jeremiah 17:7-8

For a beautiful visual presentation of the verses in Ecclesiastes 3, go to YouTube video:    “Turn! Turn! Turn! Ecclesiastes 3:1-15 MV”

May God bless you and warm your heart, even on the coldest of days.  🙂

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Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar.  First go and be reconciled to your brother, then come and offer your gift.     ~ Matthew 5:23-34

I have a friend who is struggling emotionally.  I prayed for her and feel she needs an apology from a person in her life who has caused a lot of pain for her and her family.

An apology won’t change the current situation, but it WILL change the emotional state my friend is in and most likely help her to cope better. If she is hurt and feels terribly wronged by someone else, then she needs to hear the other person say, “I’m sorry for the pain I’ve caused,” or “I’m sorry things are so difficult for you,” or simply, “I’m sorry you’re hurting.”  An apology from the one who has hurt her might even be the start of healing for their broken relationship.

In the verse above, Jesus tells us that apologizing and reconciling with others is so important that we need to stop what we’re doing and apologize to others right away.  We’re not even to make an offering to God if there is someone who has something against us.

An apology doesn’t have to admit fault or guilt.  It just needs to acknowledge the other person’s feelings…whether the one apologizing agrees with those feelings or not.

Apologizing isn’t about winning or losing an argument.  It’s about showing respect for the other person and what they’re feeling.

I remember a situation between a mother and daughter.  The adult daughter felt wronged by past treatment from her mother.  The mother knew her daughter was upset, but didn’t understand why. The daughter just needed her mother to say she was sorry for the daughter’s pain, but the mother wouldn’t do so because she didn’t agree with her daughter’s feelings, and the mother didn’t want to ‘admit’ to something she didn’t feel she’d done.  Apologies aren’t about that, though!

Apologies aren’t about settling who’s right or wrong, or who’s at fault.  An apology is just saying you’re sorry for the pain, struggle, or whatever the other person is feeling, and often this simple gesture of caring can make a huge difference!

Sometimes it’s hard to go to someone I know is upset and tell them I’m sorry.  I fear the possibility of their angry response.  Sometimes my apology means admitting guilt, and that’s really hard to do!  Sometimes my pride makes it hard to humble myself and offer an apology.  You know what I’ve found helps in each of these situations?  Apologizing to God first.  Two things happen.  1) I know I’ve gone before the Lord, confessed, and that through Christ I’m forgiven…relief!  2) Once I’ve apologized and admitted my faults to God, it’s much easier to do so with the other person.  If the other person gets upset or doesn’t want to forgive, I feel badly about that, but at least I know I’m in right standing with God.  Continue taking the situation to God , and He’ll help each of you work through your situation.

When it comes to apologies, it’s just as important to receive as it is to give.

When someone does apologize, it’s important to graciously receive their apology!  So many times I’ve seen people work up the courage to say they’re sorry to someone who is upset, angry, or hurt, and the other person refuses the apology or says it’s not enough!  Sometimes they even respond angrily with criticisms or lectures.  Whoa!  That’s not right!

Perhaps the other person feels that if they accept the apology, then they’re letting the other person off the proverbial ‘hook’.  Sometimes it can lead to that, but not always.  Accepting an apology means offering forgiveness to the one who apologized, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the situation is resolved and done with.  There still might be consequences that need to follow, but there won’t be a grudge to go along with the consequences.

Forgiving doesn’t mean forgetting, but it does mean letting go  of hard feelings go so that both parties can move on.

Sometimes we are stubborn and don’t want to forgive because we’re holding onto our anger or unhappiness as a way of punishing the other person, but you know what?  Your feelings aren’t hurting the other person at all.  They’re hurting you!  Sometimes the other person doesn’t even know you’re hurting, angry or upset!  Holding on to negative feelings eats away at us inside, like a cancer of the soul.  Please don’t hold grudges or hold on to negative feelings.  Sometimes we have to offer forgiveness to someone who hasn’t even asked for it.  Yes, sometimes we have to prayerfully go to God and tell Him we forgive, even if no one has asked for our forgiveness.  Christ asked for forgiveness for those who crucified Him as he was being crucified.   And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)

In the prayer Jesus taught His disciples to pray, He said, Forgive us our debts/trespasses (sins) as we forgive our debtors/those who have trespassed (sinned) against us.  (Matthew 6:12)

Jesus went on to say, For if you forgive others their trespasses (sins, wrongdoings), your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.  (Matthew 6

There is power in apology, indeed.  Lord Jesus, we thank You for that.  Please help us live by Your example, graciously giving and receiving apologies when needed.  Amen.

I give thanks to God often for the people in my life, both family and friends.  Just yesterday I gave thanks for time spent with a dear friend after we met at a coffeeshop. However, this morning God brought the subject of inappropriate friendships to my mind…specifically, that we shouldn’t take part in inappropriate friendships.  I realized I was supposed to write about this.   Not really sure what to write, I first went to the Bible to see what it says about friends/friendship.  The New Living Translation (NLT) mentions friend/friendship 215 times!  Several are shared below.  (To see all of these verses, go to www.biblegateway.com, enter’  friends’ in the search box and select New Living Translation.)

Some Bible verses referenced friendships that were loving, helpful, and loyal.  Others addressed lying, cheating, and betrayal.  The latter are definitely examples of bad friendships, but what are ‘inappropriate’ friendships?

According to Webster’s dictionary, ‘inappropriate’ means not appropriate, not suitable or fitting, improper.  Simply put, an inappropriate friendship is an improper friendship.

Examples that come to mind…

  • friendships that interfere with marriage
  • friendships that interfere with parental/family relationships
  • friendships that disrupt previous ‘good’ relationships with friends
  • friendships that cause us to behave in appropriate ways
  • friendships that don’t respect or value the good things about you
  • friendships that hold you back
  • friendships that are one-way, when one person only takes, never gives
  • friendships that are a constant source of discouragement
  • friendships that enable another person’s unhealthy or distructive behavior
  • friendships based on lies, dishonesty
  • friendships that cause physical, verbal, emotional or mental abuse
  • FRIENDSHIPS THAT HOLD YOU BACK FROM GOD

These friendships can be with boyfriends or girlfriends, best friends or casual friends, old friends and new friends, co-workers, and even family members (mother, father, brother, sister, cousin, etc.).

A married person having too friendly of a  ‘friendship’ with someone of the opposite sex at work, on facebook, or even at church is inappropriate.  The Bible tells us we don’t have to actually commit a physical act for a relationship to be adulterous.  If we even lust in our hearts for someone other than our spouse, then we are having adulterous thoughts that are just as bad and can cause just as much damage.

A person’s best friend might be a great person, but if that friendship is interfering with one’s marriage, family, or other important relationships, then it’s ‘inappropriate’ and needs to be pursued in a different way.

Friendships that encourage you to take part in behavior you know is wrong are definitely inappropriate!

Friendships that discourage you from pursing your hopes, goals and dreams are inapproriate.  A true friend will be happy for you, encourage you, support you, and celebrate the good things about you.

Friendships that enable you to pursue unhealthy or destructive behaviors are not only inappropriate, but also dangerous for you.  Examples of these behaviors…overeating, having too much alcohol, taking drugs, smoking, or  other addictive behaviors.

Any relationship that causes any kind of abuse is inappropriate and dangerous.  Get out of these relationships immediately and seek help, if needed.

The last example listed above mentions friendships that keep you from God.  This might mean that another person verbally discourages a right relationship with God, but separation from God also happens when we sin.  Guilt from sin can separate us from God.  God is not separating Himself from us.  In our shame or attempt to cover up our actions, we pull back from Him.  Any relationship in which this is happening needs to be addressed right away.

Sometimes we have to end inappropriate relationships.  Other times we just need to address the problems, get right with God about them, and seek His guidance for pursuing those relationships in a healthy, appropriate way.  Doing so won’t just benefit us, but the other person as well!

If you feel you are in an inappropriate relationship, please turn to God, trust Him with your heart, and pray.  He will guide you.   Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowleget Him, and He will set your paths straight.  (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Following are a few Bible verses that teach about friends/friendships taken  from the book of Proverbs:

The godly give good advice to their friends; the wicked lead them astray.  (12:26)

With their words, the godless destroy their friends, but knowledge will rescue the righteous. (11:9)

The seeds of good deeds become a tree of life; a wise person wins friends.  (11:30)

He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm. (13:20)

A troublemaker plants seeds of strife; gossip separates the best of friends.  (16:28)

Love prospers when a fault is forgiven, but dwelling on it separates close friends. (17:9)

A friend is always loyal, and a brother (close friend, friend in Christ) is born to help in time of need. (17:17)     NIV version: A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. (17:17)

There are “friends” who destroy each other, but a real friend sticks closer than a brother. (18:24)

Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy. (27:6)

The heartfelt counsel of a friend is as sweet as perfume and incense. (27:9)

As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend. (27:17)

Hopefully your friendships are good, healthy and ‘appropriate’.  If not, I hope and pray that you will let God guide you in your relationships.  Remember, that no matter what, God always loves you and calls you His friend, and His is the best friendship of all.

Your friend in Christ,

Renee

Happy New Year!

What are your hopes, aspirations, and plans for 2012?  I’m not one to make resolutions, but I do like to see the New Year as a time for a fresh start.  2011 is so last year now.  Let’s put it behind us and start the NEW YEAR by being reNEWed!

We might not be able to change some of the realities of our situations and the world around us, but we can change our circumstances by changing the way we see ourselves and our situations…by renewing our minds, our thoughts, attitudes and perspectives.

  • Let’s renew our minds so that we have hope for 2012!
  • Let’s renew our hearts and give thanks for all that we do have instead of focusing on what we don’t have!
  • Let’s renew our spirit and make the most of what we can do, instead of being limited by what we think we can’t do!
  • Let’s renew our souls allow God to make all things possible!

This kind of renewal can only be found in Christ.  Sure, I can be hopeful, thankful and positive on my own; but to truly be renewed I must go to God in prayer and seek transformation through Christ, my Lord and Savior.  Following are Bible verses you can claim in prayer and keep handy for encouragement.  I’m also sharing the prayer led by our Senior Pastor, Terry Moore, in church on Sunday, Jan 1, 2012, seeking renewal of personal covenant with God.

Seek first the Kingdom of God.

Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.  –  Matthew 6:33 (NLT)

Allow yourself to be transformed.

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.  Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.    – Romans 12:2 (NLT)

Give thanks and praise God.

Do you see what we’ve got?  An unshakable kingdom!  And do you see how thankful we must be? Not only thankful, but brimming with worship, deeply reverent before God.    – Hebrews 12:27  (MSG)

Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.   – 1 Thessalonians 5:18  (NIV)

Make the most of what you can do.

I can do everything through Christ who , who gives me strength.  – Philippians 4:13 (NLT)

Open yourself up to the possibilities of what God can do!

…for with God, all things are possible.   – Mark 10:27

PRAYER FOR RENEWED COVENANT WITH GOD (Shared as printed in the church bulletin of Weddington United Methodist Church, Jan 1, 2012):

“Leader: In the old covenant, God chose Israel to be a special people and to obey the law.  Our Lord Jesus Christ, by His death and resurrection, has made a new covenant with all who trust in Him…Let us give ourselves completely to God, trusting in His promises and relying on His grace.

All:  I give myself completely to You, God.  Assign me to my place in your creation.  Let me suffer for You.  Give me the work you would have me do.  Give me many tasks or have me step aside while You call others.  Put me forward or humble me.  Give me riches or let me live in poverty.  I freely give all that I am and all that I have to You.  And now, holy God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, You are mine and I am Yours.  So be it.  May this covenant made on earth continue for all eternity.  Amen. ”

 

Dear friends,  May God bless you and keep you; and by His grace, may you be refreshed and renewed in the love of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  All glory be to God.  Amen.         New Year blessings to all!  – Renee

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