Yesterday I attended a family picnic and I got ketchup in my hair. My uncle made me a cheeseburger and I topped it with all the fixings – lettuce, tomato, onions, and ketchup. The wind was crazy. I believe what happened was ketchup dripped to my plate and the plate flew into my hair. I remember having to catch it a few times. When that ketchup was in my hair, I could not stop messing with my hair. It became my primary focus. I wanted so badly to get it out of my hair, though I’m sure if I didn’t know it was there I would have been none the wiser.
When we have problems in life we do the same thing too often. We know about the problem and we focus on the problem. We continue to think about the problem. We continue to consider the need to fix the problem. It almost becomes an obsession. If the problem is small, we spend our time figuring out how we will resolve the issue. If it is a bigger issue or something we do not have the means to fix alone, we continue to look at the problem as an impossible hurdle and depression sets in soon after. Sometimes we make ourselves sick as we continue to fixate on our current circumstances.
Just as I should not have been so focused on the ketchup in my hair (it was only a little ketchup and there is a thing called shampoo), we cannot be problem focused. We have a God Who is a God of the impossible. Our focus, whether we have no pressing problems or we are buried knee deep in problems, should always be on God. When He is our focus, when He is first in our life, then our circumstances, our struggles, our problems won’t control us, depress us, or weaken us. Remember, in our weakness, He is strong (see 2 Corinthians 12:9).
In Isaiah 26:3 we read, “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in You, all whose thoughts are fixed on You!” Do you know what is so awesome about that verse? The word keep is “natsar” which means “to watch” or “guard.” The word for peace is “Shalom,” which means “completeness” or “peace.” The word for perfect is also “Shalom.” This verse says if we are fixed on God, if we trust in Him, we will be kept (watched, guarded) so that we are in completeness and peace.
As I was printing envelopes today, the printer stopped working. It continued to say that there was a jam. I looked inside the printer and I did not see a jam. I closed the door but it still said there was a paper jam. I turned the printer off and on. I continued to pace around the machine, asking it when it would start doing its job. Finally I looked closer. I realized that there was a jam in a section I never even viewed because it is against the wall. There was never a jam in that area. After five minutes of pacing and thinking there was no jam, I realized it was something I couldn’t see.
In Romans 3:23, the Bible says that we all fall short—we all sin. Sometimes the sin is in the open. Sometimes the sin is easy to be seen. Sometimes people point it out to us. Sometimes we wear it on our sleeve. Sometimes it is something that we have struggled with for years. But then there is other sin that often seeps into our lives in the crevices we do not really look at or consider. Our sin can be right in front of our face but sometimes it has become part of our normalcy and we don’t realize what has grown over time.
Today ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you any sin that you may have buried beneath other things in your life. Ask for your eyes to be open to anything that you may have overlooked. When the Spirit reveals these things, take the time to bring each item before God. Ask for repentance. Ask for strength. Ask for encouragement. May He shine a light on your darkness so you can bring more light into your life and shine the Light for others.
“This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” – 1 John 1:5-9 [NIV]
I will admit I am forgetful. As a crutch, I use my Google calendar to remind me of everything both at work and at home. I make a grocery list to remember what food to buy, and then cannot even remember the list. I kept losing my prayer lists; my prayer list is now on my phone. If I don’t write something down, it is likely it will be lost in my memory bank. I would not call it a memory bank – it’s more like a black hole.
This morning while I was on the usual walk with my dogs, I soon realized as we changed directions that I forgot my sunglasses. The whole way home I was squinting because my oversensitive eyes could not face the beautiful morning light. I even grumbled a bit considering the headache that might follow as a result. All because I forgot my sunglasses.
What a surprise when I got home only to realize my sunglasses were in my pocket. I had my sunglasses the entire time!! The sunglasses I own are magnetic and when I grabbed for my keys, they unbeknownst to me followed along. I spent all that time wishing for the solution, when it was right with me. Sadly, that is how many of us are in life from time to time. God has the answer but we look elsewhere. God has provided what is needed but we are too blind to see (2 Corinthians 9:8, Philippians 4:19). God has a perfect plan but we only see the struggles, the pain, the heartache. God is with us through it all but we so often feel alone (Deuteronomy 31:8, Hebrews 13:5). My friends, let us open our eyes. Let us look at what He has blessed us with and embrace what He has for us. Let us remind ourselves of what He has done, what He has said He will do, Who He is, and His promise to never leave. We each have all we need to accomplish what God has called us to do in life!
“For the word of the Lord is right and true; He is faithful in all He does. The Lord loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of His unfailing love.” – Psalm 33:4-5 [NIV]
When Elisha gathered around with the sons of the prophets, there was a famine. Barrenness, sickness, affliction and famine were seen as judgment from God for sin. As we read again and again, the curse of sin is judgment and death.
These people were in search for food. When they went around to gather something to eat, they gathered wild gourds. From the text, it did not seem that they knew what the food would bring. They simply wanted to fill their need for food. But when they added this unknown item into the stew, it became deadly. They cried out, “There is DEATH IN THE POT.” Elisha had to add flour to the stew for it to become safe to eat.
We often try to add things into our daily lives to fill voids. We are facing a famine – the curse of sin. Through Christ alone the curse is no longer. We grab anything we can to fill our needs; however, we do not always understand what we truly need. Elisha poured flour into the deadly stew. In the same way, we can seek to eat from the Word of God, and become blessed by the “meal” of Christ. Through prayer and God’s Word we are sanctified. In 1 Timothy 4:4-5 we read: “For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer” (NASB). It doesn’t matter how deadly the stew of your life has become; nothing is too dead for God to raise back to life. He will repair. He will revive. He will restore. He will redeem.
“One of them went out into the field to gather herbs, and found a wild vine and gathered from it his lap full of wild gourds, and came and cut them up into the pot of stew, not knowing what they were. And they poured out some for the men to eat. But while they were eating of the stew, they cried out, ‘O man of God, there is death in the pot!’ And they could not eat it.” – 2 Kings 4:39-40 [ESV]
More Than a Story is a 12 week study of the parables of Jesus. This is the second week: FORGIVENESS.
[The Unforgiving Debtor: Matthew 18:21-35]
Unforgiveness is the POISON we drink hoping another will die
When you hold tight to an unforgiving spirit you slowly die to TRUTH and RIGHTEOUSNESS – PRISONER
Peter came and asked “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” (v. 21b ESV)
He thought he was being extra generous with his forgiveness because Jewish law said to forgive a person three times.
Jesus answered “Seventy-seven times.”
“And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?” (Matthew 18:33 ESV)
Mercy – eleeó (el-eh-eh’-o) – pity, have mercy on, show mercy, have compassion
These people begged for mercy:
- 26 says “the servant fell on his knees, imploring” the king
- 29 says “his servant fell down and pleaded with” the forgiven servant
Each of us is forgiven because of Jesus. Jesus paid the debt.
“But if you don’t forgive people, your Father will not forgive your wrongdoing.” – Matthew 6:15 [HCSB]
- Remember how much you’ve been forgiven (Ephesians 4:32)
- Don’t try to get even (Romans 12:19)
- Respond to evil with good (Luke 6:27)
- Pray for those who persecute you (Luke 6:28)
“Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.” – Romans 12:18 [NLT]
“We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
1) In Matthew 18:21-22, we read about Peter approaching Jesus with the question – “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive Him? As many as seven times?” Jesus answers, “Seventy-seven times.” What does that mean?
2) Read Luke 17:3-4. This passage mentions something happening before the forgiveness happens. What does it mention? Should this be required to forgive something?
3) The passage from Matthew 18 says we must continue to forgive. What is hard about forgiving someone again and again?
4) From where are we to forgive from? How can we do this?
5) Read Ephesians 4:32. How are we to forgive?
6) Share an example from your life when you needed to forgive.
Were you able to easily forgive?
What made it easier/difficult?
How did you feel after you forgave the person/people?
More Than A Story is a 12-week Sermon Series and Bible Study focused on the parables of Jesus.
All is well. Shalom. That is what we read in 2 Kings 4 twice—both times from the Shunammite’s mouth. The prophet Elisha passed by her home often and the Shunammite wanted to make a room for him. What an awesome gesture to make a room for the man of God. If only we each made room like that for God in our lives.
The Shunammite was blessed by God with a son but one day while the son was with his father, he fell ill and died. The Shunammite woman had her son carried to the bed of the man of God. He was laid on the bed and she left. As she saddled the donkey, she was asked why she was headed to Elisha on this day. She said, “ALL IS WELL.” When she came upon Gehazi, she again said, “ALL IS WELL,” before she fell at Elisha’s feet.
All is well. Shalom. The word means completeness or peace. What a great thought—peace! But how can one have peace when their son lay dead?!? How can a person say, “All is well” when it doesn’t appear that everything is okay? This woman was without a son for so very long and now her prized son was dead. All is well. Shalom. Why? Because she had her eyes fixed on God and she allowed Him to move into her house and into her life. Her circumstances might have been painful, but all was well. She loved and feared the God of the impossible. He moved into her home—and he moved in her life. So too He can in yours. As the hymnist Horatio Spafford wrote, “It is well, it is well with my soul.”
“And he said, ‘Why will you go to him today? It is neither new moon nor Sabbath.’ She said, ‘All is well’ … Run at once to meet her and say to her, ‘Is all well with you? Is all well with your husband? Is all well with the child?’ And she answered, ‘All is well.’” – 2 Kings 4:23, 26 [ESV]