The iPhone Dilemma

My husband and I have 2 granddaughters, 5 years and almost 2 years. They have loved our iPhones for quite a while. Even the little one loves to have possession of a phone. While the baby had my phone, she seemed very frustrated and could not find the apps she usually uses. I looked at my phone to see what was wrong and realized all of my apps were wiggling. For anyone that has an iPhone you know that this means apps can be deleted.

Sure enough, I was missing quite a few apps and my apps were in the wrong place. Not only had she deleted my apps, she had rearranged them. Even though my apps were saved to the cloud, I ended up having to restore my phone to a previous setting. Thanks to my husband, I was able to recover apps from the cloud as I realized which apps were missing. My phone was a mess but it was back to the way it had been previously. Everything that was missing could be restored from the cloud. Even though the apps were deleted, they were actually still there. I could go to “the cloud” to find them. (When I say I could do this, what I mean is my husband/tech support could do it.) The apps were not really gone.

Thankfully, that is not the way forgiveness works. When God forgives our sins, he deletes them. God does NOT store our sins anywhere. When we ask Jesus to be our Lord and Savior, His blood deletes our sins. He restores us to the original created person with all of the plans he has for our lives.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” John 1:9 NIV

Psalm 51:10-12 ESV Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.

2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

He knows the plans he has for us. He orders our steps. 

Jeremiah 29:11 NIV “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

God not only forgives our sins, He throws our sins away. 

Psalm 103:12 tells us “as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” 

How far is that? The further you go West, the further away East is. The further you go East, the further away West is. Our God is so forgiving. He would never go to “the Cloud” and download our sins for us to remember. Are there consequences for sin, Yes.  Just like my phone being “messed up”, we can mess up our lives but God is faithful. When we call on him, he is always there.

Romans 10:13 says, “for whosoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Isaiah 40:31 NKJV “But those who wait on the LORD Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.”

1 Peter 5:10 ESV “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”

Don’t go fishing in the sea of forgetfulness to remember sin that God has forgiven. 

 

The God Who Runs

by guest author Joni Shankles (Reposted from Joni’s blog with permission. Read more from Joni here.)
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Rebellion.

Selfish demands.
Surly words.
Shameful choices.

We’ve all played the rebel, rejecting the rules to get what we want, to experience something new.

Regret.

I was so stupid.

We’ve all suffered the consequences of rebellious choices, finding ourselves in a mess we can’t escape on our own.

Rejection.

I’m no longer worthy.

And sometimes, we fall into despair, feeling ashamed and blaming ourselves again and again.

What can we do when we’ve failed, when we feel cut off from the good life we knew before, separated from God and those we love?

Jesus told the Parable of the Lost Son to show rebels like us what to do.

When you’ve chosen your own way, when you’ve suffered the consequences, when you don’t even feel worthy to be called a child of God….

Get up.
Turn around.
Go back to your Father.

I’ll get up, go to my father, and say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight. I’m no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired workers.”’ So he got up and went to his father.
Luke 15:18-19 CSB

Jesus told the Parable of the Lost Son to show us how love responds.

Love sees.
Love runs.
Love forgives.
Love restores.
Love keeps searching.

But while the son was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion. He ran, threw his arms around his neck, and kissed him. The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight. I’m no longer worthy to be called your son.’
“But the father told his servants, ‘Quick! Bring out the best robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Then bring the fattened calf and slaughter it, and let’s celebrate with a feast, because this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ So they began to celebrate. Luke 15:20-24 CSB

God is not a father who writes us off.

God is the Father who sees.
He is watching for the moment our hearts turn toward home again.

God is the Father who runs.
He closes the gap to embrace us as dearly loved children, not hired workers.

God is the Father who forgives.
He is filled with compassion and shows us mercy when we repent.

God is the Father who restores.
He celebrates our return, welcomes us home, and demonstrates His love, providing more than we could ask or imagine.

God is the Father who shows us that our worth is not earned, but inherited. Our worth comes from our relationship, initiated and sustained by the Father.

We need to remember that when we’re not playing the rebel, we are easily tempted to play the judge. The rebel demands his own way. His judgmental brother demands he pay for it.

The Father loves them both.

So his father came out and pleaded with him…“‘Son,’ he said to him, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”
Luke 15:28, 31-32 CSB

God is the Father who keeps searching.
He invites the self-righteous to trust His judgment and join the celebration.

God is a good Father.

He sees.
He runs.
He forgives.
He restores.
He keeps searching.

We are God’s children.
We belong to Him.
When we fail or when we have it all together, we can trust His love.
And His love never fails.

See what great love the Father has given us that we should be called God’s children—and we are! 1 John 3:1 CSB

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Warts and All!

by Guest writer: Lauren Stovall

This is not a blog about warts. But it is. So nurses: lean in, and weak-stomached ladies: scroll away.

When I was younger, I had a wart on the heel of my foot. At first, it just blended in with my calluses and swirly footprint. (Who looks at the heel of their foot anyway?) Slowly it grew until it was obvious and even uncomfortable. Eventually it got so bad that I had a limp. I tenderly tried to live my life tip-toeing around the painful pressure in my foot. By the time I realized it was not going away, it was the size of a quarter.

You may not notice the symbolism of all this, or you may be a better person than I am and simply not handle your sin this way. But for all the weak humans here: you may notice that what I have just described is exactly how we deal with sin. We do not even notice that we have sin growing in our life. Temptation gradually spreads in our life until it seems impossible to get rid of it. Satan is a conniving genius. And I do not say that to give him fame, but to give you a flashing warning! As Christians, we often forget that Satan’s mission is to steal everything precious, kill our souls, and destroy every positive part of God’s Kingdom. The joy of this statement is that he can’t! It makes me want to laugh out loud as I sit at Cup’s coffeehouse. Satan so badly wants to tear down our lives, but ultimately he. will. fail. [For more on spiritual warfare, I recommend the book Fervent by Priscilla Shirer.]

As Christians, we often forget that Satan’s mission is to steal everything precious, kill our souls, and destroy every positive part of God’s Kingdom. The joy of this statement is that he can’t!

I mention Satan to remind us that the temptation we face is not going to be obvious at first. Sin creeps into your life slowly, leaving you completely unaware like a slow-growing wart hidden on your heel. For me, it was old British romances. At first, there was no shame in reading Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen or watching a classic movie like a red-love-heart-oldremake of Jane Eyre. It was subtle. It was sneaky. It was Satan. These innocent actions, though not sin at first, evolved.

As I type, my heart beats faster. Satan whispers, “You don’t need to admit this. You confessed this to God.” How tricky is that beast! Of course I have confessed my sin to God. Of course God has forgiven me! He cannot go against His own nature. God IS forgiveness, mercy, love, peace, redemption. Here it is though. Here is my sickening confession: I loved the romance books and movies so much that they became an addiction. I watched The Office to get to the kissing scene. I read cheesy Christian romance novels to get to the finale where the cowboy roped the girl and they had a dramatic kiss under the moon. It may seem innocent and harmless, but Honey-child, my heart was far away from innocent. Sin had spread so that I was accommodating my sin like limping with a wart on my heel.

For years, I allowed my dreams of love and romance to become an idol. This obsession festered uncontrolled and unconfessed. Every now and then my guilt would overcome me. I would ask God to forgive me, and swear off all romance “for the last time.” However, Satan always lured me back. The root of my wart was still there. I could not get rid of it on my own. I had no accountability and no motivation to air my dirty laundry so that it could be washed clean. I held the secret of my sin inside and let it contaminate my mind with dissatisfaction at the singleness God had given me, jealousy of different couples’ love, and lust for feelings or relationships that were not for me. I hope you are understanding the depth of my problem. I had sin: obsession that turned to idolization and lust.

Back to the wart: my mom, obviously concerned for my health, found out a dermatologist was the person to handle my problem. She scheduled an appointment. With much uneasy anticipation, we went to the doctor. I was fearful of going to someone who would probably hurt me while trying to help. However, I finally realized that I had to rid myself of the problem. So I went to the doctor. I decided that I really wanted to be healed. For good. Forever.

Full disclosure: It’s about to get gross. I was laid on the crinkly-papered doctor table on my stomach with the wart-infected heel sticking up in the air. Mom stood by with a grimace on her face. When you get a wart removed, they spray some cold, numbing chemical on your skin before putting the actual medicine in your foot. Frozen-skin spray on my heel. Then the needle. I hate needles. I only looked at it once, and that was too many times. The doctor began to repeatedly stab the needle into my still quarter-sized wart. The spray does not work. I can tell you, frozen heel or not, I felt those stabs. I did not count how many times the needle went in my heel, but afterward I had at least twenty visible needle-holes.

The process hurt. It was not easy. I did not enjoy the wart extraction, but it was necessary.

medic-hospital-laboratory-medical-40559Our sin must be handled the same. Once God has pointed out where the sin is and that it needs to go, we must submit to His Doctor hands. He is the One who pokes at our flaw and finds how far into our flesh the darkness reaches. He is the One who pries our hands loose from our sin. Because if I am being honest, I still do not WANT to be free from my sin. It is tough to let go of addictions. Their sinuous hold makes us believe that they are a part of us and our life will not be as happy or complete without them.

I could never take a needle and stab my own foot. It goes against human nature to attack part of your flesh. But it goes against spiritual nature to allow sin to coexist with our saved soul. As all Christians know, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to one and despise the other” (Matthew 6:24 NIV). Although this verse is talking about serving God or money, I believe the same logic applies to all sin. I cannot allow any idol to be in the same heart as God. Mostly due to the fact that God cannot be chill with sin.

One last medical bit: the wart did not magically evaporate that day. The medicine slowly killed the wart over a period of several weeks. Every now and then more of the wart would let go of my heel. I am no theologian, but I do not think God magically whisks away all our sin. We may have to pray for forgiveness and healing multiple times. Do not think for one moment that is because God is not big enough to remove your sin or even that you are too weak to really give up your sin. Instead, see this as a beautiful process. God is drawing you back to Him over and over again. Let Him hold your hand in the pain. Let Him hear your voice continually. Let yourself lean into His warm love. My eyes tear up at the thought.

As a fellow sister in Christ, I challenge you. Yes, you. Dear you, please let go of your sin. Stop trying to heal yourself with wart Band-Aids and self-help books that only patch the problem for an hour or a week. Go sobbing to God. Let Him take out your warty sin. Let Christ bleed all over your mess. Let the Holy Spirit drag your soul to God’s feet.

Praise Him. He IS healing. He WILL forgive you. He IS stronger than your sin. He IS a new life. He IS freedom from your addiction. He IS love.

I know this. I speak from experience. It may hurt. It may take time. You may go back to the Doctor for weeks and months. Oh Child, it is not easy to nod yes to a big needle of truth and separation from sin. But Honey-child: it. is. worth. it.

“But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers.” James 1:14-16

To Be or Not to Be (Offended)?

Years ago our sweet pastor’s wife taught about taking offense. She remarked that when something was done to us or was said to or about us, we could choose not to be offended. For me that was revolutionary thinking. How about you?

pexels-photo-133021Is it a shocking idea that you have no right to take offense? You realize that you should forgive others, but do you quickly forgive and move on? Or do you enjoy the power of holding a grudge or being offended? What do you do with verses like Matthew 7:1-5 that talks about not judging and getting the speck out of your own eye first, or Romans 12:18 that tells us to live at peace with all men, or 1 Corinthians chapter 13 that is filled with characteristics for living a life of practical love? Do you equivocate? Pretend you’ve got it all together? Rationalize? In pride, we often focus on self and ignore God’s tuggings on our heart to truly forgive, to reconcile, to lay down our offenses at the foot of the cross.

We often think we are good at forgiveness. I’ve been there. In my early year, if you had apologized to me I would have been immediately gracious! I would hug you and genuinely forgive you. No grudges. Really! But if you didn’t apologize… whoa! Then I was offended!  I felt I had a right to be offended. Yet, I thought I was handling offenses appropriately.

What made a difference in my thinking, and what will change all of us? When we realize and accept that our offenses (sins) against Father God are so much greater than any of the petty things we hold onto that have been done to us, then God’s transforming work begins in us.

The parable in Matthew 18:23-35 where Jesus is giving a word picture of forgiveness to Peter and the disciples will clear up our focus as we allow the stark light of scripture to stream into the dark corners of our hearts that we keep comfortably hidden. calculator-solar-calculator-count-how-to-calculate-67599Jesus prefaced this parable with a command (a command, not a suggestion!) to forgive a person 70 x 7 times.  person. 70 x 7. A single brother. 70 x 7. Another Christian. 70 x 7 = 490 times! Then Jesus went on to tell the story, because stories pierce our hearts with truth.

God was piercing my heart. He was removing blemishes from my heart. He got my attention with that radical thought presented in our ladies Bible study group… I could choose NOT to be offended in any and every situation!

Once He had my attention it was like a seed being planted in my soul. The watering and fertilizing and sunshine started coming. Everywhere I turned I was confronted with verses and stories and examples of taking offense or not doing it. And that seed began to grow. I heard a stream of songs and sermons and wise proverbs on the subject. And it became a delicate little plant.

IMG_4148And this parable, of one who was forgiven of such a HUGE debt but was unwilling to forgive smaller offenses done to him, began to grow in my thoughts. And that plant started to thrive. I began to see the reality of my life and the HUGE amount of grace God had bestowed on me. I began to be humbled. I began to see reality, heavenly reality, through my blurred lens of self-righteousness and pride.

I realized no word spoken or deed done to me would ever come close to being as bad as my sin which nailed Jesus to the cross! My prideful, sinful heart which day after day after day after day chose my will over His and my ways over His, and my set of rules as to what was acceptable over His, had ruled my life. My self love had relegated My Creator and the God of the universe to the position of onlooker in my life, when in reality He rightly deserved the role of Chief Engineer, Conductor, President, Foreman, Principal, Boss,… the Sovereign Monarch of the domain of my life. Who was I that the Lord of the earth should take a back seat to me?

Over time that little seed turned into a way of life and a way of thinking for me. God’s love, His Word, and His grace worked in my heart as Isaiah 55:10-11 says “to accomplish what the Father desired and achieve the purpose for which He sent it.” You see when it comes to our Heavenly Father, His “Love is beautiful, but it is also terrible– terrible in its determination to allow nothing blemished or unworthy to remain in the beloved.” (Hannah Hurnard – Hind’s Feet on High Places)

Since this transformation, other people may have benefitted from my less-easy-to-offend attitude. I’m kinder, softer. But I am the greatest beneficiary of the blessings that have come from learning to forgive immediately and not take offense. I now know what it is like to walk in freedom from taking offense, to lie down at night to sweet sleep, not agitation and anger; to take criticism without taking offense; to maintain long term relationships even through hurts and misunderstandings; to be insulted, ignored, or mistreated and not have it ruin my day; to walk through church on a Sunday morning with a mind full of kind thoughts and blessings and prayers for the dear brothers and sisters I meet instead of an offended spirit full of hurt, anger, and self-righteous judgment!

I still get tempted to take offense. I still have people say or do hurtful things to me, but each time I have an immediate choice to give up self and choose love. To forgive. The pexels-photo-112640transforming power of Christ and of the Word of God have changed me. When the God of love has planted that seed and grown a flowering, fruit-bearing plant in our hearts, personal offenses come into perspective and we can choose to walk in peace not prideful selfishness.

“For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.” 2 Corinthians 5:14-15

God’s “…Love is beautiful, but it is also terrible– terrible in its determination to allow nothing blemished or unworthy to remain in the beloved.”

Hannah Hurnard – Hind’s Feet on High Places