Friday, January 29, 2010

GUEST BLOGGER: Daniel McIntosh

I’m sure almost everyone has been in a situation where someone has hurt you, either physically or emotionally. This person who hurt you may have been someone you truly love, or it may have been someone you don’t even know. But, no matter what, the hurt is there, and it is REAL. Its easy to begin dwelling on what that person did to hurt you, growing angrier and angrier as time goes by. You want that person to PAY for what he did. You want JUSTICE to be served. Or, you may just want him to say he is sorry for what he did.

So, what happens if that person is never caught, or never confesses. What if justice is never served? What happens if he just doesn’t care about what he did to you and never asks for forgiveness? How do you deal with that? Do you harbor that anger inside of you and let it continue to grow and fester? Or, do you forgive that person, regardless?

My brother, Dan, is the guest blogger for today. He is sharing his personal experience with what happened to our dad earlier this week. It is a good reminder for all of us that forgiveness doesn’t happen by itself, and it doesn’t come easy. But, it is a choice we have to make if we want healing - no matter what the circumstances are around our hurt.

Here’s Dan. This was written the day after the incident....

Forgiveness…release from bondage!
By:  Daniel McIntosh

Today I have been struggling with an issue of forgiveness. A man held my father at gunpoint last night, stole his wallet and vehicle after beating him and cocking the hammer of a gun. I rejoice for the protection the Lord gave my dad, but was angry at the man who did this. I want justice and desire restitution, and deep inside I was wounded at the very fact that this person did this to someone so close and dear to me. I have tossed and turned, only getting 2 hours of sleep at best… and over and over I heard a voice in my head saying “forgive him… forgive the man.”

“But I don’t want to” was my initial thought. “He deserves to be caught and brought to justice!”

Then I recall that, while in my own sins, in my own wickedness, in my filth and hatred, that Christ went to the cross and forgave MY sins.

“...We have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.” (Eph 1:7)

Who am I to be unforgiving? Am I any better than the One who made me, gave me life, and forgave my sins? NO!

Does it make everything “alright” or “ok” if I forgive? Does it remove what happened and the need for justice? No…… But it releases me from the bondage of hatred, the prison of bitterness, and the confinement of pity. Forgiveness allows me to move on in life…… allows God to deal justly with the offender and the offense…… it places my attitude in a right relationship with the Heavenly Father, allowing HIM to deal righteously with the situation and events.

Why should I be robbed of a glorious opportunity to fellowship with the God of all creation by holding onto a grudge of one who robbed my dad? Why should I let the actions of others dominate me when, instead, I should be controlled by the Spirit of God?

Eph 5:18 -
“...but be filled with the Spirit.” (kjv)
“Instead, let the Holy Spirit fill and control you.” (nlt)

Dan is husband to Julee and father of five children. He is currently serving in the United States Air Force, stationed in Florida.

Dan is the founder of Barnabas Ministries and ECHO (Encouragement Can Help Others).

Thanks for sharing, Dan!


Saturday, January 23, 2010

GUEST BLOGGER: Rachel Pitcher

Today's guest blogger is an active member of our local homeschool group. She has been a wife to husband Tony for the past 18 years, is a loving Christian mother of four beautiful children, and has been a great encouragement to me and my family. Please welcome Rachel Pitcher......

It's hard to find good fruit in the supermarket this time of year. Making it even harder yet is the fact that farmers in Florida are experiencing record cold weather that has damaged their crops. Has this been a record-cold year for you? Is your life reflective of a tree bearing fruit or has the cold-snap stunted your growth and left you wondering how long it's repercussions are going to last? People often talk about the seasons of life and say things like, "This too shall pass." There may be some truth and even benefit to that. However, as Christians, we are called to bear fruit regardless of the circumstances and situations we are going through. Like all good gardeners know, effective pruning makes the plant produce more and not less fruit.

As I studied John 15:1-2, 4 during a journaling retreat four years ago, I reflected on what God had to say to me about bearing fruit. I sensed that although my life might not openly show "bad fruit" to others, it wasn't really showing all that much "good fruit" either. I wasn't bearing much of anything outwardly, and inwardly I wasn't growing either. Unfruitful branches can be thought of as those who confess Christ but never bear fruit. They begin in Him but don't genuinely remain in Him and are in danger of being cut away. Even the fruitful branches, those who truly remain in Christ, will be pruned in order to bear MORE fruit for His glory. Who would want an apple tree that only bore beautiful apples for one season and then gave perhaps one or two apples from then on. I don't want my life to reflect growth that looked promising in the beginning or at one time but has now gone dormant. Remembering that there are seasons of life that are harder than others, we continue to hold on to the promises that our God , our gardener, can make MUCH with the little we have to offer. Our job is to stay focused on the SON, the Giver of Life, and offer our fruit up to Him.

I also studied James 1:2-4 which showed me that pruning is painful but profitable. Like the pains of childbirth that result in the jubilation of seeing your newborn for the first time, trials are occasions for joy. As with labor, it's hard to convince yourself that the pain you're going through is a "good thing" or that you'll even survive it. For some it's short-lived, for others it goes on for more than several hours. Yet, at the end, a precious creation from God is revealed. Trials in daily life test our faith and develop in us perseverance and maturity; qualities that will only benefit us. In the midst of them, we aren't sure there's an end or that we can make it. However, we can endure hardships, hanging on to the promise that we are going somewhere through this. It's not aimless or even endless. It's for a reason, for our good, and profitable not only for us but for others as well.

Dear Lord, I often feel like a "fruitcake" instead of a "fruit-bearer". Help me to yield to your pruning and see it for what it is, not punishment but an opportunity to grow and bear fruit for Your glory. You are the Tree of Life and I thank you for shading me with Your love. Amen.

- Rachel

Monday, January 18, 2010

Praising God in the Storms

"Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name." (Hebrews 13:15)

So many people I know are going through some sort of struggle right now - physically, financially, emotionally, or spiritually. It is definitely not an easy life here in this world. But, according to the verse above, we are to CONTINUALLY offer up a sacrifice of praise to God. So, that means, no matter what situation we are in, we should praise God for who He is and for what He is doing in and through us.

What is a sacrifice? To selflessly give up something that is precious. So, praising God is something we may or may not really want to do, depending on our circumstances; but, in doing so, we are selflessly giving Him the GIFT of our praise. It is a choice we make. We must CHOOSE to give it to Him. And, at the same time, it also helps to release us from a load of anxiety, because we are focusing on God instead of ourselves at that point. We are focusing on what is really important.

Most of you have probably already heard a song by Casting Crowns called “Praise You in the Storm.” It is an incredible song about how we can still praise God in the midst of our struggles. Click on the box below to hear the song:

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Look for Me at Jesus' Feet

Hebrews 12:1-2 - ...and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (NKJ)

As we run the race here on earth, our paths can become bumpy as we encounter many trials and sorrows along the way. Even during the difficult times, it is important for us to continue running that race with endurance, remembering why we are running and keeping our eyes focused on the goal.

So, WHY are we running? To serve the Lord with gladness and glorify Him in all we do... BECAUSE of what He did for us.

My dad sent this video of The Booth Brothers as an encouragement to me and my husband. It is a great song about sitting at Jesus’ feet and thanking Him for what He has done for us. I am  looking forward to that day. It is my hope that, when I finish the race, I will see Jesus sitting in front of me with open arms, saying "Come, sit at My feet and rest for awhile. You have finished the race well."

I hope you are encouraged by this song....