Sin Struggles                                                        

Cancelled & Cleared, Part 2
There's always that one person.  You know, that one that doesn't like you for apparently no good reason.  Or maybe there is a good reason.  There's that one person you don't like for whatever good or bad reason you have.  Then, there are the people you hold at a distance because they rub you the wrong way.  Conflict hurts relationships, doesn't it?  When someone wrongs us, the Bible is very clear as to what our response should be and why.

Matthew 18:23-35 is a wonderful story that Jesus told Peter about forgiveness.  It's clear in this story that Jesus' example is to forgive those who have wronged us.  Matthew 18:27 says, "And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt."  If you don't stop there but keep on reading the very next sentence, it is sadly obvious the forgiveness the man received didn't sink in enough to give him a change of heart.  A servant of this man owed him a small fraction of the amount he was forgiven and his response was to turn right around and throw the man in jail!  No kidding.


These are the kinds of Bible stories that make me realize God is not messing around!  He means business and this parable drives home a stern point.  The actions of the servant were learned by the master in this story and the result was a gruesome consequence of putting him in jail until his debt was paid in full.  Note to self, the debt was so large he would probably be in jail for life.  There is a warning in this for you and me.  Forgiveness and forgiving are tied closely together, if you have one you must have the other.


Jesus made a profound statement following this story. Matthew 18:35, "So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”  If we as believers, who have received the forgiveness of God, do not forgive those around us we will have consequences.  Clearly, when we are forgiven our debt of sin against God, we need to also extend forgiveness.

Sometimes, we are painfully aware of those we need to extend forgiveness to and sometimes we don't even realize we need to forgive when we hold something against someone.  It can become a matter of prayer to ask God to show you who you may need to forgive.


Now would be a good time to state the obvious.  Sometimes when we forgive people we automatically think it equates to a restoration of relationships, too.  This can be true, but not always.  Forgiveness is a change of heart out of obedience to God but sometimes the relationship cannot be restored and it doesn’t necessarily always have to be. 

Forgiveness can be a journey for us while we walk the dusty paths of earth, but keep being intentional about it; God measures the motives of the heart (Proverbs 16:2).  In my personal journey, I have found the way that works best for me and you can use it too, if you want.  What I do is pray for the person because in Job 42:8 God commanded Job to pray for those who had wronged him.  That has always stuck with me.  Job obeyed without knowing the blessings that would be restored to him a few verses later; he was simply obedient without thoughts of reward.  I love that.  It is good to pray and be in God's word to learn a way for yourself. 

Forgiveness and forgiving are inseparable; they go hand-in-hand.  If you have experienced the forgiveness of Jesus the questions is, who do you now need to forgive?


By Andrea Simmons 5.2.17
  
Matthew 18:28-35
"But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”
  
Cancelled and Cleared, Part 1
 There is a man, many men and women really, that go to those quick speedy loan places to get cash advance loans.  I have never been to one, but what I know about them is that they are out to make a truck load of money off the people who step foot inside their doors.  To get a $100 loan for thirty days, you will pay back about $130 at the end of the month.  That's insanely high.  The annual percentage rate on the loan is 360% so, if I'm right, when you pay that small loan off over a twelve month period it will cost you $360 bucks!

If all you ever did was get those loans for the amount of your paycheck, you'd always be paying back more than you took and eventually get to a point you couldn't even pay them back at all!  Just to drive the point home, let's assume you make $100,000 each year because that's a nice round number.  At the end of the year you would owe $360,000- more than 3 ½ years wages. You would rack up so much debt in a ten year period; it would be unthinkable to pay it back.  C.R.A.Z.Y.  On a side note, don't make it a practice of going to those places.


On a spiritual note, we were all born with a debt we could never repay. 


Let that sink in for a minute….

We can learn a lot from the following parable Jesus taught His disciples.  First, we are like the man with an outlandish debt.  God is like the king who can forgive that debt or punish it accordingly. 


Matthew 18:23-27, “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. "

When God gave Moses the law we were shown what sin is; the law made us completely aware.  The problem with the law is that it shows us sin but does not save us from sin.  It is vital that we are not living in ignorance and are aware that in each and every one of us there is a sin problem, a debt we can never repay.  If we don't know we have a debt of sin to pay, we can't ask for forgiveness.  If we don't ask for forgiveness we can't be justified.  If we aren't justified we can't go to Heaven and have the reward of living with our Savior.  The alternative is pure hell.


Romans 3:11 tells us, "No one understands; no one seeks for God."  Paul is talking about the original nature of mankind before we are justified through faith in Jesus Christ.  Born in the state of a carnal mind, we simply do not seek God all on our own.  No matter what we do that looks like a good deed, we can never be reconciled to God.  The debt of sin is a big problem.

It is God's pursuit of us, that when He shows Himself to us we may be persuaded of who He is.  When we allow God to work in us and we respond with a change of heart and are justified by God through faith in His Son Jesus Christ, then and only then can our debt of sin be paid.  Not by law and knowledge, but by the saving grace of Jesus alone and our faith in Him.  The king in the parable is like God, able to forgive our debts and He will when we simply ask. 

Being born means struggling with the whole sin thing and all it brings to the table until we get to Heaven.  I'm sure, because you are human, that in addition to being born you can list some of your 'debts'.  I know I can.  Aren't you so thankful that no matter what it is or how much it looks like, our unpayable debt that weighs us captive with heavy chains tightly around our shoulders and ankles can be removed in a moment with the help of our Savior?  You never have to carry the weight of your burdens again.


If you haven't yet, ask Him to forgive you of your sins and to come into your heart.   Take a minute to pray and thank our Savior for His gift of forgiveness to you; He will cancel every debt making you pure and clean.  I strongly suggest you find a Christian friend to talk to about this, we were meant to be a part of a community.  Amen.  What a wonderful God we serve! 
​​
By Andrea Simmons
4.24.17
  
Matthew 18:23-27, “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. "
Meet Me There
I read a phrase once that said, "We're all a hot mess, some of us just hide it better than others."  I thought about that and decided there was some truth to it.  On the outside we look as if we have it all together.  On the inside, it can be a different story.

Sometimes, we Christian ladies work so hard to just do it right.  Do you know what I mean?  We make sure our children are well fed with food, prayer, and the Word.  We teach good manners and provide activities so our children are well rounded.  We keep good routines for their health and development.  We strive to be good wives to our husband.  We are good examples to our children, friends, and church family in speech and in ministry.  We make sure we have our quiet time and fill up on that so we can do all these other things.  We do our best to keep our house in order- you know clean and most of the laundry done.  We are downright Proverbs 31 women, at least on our good days.  We strive to have all our ducks in a row and even allow grace for ourselves when we don't measure up.  We just try to do it right.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with all these good works, either!

Now, I'm going to turn the tables a little bit here.  Where do you fall short? 


This time, I am not talking about in the things mentioned above, but rather about your relationship with our savior?  Jesus came to meet you at the place you fall short, not necessarily at the places you know you have it all together.  He came to take care of the sin inside you and make you truly right.

Mark 2:13-17, "And He went out again by the seashore; and all the people were coming to Him,        and He was teaching them.  As He passed by, He saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting in the tax booth, and He said to him, 'Follow Me!' And he got up and followed Him.  And it happened that He was reclining at the table in his house, and many tax collectors and sinners were dining with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many of them, and they were following Him.  When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that He was eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they said to His disciples, 'Why is He eating and drinking with tax collectors and sinners?'  And hearing this, Jesus said to them, 'It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.'”

In these verses, Jesus called Levi, a hated tax collector, to follow Him.  Levi took action right away and stood and went with Jesus.  Levi along with many other of societies less than loved citizens sat and ate with Jesus.  This threw the religious leaders of the day into a fury of questions because someone claiming to be a Rabbi would not do such an unthinkable thing.


Jesus addressed them directly.  The sick need a doctor, not the well.  Likewise, those admitting they are sinners need a savior, not those who are self-righteous and think they have it all together.  The soul searching question is, where do you fall short?  Where is there sin in your life?  The place at which we answer this question is the very point that Jesus wants to meet us at. 

In general we are born sinners and need a savior.  Sometimes, we have specific sins that need confessed to Jesus, our savior, to make us right again.  Living under the encompassing salvation of Jesus is the only way to go!  Let's take action right away, like Levi.  What is it that you need to admit to Jesus so He can make you right? 


Dear Jesus, you are good and compassionate.  Thank you for making a way to meet me where I need you most, at my place of sin.  I know it separates me from you and I want you to make me right so I can keep on keeping on in your Name and in a way that brings you glory.  I cherish my relationship with you.  Forgive me for my sins and come to me and let me feel you presence.  You are my savior and I follow you with all that I am.  Amen.


by Andrea Simmons
  
Mark 2:17
"And hearing this, 
Jesus said to them, 'It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.'
Not All is Lost, Part 1
 What to do?  What to do?

What do you do when you've blown it?  You didn't wake up that particular morning thinking, "I'm going to do it wrong today and cause a whole mess of problems for myself and those around me".  But, somehow, you blew it.  Now what?

We've all done this to one extreme or another because every last one of us has fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).  I'm not going to name any of the sins we can give ourselves over to, there are too many to count.  Guess what?  It was no surprise to our sovereign God that you were going to follow through with the temptation.  He knows sin is crouching at our door (Genesis 4:7).

Sin has been common to mankind since the Garden of Eden, but, it's not the only thing that started way back then.  God's plan to restore us to Himself started in the Garden as well.  The whole history of the Bible is God's plan in action to restore us to Him.  2 Corinthians 5:18-19, "All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting men's trespasses against them.  And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation."

God knew the Israelites would blow it, too.  They were slaves in Egypt and God had a plan to take them out of Egypt.  Then they sinned and were scattered into foreign nations as a punishment and discipline, but only for a time.  God had in mind to bring them back to Himself and their promised land.  The pattern was they would sin and when there was no repentance or change of heart, they would be punished then God would bring them back and they would stay on track for a while.  Then the cycle would start again. 

Finally, Jesus came onto the earth scene.  He was the biggest promise ever!  He took care of their and our sin problem once and for all; we are all able to be reconciled at last!

Here is what Paul of the New Testament had to say in Romans 7:15, "For I do not understand my own actions.  For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate," and in Romans 8:1-2, "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death."   

The message is simple.  God knew we were going to blow it in the ebbs and flows of life and He made a more than spectacular plan to rescue us from the mess of our sins and bring us out of a state of separation from Him.  You are saved from the awful mess.  Consequences may still linger, but you can live strong through it all being assured of the promise given to you.
  
  Romans 7:15
"For I do not understand my own actions.  For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate."

Romans 8:1-2
 "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death."
Not All is Lost, Part 2
 ***PART 2***

How does this big picture of God saving the world relate to my daily struggles? 
The reason is God is personal.

Luke 15:4 & 5 explains this better than ever, "What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it?  And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing."   God goes after the one.  That's personal.

Matthew 18:4, "So, it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little one should perish."  Not even one child is to perish according to God.  Matthew 10:29, "Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father."  Not even a sparrow of little worth is outside of God's watchful eye.  We, being made in His image, are exponentially more valuable.

The detail of Cain killing his brother Able was a horrible doozy!  But, listen to the conversation between God and Cain after he killed his brother and punishment was issued in Genesis 4:14-15, "'Behold, you have driven me today away from the ground, and from your face I shall be hidden.  I shall be a fugitive and wonderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.'  Then the LORD said to him, 'Not so! If anyone kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him seven fold.' And the LORD put a mark on Cain, lest any who found him should attack him."   Do you know what I love about these verses?  It shows that no matter what we do, God still has our back; He still loved and protected Cain.  He will always love and protect us, too.

Do you have a detail in your life, big or small, that needs some attention?  God knows it.  Luke 19:10 tells us that God seeks us, "For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost."  However, it's not good enough knowing that alone.  Knowing that requires some action on our part. We need to also seek Him like Jeremiah 29:13 states, "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all of your heart."

So, you blew it?  Know that, even though things don't feel right, God is still seeking you.  Seek Him back.  Be made right again.  Confess what you have done wrong to God and to another person.  Ask forgiveness.  Take care of it and move on.  God is faithful to reconcile you back to Him.  Press on towards the goal for which Christ has called you to (Philippians 3:14). 

Dear God, thank you for making a way for me in all of my downfalls.  Let your Holy Spirit stir in me so that I feel your presence and give me the strength to master this problem I've brought on myself.  Please forgive me and give me your strength to deal with it and carry on.  Thank you for tending to me, helping me, and loving me.  Let the outcome of this be to your glory.  In your holy name I pray, amen.

by Andrea Simmons
  
Romans 7:15
"For I do not understand my own actions.  For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate."

Romans 8:1-2
 "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death."
You Must Master It

I battle with my weight, I don’t like it, but it’s the truth. (Sigh.) It has gotten to the point after my second baby that my clothes are fitting too tight for comfort and some of them, even though I can get them on, don’t look right. (Sigh, again.) Here are the choices I have decided on. I can buy a new wardrobe, which our bank account cannot handle, or I can make better eating choices and exercise, which I do not feel like I have time to exercise. Well, I chose the latter of the two.
 
Honestly, I set my alarm for 5:30 am this morning to get up and exercise. But, when the alarm sounded, I snoozed it off for sixty more minutes. I know, I know! I am not a morning person and when I am lying in my dark warm bed nothing else matters. I just cannot talk myself into getting up. The truth of my need to get up and sweat in the wee hours of the morning are just not as evident to me while in my warm cozy bed, does anyone know what I am talking about? I want to care more and I’m getting there, I promise!
 
It’s not such a big deal if I’m not accountable to get up extra early in the morning for exercise, but the act of keeping my relationship with Jesus has is no trade off. There is an accountability on our part to choose what is better once we know what we need to do.
 
We are often encountered with choices and those choices, big or small, set the direction for the path we walk. Genesis 4:7 says, “If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” In this verse God is counseling Cain, who had just murdered his brother, Abel, out of jealousy. Cain is learning that there is an evil one who is chasing after him and that he has an evil nature, but he needs resist doing wrong and do what is good and right. God has given us the ability to do just that; He has given us the ability to make a choice for or against what is good and right.
 
Take heart, dear friend! God has not left us alone to make decisions big and small. He has given us His help. Matthew 28:20b speaks the words of Jesus, “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
 
John 20:22 says, “And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” God has sent the help of His Holy Spirit to dwell within us and to help us in all daily situations to stay on track with Him. We only need to keep choosing Him. When we do, our reward in heaven will be great! Persevere to do what is right; it will go well with you.
 
What are some things you know you could do better?
 
Pray now honestly to our Savior about them. Ask Him to forgive you and give you strength to choose ways that align with His perfect will for your life.
 
What will you start to do, on purpose, to make sure you are doing what is good and right?
 
Remember no one is perfect and we cannot attain perfection. We will always need help while on this earth and that is why God lovingly sent His son to die on the cross for our sins. It is only through this act that our salvation in Him can be made complete and we can have our reward of a perfect relationship with Him in Heaven one day. Praise God for always seeking us and giving us good things!
By Andrea Simmons
Genesis 4:7
“If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”