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  • Lori Somerville

 

I’ve seen people giving up lately.

Giving up on that miracle that they’ve prayed so desperately for.

Giving up on their faith and walking away.

It breaks my heart.

 

My mother-in-law used to say something all the time “As long as there is breath left in the body, there is hope”. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a truer statement.

 

And what I’m learning is that we all need hope. It’s what gets us out of bed in the morning. It’s where we find the strength to face another day. It’s where we find the strength to love again even when we’ve been hurt. It’s what keeps us fighting the fight of faith.

 

We use that word a lot – hope. I hope I get the job. I hope it doesn’t rain (or snow if you live where I do). I hope she gets better. I hope things get easier. I hope, I hope, I hope.

 

We attach our hope to things we can see. Jobs. Illnesses. The weather. But Hope was never intended to be a natural thing. Hope is supernatural. Hope is supposed to go deeper than the natural. I believe that hope is birthed in the very heart of God. God knew it would not be easy living apart from him. He knew that the Enemy of our soul would seem to work overtime sowing seeds of discouragement in our lives. So God planted deep within each one of us a tiny seed of hope.

 

Most days we don’t even know it’s there. But in our darkest, most desperate times that tiny seed creates a miracle. A miracle that most of us overlook. It breathes new life into us. Hope calls us higher. Time and time again I’ve seen people who seem to have lost everything find the strength to take one more step, to try one more time. That’s hope. I’ve sat with people who have survived the unimaginable. People who should not be okay because of the experiences they have suffered. Yet they continue to seek the good in this world. That’s hope.

 

I don’t pretend to know why some prayers get answered and some do not. Why some survive and others die. Why one person gets their miracle and another does not. But I do know this – in the searching for the answers to those questions – I found the source of my hope in God. My hope is not in the natural. In the things of this world. My hope is anchored in the heart of God. I know that God is good. I know that God loves me. I know that even in my present condition I am enough for Him. He is my source of hope.

 

I’ve been through it. I’ve lost. A lot. I’ve mourned. But just like Job I refuse to let go of the fundamental idea that God is good & He is still on the throne. Perhaps Job is one of the most hope-filled books in the Bible. Not because of what happened to Job but because Job refused to let go of his belief that God was still there and still good, despite his circumstances. Maybe that is the picture of hope we should pass down to our children instead of this idea that God is like Santa Claus – granting wishes to some and giving coal to others – because that is not at all who God is.

 

Psalm 25:5 - Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.

 

That’s the kind of hope we all need. Hope that is rooted in our Savior. Not in the things of this world. We need our hope to have roots that go deep – way beyond anything we can see or touch or feel. Rooted in the very heart of God. That kind of hope doesn’t come overnight. It takes time – seeking the truth of God, studying the very heart of God until our hearts long for Him and Him alone.

 

The truth is that life will be unkind at times. We will struggle. Things will be hard. But hope is bigger than all of that. Hope can be found even in the darkest of times. Hope comes with the dawn of each new day. In the smile of a child. In the song of a bird. In the kindness of a stranger. We each carry hope inside us, planted there by God. We can choose to focus on the darkness or to let our hope shine. We can even choose to share our hope with those around us or a stranger that is looking for a reason to live to face another day. Hope is perhaps the most powerful evidence that God does indeed exist. Choose wisely.

 

 

Where does your hope come from?

What are you doing to water the seeds of hope planted in your life?

What are you doing to encourage the hope in those around you to spring forth?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Lori Somerville

Matthew 17:24-27

The Temple Tax

24 After Jesus and his disciples arrived in Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma temple tax came to Peter and asked, “Doesn’t your teacher pay the temple tax?”

25 “Yes, he does,” he replied.

When Peter came into the house, Jesus was the first to speak. “What do you think, Simon?” he asked. “From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes—from their own children or from others?”

26 “From others,” Peter answered.

“Then the children are exempt,” Jesus said to him. 27 “But so that we may not cause offense, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours.”

 

The collectors of the temple tax were, of course, looking for a reason to find fault with Jesus and his followers.

 

I love the question that Jesus asked Peter "From whom do the Kings of the earth collect duty and taxes - from their own children or from others?" Peter replies "from others". The question asked gets right to the heart of the matter. Are we sons & daughters or are we strangers? Peter was correct in his answer that even earthly rulers would not charge or tax their own children but as parents would give freely to their children all that they have. This is, of course, the heart condition of our father in heaven - to withhold nothing good from his children.

 

Our "tax" has been paid. Jesus took care of that for all of us. As a result we get to live tax free. As sons and not as strangers.

 

You hear it said a lot that there are only two certainties in this life - death and taxes. If your existence is solely based on living as an inhabitant of this world, then sadly that may be your reality.

 

But Jesus overcame death and as a result restored our right relationship with our Father in Heaven. As a result, we become sons and daughters. Exempt from paying the price. And what does exempt mean? FREE.

 

Free to receive every good thing that God has for each one of us.

 

So what is it that is preventing us from living out our lives on earth as sons and daughters and not like strangers? If we as parents desire to freely give to our children all that we have - what is stopping us from receiving the freedom to truly live as sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father? What are you willing to do to receive the freedom already purchased for you?

 

  • Lori Somerville

 

This love thing.

 

Jesus came to die for our sins.

Sometimes we hear that so much that we start to take it for granted. We get so used to it we it almost becomes blind to it. I want to be the best possible Christ follower I can be and I need to not fall into the trap of taking for granted the greatest act of love ever done for me.

 

John 15:13 - Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

The Cross represents the greatest act of love the world has ever seen.

Jesus talked about love a lot. But more important that what he said is what he did. He loved even “the least of these”.

 

I wouldn’t be here without his love.

 

Matthew 5

Love for Enemies

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[i] and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others?

Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

 

What? I mean I get the love your neighbor thing…….what if your neighbor is a jerk?

Do I really have to love my neighbor the jerk?

If I want to be a child of God the answer is yes.

Remember that whole thing about Christians not looking like the rest of the world?

Well then we have to stop acting/behaving like the rest of the world.

I have learned that if I want to be a good lover like Jesus was………then I have to become a good forgiver.

I can’t be one without the other.

Here’s a little forgiveness lesson I’ve been learning.

I have had to forgive a lot. We all have.

But sometimes I think I’ve forgiven and I haven’t really.

How do I know?

Because when that person offends me in some way again I way over react. Know why? Because I am still holding onto old wounds and hurts. That is not forgiveness.

My forgiveness test today is this: Can I pray for that person and mean it? Can I ask God to bless that person with all of the things I want in my life and mean it?

God is calling us higher.

 

Matthew 18:

The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant

21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”

22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.[g]

23 “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold[h] was brought to him. 25 Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.

26 “At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ 27 The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.

28 “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins.[i] He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.

29 “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’

30 “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.

32 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34 In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.

35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

 

I’m going to be really honest here. I’ve done exactly what the wicked servant has done. I’ve been forgiven of so much and yet there have been times I’ve withheld that same forgiveness from others. I’ve decided I deserve revenge. I deserve to be the judge and the jury and I’ve tried to extract my pound of flesh.

I’ve tried to manipulate the situation so that I am the one who looks like the victim. I AM NO VICTIM. I gave that up a really long time ago.

The result is never pretty. Whatever happens in the natural world…….the effects on my heart, on my soul are never worth it.

 

Matthew 6

14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

 

YOU CANNOT LOVE WITHOUT BEING ABLE TO FORGIVE. IF WE ARE GOING TO SEE HIS KINGDOM COME WE HAVE TO GET THIS.

 

Here are some of the lessons I have learned about forgiveness:

 

1. It sets YOU free. The fundamental principle of most inner healing/deliverance ministries is forgiveness. The results of clinging to unforgiveness are like poison to our relationships, our health, our joy. Unforgiveness extracts a heavy price from us. One that many of us at one time or another have been only too willing to pay for the right to be right. Unforgiveness creates a tie between us and the person we’re refusing to forgive. We cannot find true freedom if we won’t forgive. We’ve got to put that stuff down and get our eyes back on the cross, Out-forgive Jesus.

 

Matthew 6:15 The Message (MSG)

14-15 “In prayer there is a connection between what God does and what you do. You can’t get forgiveness from God, for instance, without also forgiving others. If you refuse to do your part, you cut yourself off from God’s part.

 

2. It protects your heart. Unforgiveness breeds bitterness. That is the truth. We can’t afford to play around with this stuff.

It will eat away at our hearts. It will open the door for even more “icky stuff” to get in there and before we know it even the people we claim to love can’t get in because our unforgiveness walls not only keep out the people we won’t forgive but they keep out the people who love us too.

 

Psalm 51:

10 Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. 11 Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

 

3. It places a key in your hand. Not just the key to your freedom but the key to help others out of their self-imposed prisons as well. What is better than watching other people find the ability to forgive their neighbors and start walking in freedom? Nothing. Forgiveness open our jail cells and opens the door to the BEST GOD HAS FOR US. THE MORE.

 

Psalm 146:7

He stands up for those who are treated badly. He gives food to hungry people. The Lord sets prisoners free.

 

4. It makes us better lovers. I’m not just talking in the “biblical” sense. It makes us better wives, husbands, friends, parents.

How many of us have been having a disagreement with our spouse and one of us starts bringing up the past……every mistake ever made gets brought up and used as a weapon in the heat of the argument.

This is not forgiveness. And it’s not love either.

When we choose the way of unforgiveness instead of love we are choosing to partner with the Enemy not with Jesu

 

Psalm 25

Good and upright is the Lord; therefore he instructs sinners in his ways. 9 He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way. 10 All the ways of the Lord are loving and faithful toward those who keep the demands of his covenant. 11 For the sake of your name, Lord, forgive my iniquity, though it is great.

 

All the ways of the Lord are loving and faithful. That means all or my ways need to be loving too. No matter what the relationship is.

Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not the person in front of us is worthy or deserving of love. Jesus never asked “are you worthy” of my healing, of my miracles.

 

1 Corinthians

13 If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing.

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Love sometimes take real effort on our part. It isn’t always easy. But whatever effort I have to put into loving the person in front of me it always always pales in comparison to the loved poured out for me by Jesus.

 

 

Father God, I want to love like you do. I want to love everyone you put in my path, including my Judas. Help me to be so lost in your love that I can’t contain it and your love just flows through me to others. Help me to forgive so that I have more capacity for love.