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“Blessed is the man that trusts in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit. – Jeremiah 17:7-8

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Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in His law does he meditate day and night. – Pslam 1:1-2

A changed, healed life – a transformed life – requires us to be in a relationship with our God and Savior. The only way to have a real relationship with anyone is to spend time with them. It’s the relationship that keeps us from falling away – back into our old sinful ways. There are basically 3 parts of that relationship. Recently we spoke about self-evaluation. Today let’s talk about meditation on the scriptures.

Meditate: A verb meaning to growl, groan, sigh, mutter, or speak. (wow) Figuratively and by implication it means to ponder, imagine, and study. – Strong’s Hebrew Dictionary #1897.

 So to meditate on God’s Word simply means reading it, studying it, understanding it in context, but it also means to ponder and imagine what it means in your life and how to apply it to your life. In other words it means to slow down and actually hear what God has to say to you in the scripture you are studying.

  • seriously think about what you read in the Bible for a little bit then think about what it means to your life. That’s meditation. (and yes, you’re allowed to repeat it over and over as many times as you want in line with the literal definition)
  • When you do that He says, “You’re like a tree planted by the river and when the heat’s on you don’t wither away and when the drought comes you don’t dry up and blow away.” – Because your supply of living water is eternal.

You don’t fall away.

How would you like to succeed and prosper in everything you do? According God, it’s pretty simple. Just meditate on His Word.

“And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper”. – Psalm 1:3

The reason (I say) this is necessary: When we were first saved, our response to the love and mercy and grace that God offers us in the saving work of Jesus is largely emotional. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Love is many things, and emotion is one of those things. The bible is very clear that we love Him because He loved us first –1 John 4:19. But we can’t rely on our own emotions any more than we can rely on our own strength. If we try to do that we will eventually fail. His word says that we are saved by His grace through FAITH – Ephesians 2:8-9. Transformation born in Real faith may begin with an emotional response, but it becomes ROOTED in the scriptures. It’s not meant to eliminate our emotions. As a matter of fact, the more we come to understand through meditation on the Word, the stronger our emotions should become. He loves us and values us very much!

Finally this: Lots of people think they don’t know how to meditate on the scriptures or anything else. But I say if you know how to worry, then you know how to meditate. Worry is taking a bad situation or thought and thinking about it over and over. It’s trying to work out a solution to a problem in your mind and heart continually even when there seems to be no solution or resolution. We’re all expert worriers. Meditation is the same. You just do it with scriptures trying to understand God’s intent for your life in each passage you read. Let’s do that.

Go and be with God in His Word today. He will make you like a tree planted in a never-ending water supply.

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Why should any living mortal, or any man, Offer complaint in view of his sins? Let us examine and probe our ways, And let us return to the LORD. We lift up our heart and hands Toward God in heaven; – Lamentations 3:39-41

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For though he was crucified through weakness, yet he liveth by the power of God. For we also are weak in him, but we shall live with him by the power of God toward you. Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?         – 2 Corinthians 13:4-5

We have to set aside time to spend with God every day. Self reflection, bible study, and prayer. These are the ways of the relationship He wants with us. These are the only ways we will ever be able to know God’s will in our lives. And these are the only ways we will ever have the strength to do His will. These are the ways we “watch and pray”.

SELF EVALUATION

Look honestly at your life everyday. Separate the good things you did from the wrong things. Be happy and be grateful for the good things and praise God for His Grace because of those. Then look at the wrong things you did today. Be honest about them. Do not only look at the sin you made. In your evaluation, come to understand about WHY you made that sin. (if you spoke in anger today, maybe it was because of something simple. Maybe you were “hangry”) 

  • physical –  what is your body telling you?
  • emotional –  what are you feeling?
  • relational –  are you at peace with everyone?
  • spiritual – moment to moment, are you relying on God?

Then confess to God and repent. He will forgive that. Every time you do it in this way, He will forgive because He is a good God. Ask for His help to understand and correct the problem(s) that led to this sin.

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts;”         – Psalm 139:23-24

 

 

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This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? Have ye suffered so many things in vain? – Galatians 3:2-4

We started with God’s power. We admitted our weakness and our helplessness and hopelessness. We have no power to change our lives because we are not God. But there is one true God who does have both the power and the will to save us. So we trusted Him and submitted ourselves to Him by accepting the Savior He provided in Jesus Christ. We gave our lives to Him and He began to change us.
But after a while we start thinking, “It’s me that’s doing this, I’m making the changes.” Before we know it we’ve started depending on ourselves instead of on Him – the one who really does the saving work. “Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?” – Galatians 3:3
We skip over the teachings in God’s word that we don’t like or we think are unnecessary or inconvenient and become satisfied with a changed life that isn’t complete. “Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth? This persuasion cometh not of him that calleth you.” – Galatians 5:7-8
We forget about our need for relationship with other believers. You can’t heal from from your sins alone. If you could, you would have already. But you can’t do it alone, so you won’t. We need a Savior and we need other people. God gives us relationships with other people for help in times of weakness. “Two are better off than one because if one of them falls down, the other can help him up. But if someone is alone and falls it’s too bad because there’s nobody there to listen and lift him up or help him.” – Ecclesiastes 4:9-12
There is power in confessing our faults and troubles to one another. There is power in praying for one another. There is power in testifying of God’s mercy and grace to those around us. When we tell our stories, it not only helps us, it helps other people because they see themselves in those stories. We overcome the enemy by “the blood of the lamb and the word of our testimony”. – Revelation 12:11
We fall to pride. Proverbs 16:18 says “Pride goes before destruction.” It keeps us from seeking help. Pride blinds us to our own weakness. It prevents us from giving and seeking forgiveness. It keeps us from prayer and confession. It hinders everything God wants to do in our lives and it encourages failure.

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Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation. The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak. – Mark 14:38

Over and over again we’ve been talking about coming out of the darkness of sin and revealing ourselves in the light of God. But now let’s talk about this:

How do we maintain our growth? How do we not lose the growth we are making in our Christian life?

Romans 7:18 says nothing good lives in us, that is, in our sinful nature. We want to do what is right, but we can’t. Sometimes we fall back into patterns of thought and behavior that are bad for us. Sometimes sinners fall back into sin. How do we keep that from happening? We can see it coming if we watch and pray according to Mark 14:38. These are the warning signs:

First, we tend to become comfortable with our healing and growth and we stop trying. We see the pain and suffering (problems) we experience in our lives because of sin is reduced, and we become content with reduced pain. We become content with a better life and stop striving for a life that pleases God. In this complacency, we stop “working out our own salvation with fear and trembling”. – Philippians 2:11-13

We become careless

Then we begin to forget how bad our lives were before Christ. We forget how bad our ways were before Christ, and we tend to minimize the seriousness of our sins.  We start to justify a belief in our own strength. In our confusion we see ourselves strong enough to stand against our sinful nature on our own.

Finally we start making compromises. We willingly put ourselves in a position to sin again. Falling back into our sinful ways is not such a big leap from this point.

Dear Lord, You alone are God. We worship You because of who You are, and we praise you because of your grace to us in Jesus Christ. Thank you for saving our lives and think you that Your salvation is perfect because we are so weak. We ask you to continue to fill us with your word of truth as we move forward with this study. Help us to stand when we are about to fall. Give us strength when we become weak. We accepted Jesus Christ as our savior because we knew we needed Him. We could not save ourselves. We could not become righteous without Him. We also know that we cannot keep our righteousness or grow in our righteousness on our own. That is because it is really no longer we who live, but Christ who lives in us and through us. Thank you for the hope you have given us. In Jesus’ name, amen.

 

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Job 11:15-16 Then surely you could lift up your face without spot; Yes, you could be steadfast, and not fear; Because you would forget your misery, And remember it as waters that have passed away,

From the past devotionals, we’ve seen that forgiving others is all on us. There’s no requirement for anyone to desire, ask, or accept our forgiveness. We are to simply forgive, and we should also have seen and understood the reasons why we are to simply forgive. Forgiveness for the sake of love is the center of our salvation in Christ. It’s pure and real, and it was taught and exemplified perfectly by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. It wasn’t easy for Him, and it is not easy for us.

It requires death to self.

The same is true of making amends. It isn’t easy. It’s even humiliating sometimes. But remember that when we offend others, we offend God. A sin against another person is a sin against God. We are required to go before God in repentance and ask God for forgiveness.  Spiritual wisdom tells us we are required to do the same with those people we sin against. This also requires death to self.

The Bible says, as best we can, we are to live in peace with everyone. Concerning the principal of making amends, there is no requirement for others to accept our apologies or to allow us to make restitutions for our sins against them. It is simply up to us try:

  1. In the same way we would expect someone to come to us (Luke 16:31)
  2. In the right time and in the right way specific to the person (Ecclesiates 8:6)
  3. With the right attitude (Ephesians 4:15)

I am sure that, in Christ, 2 of the keys to life – mending a broken life, and having eternal life – are in forgiving those who have harmed us, and asking forgiveness and making things as right as we can with the ones we have harmed. So, prepare your heart and reach out to God, and let your eternal worries pass away as “water under the bridge” because God loves you and has something better waiting for you.

Can you search out the deep things of God? Can you find out the limits of the Almighty? They are higher than heaven–what can you do? Deeper than Sheol–what can you know? Their measure is longer than the earth And broader than the sea. If He passes by, imprisons, and gathers to judgment, Then who can hinder Him? For He knows deceitful men; He sees wickedness also. Will He not then consider it? For an empty-headed man will be wise, When a wild donkey’s colt is born a man. If you would prepare your heart, And stretch out your hands toward Him; If iniquity were in your hand, and you put it far away, And would not let wickedness dwell in your tents; Then surely you could lift up your face without spot; Yes, you could be steadfast, and not fear; Because you would forget your misery, And remember it as waters that have passed away, And your life would be brighter than noonday. Though you were dark, you would be like the morning. And you would be secure, because there is hope; Yes, you would dig around you, and take your rest in safety. You would also lie down, and no one would make you afraid; Yes, many would court your favor. But the eyes of the wicked will fail, And they shall not escape, And their hope–loss of life!” – Job 11:7-20

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“Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift”.                         (Mathew 5: 23-24)

Another part of forgiveness is making amends to the ones we have hurt. WHY? – Because unresolved relationships are the problem and they prevent transformation from happening. No one can have a close relationship with God in a vacuum. We all live within a social structure, made up of family, friends, neighbors, acquaintances, and complete strangers (community).  Our relationships with others are a reflection of our relationship with God. So, if we sin against someone, we also sin against God.

  • Jesus taught that before asking God for restoration and forgiveness, everyone has to make right, the sins they have committed against others.  This principal is called ‘making amends’. 

If you’re having trouble remembering anything you need to make right with others, here are some examples:

Is there anyone I owe a debt to that I haven’t repaid? Is there anyone I’ve broken a promise to? Is there anyone I manipulate for selfish reasons? Is there anyone I’m jealous of? Is there anyone that I judge too strongly? Have I been verbally abusive to anybody? Or physically abusive? Or emotionally abusive? Is there anyone I have not appreciated or not paid attention to or forgotten an anniversary? Is there anyone I’ve been unfaithful to? Or have I lied to anyone? Have I taken something that didn’t belong to me? Is this enough to get us started?

Make another list. Write it down. Everyone and everything. Don’t leave anything or anyone out. Look at it and think about  it. Pray about it.  Then start thinking about the way you would like for someone to come to you and try to make amends. Read Luke 6:31, and and use it as your guide. Make things right with others in the spirit and intent of Jesus’ teachings.

Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled;” – Hebrews 12:15

And be THANKFUL 

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“And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.” – Colossians 3:15

We have some choices when it comes to our pain – our hurts. We can be tough, thinking we are stronger than our pain and try to overcome it on our own. We can deny it and pretend the hurt does not exist. Those never work. It will always be a hurt in our life. We see pain as weakness. We will try to cover that hurt with something to feel better. Bitterness, resentment, anger, drugs, alcohol, sex, codependency, theft, lying… the list goes on. But that pain, that hurt will always make a problem for us and everything will become worse…

Or we can be honest with ourselves and admit our pain. You can’t get over being hurt until you admit you have been hurt. We don’t want to admit the times that people we love have hurt us. Sometimes maybe we see that as a weakness too, but you can’t forgive what you won’t admit. So you first reveal your hurt. Admit it and write it down. Make a list of the ones who have hurt you, what they did, what they said, what they thought. Don’t leave anything out. Write it all down so you can look at it and think about it.

Then forgive them. Release the debt. Let go of the pain. Forgive, and let the peace of God rule in your heart. You have no idea of what can happen in your life when you forgive the people who have been hurting you. Remember that forgiveness is for the benefit of the forgiver. How often do we have to do it? How many times should we forgive people when they sins against us? Peter asked Jesus that very same question in Matthew 18:21.

Jesus taught the answer to that question both directly, and in a parable. The answer is simply this:

As many times as it takes

He answered that way for 2 reasons. First, the offender may continue to sin against you, and you must forgive again. Second, Forgiveness is not easy. Bitterness and resentment may chase after you. Forgiveness is not always a one-time thing where you say, “I forgive them”, and that’s it. Because those feelings are going to keep coming back, and every time you get those feelings you’ve got to forgive them again. Jesus said forgive them “Over and over.” And every time they come to mind, you must forgive them again until you know that you have released them fully. How do you know when you have released someone fully? You can think about them and it doesn’t hurt anymore. You can pray for God’s blessing on their life. You can begin to understand the problems in their life, rather than always focusing on their offense to you.  When you begin to think that way – That’s when you know you’ve released them. You keep forgiving them, keep forgiving them, until finally you can think of them and it doesn’t hurt anymore. We need to make forgiveness a habit. Then it might replace another bad habit, like un-forgiveness. And we begin to see progress in our transformation because we’re thinking differently because our minds are being renewed from carnal to spiritual. You can get rid of the pain. You can let go of it.

Don’t wait for them to do something to deserve your forgiveness, and don’t wait for them to ask for your forgiveness. Don’t wait for them to accept your forgiveness. None of those things are under your control. It’s not how forgiveness works, and it’s not how God forgave us – and it’s not how He keeps on forgiving us… over and over, again and again.

But you can do this: Forgive. “let the peace of God rule in your hearts…and be ye thankful.”

 

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“And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” – Mark 11:25

We must forgive others because God has forgiven so much of us already. Forgiveness is also necessary because holding on to bitterness, anger, and resentment is among the causes of physical and emotional health issues like high blood pressure, anxiety, and depression. But there is another reason God created and commands forgiveness for our own good. We must forgive because we will always need His forgiveness. 

A close look at Jesus’ teaching on prayer in Matthew 6:9-15 includes a very challenging lesson on forgiveness. “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” – Matthew 6:12For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” – Matthew 6:14-15

In His teaching, Jesus is telling us that when we pray, we are to ask God to use our forgiveness of others as the standard for His forgiveness toward us (6:12).

Is that what we really want?

Then He explains why in (6:14-15).  Jesus is known for his “hard sayings”. For me this is surely one of them because forgiving others requires us to make a sacrifice.

Forgiveness is the basis of our salvation, the closing of our separation from God. It’s so important that Jesus died to provide it in obedience to God because God loved us and made a plan to save us even before we were born. And the point of our salvation has always been for us to become like Jesus. “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.” – Romans 8:29

We are supposed to become Like Jesus… Jesus forgives… We must also forgive. Forgiving others is one of the things we can control as Christians because He lives in us and lives His life through us.

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He teareth himself in his anger: shall the earth be forsaken for thee? and shall the rock be removed out of his place? – Job 18:4

We only hurt ourselves with bitterness, anger and resentment. We have to forgive others, not only because God has already forgiven us of so much, but because bitterness, anger and resentment will not solve the problem. 

Over and over again we can see the scriptures tell us that Holding grudges and worrying ourselves to death with bitterness, resentment and anger is foolish and senseless. But Jesus said in Matthew 5:7, “Blessed are the Merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” Holding on to past hurts can’t change the past, and it won’t solve the problem. Most of the time it will only lead us to make things worse.

  • Have you ever heard anyone say that their bitterness and anger and resentment makes them feel better?

God commands forgiveness not primarily for the benefit of the Forgiven, but primarily for the benefit of the one who forgives. In Isaiah 43:25 God spoke these words through the Prophet Isaiah: “I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins.” He goes on in Isaiah 44:22 to say, “I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and, as a cloud, thy sins: return unto me; for I have redeemed thee.”

Why? Because according to scripture, He is Love (1 John 4:8) and He will not contradict Himself. So for His own sake – for the sake of love – He freely offers His forgiveness in Jesus Christ to all of us (John 3:16).

  1. He created us to be like Him
  2. He knows that bitterness and resentment and anger will destroy us
  3. He commands us to forgive for our own sake

Forgiveness is Hard. But please stay with me. And remember that it’s not about that person or those people we need to forgive. Of course they don’t deserve it, but it’s not about them.

Who is it about, then?

 

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Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.                                                   – Ephesians 4:31-32

We have to find ways to fix our relationships. Look at what God did to repair His relationship with us! We have to repair the damage we have done to others, and we have to repair the damage others have done to us. Of course, these are the work of God but, as we discussed in the last devotion, we have some choices to make. There are some commands in God’s Word. Will we follow them?

First, we must forgive those who have hurt us.

Why is that so important? Forgiveness is so important that Jesus died to provide it. You can be sure that Jesus was serious about forgiveness. “and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.  Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior.  But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation” — Colossians 1:20-22 

We must forgive others because God has forgiven so much of us. For those of us that have suffered so much at the hands of others, this is understandably difficult. We will talk about how to forgive later on, but for now we need to understand that forgiveness is not optional for us as believers. When I think about how much God has forgiven of me, it becomes a lot easier for me to take on a forgiving attitude. I know that I will never have to forgive more than God has already forgiven of me. My hope and my joy lies within the forgiveness that I have received from God through the Lord, Jesus Christ. The difficult part of being forgiving is that we do not truly understand the forgiveness that we have received. None of this will make sense to someone who has not experienced and received and tasted the joy of the forgiveness of God in Christ. If we do not forgive as the Scriptures command, perhaps the problem is with our ignorance of what God has truly done for us in Christ. And, just maybe, our ignorance comes from our carnal mind that cannot please God instead of that renewed, spiritual mind that brings us into the transformation we seek. Maybe we need to “practice” forgiveness every day until it becomes a habit that replaces our habit of un-forgiveness.

God is so good.

“Bear with each other and forgive any complaint you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” – Colossians 3:13

Let’s pray.

Father, You are above all in righteousness and power. You alone are Holy. We love You because You first loved us. We seek You because You have given so much in seeking us. We ask You for Your healing, Your help, Your guidance so that we can live our lives here on earth in a way that reflects Your will and your purpose the same way Your will and purpose is known in heaven, until that glorious day when Jesus comes to take us to be with You there. We thank You for forgiving us and saving our lives through the blood and cross of Jesus. Because of Your saving work in Christ, we have hope. We know that Your word says we are to become transformed into the image of Jesus, and we know what He did so we could be forgiven. Please help us to be like Him. We know that forgiveness isn’t easy, but we also know that it is Your will and it is for our own good. Teach us to be forgiving because You have forgiven so much of us. What a glorious God You are. What a good, good Father You are, and what joy and peace we have because of You. Please give us open minds and hearts as we learn about forgiveness in the coming days. In Jesus’ name.