Child of God

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God– John 1:12

Questions for Personal Reflection; Family or Small Group Discussion

  • What assurances or securities to children look to their parents for?
  • As children of God, what assurances or securities do we have?

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Blessed

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ -Ephesians 3:1

Questions for Personal Reflection; Family or Small Group Discussion

  • List as many spiritual blessings you can find in Ephesians 1-3
  • As Christians, are there ever times that we are not blessed?

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Introducing: Hope

Today’s headlines are downright scary but they might not concern you as much what is going on in your own home. Maybe you are emotionally and physically exhausted from a lifestyle that seems mostly out-of-control? Perhaps you find yourself thinking, “I just can’t take it anymore!” Welcome to family life in the 21st Century. Is there any real hope?

I would like to introduce you to hope. Real hope. This is not wishful thinking but confident assurance that despite circumstances, four things can still be true of you and your family.

First, a day will come when sin, death, pain, and suffering will end. These painful challenges will not last forever (Rev. 21:4). They will come to an end. Far better days rare still ahead. Living faithfully today involves remembering this important truth in the midst of the battle and allowing it, rather than our raw emotions, to shape our response to it. I admit that I do not dwell enough upon this important truth. How about you?

Second, God is using even awful circumstances to accomplish his will in your life. In Romans 8:28-29, Paul reminds us that all things, not just the good things, work together for our good. Although we prefer it when things are going great, the truth is, we don’t grow much in those times. We grow better through challenges because they help us see how we are not like Jesus. God’s will is that we grow to live more like who we already are in Christ. This brings God glory and provides us with joy.

Many readers know that one of my children suffers with seizures. I’ll never forget what she said to me one day. “Dad. I’d rather have the seizures and have what I have with Jesus than to not have the seizures and not have what I have with Jesus.” That is 100% real, pure hope talking.

God uses even the bad things in our lives to accomplish good in us even though pain is often involved in the process.  This gives us incredible hope!

Third, there can be “joy” in the midst of suffering. In Hebrews 12:1-2, we read that even Jesus endured the unspeakable shame and suffering of the cross… with joy. How can that be possible? First of all, “Joy” can be but is not necessarily “happiness” or the euphoric feeling when everything is going our way. Jesus was not happy about the excruciating pain of crucifixion. When Peter and John went away rejoicing after being flogged it wasn’t because they enjoyed it. Rather, in each case the joy at its core was a simple yet enduring satisfaction in God alone; doing his will despite the excruciating circumstances that carried them through the suffering.

Fourth, our peace does not depend on our circumstances but on Jesus’ promise. Jesus says in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled. Neither let them be afraid.” Note that there is no qualification on the peace he has given. By faith, we simply need to receive it.

If Jesus has given us peace then we should live in light of that. His peace is lasting and withstands circumstances. The world’s peace is different. It depends upon circumstances and can therefore be taken away when threatening situations arise.

To be clear: we should prayerfully seek to relieve suffering. God does heal! God does restore! Our faith in Christ, built on hope, is powerful enough to do that if God wills. But circumstances don’t always change. Hard-hearted family members only grow more embittered. Financial ends do not meet. The loved one dies. These are the harsh realities of life in a fallen world that often blind us to the hope we need to shun despair or bitterness. Instead, we would do well to exercise a resilient faith that chooses hope.

This is the hope offered through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Perhaps you are losing the battle. Fear, anger, and despair have a grip on you. Have you ever considered a relationship with Jesus Christ? He holds the keys of hope! Perhaps you already know Jesus but are losing the battle. Whatever the case, it is only through the gospel’s message of grace, mercy, and forgiveness that we find the hope needed not merely to hang on but to flourish.

Encouragement to Forgive

Forgiveness is not a popular topic these days. We know we should forgive but in our worst moments, we might rather just get even. Forgiveness can seem hard, complicated, and sometimes we rationalize that it is the thing “I just can’t do”. This is especially true in relationships where we have been hurt time and time again by a spouse, child, sibling, or friend. Following are two important points to remember that will help you forgive others.

First, we forgive because we have been forgiven by Christ. Consider Ephesians 4:32. “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” To me, this sounds like a model for forgiveness. How does God forgive us? His forgiveness is limitless. He forgives every offense: the big ones and the little ones. His forgiveness is offered and granted in love and is not grudging. He really does forgive and promises never to bring our sin up against us ever again. How do we measure up to his example?

Our ability to forgive others is based on our own experience of being forgiven by God. When we find it difficult to forgive others, instead of mustering will-power, we should ask God for a deeper understanding of our own sin so that we can confess it and receive God’s forgiveness. Are we daily confessing sin? Are we daily receiving his forgiveness? If so, that will go a long way toward empowering us to quickly and eagerly forgive others.

Second, forgiveness restores and builds relationships. Our relationship with God is restored by His forgiveness of us thru Jesus Christ. All relationships depend on and are strengthened by mutually forgiving one another. When we sin against another person, a wedge is driven between us. When we forgive someone we are saying in real terms that they are more important than whatever happened. This also means that we are willing to absorb the cost that real forgiveness requires. This begins with the conscious decision not to hold their sin against them. But this could include other costs such as your own time, inconvenience, absorbing emotional costs or the even the cost to replace something the person cannot afford to replace themselves.

One of the miracles of forgiveness is the restoration it can produce in relationships. When forgiveness is sincerely requested and graciously given, a relationship passes an important test that enables it to grow; actually making the relationship stronger. Of course, there are situations where significant sins or sins that have been a pattern can set relationships back. Forgiveness can be granted, but perhaps trust needs to be restored. This will take time. However, only forgiveness provides the necessary foundation upon which rebuilding can be accomplished.

Working closely in a business can resemble a family; distrust, competition or real cooperation. Harmony builds a team, a family and a business. I’ll never forget a time as work when a senior manager of another department called me at 5 pm to advise me that the next day one of my engineers would report to him! I had a major melt down and stomped out feeling satisfied that my response registered my anger over his stealing one of my best engineers. On the drive home, the Holy Spirit convicted me of my sinful, angry response. Early the next morning I was in the manager’s office and asked him to forgive me for the way I responded. His response: “Ok… if you are sorry”. This presented the opportunity to explain the difference between “sorry – I got caught” and “forgive – a contract to want to work together”. Our personal relationship grew stronger and the new quality control group the engineer developed improved the reputation of our products.

Are you struggling to forgive someone? If so, be encouraged first that God has forgiven you for your sins. The Psalmist tells us as far as the east is from the west, so has God removed our sins from us. This provides a powerful motive for forgiving others. Second, forgiveness provides a foundation upon which restoration of the relationship can take place. Wouldn’t you rather enjoy your relationships? Forgiveness makes that possible; with God and with others.

Lightsey Wallace is Executive Director of The Psalm 119 Project. To receive a FREE e-copy of his Psalm 119 devotional, please email him at jlwallace6@mindspring.com.

 

To Understand the Heart: Understand the Treasure

To Understand the Heart: Understand the Treasure

Breaking Through the Maze to Freedom“Getting to the heart” is something we know we should do but honestly, wouldn’t you rather just clean the bathroom? I remember someone giving me a list of 14 questions to ask that “get to the heart”. Why even try? Scripture, though, tells us a simpler way.

Luke 6:45 tells us, “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”

If you want to get to the heart, simply define the treasure driving the person’s actions. What is it they want? The more you get to know a person, the more easily it is to discern what the various treasures are that steer their hearts toward good or evil.

One of my boys clearly treasures building and racing cars. He is actually quite skilled at it. That is his treasure with a capital “T”. This is so obvious that his siblings even sometimes joke when he is racing on Xbox… “He’s worshipping at the shrine again!” When work is not getting done, the reason usually is that his heart is being overtaken by this other, competing treasure. Getting to the heart of the matter has become a bit easier when we simply ask him, “Which treasure are you/were you seeking when you spent 2 hours playing Xbox when you should have been cleaning the kitchen?”

The interest in cars is not inherently sinful, in fact it is part of what makes him unique. God has gifted him with unusual knowledge and ability for someone his age. How God uses that will be very exciting to see. But when he seeks that treasure to such a degree that he is not doing what he is supposed to, then he knows that he has made that treasure an idol which has produced, various forms of “evil” in his actions…not doing the good he’s supposed to do.

One of the benefits of looking at the heart this way is that it helps us (especially as parents) avoid making an otherwise good thing, bad, which can be quite damaging. Sometimes, the treasure is inherently evil and it has to be declared as such. But the nature of idolatry is that it usually starts out as something good that we end up making bad when we depend on it (treasure it) to provide for us what we can only find in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Thinking about the heart in terms of treasure brings clarity to what is going on in a person’s life so that corrective action can be taken.