Wednesday, February 11, 2015


“Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13, 14

A cycle, according to the dictionary, is a series of events that are regularly repeated in the same order. 

For example, our automatic washing machines go through cycles. First, is the filling cycle; then the agitation cycle; after that the spinning cycle; next the first cycle is repeated to fill the machine for the rinse cycle; then follows the last spin cycle.

We take out those clean clothes, put in more dirty ones, and the cycles repeat themselves, over and over again.

In the book of Joshua, chapter 1, we read about the death of Moses, and Israel’s new leader, who took Moses’ place. A man named Joshua became the new leader of millions of Israelites who had left Egypt from bondage, toward the Promised Land.

To a certain extent, we can compare this situation with our own lives…just as Moses had died, 2014 has died. It’s in our past. It’s buried. We will never ever see it again. Joshua could never again say to Moses the things he wanted to tell him, because Moses was dead. And so it is with us, we can’t change those negative things we said or did in 2014. The only leader that the children of Israel had after the death of Moses was Joshua. The only thing you and I have, friend, is 2015. We will never have another opportunity to go back and “dig up” the corpse of 2014.

Did you know that no one saw Moses die? No one saw his body. Perhaps there were times when Joshua didn’t know what to do. We can just imagine Joshua saying to the Lord, “Lord, do you suppose Moses really died? Is it possible that he may still be alive? Could we maybe go back and look for him, so that he can help me with this problem, to help me make the right decision?”

No! They would never again see Moses, because he was dead.

Friend, 2014 has died. We can’t live it over again. It’s time to bury it.

What’s keeping you from doing that?

Life also has cycles. The lesson today is this: we must close cycles. It is a blessing to be able to enter into a new cycle…a New Year.

Let’s compare our problems and our failures to the life of Moses, and 2014 with the desert. Joshua is going to represent us. The time came when Joshua had to realize that Moses didn’t exist anymore. No one saw him die. In the last chapter of Deuteronomy, verse 6 tells us that God buried Moses. And in the last part of that verse we’re told, but no man knoweth of his sepulchre unto this day.” What you and I should do with our problems, with last year’s failures is:

1. Realize that the desert is in the past. Joshua had to decide to leave Moses in the desert where he had died, where God buried him. What problems or sorrows did you go through in 2014? Maybe you’ve tried to change situations, relationships in your life, and you can’t. It’s causing you even more sorrow, regret, insomnia, physical problems. Let God bury it. If you will give your “Moses” to God so that He can bury him, you won’t be able to find him. Did you commit a sin, or several sins in 2014, that you feel have caused irreparable damage? If you have confessed them, and if you’ve done everything you know to restore the damage, God has forgiven you. Psalm 103:12 assures us, “As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.” I have found such comfort in the words of Jeremiah 50:20, “In those days, and in that time, saith the LORD, the iniquity of Israel shall be sought for, and there shall be none; and the sins of Judah, and they shall not be found: for I will pardon them whom I reserve.” Just read Ephesians 1:7: “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;” And what about I John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” And Micah 7:19He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.” Maybe you can’t. Tell the Lord to take your sins, and put them under the ground. Or even better, As far as the east is from the west,…”
2. Realize that new opportunities to serve others lie ahead of you. Joshua 1:2  “Moses my servant is dead; now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, thou, and all this people, unto the land which I do give to them, even to the children of Israel.” Moses would have been a hindrance to Joshua, dragging his stinky body through the desert. Did you know there may be corpses in your life? One is called remorse. The other is called guilt. While you are dragging those corpses from 2014, you are hindering your effectiveness as a wife, as a mother, as a friend, and as a child of God. You can’t fulfill your responsibilities; these corpses produce “stinky” negative attitudes, which in turn, affect others.
3. Determine that your strengths are going to focus on things that really count. Joshua 1:6 Be strong and of a good courage: for unto this people shalt thou divide for an inheritance the land, which I sware unto their fathers to give them. Did you make mistakes in 2014? I did. We all did. Ask God to forgive you, and focus on the future.
4. Close out the cycle of 2014, with all its corpses.
a) Realize what you did right.
b) Accept what went wrong.
c) Learn from what you did right, and keep doing it; and what you did wrong, and don’t repeat it. Balance the books, just like a businesswoman does at the end of the year.
d) Just do it; start all over again; have a new vision.

God also gives us a new day every twenty-four hours. Days also represent cycles. Lamentations 3:22, 23 says, “It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.” We can apply this same “cycle principle” every morning. It isn’t necessary to wait another year to start all over. We can do this every morning.

Tomorrow morning get up and thank God for another opportunity to serve Him better today than we did yesterday.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Chapter 20 - "It's Too Late!"

I’m not a young mother any more, and my children aren’t little. They’re all grown, happily married to wonderful spouses, with precious children of their own. They all serve the Lord, and I believe this cycle will repeat itself in the future: my grandchildren will prayerfully marry men and women who encourage my grandchildren to love and serve the Lord, who will in turn teach my great grandchildren to do the same.

I hope I haven’t painted a picture of perfection for you. Our families are anything but perfect: we have been through struggles, and failures. Some of my children don’t agree with me on the way we raised them. In fact, there have been many, many times in recent years, when I’ve wondered: “Have my children looked back on their childhood, and their teen years, and seen how many mistakes their father and I made? They’ve probably…I hope…sworn not to make those mistakes with their children. 

So, I guess I’m addressing those of you who have passed those child rearing years. And I ask us this question: “Is it too late?” Well, yes, it is as far as those years go…years that now seem like a vapor. 

This chapter actually isn’t only for mothers who have passed their child-rearing years. It’s for everyone who has looked back on an unpleasant experience, and thought to herself, “Oh, if only I had a second chance!” But going back and un-doing our mistakes is like trying to put an egg back in its shell once it’s broken: you can’t do it.

But I think I have hope for us this morning, as I sit in my very quiet, child-free house: I have hope for those of us who were too strict, or maybe not quite strict enough. There’s hope for those things that come back to our memory…time spent on those things that didn’t really matter a hoot; failure to spend time on others things that really, really did matter. 

What about the negative things I said to my children when they were growing up? What about the positive things I didn’t say about their silly little accomplishments? Can I ever erase my failures from my mind and from my past? Of course I can’t.

But let me share some mothering things that I’ve learned in my forty-plus years in this career: 

1. I’m a sinner. I’m not perfect. God knows I wasn’t a perfect wife, and not even in my wildest imagination, was I a perfect mother. My husband was a sinner, too, and we made little sinners. We live in a sinful world with other sinners, and we’re surrounded by sinful influences. In no way am I excusing myself this morning by blaming my failures on my nature. I know mothers who have never read their Bible, who did a splendid job at mothering. I don’t even come close to their admirable qualities. And they didn’t even know the Lord as personally as I do. But in some small way, I hope to remove some of the negative feelings about past failures if I can, by letting you know why we make mistakes. 
2. While we can never go backward in life, I do believe God does close old doors, while He opens new ones. If you are the mother of adult children, maybe you have done things in your past which have actually harmed relationships. May I say something here? If your children are still small, you probably look at us older mothers, like I used to do thirty-five years ago and think, “Oh, if only I didn’t have diapers to change, homework to patrol, and baths to supervise…” Well, believe me, that day will come so quickly, you won’t even realize it. Just enjoy the simplicity of your career now. Perhaps the biggest boon of having small children is that they don’t judge you. You can pretty much get away with anything, and they will come running to you at the end of the day, and hug you. Young children usually don’t hold grudges. Big children do. Unless you know the tragedy of not being forgiven, you don’t know much about suffering. How do you cope with the burden of “sins unforgiven?” I don’t know. I haven’t really figured that one out yet. But I have found comfort in knowing that God does forgive, because He is God. Children are people. They are sinners, and they haven’t completely learned the art of forgiveness. They hurt. And when we are the cause of that hurt, perhaps the hurt has gone far beyond the capacity to forgive. Have you done everything you know to restore broken relationships? Still no forgiveness there? Don’t let it destroy your joy. Take courage in the fact that God does forgive you. Then just back off, and leave it in His hands. If you’ve confessed your sin to the child you have failed, and if you’ve asked for their forgiveness, then confess it to God, ask Him for forgiveness, and rest assured that He will forgive you. You cannot control people’s emotions. Forgiveness is an act of the heart. And the heart is sacred territory, where only the Holy Spirit can tread. Especially if that child knows the Lord, trust Him to take control as only He can. Then just claim that joy that you lost, and don’t let the devil rob you of the happiness God wants you to have. Another thing I would like to say here is this: no matter how much you are hurting, remember that child who cannot forgive you is suffering more than you are. Holding grudges always, always hurts the grudge-holder more than the person who does not receive forgiveness. If you love that unforgiving child, and I know you do, pray for healing in their heart. There is no way a person can have perfect peace and joy as long as they have an unforgiving heart. By the way, do you have an unforgiving heart? Has one of your children done something to hurt you that goes beyond your forgiveness? Shame on you. Ask God to take that hurt. Give it to Him, and ask for His healing. You do unimaginable damage to relationships when you refuse to forgive. You can forgive, yes you can.
3. Learn from your past mistakes, or balance the books. I am by no means condoning the things I’ve done wrong in my life. I never want to encourage a ho-hum attitude toward sin by thinking, “Oh, well, God knows I’m a sinner, and I’ll never be perfect. That’s just the way I am.” Never! But the past is in the past. We can’t change it, but we can learn from it. Just like a businesswoman balances her books at the end of the year: what brought a profit? What caused losses? What did I do in the past to harm relationships? What did I do right? What did I do that brought me closer to my children? What did I do that drove them away? I must analyze my actions, and my attitudes. I still have children who love being with me. I must never take that for granted like I have taken past relationships. I must guard my mind, my words, my attitudes, and my heart. I must treasure those moments that I once took for granted. I must place my priorities in order. People, not things, not time, not even ministries, are what count most, and I must place them at the top of my list. I won’t bore you by confessing my failures, but you know yours. Bow your head right now, and ask God to show you where you have failed in the past, and ask Him help you to look forward to the future; ask Him to help you not only to avoid doing or saying or thinking the things that destroyed wonderful relationships; but also ask Him to turn every negative into a positive…where you didn’t listen, be absorbed in what your loved ones are saying to you, not only in words, but in expressions, and in attitudes.

So is it really too late? It’s never too late, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. Let’s say with Paul: 
Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13, 14
Personally, Mom, I think you’re doing a great job! Keep up the good work! Have a good time mothering today.