Love in Conflict
Almost as soon as there was an engagement, there was distaste for her.  She could do nothing right for her new fiancée according to her soon-to-be mother-in-law.  That’s when it all began.  There were red flags from all directions and reasons not to stay engaged, but she was a deer in the headlights and oblivious to it all.  He gave enough warning signs, too.  In her naivety, she rejected all of them.

This girl was me.

I’m really putting it out there today, but for good reasons.  I do not like to write about this time in my past because I always wonder how it will be received.  Today, however, I am.  One reason is because out of all the tragedies I have been through, divorce was the worst.  It was also the platform for God to prove to this otherwise by-the-book Christian girl, His true forgiveness, love, mercy, and grace.  Those four things are the umbrella I live under in relationship with my Savior.  Through my worst pain, He has shown His biggest gifts to me.  It is God’s response to this tragedy in my life that was a jumping board for spiritual growth.  Based on that alone, I have to talk it about it sometimes or God would not get the glory for this season in my life.  And, He will be glorified one way or another!  Today, I hope to bring Him glory.

(Please take note, though, that I do not wish to discredit any person- not even the ones who hurt me.  That’s why I will say nothing more than I have already said.)

What has spurred on these thoughts is the book of Exodus.  There is a theme throughout the book of God proving Himself to people.  For a quick recap, the people of Israel are in captivity and subject to slavery to the Egyptians.  In their oppressed state, they cried out to God and He heard them.  At just the right time, He called Moses back to the Egyptian palace to tell Pharaoh God’s messages, which were rejected.  Theses rejections lead to ten plagues on the Egyptians until Pharaoh finally let the Israelites go free, answering their prayers.

Two glaring things.  (I’ll give you one verse for each, but there are many.) The first verse I will share is Exodus 10:2, “…You may tell your children and grandchildren how I dealt harshly with the Egyptians and how I performed my signs among them, and that you may know that I am the LORD.”  Did you see that?  It said, “That you may know that I am the LORD.”  God is doing these great things so all of the Israelites will know who He is.  This is key to having a healthy relationship with Him. 

The second verse is Exodus 7:5, “The Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I stretch out My hand on Egypt and bring out the sons of Israel from their midst.”  Did you catch that?  This time, God is proving to the Egyptians, not the Israelites, that He is LORD.

Here is the point. God wanted both of these people groups to know who He is.  He wanted both to be in relationship with Him.  He didn’t show favor to the ones being oppressed or the oppressors in that He was seeking both nations to know Him.  He loved both. 

People.  They love us.  They hate us.  There is always going to be some sort of conflict between us and others when we live on this dusty old earth.  We can apply the above to so many relationships in our own lives.  Let us consider when we are in the midst of conflict that God loves you and desires for you to live in relationship with Him and one day live in a glorious eternity with Him.  He also wants that exact same thing for those you are in undesired conflict with. 

I leave both you and me with this, pray for your enemies.  “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” Matthew 5:44.  Before we engage on the level of hurt, let’s consider Jesus’ command to pray for and love those who hurt us.  We just might find good gifts waiting for us after this door of obedience has been opened. 
One gift might just be healing.

Andrea Simmons 12.8.17

Matthew 5:44
“But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you."
When They Socked it to Ya!
What is more important to you, your relationship with God or with people?  We are naturally inclined as Christian women to spurt out the Sunday school answer that God is more important.  We do that because we know its right.  But, it can be harder than it looks because we live in this super-indelible-hurt-until-you-just-can’t-breathe-anymore kind of world.  So, when it comes to obeying certain commands in the Bible, it can clearly goes against our nature.  Paul knew this when he was writing to the church in Colosse.  Just like them, after our salvation, we need to be reminded of our focus on things above rather than on the things of this world.

For instance, the Bible teaches us to forgive people and bear with them in their shortcomings.  However, when people do things to us that need forgiving, it is hard for us to want to come along side of them with a loving arm and help them through their sin.  Or possibly even helping someone else who has been hurt in the same way you have rather than a perpetrator.  Either way, we would sometimes rather sit back and deal with our own present pain in any given circumstance.  I mean, we obviously have things to work through at times, too!

When someone else’s actions sock it to us, for whatever reason, we tend to focus on them, the pain they caused, and respond accordingly.  It is hard to train ourselves to let our first response be to look at the bigger picture as God would have us to.  Why should we forgive?  Why should we bear with them in their sin?  Why should we lay down our pain to help another with theirs?  Dare I ask, what’s in it for us?  I know, I know!  That sounds terrible!  While we may always not allow ourselves to take that path of thinking, when it gets right down to it, it is our human nature to feel that way.

Part of the problem here is that feelings are not always truthful.  The Bible is truth.  We should consider what it says above our own feelings- and by consider, I mean think and pray about it so much that we could see ourselves inclined to change for the better.  Sometimes, we have to step over our feelings to accomplish what we know to be right.

We, as Christians, are not called to selfish ways, but to a much higher calling.  There are many reasons we need to forgive and help our brother’s and sister’s in Christ. Number one is because God commands it of us. “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you,” Colossians 3:13.  This is clearly one thing we should do since we belong to the body of Christ.

Now that we have made this point we can add that we do gain from it.  We have peace (Colossians 3:15).  We have a place in the community under Christ and will share in His glory with him (Colossians 3:4).  Remember that awful thing he/she did to you?  Would you rather live with peace and the hope of our Savior who is in glory or the alternative, which is a whole bunch of negative, hurting, and haunting emotions that are ready to take you down for the count?

Again, we know the answer should be that we want peace and to be in God’s will.  Yet, we still know it’s hard because we live in this world.  Know that we can live with peace in the midst of it all.  We may have to fight for it, but God assures us in His word that we are His, He is near to the broken hearted, He takes care of His children, and we have His power at work in us.  We are more than conquerors in this world and in these things!  For some it may take a moment of prayer and for others much, much longer.  Forgiveness is yours for the giving and coming along side of someone who needs our help is within our grasp.

How do we reach that place?  In this journey we are supposed to seek God.  We are not supposed to seek the specifics of peace or glory or anything else.  We are to seek God alone and then all these things will be added to us (Matthew 6:33).  I pray this is an easy journey for you!

By Andrea Simmons 8.7.17

Colossians 3:13
“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you." 
Grudge be Gone
Ephesians.  It's an inspired book!  I am tempted to say, "I love this book; it's awesome.  It's my favorite."  Do you know what would happen next?  My husband would smile and say, "That's what you said about the last book."  True.  But, I love the power of the Word and Ephesians is very powerful.  Please read Ephesians chapter 4 first and I pray that you, too, will be amazed by God's truth.  It is better than any phyical beautifying pampering that a girl can do!

There are a gob of tremendous things I'm taking away from Ephesians and more so from the fourth chapter (since I have landed there for the time being), so let me tell you two of those things.  First, we have salvation through Christ and second, we are to live in unity with other believers.  Simple, true, but when you study it, it somehow becomes nothing short of amazing.  Whenever a truth is revealed to you in a way it can be applied to the daily grind, it is golden.

With our mind, we can know these two things when we wake up and carry them to bed with us every day of the week.  So what?  How does this apply to our daily living?  Ephesians is all about whom we are to be and what we are to be like while living life in salvation, it's practical.  There is so much to say, but I'll try to stick with living in unity with each other.  More specifically, how grudges rob us of unity.
I can address this because I'm very familiar with the ways of women, being one myself and all.  I've struggled with grudges over my forty-something years and let me tell you what you already know, they're U. G. L. Y! 

Grudges start in the heart and express themselves in verbal and nonverbal ways.  You give a look.  You ignore.  You turn a shoulder.  You say a cutting remark.  You get that feeling.  You know that feeling when you see the one you are grudging against steps into sight.  That feeling that just wells up and suffocates all previous feelings of wellbeing or contentment.  It's ugly.  It robs us of peace within.  It robs the body of believers of unity- there is nothing unifying in grudges.

In college there was the guy who beat me out for the role of spiritual leadership in student government elections.  He was a popular upper classman.  I was a second year transfer student and not so popular...  I had to see him walking around campus everyday tucking his newly found title in his shirt pocket while I had no place to serve.  There was that other person who hurt me by _________.  Then there was the time so-and-so _________.  Someone hurt me.  Someone hurt you.  Out of all sorts of life's relationships we can feel less than (or more than) we should regarding others and the result can land us smack dab in the middle of holding a grudge against someone.  It can consume us if we let it. 

Wait just a minute!  Why is it that a born again person can struggle with these things of the old self (before salvation), as Paul would call it?  It surly has something to do with the fact that we are not perfect and we still have choices in life, choices with an outcome that can help or hinder our relationship with Christ and others.  Just because we are saved does not equate a cushy easygoing life.  We struggle in this world.  The Ephesians struggled with letting the pre-saved mind set spill over into their new way of life in Christ, just like we do.  Here is what Paul insisted they do, and we should to, in effort to live worthy of the gift of salvation we have been given.  Read Ephesians 4:26-27,"'In your anger do not sin': Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.'"

In other words, we can be angry, but do not sin in our anger.  If someone provokes you and you have a reaction to it, do not go to sleep with wrath, or a grudge, against them because you will be giving the devil the opportunity to have power in your heart.  We love to say, "I have a right to feel this way."  Maybe you have the right, but you definitely have a choice and as believers we don't need to go there.  We do not need to give the devil a place in our heart, which will hurt ourselves and the unity of the church.  Deal with it right away, do not let the sun go down before you deal with it or else you will be choosing to give the devil a foothold. 

The devil's job is to divide God's church and family.  If you carry something wrong in your heart, such as a grudge, then you are standing on a line that divides.  There is no unity in the body of Christ with this and you have done the devil's job for him while giving him a great deal to work with.

Verse 32 reminds us to forgive.  Forgiveness can be hard, but, look at it this way, Jesus died for us while we were still against Him.  He made a way not only to forgive us but to adopt us, be heirs with Him, to live in His blessing, to give us a promise, hope, and future.  He took our old ugly and made us new and amazing.  For His sake, we forgive. 

The power of forgiveness helps us in living out the command, "Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry…" The power of forgiveness stomps out the ability for the devil to have a foothold.  The power of forgiveness diffuses hell's power.  For Christ's sake, who forgave you, forgive others.   The power of forgiveness keeps unity between us.

Please get this if anything at all, it is for Christ's sake.  You, a believer with the gift of salvation working towards unity in the body of Christ, have a disposition for Christ.  We do not make choices for the domain of the devil; we resist that by clinging to Christ and the gifts He gave us to live by.  And, we do it all for Christ's sake. 


By Andrea Simmons 3.8.17

Ephesians 4:26-27
"In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold."
All for One
His response was unexpected.

My dear husband, Chuck, was at a support raising appointment. (We are now with Impact Campus Ministries and will be moving our sweet little family across country to Florida Gulf Coast University to be missionaries to the students there when we have reached 100% support.)  He went to a former boss' office, which happened to be a Christian man, and gave his spiel.  He usually does a bang up job, too.

The man was on board with the idea and was convinced of the need for this type of ministry.  However, that wasn't enough to tilt the scale.  He would not offer us any help because we belonged to a different denomination.  He stated how he couldn't get over the denominational difference.

Personally, I had a lot of mixed feelings towards this kind of a response.  So, I thought and prayed.  I understand denominational loyalty and loyalty to a congregation; it would be a large feat to remove denominations everywhere.  They exist.  Also, we believe this man and the church he attends to bear fruit for the Lord.  What I had a hard time grasping was how one healthy, God loving, Bible believing Christian could act in a manner that appears to be against another healthy, God loving, Bible believing Christian?

Then, when I wasn't searching, I found these verses…

Ephesians 4:3-5, "Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.  There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all."

That says it all.

We are one.

We are all for one.

We, as the body of Christ, are not following an interpretation or denomination; we are all following Christ alone.  In Christ, the head of the church, we all belong to Him.  In Christ, there is one baptism, hope, and faith that every believer in every healthy believing church in the whole wide world is united in.  We are to be bonded in peace because of Him and not divided and against one another. 

What kind of response are we to have to those who live by a division in the church?  We are responsible to make the effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.  We do this by knowing and living out the truth of God's word. 

At this point, I'm left feeling not hurt by this man, but hurt for him. 

Our Dear Heavenly Savior, thank you for your beautiful church.  Help this one body of believers in your name to recognize who we are to you and to one another.  Be glorified through us.  Continue to create unity among believers and let our focus be more on you, whom we serve, than on denominations.  Let your will be done in the church and in our understanding of you as the head of the church.  We love you, amen.

By Andrea Simmons 3.1.17

Ephesians 4:3-5  "Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.  There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all."
Church Hurt? Victim or Vicotr?
There's this lady.  She is older, goes to my church, and is very quiet.  I think the only person she may talk to, or who may talk to her, is the delightful young woman who brings her to church.  I watch this unlikely friendship and am thoroughly blessed by it.  They look like they are from two completely different places in life but this seems to be no contest for their friendship. 

Far be it from me to notice this sweet duo and not let the older lady know that I notice her.  I don't want her to slip through the cracks in all of her quietness and never feel loved and wanted, especially having felt like that myself before.  So, I took it upon myself to make sure to say hi and/or to hug her every Sunday.  I was doing a good thing, I thought.  Then I had a 'gotcha' moment.  One Sunday I went to greet her and she looked down.  I asked her how she was doing and there was no response.  She looked up to make eye contact and I smiled.  Then she responded, and let me tell you I will never-ever for as-long-as-I-live ever forget what she said.  She said, and I quote without expressing her tone, "Bye."  What I heard was, "I don't want you to bother me, so leave." 

Rejected.  Hurt.

I always tell my girls when someone hurts you that it should communicate one thing to you; now you know exactly how to pray for them.  Given the parenting advice I spoon feed my kids, I now had to take my own medicine and try not to let it taste bitter going down.

I got to thinking of all the times someone in the church has hurt me.  Maybe I have hurt someone.  Cringe.  We can all think of times people have hurt people in the church.  The higher standard we tend to hold the church to can come crashing down if we stay here too long. 

Just like running a yellow light it sure happens more times than it should.  A look.  A snide comment.  A couple of friends gossip once… twice….  A plot or a plan against someone….  A change in plans without including a key person….  A Sunday school conversation that jabs….  Excluding…. Ignoring…. Cliques…. Judgment….  You get the idea. 

We cannot overlook that even church people are not perfect people and are still in need of grace.  Think about some of the men in the Bible who walked with God.  Moses had anger, Noah got drunk, David murdered and engaged in adultery, Abraham lied, and Peter denied Jesus.  Not perfect.  Things like this in the church have happened, do happen, and will happen again.  The question is, what to do?

I certainly do not want to down play the valley of hurt that church hurt can cause and what you maybe have or are going through.  The depth and breadth of wounds can be very damaging and turn people off to church altogether.  It is serious stuff!  It can hurt the ministry and outreach of a church if it's not dealt with.  The church is to be set apart and holy, different from the world.  It is supposed to be a safe place.  What do we do when we find it's not?

Can I pose a different perspective?  What if we changed the focus so the scenario is not that someone in the church has hurt me, but rather, what will my response as a church member be to the hurt?  Victim or victor?  We all have a choice to make.

 I am suggesting we serve a God whose love and grace is deeper and wider than our hurt.  He is willing to heal and wants to bring us to a place of solid ground where we can experience His best for us.  We only need to shift our focus from the pain and the person(s) to God and our relationship with Him.   Be honest with God about the pain and the dark feelings; seek Him in it because He has the exact prescription for what's needed to mend the wound.  What we cannot let happen is to let the wound cause our soul to fall away from the church God intended for us to be a part of (Hebrews 10:25).  What else we cannot let happen is for us to be found guilty of causing destruction to God's church at any level.

Christ is the head of the church.  Let Him lead us, and reject the pain ridden paths of flesh.

Let's read 1 Corinthians 12:14-15, "For the body does not consist of one member but of many.  If the foot should say, 'Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,' that would not make it any less a part of the body."  If you are a believer, then you are a part of the body of the church.  If we go on to read verse 26 we will learn that when one person in the church is hurting, it hurts the whole church, "If one member suffers, all suffer together, if one is honored, all rejoice together."

Being in the body of believers' means we are on the hook.  If we hurt, the whole church is hurt.  Our response to others during or after a hurt counts.  As believers in Christ, you and I are the church.  Will we continue on in the hurt, flinging drama around?  Or will we wallow in the grace of God allowing the Holy Spirit to lead us right into the path of being part of the solution?   How will we respond to the one who hurt while being the church to them?  How will we let the love of Christ, the head of the church, pour out of us to make things right?  "If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all," Romans 12:18.

The church has a purpose that does not include hurting, abusing, neglecting, or rejecting.  Since we cannot control others, it is up to us to act accordingly to be the church God intended for us to be.  The church has a purpose, part of which is spurring others on towards God, encouraging, edifying, loving, and setting examples of forgiveness, love, and giving.  We are to be like Christ.

There is just not enough time to address this issue in one devotional and I feel like I'm not doing it justice.  But, what is golden is that Jesus came.  In Him we live and move and have our being. In Him we find healing and forgiveness. In Him we have strength and power to be the church to others, even our enemies.  In Him we have the choice to be victorious.  Or, we can choose to be victims.  What is your response?

By Andrea Simmons 2.21.17

 1 Corinthians
 "For the body does not consist of one member but of many.  If the foot should say, 'Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,' that would not make it any less a part of the body."
Sweet or Sour Friends?

Out of my three favorite college friends, I was the only one that was not pursuing a psychology degree.  Since they were psych majors, I was psychoanalyzed a lot.  A lot.  I just learned to be OK with it and went about my friendships.  These girls, Tammy, Serene, and Koula were a great bunch! 

Do you want to know how I know they were good friends?  It was because of their response to me when I became engaged.  A girls dream come true, right?  From my perspective it was amazing!  From their perspective- not so much.  They tried to dissuade me from the engagement because they didn't think it was a good idea and then they gave their reasons.  I will never forget their phone call that night….  They thought I would be mad at them after the call, but I wasn't.  I didn't receive their warnings either.

The man I was engaged to I remember describing as GQ; he was very well dressed.  The best part about him was that he chose me.  He told me about his salvation experience.   He went to church faithfully and my family liked his family.  I had a check list of the perfect mate and he marked off all of the do's and none of the don'ts, it was a match made in Heaven.   He knew about the Bible and how to talk the talk.  The problem surfaced several months later when I realized, he didn't really walk the walk.  There were lies and deception.  I gave him my full attention and devotion only to have my life turned upside down in a pit of worry, emotional abuse, and depression. 

At first thought I was broadsided by the reality of all of it, but really, I had to come to an honest consensus that I knew I chose unwisely.  There were good friends to warn me and warning signs I ignored.  I had no one to blame but myself and myself alone.

Like the words in Proverbs 27:5-6 say, "Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy."  My friend's words may have hurt a little but they were willing to go there to save me from a big mistake.  My fiancée's words were sweet like kisses and I was swayed by them, but in the end they caused me so much heartache and grief.
(My part in all of this was the part of the fool.  This, as you guessed it, is not my favorite personal story to share, yet it is part of my story.  It is where God's plan of salvation, grace, mercy, and love shine in my life, too.  I always love how He takes the ashes we give Him and transforms them into something beautiful.)

The Bible instructs us in the book of Proverbs to choose our friends wisely.  A good friend will not sit back and let you fail, they will be bold enough to step in and intervene.  Anything else that leads you down a path of destruction, away from the love of God, is evil foolishness.  Proverbs 17:17a, "A friend loves at all times."  Godly friends will not withhold the truth of the matter from you even when it's hard for them to do so and it's hard for you to hear.   I, for one, am thankful for the pushing of my college friends.

I will end with two questions.  Are you wisely choosing who you let in your life and who influences you?  And secondly, what part do you play, the part of the friend, the enemy, or the fool?

Let's pray.

Dear Lord, thank you for your beautiful child who is reading this right now.  Help us to choose our friends wisely and give us wisdom and honesty as to what part we play in the lives of people we know.  Let our friendships bring glory to you and go well with us.  We know that if we take the time to ask for wisdom you give it generously.   Thank you for being there with us in every choice we make.  In your holy name we pray, amen.
By Andrea Simmons 1.25.17

Proverbs 27:5-6
 "Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy." 
Petty is not so Pretty
Oh, she totally just cut me off.  That cashier didn't give me all my change.  What did you just say to me?  She wants me to do this for her when she wouldn't even do that for me!  I could sue over that!  Oh, no you di-n't.  You sooo wronged me…

Get the picture?

All too often we experience friction.  I don't know about you, but my first response is not always warm and fuzzy.  In fact, before I married my husband I felt the need to express to him I had a spicy side.  Please tell me I'm not alone in this!  The older I grow, the better I get at stepping over my feelings and acting in a mature way- most of the time.

The church at Corinth had the same problems with friction that we do today.  In fact, when they had minor problems, particularly with issues of land, they were taking it to the unrighteous judges of Corinth in Greece.  The question at hand was why would those made right before God go to those who have not to seek their wisdom in minor issues?  They had the very wisdom of God at their disposal! 
Corinth was a wealthy trade city that flourished with philosophers and learning.  The people there were very prideful of this and as an outflow of it were very concerned with their own rights.  The church started in Corinth never fully purging the ways of the world from within, which caused discord among church members. 

The church was taking each other to court over petty issues that should have readily been settled amongst themselves.  Paul calls them to the table over what they are doing.  1 Corinthians 6:7, "The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already.  Why not rather be wronged?  Why no rather be cheated?"

The first thing to ask is why were lawsuits defeating?  In short, it's primarily because they were going to people outside the church for judgment; they were going to the enemy.  Not that the judges were not smart and even morale in their judgments, but that the witness the Christians brought by suing each other took glory away from God, made them look petty (and they actually were), and would not win anyone over to Christ.  It was a lose-lose-lose situation.  James 1:26 tells us, "Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless."  All these petty arguments were ruining their witness for Christ.  Who did they want to be anyway?  Christians or not?

I love the phrase in verse 7, "Why not rather be wronged?"  It has stuck with me since the first time it impacted me.  It's a good question.  Why do we always have to claim our own rights and correct others when they've wronged us?  When we do that, it puts us at fault and we can relate to the church at Corinth.  Where's the love in the attitude of, "You wronged me, so now I'm going to even the score?"  Isn't the church supposed to build one another up and not tear apart (Romans 13:10, 1 Corinthians 8:1)? 

Please understand the Apostle Paul is not saying that we neglect the issues, but rather deal with them properly, between each other and bearing a good witness, and not take our brother's and sister's in Christ to court over the small things.  Yet, in the petty things of life, it is so much better to humbly heed the wisdom of God rather than scream for our own rights.  It brings peace and love between us.  It brings glory to God.  It shows love rather than selfish ambition.  It is Christ like.

The next time we feel we've been wronged, and maybe we have, let's consider God, His wisdom and how we should handle ourselves so we do it right rather than claiming to be right.

Dear God, thank you for the Apostle Paul who addresses us with the wisdom of your gospels.  Let us listen to your Holy Spirit's guidance when we feel anger well up inside of us when someone has done wrong to us.  Help our first concern to be with you, be made right by you, and not so much as to ruin our witness by fighting our way to vengeance.  Thank you for this wisdom!  In your holy name I pray, amen.

by Andrea Simmons

1 Corinthians 6:7
 "The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already.  Why not rather be wronged?  Why not rather be cheated?