"Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow." Isaiah 1:18
Words cannot describe the beautiful perfection of the white snow gently falling against the black dresses and black suits as our family huddled together to say our final goodbyes. It looked like a scene from a movie. Quiet. Calm. Surreal.
Last year on this date, some of us gathered for a small private family funeral for my grandfather. It had been a long four years of suffering, worrying, caring, and countless doctor visits. We know that others would have loved to join us, but I think we all needed a chance to let our guard down and grieve together. My mom and her sisters had spent hours and hours selflessly doing whatever they could to help him and they honestly just needed a break.
While we were inside the funeral chapel worshipping, remembering, and crying together, a small blizzard had rolled in. When we opened the doors to head out to the gravesite, we were met with snowflakes falling as the white sky blended in with the white ground. The words of Amazing Grace gently cut through the quiet as God's presence sprinkled down on our family.
I am so grateful for the snow falling that day. It's beauty and peace will forever be in my heart, and every time it snows, I am reminded of God's presence and forgiveness. Just as the snow falls to cover the ground, Jesus' blood covers our sins so they can't be seen anymore.
My grandpa wasn't perfect, but who is? He didn't have the easiest life, but he persevered. He never gave up. I don't know if he always had Jesus by his side, but I know that at the end he did, and that's what matters. The amazing thing about Jesus is that you can come to him at anytime, and he forgives you and invites you to spend eternity with him. He washes you as white as snow.
Whatever you're going through right now whether it be anxiety, frustration, worry, or loss, know that God is with you. I pray that the beauty of the falling snow is a reminder of God's presence and that knowledge will bring you peace that passes all understanding.
"Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body." Ephesians 4:25 NIV
Have you heard of a fidget spinner? It looks like a toy that spins and is supposed to direct all of the fidgety energy so a person can focus. Well, from a former teacher's perspective: Worst. Invention. Ever.
Maybe they work for some people, but I remember when these first came out, my fairly good hearing could pick up a tiny squeaking/scraping noise, and I would ask the class what was going on. Of course, someone would confess that they had a fidget spinner. The spinning may have been calming to them, but annoying to everyone else.
Have you ever had a conversation with someone trying to justify their sin? They are kind of like a human fidget spinner. They direct all of their energy to the "because" "but" "if" reasons to comfort themselves, but they're not fooling anyone around them. They're just sending out a wave of awkward red flags. Anyone listening can hear the "squeaking" of their justification.
In the book of Ephesians, Chapter 4:17-32, Paul is pretty clear about instructions for Christian living. He says over and over that as Christians, we are to be like Christ and put off the old way of life. Others live in sin, but we know better.
First of all, I think it's important to examine our own lives and make sure we're not spinning anything to continue in sin. Do you find yourself having a little personal discussion telling yourself it's okay to do something? Maybe watching certain movies, sharing crude jokes, drinking a little too much, gossiping, starting arguments on social media? Spend a little time in confession and asking God for help with these things.
Next, what do you do when you know someone is spinning a story to you? I know it's difficult and awkward, but here are a couple basic responses.:
Some words of caution when talking to someone who is spinning their sin is that you must be patient and hold your temper. From my observations and experience, people can get very defensive when justifying their sin. The smallest question can trigger anger or a long rant on why they are right. Be calm, be kind, and show them the love of Christ. As Christians, we should encourage each other to make right decisions and be good examples. Sometimes, it's hard, but let God be your strength and courage!
Begin today's devotional by reading Philippians 1:1-11
I'm sure you've heard the phrase, "blood is thicker than water." This phrase means that when it comes down to having to choose loyalty or make a decision, family is chosen above anyone or anything else. Maybe you've felt it in your own life. I know I've had various situations where I wish I could be in two places at once, but honestly, the family choice is the only answer.
I also have some friends who may as well be family. We have been friends for so long, and will be for the rest of our lives. Even if we see each other once a year, we pick up right where we left off, know what each other is thinking or feeling, and are so close that other people assume we are cousins or related somehow.
I love this section of Philippians where Paul is so thankful for the church in Philippi that he says, "I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy." (vs. 3-4). Are there people in your life that make you feel the same way? Every time you think of them, you are thankful to God and filled with joy? I hope so! If not, I encourage you to pray that God would surround you with family and friends who love you with an inexplainable unending love.
In addition to family, and close friends who could be family, have you ever gone on a mission trip or traveled somewhere and met other Christ-followers? Did you have that instant connection or that feeling like you've known each other forever? I know it's happened to me throughout my life.
Several years ago, my husband and I went on a mission trip to Mexico. There were two host missionary families that we connected with and still stay in contact with today. When we met them, it seems like we skipped right to the "we're family now" feeling before the week of serving even started. And we aren't family, we're not blood-related...or are we? We are blood-related. And that blood is the blood of Christ!
The blood of Jesus has given us each grace and hope and true meaning in our lives. And God has given us countless brothers and sisters, blood-related family, that we should love and encourage with everything we have. It is unfortunate when petty issues divide us, and unforgiveness reigns. We need to rise above whatever differences are going on and realize that blood is thicker than water. Right now, is just a breath of time, we have all eternity to spend together so let's start the healing process.
Spend some time thanking God today for those He has put in your life. If there is anyone you need to forgive, ask God to help you. If there's anyone who you need to ask for forgiveness, ask God to help you.
I encourage you to pray the last verses of this passage over each of them.
"And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God." (vs. 9-11)
"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33
Several months ago, we decided to rent a storage unit to start clearing out our house and get a head start in the moving process. We figured we'd only have it about three to four months until our house was finished being built. Then COVID came, delayed everything, and nine months later, we were finally getting the last of our belongings out.
As we pulled up to the unit to get the last of our things, we noticed part of a guitar stand on the ground and my side of the unit door was unlatched. "Wow," I thought, "we must be getting really tired of moving to be so careless."
But, alas, we were not careless. The latch on the other side of the door was cut so when we opened the door, we saw that the remainder of our belongings were strewn about the unit, leaves were everywhere, and several tubs were now empty. It was so disheartening. We are still not exactly sure what is missing, but honestly, part of me doesn't want to know and learn that something precious is gone forever.
It's hard for me to wrap my brain around the fact that someone was sitting in their house on a Sunday night and came to the decision that a fun activity would be to get some tools and go break into several storage units and steal things. On the other hand, do you read the latest news articles? Or even just read the headlines? It's pretty obvious that people make bad decisions all the time. Evil is everywhere.
In the book of John, Jesus says that in this world, we will have trouble. He doesn't say 'might' or 'possibly'. He says 'we will'. In other words, we are guaranteed to encounter trouble. So, why do we act so surprised when there is trouble? When there is cheating, hate, deception, and so many other awful things. We live in a world that has become blind to sin so certain things shouldn't shock us.
I'm not saying we should accept the bad or condone it, but how should we react? Jesus says that we will have trouble in this world, but we can also find peace! And we can find our peace in Him alone. Instead of adding to the chaos and sin, let's shine His light of peace. Let's counteract with love, compassion, and simply being the bigger person. We need to stop being surprised by sin and stand strong.
Luke 10:38-42 NIV
38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
So, you're sitting in your kitchen, and your friend comes over. You want to be a good hostess so you offer her a cup of something cold to drink. You open the cupboard, grab a clean pitcher and a glass, and start to pour, right? No. First, you have to fill up the pitcher with water, ice, and maybe even some iced tea or drink mix, and then you pour. This is pretty obvious. If you didn't do this, you'd just be giving her a glass of air. So, why do we try to pour ourselves out in serving before we fill ourselves up?
Serving is good. Helping others is good. But, you can spend sixty plus hours of your week serving and helping without spending a minute of time in prayer and in God's Word. Anyone can serve. Anyone can donate money to a good cause, but if we're serving for serving's sake, we're missing the point.
In the story of Mary and Martha, it says that preparations had to be made. Jesus doesn't say that serving and preparing were bad things to do, He just says that the better thing to do, the best thing to do, was to sit and spend time with Him. Martha was so worried about getting everything done, but don't you think if she were to sit with Mary and listen to Jesus for awhile, that He would be faithful to help them get everything done? All the preparations would be made, and they wouldn't be emberassed or lacking as hostesses? After all, he fed thousands with minimal food and had some to spare.
If we serve or help others, we should do it because it's the right thing to do, but we should also do it to point them to Christ and His unconditional love for them. If we're not taking care of ourselves and our spiritual growth, it's going to be really hard to speak truth when the opportunity arises.
On the other hand, if we're filling, filling, filling, without ever trying to pour ourselves out in serving others, we're growing closer to God, but we're missing one of His main points in loving others. We're learning, but not applying. We need to find the balance between serving and seeking.
As you examine your life, here are some questions to ask yourself to see if you are keeping a good balance. Some may be a little difficult to digest, but we need to be honest with ourselves.