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Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:32

“Could you talk to Janey? Sarah beat her up again.” The voice on the other end of the line was a concerned mom from one of my kids in youth group. Her daughter, Janey was friends with one of the toughest kids in school. Usually the two got along fine. But Sarah’s family was abusive and full of anger, rage and violence. If Sarah were having a bad day, she was a time-bomb ready to go off on anyone who was near. Most kids in school just left her alone. In fact, she really only had one friend in the entire school-Janey.

Try as we might, we could never keep the two apart. Janey insisted that Sarah needed Jesus. “If I’m not her friend, who will be?” was her constant argument. That was over 30 years ago. Today Sarah is living out east. She’s a grandma and married to a wonderful Christian man!

I often wonder what would have happened if Janey had listened to us and abandoned her friend. Social wisdom says we leave people alone who may hurt us. ‘Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me’ is the rule to live by safely. If you know someone is going to fail you, avoid them. Protect yourself. Don’t trust them. Don’t let yourself be taken advantage of and made the fool.

The problem with social wisdom is that it runs contrary to what Jesus taught us while he was here on earth. One night, he knelt at the feet of each of his disciples to wash their feet. He did that knowing that in a few short hours, each of these men would abandon him. One would publicly deny him. Another would sell him to the enemy for a measly 30 pieces of silver. One would run away naked. All of them left him in his time of deepest need.

Even though he knew they would fail him, he forgave them and loved them. He’s doing the same thing today. Jesus knew you’d fail the day he went to the cross for you. He knows the things you struggle with. None of that surprises him. Your sin doesn’t surprise Jesus. Your rebellion doesn’t keep him from loving you and standing by you in your time of need.

In the same way, we are called to love those around us. Don’t be surprised when people fail you. Like you, they are human, and humans naturally sin. Sometimes we may need to be wise and protect ourselves from physical harm, but we should never stop forgiving, never stop loving, never stop lifting those who’ve hurt is in prayer.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus. I don’t think I’ll ever understand why you are so forgiving when we are so rebellious and stubborn. Thank you that you haven’t given up on me. Thank you that even though I’m going to try to keep from sin, you know I’ll fail and you will forgive me when I repent and come to you for healing. Empower me with your Spirit to live for you. Empower me to forgive as you have forgiven. In your name I pray, Amen.

 


God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. Hebrews 6:10

There are perhaps few things in life more frustrating than when our work and good deeds go unappreciated. You work hard to get it ‘just right’. You tend to every detail and make sure all is in place for a successful day or event. For all your hard labors you get the ‘know-it-all’ who manages to see every flaw or, in Christian love of course, tells you how you can do it better ‘next time.’

In the meantime you walk away thinking, ‘There will NEVER be a next time. Why do I do this?”

Then there are the people that completely misinterpret your intentions. The see everything you do as an attempt to elevate yourself when you were really trying to be the servant Christ called each of us to be.

If you are someone who works to serve people, especially people in ministry, teachers or parents, you know the feeling. Like the little red hen you work hard and feel all alone and unappreciated in your labors. God’s word offers hope for you. The writer to the Hebrews reminds each of us that God is a just God. Don’t read Hebrews 6:10 so quickly as to miss the nugget of truth and encouragement: “He will not forget your work!”  Others will miss it, critique it, tear it apart or find ways to do it better. God remembers.

It may not be this week. It may not be next year. It may not even be until you are able to see Him face to face. But someday your labor will be rewarded. Don’t grow weary in the battle. When you do things for others and feel unappreciated try to remember that you are really doing those things for Jesus.

But there is a double edge to God’s sword of justice and it’s one of the painful, but real, parts of scripture. God’s justice works both ways. If you are living for him and obeying Him; if your relationship with Him is growing through prayer, Bible study and personal and corporate worship and you are being mistreated, his justice will be sure.

On the other hand, if you harbor unconfessed sin in your life. If you are refusing to forgive someone or are angry, bitter or resentful towards others, then God’s justice may work against you.

It’s important for us as, especially as Christ-followers, to remember that sees life and justice differently than we do. God’s view of justice has more to do with bringing us into right relationship with Him than it does making us feel comfortable and appreciated.

If we are harboring sin, doubt, worry, anger, bitterness or resentment in our hearts, He will do whatever He needs to do to bring us into right relationship and obedience to Him. He isn’t concerned about yesterday. If you have made a mistake yesterday (or in your past) ask for confess it to Him, ask for forgiveness and rely on His Holy Spirit to move on. Then, forget about the mistake.

The double-edged sword of God’s justice is this. No matter where you are in life, you will encounter those who hate you, mistreat you and misunderstand your motives. When that happens do a spiritual self-examination. If your heart is right with God remember He looks at your heart and knows your true motives. If you find some way in which you have transgressed, ask forgiveness and move on. Either way, God’s justice is fair, true and loving. Rely on Him for today.

PRAYER: Father God, I confess to you that many of the things I’m dealing with are a result of poor choices and my rebellion towards your ways. I ask you to show me where I’ve failed and then help me to grow in relationship with you. During those times when others wrongfully accuse or misunderstand me I pray for your strength and encouragement to move on. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.


So he took Joseph and threw him into the prison where the king’s prisoners were held, and there he remained. But the Lord was with Joseph in the prison and showed him his faithful love. And the Lord made Joseph a favorite with the prison warden. Genesis 39:20-21 (NLT)

It’s the rallying cry of men and women, boys and girls from almost the time they can first utter words. “It’s not Fair!” You hear it in the voice of a two-year old when they want a certain toy, ice cream for breakfast or are unable to play in the middle of a busy street. You hear it from a teen-ager when the curfew is too early, homework is required to be done, and any rules are expected to be followed. You even hear it from Olympic athletes who are told that they are only second best in the world this time around, not first. You hear it when God doesn’t answer prayers in the time and fashion we desire.

Sometimes it seems like the events of life and the people around us are all stacked against us. We feel like even God Himself just “Isn’t that into us.” We read stories of how this person picked them up from failure to succeed, or how that prayer was answered miraculously by God, or families on the verge of breakup are saved, and we wonder, “What about me?”

The life of Joseph is a good example of someone whose life was anything but fair. He felt the rejection of family when his brothers sold him into slavery. He was wrongfully accused of rape and thrown into prison. Once there, he befriended a couple guys who said they’d speak up for him, but forgot.

It couldn’t have been easy for Joseph. There must have been many times when he could have grown bitter or angry at God or at the many people around him who let him down. But Joseph didn’t do that. Even in prison he was seen by the warden as being a man of character. The skills he learned while in captivity helped him later in life to be one the greatest leaders Egypt ever knew.

It’s hard to admit, but many times when life seems unfair,  and we get angry or bitter,  it’s because whatever the ‘unfairness’ is makes us feel bad about ourselves. We feel like failures.  True, Godly character is seen in a person by how they react when the circumstances of their life are not fair.

When we realize who we are in Jesus the attacks of the enemy don’t affect us as easily. We can rise to the challenge and use the unfair events of life as stepping stones for later success.  Starting today, look for ways to allow God to use you in whatever life is throwing at you. Trust Him to take care of the inequities you are being subjected to. Let Him direct your actions to change your world.

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, right now there are so many things in life that are making me angry and keeping me from experiencing all you have for me in life. Please forgive me for the anger I have towards you and others. Empower me to use this trying time in my life to show others the great and loving God you are. Give me wisdom t know how to act with Godly Character like Joseph did. Amen.

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