Saturday, May 14, 2016

He Drank All The Bitter

Several years ago out of obedience to what I believed God was telling me, I walked to the house of a neighbor for our planned meeting to talk about Jesus.  She and her children had prayed with my pastor and me to receive the Savior a few months before.  I tried to meet with her weekly in the chaos of her life and my life intersecting.  I often felt inadequate, but armed with the Word of God and prayer, God somehow helped me to love her.

The morning I arrived at her house was different from our previous meetings.  The female extended family had showed up at her house, and in the chaos of her three children, her nieces and nephews, mother, and sister, the noisy tv, and cigarette smoke, I tried to pray with her and talk, but my friend was obviously embarrassed by my presence.  I eventually realized it wasn't working and decided to leave.  Though I know I must go with the flow and trust God completely for circumstances, I felt the unloving sting of rejection. "And I will very gladly spend and be spent for your souls; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I am loved." the Apostle Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 12:15.  When the love of God and the Gospel of Jesus is rejected by unbelievers, I am not surprised, but it is much more difficult to be rejected by brothers or sisters in Christ.  Though I must remember it is for Jesus' sake that I love, not for my own benefit.

Recently I made another move out of obedience to what I felt God wanted me to do to love someone.  I felt nervous, and I prayed fervently beforehand.  Because of circumstances, I was rejected again.  I had to pray over and over to God about the circumstances and trust Him in them.  I had to lean on Jesus to help me see my needy friend, and not my own sad sense of rejection.  The scene has been playing out in my head, and I remembered the wise words from Jim Wilson in his booklet, "How To Be Free From Bitterness." He wrote:
Before we can get rid of bitterness, we have to realize that we are bitter. How can we tell if we are bitter?  One good rule of thumb is this: Bitterness remembers details. You have had thousands of conversations in your life, most of which you have forgotten.  But this one took place five years ago, and you remember every single word, his intonation and the inflection of every part of his voice.  You know exactly what happened--which means you are bitter.  Someone might object and say that it is also possible to have a good memory of a wonderful conversation.  Is this possible?  Yes, but not likely.  Why is this? Because memory is helped by review, review, and more review.

Am I bitter when I am reviewing these troublesome details in my memory?  Probably.  This morning I prayed out loud: Lord, I choose to forgive __________.  Help me to forgive _______. I pray that you will break Satan's attempt to tear apart relationships in Your Body (the Church).  And I tell Satan, "Be gone, in Jesus' name. You have no power over me to destroy me. I am bought with the blood of Jesus, who has defeated you."  Thank You, Lord. Lord, have mercy. Amen.

That prayer shone the light into the darkness and sin of my heart.  Jesus took every sin and every bitter word and action upon Himself when He died on that cross.  He defeated sin and death and the devil when He rose again from death and walked around after the Resurrection.   By Jesus' power, we can walk in newness of life, and in forgiveness.

Sing to the Lord. Sing of His marvelous deeds.  Sing of His forgiveness. Sing praises to God.

Fear not, little flock, He goeth ahead,
your Shepherd selected the path you must tread;
the waters of Marah He'll sweeten for thee,
He drank all the bitter in Gethsemane.
Only believe, only believe;
all things are possible, only believe.
-Paul Rader, 1921.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Biking on May Day

Cherry Blossoms, Easter 2005

We just got back from a bike ride in our little town.  The sun was in the west and the air was still a Springtime warm.  We saw friends who are building a house about a mile from us while we were biking, and we enjoyed some "Grounders" and "Shocking each other after sliding down the nylon slide" games with neighborhood kids at a local park.  Another great blessing of this ride was discovering a little park just south of us about a half mile tucked into the sloughs and trees, that I had never realized was there until tonight.  It was a beauty, and a refreshing ride after a whirlwind week.  Ethan took off Thursday for a 17 day teaching trip to Uganda at Africa Renewal University. His class will be for pastors in the region, and they will be studying Christian Leadership with him.  We meet regularly with some people from our church in order to study the Bible and pray together.  This week, a friend mentioned that while we were praying for Ethan last Sunday, God gave her the words "Abundant Peace" in regard to this trip and the kids and I staying here at home.  The fact that trusting in God, almighty, eternal, and sovereign, yet loving and holy, brings about a close relationship with God and a deep heartfelt peace that allows us to go about every circumstance with assurance in the bigness of God.  Abundance means beyond what we need and overflowing.

God is giving us that peace....after needing to return three times in one day to the Driver's License office in Anoka to attempt to apply for G's driver's permit (we kept messing up the documents we needed and had to go back home over and over again), after broken eyeglasses that needed replacing, after our hot water heater broke down and plenty of cold showers (eeeeek!) but a plumber friend was able to diagnose the problem and fix it for a low cost this afternoon, after the death of a favorite pet, after remembering the painful past and the shame of wrongs I have done and the trespasses against me yet finding comfort in one another and in God's Word that brings life, after a surprise overnight visit from my sister and her daughters, and after hearing the Gospel preached again in our home church this morning during communion and throughout the service.   
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:4-7

By the way, Xhristos Voskress to all our friends in Eastern Europe and Asia celebrating Easter today!