What Is Your Cross?

“Then He {JESUS} said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be My follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow Me.” – Luke 9:23 NLT

What is your cross? I feel like mine changes with the seasons of my life. For now, it seems to be a combination of things. Not having a companion, lack of financial stability, physical issues. Looking at my life, though, I know that these things that feel so heavy to me are really minor in view of the world. I know that these are more “crosses” because of my wants, not because of any real needs. I may not have a spouse to share my life with, but I have wonderful friends and family who love me (in spite of me!). My financial state is somewhat precarious, but in spite of my lack of preparation in life, I have a house – a warm, secure home – and somehow, I have enough to live, day by day. The physical issues are being addressed, and I understand that even though the pain and discomfort may never go away, nothing is life-threatening. So then, what is my cross?

My cross is insecurity and fear of the unknown of life here on earth; my cross is giving up the control I think I have over my life. News flash to self : there is NO control when I am in charge of things! Giving up control is at the heart of what JESUS said. “…. you must give up your own way ….”

But Jesus said again, “Dear children, it is very hard [for those who trust in riches] to enter the Kingdom of God. In fact, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!” – Mark 10:24‭b-‬25 NLT

That’s pretty clear, but we humans are hard-headed. We want, if not millions, then enough money and things to be comfortable on our terms, not God’s. Like the Apostle Paul, I have had plenty, and I have had nothing. Unlike Paul, I have not been very thankful in my circumstances! Followers of Christ need to recognize that our lives may be, probably will be, less than comfortable in this life, even difficult and painful to the end.

JESUS said “…. I assure you that everyone who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or property, for My sake and for the Good News, will receive now in return a hundred times as many houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and property—along with persecution. And in the world to come that person will have Eternal Life. But many who are the greatest now will be least important then, and those who seem least important now will be the greatest then.” – Mark 10:29‭-‬31 NLT

Listen to “Gracefully Broken” by Matt Redman

Trust and Believe

Trust and believe. These two words are different, but I find them used interchangeably in the English language. To trust someone, we must believe that person, and to believe in that person, we must trust them. I found this quote while researching these words and their meanings at http://www.englishstackexchange.com:

“If someone gives you an [sic] information and [you] find out that the information is true, then you will believe. Belief is to accept something as being TRUE …

On http://www.dictionary.com, Trust is defined as a “firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something,” while Belief is defined as “an acceptance that a statement is true or that something exists.” Interesting how they overlap. Can trust exist without belief? Can you believe without trust? In scriptures, especially in the Gospels of the New Testament, we are admonished alternately to trust in God and to believe in God. Example: Jesus is speaking with His disciples at their last Passover meal together, and He answers Peter with these words:

“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in GOD, and trust also in Me.” – John 14:1 NLT

Trust. But in the ESV, NIV, and the KJV, the word believe is used in place of trust. “Believe in GOD, and Believe in Me.” I don’t see how it is possible to have the one without the other. You have to trust God to believe Him, and you must believe in Him to trust in Him. Maybe, it is easier to unstand it this way:

“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Believe and Trust in GOD, trust and believe also in Me.”

I believe that GOD is Real. I mean, look around you. Do you seriously believe this world and the stars and planets evolved from nothing? (If you say “space dust,” I reply, “And where did the space dust come from?” I could go on all day! 😎 ) Like l said, REAL. See, easy to believe. I trust God; I trust in GOD. Sometimes my trust waivers, because of all the ugliness and hopelessness I see and experience in the world….. but my belief holds firm. Maybe, just maybe, the scholars who worked so hard to translate the scriptures in English under King James had it right when they used believe, rather than trust. With GOD, belief for me comes easy. Trust, on the other hand, is difficult at times because man (men) has broken trust with me so many, many, times.

“Trust in the LORD always, for the LORD GOD is the Eternal Rock.” – Isaiah 26:4 NLT

“It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in people. It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in princes.” – Psalms 118:8‭-‬9 NLT

The LORD is the Rock. Man will always fail us and hurt us and disappoint us. The LORD will not abuse your trust, but you must believe Him, believe in His Son, and believe His Words in order to gain that trust. Sometimes, like the father whose son was desperately ill, we just have to say, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!” – Mark 9:24 NLT

It is our choice to stay in our state of not trusting anyone, or we can open our hearts and arms to the only One Who will NEVER hurt us or stab us in the back….. don’t blame me for my trust issues, just show me the One to Trust.

I’m Not Religious

“That is what the Scriptures mean when they say, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what GOD has prepared for those who love Him.” …. But people who aren’t spiritual can’t receive these truths from God’s Spirit. It all sounds foolish to them and they can’t understand it, for only those who are spiritual can understand what the Spirit means.” – 1 Corinthians 2:9‭, ‬14 NLT

I don’t really care for people calling me “religious.” To me, religion is something people do to show to the rest of the world how “good” they are. I’m not “good”, and there is no way that anything I can do is going to get me to heaven. There aren’t enough Hail Mary’s, and there aren’t enough sacrifices or prayers to wash me clean enough. No, I have enough sin in my past to keep me as far away from God as there is distance. Blessed be His Holy Name, this is exactly where Jesus Messiah meets us! I can’t do enough, but He can do EVERYTHING. My mind can’t comprehend any love that big, and that’s exactly what verse 9 is telling us. “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what GOD has prepared for those who love Him.” I can’t see it, I can’t hear it, I can’t even imagine what God has for me. It’s difficult to even think that He loves me; that Jesus LOVED me, enough to leave heaven and come here to cover me with His saving Grace.

Think about this. If Christians have a hard time understanding how deep and how wide our Saviour’s Love goes; how all-encompassing His Love is, how can the unbeliever, the spiritually parched, believe it? LORD, don’t let me be perceived as religious by the world. I pray that the unbeliever will see a difference in me, and that they will want to know how to achieve that peace for themselves. Especially through this time of trial, help me to remain faithful to You and Your commandment. Help me to maintain my faith in You, and my belief in Your faithfulness to me. As I stumble through this time, I know I am not alone and I pray that I recognize Your Strength as You carry me. Show me how to be spiritual, and not religious. Help me remember this: “He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.” – Psalms 103:12 NLT AMEN.

Curses On You

Ever had anyone curse you? I don’t just mean foul language, but for someone to say (and mean) for you to go to hell? There are curses when the individual is truly cursing you, like in voodoo, and there are instances where it is done in jest…. although I don’t understand how you can jokingly refer someone to being cursed. I have been cursed at and had curses directed at me, but never have I had someone for years profess to love me, and then to do a 180 and curse me to hell. Disconcerting, at the least. Alarming, to think that someone close to me, to you, would hold that much hate. Instead of focusing on the injury, we need to focus on Jesus’ words:

“But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, offer the other cheek also. If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also. Give to anyone who asks; and when things are taken away from you, don’t try to get them back. Do to others as you would like them to do to you. ….Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked. You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate.” – Luke 6:27‭-‬31‭, ‬35‭-‬36 NLT

As many of you know, I have harbored grudges and anger and thoughts of revenge against those who have hurt me. All that negative in my life only served as a wedge between me and my God, and it also kept me away from people who genuinely cared for me. Letting the anger fester can kill us, spiritually and physically. The enemy rejoices when we hold on to all that. In my past, I became embroiled in a life of satanic influence, and I tell you the truth, I was within days of dying when I was rescued from it. The curses from that time trailed after me for years, and it is only the intervention of my Lord JESUS that I am alive today. I will forever bear the emotional and physical scars of that time, so that they can be a reminder that Jesus alone will sustain me. Even now, as I have been told to go to hell, I know that Jesus has determined that I need to bless and forgive that person. I cannot do it alone; my compassion fails me. Oh God, how I need you to guide my thoughts and words and actions! My one defense, my righteousness, depends on You, LORD. Blessings on each and everyone who despise me….

Love Your Enemy

“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” – 1 Corinthians 13:4‭-‬7 NLT

God didn’t tell us we could pick who to love. No, He sent His Son to us, Who taught us these lessons:

“Jesus replied, “‘You must love the LORD your GOD with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ” – Matthew 22:37‭-‬39 NLT

Short and to the point. Jesus is referring to a passage in Leviticus 19, verses 9-18 when He says to love your neighbor as yourself. Read it – it may help with your understanding the point. I’ve read Bible scholars who say that Jesus is referring to fellow believers when He says ‘neighbors’; I think they should read the story of the Samaritan in Luke 10:30-37. This terribly injured Jew was left for dead by robbers, and a priest and then a temple assistant passed him and left him to suffer rather than sully their hands. A Samaritan, a people despised by the Jews and who in turn hated the Jews, picked up this man, his enemy, and cared for him and provided for him. Who was the real neighbor? Certainly not the man’s fellow Jews! The Samaritan showed love to his enemy. Shouldn’t those of us who have experienced the Love of the Savior lead by example in loving our enemies; our neighbors? Both Luke and Matthew record several instances of Jesus talking about loving our enemies.

“Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for He is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked.” – Luke 6:35 NLT

Even as Jesus showed His love as He was dying, by asking God His Father to forgive those who tortured and crucified Him, so we need to forgive those who hurt us. Yes, I am all too human and know EXACTLY how difficult it is, especially when the hurt is new, or the person is completely unrepentant. In fact, I’m currently dealing with it, even as I write these words. Knowing that the LORD has forgiven me for much, I know that He expects me to forgive others the same…. and more. There are many, many scriptures that talk about forgiveness. Not forgiving, and fostering anger and hurt in my heart, doesn’t do anything to my enemy, it only harms me. The greatest thing we can do, after prayer for our enemy, is to love them. Most times it has to be done at a distance, especially if that enemy caused us physical harm, and we shouldn’t forget, lest we get into another bad situation. Forgiveness is only through Jesus Christ and His Love.

“So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have Loved you, you should love each other. ….”If you love Me, obey My commandments.” – John 13:34; 14:15 NLT

Safe….?

“(10) The Name of the LORD is a strong fortress; the godly run to Him and are safe. (14) The human spirit can endure a sick body, but who can bear a crushed spirit? (19) An offended friend is harder to win back than a fortified city. Arguments separate friends like a gate locked with bars. (24) There are “friends” who destroy each other, but a real friend sticks closer than a brother.” – Proverbs 18:19‭, ‬24 NLT

A crushed spirit. That’s what happens in a relationship and a marriage when one leaves, physically or emotionally. I’ve had plenty of opportunities to study on this; too many opportunities. Currently, I find myself again feeling betrayed by a friend, a person I took at his word that he would not abandon me. A crushed spirit. Knowing a person for almost 20 years, being friends and going through good and bad times, helping each other through emotional times, doesn’t guarantee anything. I wanted to believe the best, but everyone lets down their friends at times. Why do we do this? Why make promises we know we won’t keep? Why do we lead others on, letting them believe something in error? Safe? No, there isn’t anyone on earth who is safe, who won’t disappoint you.

No matter how long or how much effort we put into the study of human behaviour, I believe we will always be disappointed, simply because we are human and full of flaws. Knowing that, studying that, doesn’t make it any easier to get past the hurt. The only way to really get past it, to find forgiveness for those who hurt us – and that includes forgiving myself for the hurt I have caused myself and others – and that way, the only way, is through Jesus Christ. Can I still forgive while being treated with disrespect and disdain? Do I want to? I study the scriptures for guidance, because I cannot find forgiveness in my heart. Instead I find sarcasm and anger flooding me, along with the hurt and the disappointment. All of those feelings come straight from the enemy, and they don’t help me at all. In fact, if I let them go, these negative thoughts and feelings can overcome and actually, physically, cause me to be ill.

With Jesus, and through the healing of the Holy Spirit, I can get through this. Study the words of Jesus for forgiveness. He taught us this: “But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.” – Matthew 6:15 NLT

Jesus was betrayed by a friend, a close friend who He loved, one who gave Him over to be tortured and killed in the most horrific ways know to man…. and before He died, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” – Luke 23:34 NLT

Even while dying; beaten, bruised, and humiliated, Jesus forgave us. Are we beater than the Son of God, that we can hold judgement and unforgiveness over another person? Let the chains of hatred, unforgiveness, anger, and hurt go. Let God have it. He can handle it.

You’re A Fool… Or No, It’s Me.

Will the prayer I am praying change anyone else’s life besides mine? Be careful with your words!! Am I praying for revenge on someone for hurting me, or am I thanking God for my blessings? Do I ask the LORD to bless those who have caused problems for me, or am I cursing them while asking God to bless me?

“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise adorns knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly. The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit.” – Proverbs 15:1-2,4

Will Rogers said it pretty well, I thought: “It is better for some one to think you’re a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.” My Mom always said “If you can’t say something good about someone, don’t say anything.” Lately, I find myself struggling to keep my mouth shut, and harsh words regarding the most recent hurt slip out instead. Thank God I am a work in progress!

I especially like this sentence: “The soothing tongue is a tree of life…” Think about that! A tree of life. We can do more damage with our tongue than with a knife, because wounds of the spirit are difficult to heal – I know, because I lashed out for years, hurting others because of the pain I felt. I will forever have to guard my tongue in this life. There is only ONE Healer for your wounded, broken spirit, and that is Jesus Christ, the Great Physician. Through Him, and Him alone, are my wounds healed. He can bring healing to you as well, and through your healing, you can reach out to to those you have hurt. In the 12 Step programs, it’s called making amends.

  • Step Eight: Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
  • Step Nine: Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

In our lives, we will have to work these steps over and over. I have opportunities to ask for forgiveness. Most are graciously accepted, but there will always be those that are not accepted. I also have opportunities to forgive – and when I forgive, or struggle with forgiveness, I gain understanding of the consequences of hurt I inflict on others. In some instances, we will need much more than an apology. We need to make a physical or monetary amends in some cases. Sometimes it is impossible to forgive, and that is when I give it to the Great Physician so that He can work His healing power. Revenge for things people say and do is for GOD to deal out, not for us to do.

So be careful of your words. Even in jest, we can (and do!) hurt others.