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Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?

-Romans 2:4

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. Isaiah 43:18-19 NIV

As soon as the calendar turned January 1, I was inundated with announcements and posts from family and friends about how they were going to change something or go after something this year. I rejoiced with them (I love goals and going after it) but secretly, I didn’t want to see them just yet. My kids didn’t go back to school until January 9th and I couldn’t think about any new year aspirations until that glorious day. When my sweet babes are home for a three week winter break, I’m doing all I can to keep everyone alive and the house from being trashed. 

So new things. . .fresh starts. . .yeah, they didn’t come until Monday, January 9th at 8:15 am immediately following the close of those beautiful yellow school bus doors.

And that first week when I finally had space to think and plan and dream about the new year, I felt God drawing me to this verse. “Forget the former things. . .I am doing something new,” he called to me.

So I started asking him to reveal the newness he had for me this year. 

A new opportunity. . .new dream. . .favor on the new ministry he birthed in my heart last year? 

And although I believe he will bring newness to my work and calling, he’s been focusing my eyes to see beyond the physical. Now, I’m seeking him for new strength, new strategy, self-discipline that forms new and healthy habits. A new heart for my husband and children. Fresh vision for our home.

God wants to realign our hearts, just like he did to the people of Israel through the prophet Isaiah’s words. If God’s people had stayed focused on their captivity, they would have never experienced their release. As God calls us up and out into a new year, a new season, and new territory, we may find ourselves looking more to our limitations than to his great power. We see all the ways we’ve fallen short in the past and wonder if we can be effective in business, ministry, motherhood, marriage. . .

But he says, “Forget about all that. I’m doing something new now.” Because when we focus on our shortcomings we get stuck in the same cycle of powerlessness and discouragement. With eyes fixed behind us on what has been, we cannot see the way forward.


This is an edited excerpt of what first appeared here and is shared with the author's permission.

Jessica Wolstenholm is co-founder of Grace for Moms. After 15 years in the music and publishing industries, Jessica came home to be with her two small children. Although the transition from the corporate world to the playground has been an adjustment, she is learning every day to access the grace available to us through Christ as she navigates the full time job of motherhood. She is the co-author of The Pregnancy Companion: A Faith-Filled Guide for Your Journey to Motherhood and The Baby Companion: A Faith-Filled Guide for Your Journey Through Baby’s First Year. Jessica lives in Nolensville, TN with her husband, Dave and two miracle babies, Hope (6) and Joshua (3).

More of Jessica Wolstenholm: www.graceformoms.com

It’s Time to Seek the Lord  -   

This devotional was written by Jim Grams    

 

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven; a time to be born, and a time to die… —Ecclesiastes 3:1-2

 

The most probable author of the Book of Ecclesiastes was the incredibly rich and powerful King Solomon. It is a book filled with statements of hopelessness and an attitude that says, “Life doesn’t matter.” But in Chapter 3, Solomon talks about there being a “time for everything”: A time to be born, and a time to die. A time to weep and a time to laugh. A time to be silent and a time to speak. It isn’t hard to get the picture. God wants us to examine how we spend our time.

 

I was looking around my house the other day and decided to count the clocks. I couldn’t believe it. There were 21! Try counting the clocks in your home and don’t forget the DVD player, the microwave and even the coffeemaker. Clocks are everywhere!

 

We are so very time conscious in fast-paced North America. I remember some of my trips to Africa’s great interior. I was in a Mozambique village without TV, no newspapers and no clocks. It was very easy to even forget which day of the week it was. All events in those villages were scheduled by the sun and not the clock. It was awesome!

 

I think all of us would be a lot better off if we scheduled our lives by the SON! Every event in our day should be centered in our personal relationship with Jesus Christ. I wonder how often we have looked at our wristwatches and rushed away from an opportunity to share Christ’s love with someone who was just ready to open his or her heart.

 

Let’s determine today to ask God to help us be less time controlled. Let’s decide to serve Christ every minute and make each day, His day…by being obedient to His call. Walking with the Lord requires keeping our eyes fixed on Him every single moment.

 

Solomon ends his depressing view of the world with this great conclusion to the book of Ecclesiastes: “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.”  He actually got it right in the end. We need to decide to get it right every morning, by obeying God without constantly looking at our watches. Time is not money; time is an opportunity to seek our Lord, and it’s a gift we need to give Him daily.

 

GOING DEEPER:

1. Are there any blocks of time in your day where God is excluded?  Do you find yourself wasting minutes or even hours of your valuable day?

 

2. Try praying short prayers throughout the day.  In the middle of your busiest hour, pause a moment, and just talk to your loving Heavenly Father.

 

FURTHER READING:

Hosea 10:12; Ephesians 5:15-16

This devotional originally appeared in “HomeWord with Jim Burns” on Crosswalk’s Family Devotional section. For more information about HomeWord with Jim Burns devotionals, please visit us online.

More of HomeWord with Jim Burns: http://www.crosswalk.com/devotionals/homeword/

In Good Company -  

 

He was despised and rejected—a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care. —Isaiah 53:3 (NLT)

 

Have you ever noticed how rejection is such a consistent part of life?

 

Having been a youth pastor for more than two decades, I know a lot about this. Rejection and youth ministry are synonymous. Teenagers can be incredibly blunt. Many don’t fully realize that adults have feelings. They tell you exactly what they think and often don’t pull any punches when it comes to tact. For years, I regularly heard statements like these:

 

“My mom said she likes your new haircut. But I think it looks stupid.”

 

• “I brought my friend to hear you speak last week. You weren’t very good.”

 

• “I used to think you were kind of an attractive sort of dad-type…until last week’s waterslide trip, when I saw you in your bathing suit.”

 

And so it went.

 

Apart from my experiences working with teenagers, I’ve battled for years with feelings of low self-worth and fear of rejection. I think a lot of us do, whether we admit it or not. Battling rejection is a constant struggle in life.

 

Maybe right now you’re feeling rejected. You put your time, talent, or treasure forward and it wasn’t received the way you had hoped. Maybe you’re angry at the person who rejected you—and fearful that someone else will do it again. Maybe you’re annoyed that your efforts weren’t received like they should have been. Maybe you’re simply sad—sad for the way things could have been. If only you hadn’t been rejected…

 

One of the saddest things about living with rejection is that often we develop a skewed understanding about God. We start to think that He’s always sitting on our shoulders, ready and eager to bust our chops for any infraction of the rules. We forget that He loves us and that His love is abundant and complete.

 

I’m telling you that God isn’t about rejection, regardless of your performance or lack of it. He loves the whole world—that’s why He sent His only Son, Jesus. Whoever believes in Jesus will have eternal life (John 3:16). He doesn’t care if you have a big nose or can’t play baseball or failed your geometry test or want to talk more than your husband wants to listen. His arms are always open wide.

 

And one of the amazing things about Jesus is that He understands what it feels like to be rejected. Though he was perfect, He was still despised and rejected. If you’ve been rejected, know that you are in good company. You’re not alone. Jesus knows exactly what you’re going through.

 

Experiencing rejection in this life is inevitable. The pain of rejection is real. But, so is the unlimited love and comfort of Jesus. Don’t wallow in the mud of rejection. Run to Jesus. He’s waiting with open arms.

 

GOING DEEPER:

1. When you experience rejection, would you characterize your typical response as healthy or unhealthy? Why?

 

2. How can knowing that Jesus understands the pain of rejection make it easier to turn to Him for comfort?

 

FURTHER READING:

John 3:16; 2 Corinthians 1:3-5; Matthew 11:28-30

DOUG FIELDS is the senior director of the HomeWord Center for Youth and Family at Azusa Pacific University and the co-founder of Downloadyouthministry.com. Doug has been a youth and teaching pastor at Mariners Church and Saddleback Church for 30 years and has authored more than fifty books. He is a passionate speaker reaching thousands of leaders, teenagers, and parents every year. Doug resides with his wife and three children in Southern California. 

More of Doug Fields: www.homeword.com

Grace has had to navigate some difficult friendship issues this year. She was so befuddled! Her heart just couldn’t comprehend why friends would act so cruelly. Why weren’t they all just playing together having fun?!

This issue gave us opportunities for good, hard conversations about friendship. In those conversations we focused on the ultimate True Friend: Jesus. In the midst of it all Grace came to me one day and said: “You know how you write “Life with Grace?” Well, I wrote something. It’s called “Life with Mom.”

(Names have been left out for privacy and because this story is about one name: JESUS!)

Life with Mom:

One day I was talking with my friend…. When all of a sudden [another friend] started “The Friendship Show” and asked [my first friend]: “[So and so], why did Grace say mean things about you behind your back?”

I said: “I did not say mean things behind your back!”

[My first friend] said: “Let her talk first.” So she started to talk about it and then [my first friend] said: “I’m not going to be your friend because you said mean things behind my back.”

My heart was struck with sadness. I talked to my mom about this after school. She said it would be okay if you stay away from them. I felt so mad, but mom said to not return evil for evil, but return good to evil. I felt much more better, but I still have trouble with them now. Jesus says to love your neighbor as yourself and to treat people good even if they are mean back.

Thank you for listening to “Life with Mom.”

I was astonished at what Grace wrote. It revealed an understanding of what’s perhaps one of Jesus’ hardest teachings:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also…

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven…. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? (Matthew 5:38-39, 43-47)

Many people have trouble with this part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Even seasoned Christians struggle with it. I’ve heard from the mouths of believers and non-believers alike: “If someone slaps me- I’m not turning the other cheek! You slap me, I slap you!”

I think we misunderstand Jesus’ teaching here. We assume when he instructs us to “turn the other cheek” that he means we ought to be passive and just let whoever hit us do it again. Yet, God’s word does not say to be passive- but active!

Do not repay anyone evil for evil…Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:17-21)

Why is this so hard to put in action? The truth is that we don’t trust God’s justice so we pursue our own, and revenge is sweet! Until it comes around with us on the receiving end. And we blow back… and blow back again. We don’t reap justice here but anger, with relationships whirling and overcome by evil. But God says: Overcome evil with good! Jesus says: Respond with something utterly different. Be willing to respond in this radically different way even if you know you will be slapped again. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing…. (1 Peter 3:9; my emphasis)

Think of it this way: Imagine what you expect (when you are in a good relationship with someone) and you approach that one you love offering your cheek. You don’t expect a slap on the face, but a tender kiss. When Jesus tells us to “turn the other cheek” to those who have wronged us, he does not necessarily intend for us to be passive door mats but active agents of LOVE. He means our response to someone who wronged us ought to be so radical, so gentle, so active with love, like offering your cheek to be kissed rather than struck.

Well, you ask: What if I do this radical active love offering my cheek and they DO “hit” me again?  How many times are we supposed to forgive and take it?

Interestingly, Jesus was asked this same question:

Peter came to Him and asked, “Lord, how many times will my brother sin against me and I forgive him and let it go? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered him, “I say to you, not up to seven times, but seventy times seven. (Matthew 18:21-22)

Commentators say that Jesus was illustrating that there was no end to how many times we should forgive others. Some say the number 70 X 7 equals an amazing 490 times- too many to say he was putting a real limit on forgiveness. Other commentators say Jesus was not speaking of multiplying 70 X 7, but meant something more like: 70 to the 7th power: which is a number that is truly incomprehensible! Now, please do not think that I by any means would suggest you stay in a situation or relationship where you are being physically or mentally abused to your peril. I would suggest, however that in every situation, even in cases of extreme abuse, we are called still called to forgive and love.

So many of us cringe at these teachings. It goes against every fiber of our being. This is not the way of the world! Who can do this? Who in their right mind would live like this?

I know the answer:

Jesus.

What I love about Jesus is that he’s not just some “great teacher.” He doesn’t spout and pontificate about how we “ought” to live. Every word he uttered he lived out. He didn’t just talk the talk. He walked the walk. He walked it up the hill to Calvary bearing the weight of the cross on which he would be hung. Jesus willingly died on that cross for my sin and yours. Every wrong thing we do is a blow at God- a slap in His face. Jesus took every one of those blows from me and from you. And what was his response?

He turned the other cheek.

When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” For “you were like sheep going astray,” but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. (1 Peter 2: 23-25)

Jesus did something actively and utterly different. He turned the other cheek in LOVE. He loves you. He wants you to see how he was willing to be destroyed for you and me – pummeled by our sin so that we could be forgiven by God, reconciled, brought back home: Returned to Him.

Question: Have you been wronged? Of course you have. How have you handled it?

Remember Jesus. He didn’t just teach “turn the other cheek.” He is the one true friend who lived it out. He turned the other cheek and we did strike it again… and again. He knew we would, and he offered his life anyway. This is what God did for me and you. His active love saved us from being overcome by evil. Jesus repaid our evil with blessings: Salvation! Forgiveness! Eternal life! Son-ship! Infinite Worth! Unconditional Love! Blessing after blessing. I don’t know about you, but that truth tenderizes the hard, tough places of my rebellious soul. It moves me to say “No!” to my heart of revenge and “Yes!” to the heart of Jesus- even if it means getting slapped.

Why?

Because when Jesus asks you and I to turn the other cheek, he is not asking us to do anything that he was not willing to do. What he did changed the world. Be the utterly different active agent of LOVE he calls you to be. Do not return evil for evil, but return good to evil. Offer your cheek.


This originally appeared here and is shared with the author's permission.

Monica is her husband’s adoring wife, her little girl’s “Mama,” a crazy dog lover, and everyday falling more deeply in love with the Lord! In September of 2008 the Gills were blessed with a fifth tiny addition to the family (this time a baby instead of a puppy!) Grace is an ever-present wonder and a constant source of joy. Monica has been an active Bible teacher, writer and speaker for women's ministry and youth for twenty years. She loves to combat every challenge of life with this truth: Jesus is the answer! Jesus is always the answer!

 You can find Monica at www.lifewithgrace.net or contact her at monica@lifewithgrace.net

More of Monica Gill: www.lifewithgrace.net

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