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He has empowered us to release that which binds us.One thing. That was all that stood between the young man and his goal–eternal life. He sensed it. He knew there was more than earth and sky, heart and flesh, sorrow and pleasure. From childhood, he’d recited the Law and held to the traditions of his people.

But, rote prayers and methodical religiosity left him as empty as a cistern in a time of drought and the man wondered if he’d ever discover a life-giving well that might sate his spiritual thirst for something more than dry tradition and impossible standards. He’d worked earnestly since childhood—striving to be good enough. No lying. No cheating. No murder.

 Still…the ache for a taste of forever. For unmarred perfection. For heart satisfaction.

And something, or perhaps Someone, pricked at his soul. Ask. Seek. Knock.

The world, though, had been a place of solace despite the elusive inner ache and the man reminded himself of his good fortune. Didn’t he own fine homes? Possess old money? Demand the sort of respect and deference afforded a man of power and influence?

How disappointing to hear the Rabbi’s words, “One thing you lack.”

Glancing from Jesus to his disciples, the young man’s mouth might have been shaped in an “o” of surprise. How can I lack for anything? I hold devoutly to the commands of the Torah . Servants bend their will to mine and I have enough riches for the rest of my days.

Why must the Teacher make such a request?  “Give all your wealth to the poor and follow me.

But, the man “was holding on tight to many things and wasn’t about to let go”. Crestfallen, he turned away from Jesus, unwilling to give the one thing Jesus wanted. Himself. His heart, mind, and soul. Not just pennies in the offering plate or a few self-righteously lived moments marked off on a mental score board. Not a token sacrifice of time spent reading scripture or a prayer recited in a desperate moment.

Jesus asked the man to loosen his grip on that which kept them from knowing one another, devotion to something else. Devotion to wealth. Position. Comfort. Earthly security.

Though it grieved the young ruler, he held fast and chose the comfort of now in favor of the promise of a beautiful, forever-love. The man was unwillingly to exchange the vanishing riches of earth for the unmatchable mercy and grace of One who would momentarily die for his sins.

How many of us are like the rich young ruler—clutching that one thing? Holding it fast as if our life depends upon it?

We may have even professed our faith, but might be missing out on fully living in relationship with Christ as we grip that one thing to our hearts. Loving it. Elevating it to a place of prominence. Not willing to entrust it to Him.

Perhaps some us struggle with attachment to possessions, but there are hundreds of little gods that might thrust themselves into our relationship with Christ…a woman-made relationship barrier.

Bitterness. Unforgiveness. Discontentment.

Worry. Fear. A difficult past.

Is that one thing in your life or mine leaving our hearts parched? Needing to be washed afresh with Living Water?

Oh, dear one, may He gently reveal any lack in our lives and empower us to release whatever binds us to the earthly that we might turn our hearts fully toward heaven’s  Promise.

Blessings,       

Tammy

 

Scripture for Reflection

And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” 20 And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” 21 And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”  (Mark 10:17-31 ESV)

 

Friday Link Uptellhisstory-badge

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Squat, aluminum spaces enclosed by unwelcoming barbed wire or steel gates are located randomly around the city. Marked by such signs as Storage-R-Us and The Space Place, people like you and I gather “stuff”—undesirable items and maybe-we’ll-use-them-someday-things—and pay hundreds of dollars every year just to have a video camera supervise our favorite junk.

While storage units can effectively meet a short-lived need, they were never designed to store clutter for months or years at a time. Yet, 50% of all units are filled with unwanted castoffs—furniture, old toys, and unused clothing—secret places clogged by material surplus.

Clutter

 

Like a personal storage unit, my mind is often full of spiritual clutter. The uneccesary…the unneeded…. even the unwelcome. Misguided self-perceptions, worry, unkind words spoken by another, past sins I hold onto out of guilt. Like a jumbled collection of debris tucked away in a rented lot, my self-created storage space grows crowded. Sometimes I’ll dig through the mess and rediscover a memory.

You’re worthless.

The carefully guarded words reemerge from the past—taunting me.
What was I thinking? I can’t believe God could forgive me for that.

Self-accusation robs my joy and disregards the mercy of the cross.

The accumulated rubbish stands testimony to my inability to let go—to give the One my faults…my hurt…my self-accusation. Then, he gently reminds me. Stop holding onto this debris! It does nothing but fill empty space when I promise to fill your heart.

Let me take it—all of it– for you, Child. Let me have your spiritual clutter and I’ll give you freedom.

 And when I set aside the unwanted castoffs? I no longer pay the price of keeping a tight hold on the stuff of the past.

Instead?  I’m rid of the spiritual clutter.  Friend, let’s remember to give Jesus our mess!

Scripture for Reflection

he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. 

(Titus 3:5)

 

 

 

LIVEFREETHURSDAY

 

 

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A heart-rending scene in the movie Forrest Gump elicits uncomfortable emotions every time I revisit the movie. Why? Because I relate to Jenny—the young woman who returns to her family home only to be reminded of the pain and destructive secrets experienced in a place that should have been one of innocence and laughter.

 

Not Enough Rocks.pngPausing, Jenny leans almost involuntarily toward the ground where her hand wraps itself around something solid…indestructible. Determinedly, she hurls a rock at the faded, abandoned home in the distance. Glass shatters and one rock after another finds its mark—again and again–until Jenny presses her heaving body against the earth in exhaustion.

“Sometimes,” her companion laments, “I guess there just aren’t enough rocks.”

Do you find purchase with those words, dear Friend? Can you understand how deep a wound this woman may have experienced?

And you—what about you?

Do you carry around scars, too? Maybe your hurts grew in the promising relationship of marriage. Oh, the hope you had the day you pronounced your love for one another. Now, perhaps, the dreams have all but disappeared and you wonder if your aching heart can bear the loneliness any longer.

Or, it could be that the dreams you held for your child have been destroyed. An imposter stepped in and occupied their place—substance abuse…depression….a precious one’s death.

Maybe your hurts were borne in a moment of a friend’s unwarranted betrayal…a workplace disagreement…or, perhaps, even at the hands of other Christians.

Oh, yes. The pain is real.

But what I know? Throwing rocks will not relieve the ache. The stinging words of retort meant to shame our offender…the dissolution of an unfulfilling relationship for another…the temporary solace found in a habit turned master—none of these “rocks” provide lasting satisfaction.   Instead, these stones will hang heavy like a weight—gradually pulling us deeper into resentment…remorse…regret.

But The Rock? He is the place of refuge…restoration…renewal. If we just unfurl those tightly curled fists and allow the rocks to tumble to the ground—each bitter thought and every cry of the heart—our faith will grow bigger, our hope greater, and our love deeper.

Scripture to Study (Genesis 38-46)

Consider Joseph’s story.

Because he was his father’s favorite, Joseph’s brother stripped him of dignity, threw him into the bowels of a pit, and sold him for next to nothing to slave traders. Remarkably, Joseph survived—and he survived without allowing hatred to implant itself in the dark places of his heart.

Instead, Joseph chose forgiveness. Beautiful, undeserved forgiveness.  

Joseph decided upon generosity. Life-giving, beyond expectation liberality.

The one who had been cast aside offered grace. Bountiful, unwarranted blessing.

 

-How do you imagine you would have reacted in Joseph’s situation?

-What is your response to those who have caused wounds in your life?

-Do your thoughts or actions align with the truth of who God says He is?

-What one step can you take today to let go of your grasp on a past hurt?

 

 

 

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Jesus…his name evokes a variety of images. A newborn infant wrapped in rags. A man of righteous anger defending his Father’s temple. A man of generous spirit giving all of himself—even to the point of death.

Imagine the scene. Shaking uncontrollably, the woman begged for mercy as people pressed around her. The shouts and cruel slurs of the Good Ones, the Religious Ones, pierced her heart the most. Adulterer! Harlot! Worthless!

Feeling the heat of shame on her face, the woman bowed her head ready to accept the punishment. She knew death was imminent. Uttering a prayer, the woman steeled herself for the first crushing blow of rock against flesh and bone.

Suddenly, the roar of the crowd quieted as Jesus—the one some called Messiah– stepped between the Religious and the Sinful Woman. His body a shield, Jesus knelt low and carefully, deliberately wrote something in the sand. Could he have written the word mercy? Or, perhaps, love? Maybe Jesus simply sketched SIN—large enough for everyone in the throng of people to see.

Dusting the sand from his hands, Jesus rose slowly—glancing at each person in turn.

“Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”

A few shifted uncomfortably while others refused to meet the Teacher’s eyes. Many of the Religious Ones scoffed. The crowd’s fevered excitement had diminished and people began to move away from the woman. Several minutes later, the woman stood in front of her Savior—rescued from her sin, delivered from the accusers, and promised a new life because of Christ’s eternal mercy.

Christ’s spirit of generosity was lived day by day with intentionality. Dear ones, let us live intentional lives with Christ’s glory and the good of others in mind!

Scripture for Reflection

Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Phil. 2:1-8)

 

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“The community of the saints is not an “ideal” community consisting of perfect and sinless men and women, where there is no need of further repentance. No, it is a community which proves that it is worthy of the gospel of forgiveness by constantly and sincerely proclaiming God’s forgiveness…Sanctification means driving out the world from the Church as well as separating the Church from the world. But the purpose of such discipline is not to establish a community of the perfect, but a community consisting of men who really live under the forgiving mercy of God.”
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

I never expected to be disliked–especially among a group of fellow believers.  But during the last few months, I’ve discovered truths that have long been avoided– perhaps out of my own naïveté or a false sense of the goodness of humanity.

The lessons have been difficult.  Painful.  Revealing.  Still, they only confirm my belief that a Christian is not someone without sin–merely a person who realizes her need for something more…Someone more.

Thank you, Jesus, for being that someone!

As a child, I rarely felt accepted.  Quiet and unassuming, I was an easy target for playground bullies and lunchroom remarks.  During my teen years, I was the girl everyone liked–but nobody thought was special.  And now, I’m reminded that even adults feel the sting of rejection.  Perhaps you are struggling with that hurt, as well. Be encouraged, Friend!

Consider those the world disregarded because they held unapologetically to God’s standard.  Noah?  Just a crazed old man shouting out useless warnings–until the day the clouds let loose their wrath.  Moses?  A prince turned pauper begging the most powerful king in the world to release thousands of Hebrew slaves–laughable.  Then, the King of all severed a sea in half–the road to freedom revealed by God’s own hand.  Christ himself suffered the ultimate rejection–death– at the hands of  family….friends….and people who chose a murderer to a miracle worker. But three days later? They found the stone rolled away.

You are in good company if you have been slandered, maligned, or disregarded for doing the right thing…if you have spoken the truth in love…or lived your faith out loud as a workman unashamed.  Isn’t it better for us to face the possibility of human rejection than to willingly brush off the obligation to share words of gentle rebuke or correction with a fellow Christian we claim to love?  If we don’t risk an offense then we do not love.

And, if our fears are realized?  If that person now counts herself an enemy?  Or, her anger and discontent infect the Body?  We are responsible to respond as Christ did when he was surrounded by those gaping and sneering at his mangled body hanging on the tree…”Father, forgive them.”

Forgiveness–in spite of anger…the need to self-promote…the temptation to respond in kind.  This is when faith becomes real, dear one.  Let’s choose Christ today–choose to forgive.

Reminders from Scripture

“…and be sure of this—that I am with you always, even to the end of the world.”  Matthew 28:20

“…he alone is my Rock, my rescuer, defense and fortress.”  Psalm 62

“When you are reviled and persecuted and lied about because you are my followers—wonderful! 12 Be happy about it! Be very glad! for a tremendous reward awaits you up in heaven.”  Matthew 5:11

“Love does not demand its own way. It is not irritable or touchy. It does not hold grudges and will hardly even notice when others do it wrong.” 1 Corinthians 13:15

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As Jesus crossed the threshold, he heard the subtle murmurings of the other guests.  He’s here–the Teacher.  Curious gazes followed him as he joined the others at the table.  

Simon’s home was well-appointed. A respected Pharisee, he had more wealth than most and displayed it with pride.  The table was lavishly spread with the best meats and delicacies money could buy while servants attended to the needs of those who had been invited–the educated, influential, and important.  

Why had Jesus been invited?  By this time his ministry had impacted the blind….the lame…and the deaf.  Crowds of broken, needy people trailed after him–hoping he would pause long enough to restore their aching hearts and bodies.  And the Pharisees sensed that this humble carpenter’s son had potential–the potential to strip them of prominence, prestige, and power.  Simon wanted to spend time with the impoverished babe-turned-prophet.  Were the stories true?  Could he be a prophet?  Was he a threat?

Watching Jesus carefully, Simon was considering these matters as his honored guest reclined at the table.  Suddenly, a hush fell over the room as an uninvited woman–the worst kind of woman–approached the Teacher’s feet.  Respectable people shunned her…mocked her…treated her as less than human.  Still…she stood near him–her clothing and makeup a testament to lewd living.  But, it wasn’t the woman’s appearance that drew notice today.  It was her bold humility.  Desperate sounds of regret burst from lungs that had only breathed in pain and tears flowed as freely as the contents she poured over the Master’s feet.

With nothing to dry the evidence of her sacrifice, the woman did the unthinkable.  Bowing her head in shame, the woman loosened her hair and brushed the perfume from the Teacher’s feet.  Her lavish demonstration drew gasps of disapproval from the crowd…but from Christ?  Merely the words she had yearned to hear.  “Your faith has saved you.  Go in peace.” (Luke 7:50)

Neither low position nor social expectations influenced Christ’s attitude toward this woman–a portrait of His grace.  His mercy and love for those who humbly trust him stung Simon and is a reminder for us today.  Oh, that we would love like Jesus!

 

Verses for Reflection

Luke 7:38-50, 1 Samuel 16:3 (more…)

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riverIt was on odd, perfunctory ending to what had been an opportunity for reconciliation and restoration.  After years of dysfunction, I had hoped for more from our relationship.  More understanding.  More normalcy.  More love.

Sometimes, though, healing is slow…laborious…painful.  It’s like the scar I bear on the soft underside of my foot where the sharp edge of glass penetrated deep beneath the surface years ago–severing tendons and limiting movement.  Now, all that seems to remain of the injury is a rough, jagged line drawn tightly across the skin.

Heart wounds sometimes heal in the same way.  Open, festering hurts diminish with time.  The balm of forgiveness and gentle doctoring of the Holy Spirit soothes the pain, confusion, and fear.  But–the scar still exists.

Maybe the scar remains for a purpose.  Maybe, just maybe, the scar reminds me of the One who can and will heal all–if not today, perhaps tomorrow; if not here, then on the other side of heaven.

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Its about Time Series III’ve never been one to make New Year’s resolutions.  I guess I’ve always thought of it as something that seems mildly unimportant and easily dismissed–especially when a flourless chocolate torte in a pool of raspberry sauce looks tantalizingly delicious and I’m wearing a pair of forgiving, elastic-waisted slacks.

But this year, I’ve felt challenged to focus on a resolution, word, or phrase to represent an intended direction for 2013.  It’s a word I dread to put out there for everyone to read.  Why?  Because if I type the characters for you to read then I’ll be accountable for living my life accordingly.  And honestly, today I don’t want to claim this word as my own.  In fact, I would prefer Christ didn’t expect it of me.  Why?  Because I am hanging on to resentment…anger….and even a sense of self-righteousness regarding someone who hurt me long ago.  This is when living like Christ takes me to the core of who I am. I can see beneath the thin veneer of Christian-ese and I don’t like what I see.

But the word keeps pulsing in my head…forgive…forgive…forgive.  There it is–the word that continues to thrust itself to the edge of my conscience.  Maybe God has continued to place a thought, word, or verse of scripture on your heart this week or even throughout the day.  Is He calling you to lay your burden at his feet?  Is there something you clutch tightly to your chest because you’re afraid of what might happen if you give it to Him?  Perhaps He is whispering to you just as He did to me, “Put your resentment down, Child.  It’s an anchor holding you back from experiencing what I have planned for you.”  Or, perhaps there is another area He wants to claim for 2013.

Friend, let’s invite Him to do a work in us this year.  Will you join me?  Why not start today?

 

Verse for Reflection

2 Corinthians 5:16-18

16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:[a] The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.

Invitation

Is there a defined area you believe God wants you to focus on this year?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A social outcast, Mary Magdalene was the bad girl of Galilee.  Women warned their sons about that woman and respectable men turned away in embarrassment at her knowing smile.  Mary was hopeless.  Rejected.  Irredeemable.

A beloved son rejected his father and his God for the false pleasures of the world.  Having ruined the family name, the young man returned home an impoverished and downtrodden fool…the stench of wild living still clinging to him.

Known for his religious zeal, Saul served as coat valet during a murderous rampage of  Christian converts.  Children cowered in his presence.  Families mourned.  A self-proclaimed executioner, Saul was guilty.

What do these people have in common with each other?  With a beloved friend or relative?  What do they have in common with us?

His name is Jesus Christ–the Savior sent to restore the rejected and rescue the irredeemable; the Shepherd commissioned to guide wayward children home to the Father; and the Lamb offering His life for those who are guilty.

Be encouraged!  Christ came to save the prostitutes, prodigals, and perpetrators.  He came to save the sinners.  He came to save you and me.  No sin is too great nor soul too tarnished to be outside the grasp of a loving God.

Verse for Reflection

We, of course, have plenty of wisdom to pass on to you once you get your feet on firm spiritual ground, but it’s not popular wisdom, the fashionable wisdom of high-priced experts that will be out-of-date in a year or so. God’s wisdom is something mysterious that goes deep into the interior of his purposes. You don’t find it lying around on the surface. It’s not the latest message, but more like the oldest—what God determined as the way to bring out his best in us, long before we ever arrived on the scene. The experts of our day haven’t a clue about what this eternal plan is. If they had, they wouldn’t have killed the Master of the God-designed life on a cross.    (1 Corinthians 2:8-10)

Action Step

Who did God put on your heart as you read this devotion?  Are you struggling with the idea that God offers love and forgiveness to you?  Or have you been praying for a friend who hasn’t yet met the One who sets us free from our sins?  Tell the Lord about it and then give Him that concern, thought, or prayer for today.

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The instant he walked through the door, I knew we were in trouble.  My seventeen-year-old-boy-man cradled his arm protectively, carefully adjusting his movements to avoid bumping into anything or anyone.

“I think I broke my hand,” he said.

“Oh, honey…

The stream of sympathetic words ended abruptly when I noticed the fresh t-shirt and Axe cologne resting in Ben’s non-compromised hand.

“What are you doing?”  I asked suspiciously.

“I have a date.”

“Are you serious?”  The situation was laughable.  My invincible son willingly ignored the discomfort of his fractured hand for love.  (He sure wouldn’t have done THAt for a family dinner!)

At times, I take the same approach to hidden sin in my life.  Those unspoken words?  Nobobdy knows my inner dialogue failed to match a thoughtful demeanor.  An embarrassing display of temper?  Only my family witnessed such poor self-control.

Quiet, below-the-surface, private sins can be easily overlooked.  At times, I only turn to Him for forgiveness and renewal when I finally admit the level of discomfort, pain, or dissatisfaction tucked beneath the exterior.

Friend, I encourage you to examine those sequestered, protected areas of your life today.  Are there places in your heart and mind that ache for the touch of Jehovah Jirah–the God Who Heals?

He is waiting to heal the hurts–both inflicted and endured–like any caring parent waiting to be called upon.  Heal our hurts, Lord Jesus.  Amen.

 

Recommended Books

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Product Details

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