How I Learned to Forgive

This morning I was prompted with the question, “How did you learn to forgive?” Without even thinking about it, my response was, “I had to learn how to love first.” (This is where I should let you know that in NO way am I saying that I am perfect at loving people. LOL! I am most definitely not! I am learning, and sometimes failing, every day.) However, I did choose to learn love, the Biblical way, and it’s one of the greatest things the Lord has done in my life. The world will teach you that Biblical love is stupid: you’ll look stupid, you’ll feel stupid, you’ll feel silly. To a certain degree, the world is right. You will feel silly and maybe even stupid, but over time, and from personal experience from being on both sides of needing and giving love, I’ve learned that it’s an honor to freely show people the love of God.

First, I had to learn that love is a choice, not an emotion. Same as forgiveness. You CHOOSE to love and forgive, regardless of how you feel. There were many mornings where I would have to say, “No! I’ve already forgiven them. My flesh doesn’t feel like it, but I love them. Father, help me to see them the way that you see them.”

Second, I made love practical. I used the dictionary and this amazing study to write out what stuck with me. So, copied straight from my Bibles, the dictionary, and my favorite study:

Love is patient: Able to accept delays, problems, or sufferings without becoming annoyed or anxious; long suffering. It doesn’t lose its temper saying, “I’ll give you one more chance.” As we are humbled by our own sin, we learn to be more patient with others.

and kind: Having or showing a friendly, generous, and considerate nature; To withhold what harms and to give what heals; Love is not giving everyone what they desire or want. Love is kind but tough.

Love does not envy: feelings of discontentment or resentful longing aroused by someone else’s possessions, qualities, or luck; True love desires the success of others. The cure for envy is to pray for the success of those you are envious of. To pray for them demonstrates love, and envy and love cannot exist in the same heart.

Or boast: Not big-headed, but big-hearted. When we brag, we display insecurity and spiritual immaturity. The more spiritual gifts we possess, the more loving we’ll be, the less we’ll brag. We have to humble ourselves before Christ and people.

It is not arrogant: Having an exaggerated sense of one’s own importance or abilities; Grasping for power; Always considers themselves exempt from the requirements of mere mortals; Arrogance disrespects others. We are to serve others and to be gracious to them.

Or rude: Offensively impolite or ill-mannered; Love does not “tell it like it is.”It does not verbalize all its thoughts, particularly if they don’t build up. There is a graciousness that is involved. Love never forgets courtesy, tact, and being polite are lovely things.

It does not insist on its own way: Love is the very antithesis of self-seeking. It is not dominating or stubborn. It listens well and does not talk too much. It is always willing to defer to others.

It is not irritable or resentful: Love does not come with a “Handle with Caution” sign. It is not touchy. It is not given to emotional outbursts, petty annoyances, and doesn’t get under my skin. We don’t HAVE to get irritated if we’re exercising love.

It does not rejoice at wrongdoing: Love is righteous. It takes no joy in evil of any kind. It is not drawn to evil. Psalm 37 tells us that “the Lord will bring our righteousness to light as the noonday… For the evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land. In just a little while, the wicked will be no more; though you look carefully at his place, he will not be there.” Being honest, I used to think that this scripture meant that the Lord would strike down whoever crossed a boundary concerning me! Lol! You cross me, you cross God! Lol however, it’s important to remember that we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against demonic forces. (Ephesians 6: 12) In every situation, we are all children of God, and He never wants to embarrass or “strike down” anyone. What He will do, is bring to light the times the enemy was at work in the situation. Love doesn’t hope that the person is exposed, but that in both your life and in theirs, the Lord lifts the veil to see truth in the situation.

Keeps no record of wrong: Love is not bookkeeping of offenses, waiting to be settled.

Love rejoices with truth: Love must conform to the truth of the Word of God. Truth and love go together.

Love bears all things: Carries, supports; “Bears all things” in the Greek means to “cover something”. It is compared to a roof; a covering of protection to keep out things that are hostile. “Love covers a multitude of sins,” (1 Peter 4:8); Love protects reputations. It doesn’t nitpick. It doesn’t criticize in public.

Believes all things: Accepts something as true; Always trusts; People will always become what you believe about them. Choose that they are innocent until proven guilty. Believe the best, not the worst.

Hopes all things: Never gives up on people, despite the circumstance; Never loses faith, despite their shortcomings; Has faith and expects the best.

Endures all things: Suffers something painful or difficult patiently; Hold positions, even to death. Holds fast to people; Perseveres, even in the face of rejection.

Love never ends: Love is an eternal gift. That is POWERFUL in itself!

The “New” Christian

“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive your inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ,”

(Colossians 3: 23-24, ESV).

“We live in a world now, that if you don’t post it on social media, it never happened.”

-Kendrick Epling.

– Adoption

– Blogging

– Mission Trips

– Hipster Stylings

– Human Trafficking

What do all of these things have in common? THEY HAVE TAKEN OVER MY SOCIAL MEDIA TIMELINES!! There seems to be a new “wave” of Christianity; a wave of salvation as easy as buying new hipster clothing, reposting videos and statuses of the latest prophetic word, and owning all of the latest worship albums.

We live in a society where it’s easier to base our salvation off of Christian cliches rather than the Bible. We live to tell 1,500 of our closest Facebook friends how much we appreciate our best friend, but it’s hard to live out that love in everyday life. Consecration and fasting are so foreign to Christians because it’s not plastered everywhere, and we’re surprised by revelations of the glory of God because honestly, our knowledge of it? Well, it comes from a reposted video from Bill Johnson or Lisa Bevere.

PLEASE do not get me wrong. Since being saved, I have learned these lessons the hard way, and I have gone through different phases in which I thought I was called to a million different things, but in the end, that’s all each ended up as: a phase. It’s easy to get entangled in the emotional porn of following Christians we don’t know through their stories of adoption, or Instagram missionaries, or even people we do know whose lives seem so much more interesting and exciting than our own, but the problem comes in when we envy their lives over our callings. Want to know a shocking revelation? Instagram/Facebook/Twitter shows the highlights that people WANT to share.

We long to be those people in the gripping videos of couples running through the airport to meet the new child whom they’ve just adopted, but we don’t think too much about the pain of being barren or all of the money, time, and resources that were lost on the children whose adoptions were never finalized.

We’re “Called to the nations!” “Send me, Jesus! I’ll do the World Race!” Yet, our mindset of missions expands to taking pictures with children in other countries, casting out demons, and posting pictures standing on mountaintops. We forget about very real illnesses that can happen within our bodies, or even that we’d have to sleep on the ground….in a tent… for three months. We can raise $20,000, and sign up to travel all of Asia for a year, sleeping outside, “suffering for the Gospel,” but we don’t even like camping in the states. How is it that we can be better Christians overseas than we can be in Atlanta or Alabama?

Want me to highlight one for myself? I feel like I’m called to help those in human trafficking, but recently Holy Spirit revealed to me that if I can sometimes barely deal with guests who get on my nerves at work, how will I show Biblical love to those girls I’d meet who are hurting, and their natural tendency is to backlash? I think because I would see the highlights of the A21 Campaign, I created this false mentality that every woman/girl I met would be waiting for me to swoop in with my Jesus cape, saving them from men and the life of human trafficking………nope! Not exactly!

It’s okay that we have a heart for so many different things. We’re meant to be compassionate and have a heart for the hurting, but because we walk out our salvation and base our callings more off of what we see on the internet than being led by Holy Spirit, our callings are based on what makes our Instagram pages look better.

“For they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God,” (John 12:43).

If I were called to everything I thought I was called to since I was saved at 17, I’d be the only part- time kindergarten teaching, part-time prosecuting, lip-syncing-worship-leader (sadly, that really was a desire LOL!), World Racing, evangelist interning, human trafficking advocating, skinny-jean/floppy-hat-wearing, adopting mama of 9, WORN OUT person that I know!

Yes, I do still believe I’m called to some of these things (maybe not all 9 kids), but I’ve learned that just because it looks great on other people doesn’t mean God has called me to it. It’s a learning and a prayerful process, and every day Holy Spirit continues to lead me, and reveal more and more of my purpose to me, and you know what I’ve realized? I’m not called to operate in every lane, and that is OKAY.

If we’re all going to ministry school, who’s reaching college campuses?

If we’re all called to be international full-time missionaries, who’s going to Washington DC?

Who is operating out of each of our lanes while we’re all operating out of the hipster mold of the “new” Christian?

What has God called YOU to do?

It’s time we KNOW the living God we post coffeehouse, Bible-journaling pictures with.

It’s time we put our phones down, pick our Bibles up, and truly walk out our salvation.

Yes.

I recently came to this point where I told God, “Yes.” 2015 was an awesome year, but by the end of the year, I realized that I had settled into my own understanding and really hadn’t allowed God to fully reign. I’d made amazing friends, I was apart of a great church, I liked my job, I loved where I was and where the Lord had me, yet NOTHING was going right! I was gaining new friends, while friendships closest to me were the most turbulent they’d ever been. I loved my ministry school, but finances were not working out. I loved being around people, then suddenly being a waitress exposed a hatred towards people I never knew I had in me! I could not explain what was going on with me!

After a couple of months of things not going my way, I was sitting in my living room on NYE, and I came to this point where I was spiritually, mentally, physically, everything-ly exhausted, and with a genuine heart, I told the Lord, “Yes.” Yes, He could have control over every area of my life. Yes, I would step back. Yes, I would be a daughter and rest. A couple of days later, the Holy Spirit revealed to me that obedience was supposed to follow my, “Yes.” He showed me that we can sometimes get so caught up in the emotions of an encounter with God, and with a very sincere heart, we give everything to Him, we tell Him that He can reign and rule in our lives, and that we will take our hands off of whatever situations we need Him to move in. But what happens when we get off of the floor? What happens when the emotions from the church service or from that conference wear off? We say He has full control, yet after the honeymoon phase of an encounter, we jump right back into the driver’s seat. Without any sacrifice, we expect this beautiful life of abundant rewards from our, “Yes.” We want the pinnacle of God and what He has for us, but we’re not always willing to give anything up.

As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance,” (1 Peter 1: 14).

I digested this, and really prayed for grace to understand exactly what I was asking for and to be able to fully walk in it. Then, again, I told the Lord, “Yes.”

Yes, I would walk away from the high school notions of already being married by 24, and what the rest of my life was supposed to look like.

Yes, I would trust God to do the growth in the friends and family that I cared so deeply about.

Yes, in the process of Him doing the growth, I would get out of the way, even if that meant not being as present as I once was for them.

Yes, I would learn to love people from a distance.

Yes, I would fully step into His grace and walk .. run away from my own understanding.

Yes, I would stand on His promises when everything around me SCREAMED, “This isn’t going to work out!”

Let me be honest with you, saying YES was not easy at all. He may ask you to give up those friends that aren’t interested in going where He’s taking you. He may ask you to give up that boyfriend/girlfriend that you know deep down isn’t your spouse. He may ask you to move from something that is comfortable for you, or worse, He may tell you to stay exactly where you don’t want to be. You may feel like you’re going through a desert season. You may cry… a LOT!

“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it,” (Hebrews 12:11)

The great news, though, is that when we can put ourselves, and what we want, aside God is able to use our lives to do exactly what He needs to do. Like Simon Peter in Luke 5, when we are exhausted with our own efforts and step out of the boat, it gives Jesus room to step into it and use it as a platform, AND just because He loves us, and being faithful is in His nature, just as He told Simon Peter to cast His nets out again, He is faithful to restore what we thought we’d lost during our times of reign.

Divinely Hemmed

A couple of mornings ago, I was looking for something in my car, and I ran across a book I’d bought a year ago. While flipping through the pages of the book, I found a torn note card I wrote that said,

“I met God who slowly, painfully, and divinely pieced me back together again.”

 Immediately, I started to reminisce on the difficult times, headaches, and heartaches that led up to the person I am today, and I couldn’t help but to thank God. There was a time, when I first got saved, that I almost traded in my salvation card because living in the world seemed SO much easier than being saved. At least, I didn’t have this target on my back that the enemy was constantly aiming for. Now, I can look back and almost sit in awe at how beautiful the process has been. Every difficult season was a season spent at the feet of God, crying out to Him and praying in my personal intimate time.

Before I got saved, I spent my life tearing the very fabric of who God had created me to be. With every party, every drink, every guy, I was completely shredding who I was. “You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me,” (Psalm 139: 5, ESV). It wasn’t enough for me to just get saved. God had to completely change who I was. I needed to reflect Him. He had to go behind me and hem the fabric I’d ripped in the process of finding myself in this world. He’s gone before us, even before the beginning of time, to make sure that we’re hemmed into what He has for us. “My frame was not hidden from you, when I was made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there were none of them,” (Psalm 139: 15-16 ESV). He lays His hand on our lives. The very God that SPOKE creation into existence cares to lay HIS hands on MY life?! On YOUR life?! Sigh, just beautiful.

So, I thank God for the ability to find beauty in the process.

I thank Him that He loved me past salvation, that He loved me enough to not leave me where I was first found.

 I’m grateful that He nudges me to reflect Him, daily.

When I’m having bad days, and I feel like I can’t go any further, He reminds me of how far I’ve come.

I’m grateful for His strength that is readily available to me.

 I’m thankful for Him. I love Him.

I empower you to ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you the beauty in your everyday process. Yes, living for God is not easy at all, but it is worth it. I pray God will reveal how well He has hemmed you in that when people hear your testimonies, they can’t even see the rips and tears that were once the core of who you were. I challenge you to seek those intimate moments when they come. Satan, so badly, wants to steal your joy, your purpose, and your praise, but it’s hard to give him ground when you learn to find beauty in the difficult times.