How Good is YOUR Memory?

Forgiveness is difficult. At times it can feel almost impossible.


But as Christ followers, we really don’t have a choice. Jesus made that abundantly clear. In case you have any doubts, check out the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant in Matthew 19:21-35. God is serious about us forgiving people.


He has every right to be. And not just because He’s God, but because He has forgiven us. Of all our sin. And it cost Him a lot.


Sometimes we find it hard to forgive a person because of what their actions cost us.


Other times it really has very little to do with them and almost everything to do with us. Our arrogance or self-focus or hard heart.


Or bad memory.


I think most of the time it has to do with a bad memory. At least that’s true for me.


Remember in the Old Testament when God would have the Israelites create a ‘memorial’ after some dramatic episode in their history? He told them that when their children asked what it was, they were to tell them that particular story about how God came through for them.


This retelling not only taught their children about their nation’s history, it also kept those stories alive in their own memories.


In the New Testament, the night before His crucifixion, Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper. He told His disciples to do it to remember Him–and what He was about to do for them on the cross.


Participating in the Lord’s Supper once a month at church always reminds me how much I’ve been forgiven and what it cost God. But that’s not always the first thing that comes to mind when I’ve been hurt by someone.


Building a memorial that I would have to pass by every day is a good idea. But I’m not sure my roommate or the neighbors would appreciate it.


Now I definitely don’t think we need to keep our focus on our past or our past sin. But we do need to remind ourselves—especially when we’ve been hurt—that whatever someone’s actions cost us, it will never be more than our actions cost God.


And instead of giving other people what they deserve—or what we think they deserve—He expects us to be merciful to them.


Just like He is merciful to us.


God wants us to make it a point to remember all the times He’s come through for us—especially how He came through for us on the cross. And then use those memories as the foundation for our life today.


And here’s the kind of life we’re promised when we decide to be merciful:


Blessed (happy, to be envied, and spiritually prosperous—with life-joy and satisfaction in God’s favor and salvation, regardless of their outward conditions) are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy! Matthew 5:7 Amplified Version (AMP)


Sounds like an awesome life to me.


Now where did I lay those car keys?


What are YOU hungry for?

Do you ever get hungry for something particular? Like your favorite take-out? Or maybe something your Mom used to make for you when you were a kid? Or if you’re like me, every once in a while, do you get hungry for a steak? Seasoned and cooked just right on the grill?


It’s not very often I crave a steak, but there are times when nothing else will do. And when those times hit and I eat one, I am satisfied. Full. Content. Happy.


When I’m craving a steak and the hunger pangs hit, that is all that’s on my mind. And when I eat something besides a steak, I may get full, but I am not satisfied. Even though I feed my body calories and protein and fat, it’s not what my body wanted and, apparently, needed.


In Matthew 5:6, Jesus tells us that making our relationship with God the focus of our life, hungering and thirsting for right-standing with God, will bring us complete satisfaction.


I love what the Amplified Bible says in Isaiah 55:1 about this subject:


“Wait and listen, everyone who is thirsty! Come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Yes, come, buy [priceless, spiritual] wine and milk without money and without price [simply for the self-surrender that accepts the blessing].”


“Simply for the self-surrender that accepts the blessing.” I love that. All we have to do to be blessed beyond measure is to surrender our “self”—our self-centeredness, our selfishness, our self-promotion, our self-seeking, our self-focus—and surrender ourselves to the One who knows exactly what we need, has everything we need, and loves us enough to give us what we need.


But there is a catch. We have to admit we have a need we can’t fill on our own. And we have to want God to provide it His way in His time more than anything else. Anything.


A little later in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6:33, AMP), Jesus tells us not to worry about food or clothes, or even our life. He says,


“But seek (aim at and strive after) first of all His kingdom and His righteousness (His way of doing and being right), and then all these things taken together will be given you besides.”


This “blessed” life that Jesus offers won’t cost you a dime. But it will cost you a lot. In fact, it will cost you everything. Everything else will need to be in second place behind your number one focus of striving after God’s kingdom and His way of doing right and being right.


And what results can you expect from living that kind of life? Well, I’ll let you read them for yourself.


“Blessed and fortunate and happy and spiritually prosperous (in that state in which the born-again child of God enjoys His favor and salvation) are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness (uprightness and right standing with God), for they shall be completely satisfied!” – Matthew 5:6 Amplified Bible (AMP)


Completely satisfied!


I think somebody’s grilling steaks!

Color in the Box

For reasons I’m not sure of yet, God has been bringing the word “color” to my mind a lot the last few months. In fact, I get the sense that my 2015 is going to be very “colorful.” I’m not sure what that means yet, but I know His plans for me are good! So I’m excited about this new year.


Enjoy this rerun from a few years ago! It talks about “color.”


A flower captured my attention the other day. It wasn’t an unusual shape or size. It was an unusual color. It was a beautiful rich, deep color that I couldn’t name immediately. It was too purple to be pink and too pink to be purple. I finally realized it was magenta.

Remember magenta? That beautiful color you only got in the 64-crayon box? The color you used in every picture? I’ve known magenta since I was a kid, yet didn’t recognize it in real life. It looked so different out of the box. It was rich, deep, vibrant. Alive. Real. Three-dimensional. It took time for me to realize what it was.

It reminded me of Romans 2:28-29. The connection isn’t obvious, but stick with me. It says, “For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter, and his praise is not from men, but from God.”

God used this scripture in my life several years ago . . . when I was stuck on following rules, keeping commandments, checking off do’s and don’ts, working really hard to be a good Christian. God used it to show me that what I was ‘doing’ was not what He wanted. He doesn’t want a list with everything checked off. He wants my heart.

The commandments God gave the Israelites painted a picture of people in close relationship with Him—how they would honor God, how they would treat other people. But as time went on, the Israelites. . . just like me . . . got busy checking do’s and don’ts off their lists instead of spending time with their heavenly Father.

When God sent His son Jesus, He showed us ‘in the flesh’ how a close relationship with the Father plays out in real life. The Jewish leaders, who knew the commandments best, had the hardest time recognizing Jesus. They were looking for a rule-keeper instead of someone with a heart sold out to God–someone totally focused on God’s mission of loving people and changing the world. They didn’t recognize the 3-D version. He wasn’t the person they had imagined. He didn’t look like the color in the box.

It’s much easier to follow a list of do’s and don’ts than to have an intimate relationship with anyone, especially an invisible God.

But I don’t think we want to be just a color in the box.

National Champions

This time next week we’ll have new college football national champions–the Oregon Ducks or the Ohio State Buckeyes.

As the Southern saying goes, I don’t have a dog in this hunt (or a duck or a buckeye!). But I almost did.

I’m an Auburn fan and we were in the running for a little while this season. But then we started shooting ourselves in the foot. Or the wheels fell off the wagon. Any one of several Southern sayings could be used to describe our demise.

But four years ago, we were the national champions. And before that season started, I’m not even sure we were ranked in the top 25! It was almost like we were ‘destined’ to come out on top that year. And a lot of the games we played were excruciatingly close, with the lead changing a few times. Some of them were more like miracles than “W’s” in my opinion.

I’ve thought a few times about how much fun it would be to go back and watch the games from that season, in order, without looking up the final score. To watch them again, knowing in advance that after all was said and done, we were the champions.

I’ve also wondered about what it would have been like if the coach had told the players before that season ever began that they would be the national champions.

What if he told them that they wouldn’t have a perfect season—that there would be some very difficult quarters, halves, and games.

That they would have to play catch-up a lot.

That there would be injuries: some game-ending, some season-ending, some career-ending.

That some players would be benched because of bad behavior or poor attitude.

That the media would try to discredit some of them and divide them as a team.

But that some of players would SHINE.

In fact, some who didn’t even know the depth of their ability would be called on to do things they didn’t even know they were capable of.

And some would go on to win national awards and become team heroes.

And that because of all their efforts, the team would be the national champions and the team’s fan base would grow exponentially.

I wonder how the players would have responded.

How would you have responded?

I hope I still would have given my best—no matter my position or rank or ability or lack thereof. I hope I would have faced each game as a potential opportunity for me to be given a chance to SHINE—to become a team hero.

Being told the final outcome of the season wouldn’t have made the games less intense, less exciting. There still would have been injuries and substitutions and benched players and losses and awards and media attention—good and bad.

I think knowing in advance that the trophy was won would have given me more reason to do my best, every play of every game—to be a good example of a team player on a championship team. To play a clean game, but a fierce one.

I think I would have enjoyed a freedom to play with my whole heart out on the field, to show how ‘teamwork’ really works, to share what ‘all in’ is all about.

In case you haven’t guessed, I’m no longer talking about football. I’m talking about life—the life of those who follow Jesus.

God’s word tells us that at the end of ‘time’ as we know it, good triumphs over evil. Victory belongs to our God. And we will reign with Him forever.

But for now, we live in a war zone—and I’m not talking about the wars you hear about on the news. I’m talking about the invisible war. The spiritual war between darkness and light. We all have a part to play in this war. We all have battles to fight. Every day.

But we all have a choice.

We can play around, fighting half-heartedly and conserving our energy and emotion.

We can quit and let a substitute take our place while we take a break and wait for the game to end.

We can even act inappropriately and get benched by the Coach and have to sit on the sidelines the rest of the game.

Or every day we can suit up—put on our spiritual armor and pray and prepare and fight with our whole heart.

And if we happen to win any awards for being a team hero, it will be an honor to lay them down at Jesus’ feet during the big celebration—after the clock runs out.