Monday, May 22, 2017

“Instead of Shame”

By Susanne Scheppmann

Key Verse:
 “Instead of their shame my people will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace they will rejoice in their inheritance; and so they will inherit a double portion in their land, and everlasting joy will be theirs.” (Isaiah 61:7 NIV)         
Devotion:
I turned and walked away from God in anger and disappointment. I tossed away the calling of ministry on my life. In my own perception, the Lord had hurt my feelings. So, I left my faith to find a fresh path.

This happened during my twenties. With two toddlers climbing up my legs during the day and crying intermittently during the night, I was physically exhausted. Emotional turmoil began to disintegrate my marriage. My immature faith lacked the stamina to hold to God tightly. So, for seven years I wandered through sin, divorce, and miserable meanderings of my own making. It was a time of spiritual drought—the years of shame.

Although I walked away from God, He did not walk away from me. The Lord allowed me to experience life in the wilderness of doubt, but He was right there watching over me and waiting for me to return to the call of ministry placed on my life at age eighteen. 

Eventually, I allowed myself to feel His presence in my life. Little by little, the Lord Jesus wooed me back to Himself. I remember the exact time and place that I felt Him whisper to my spirit, “Let’s start over and do it right this time”. I wept with relief and joy. I began to study the Bible and allowed it change my damaged spiritual heart. This time it wasn’t going to be head knowledge, but heart knowledge.   

My faith was back on track, but I did not think my calling to ministry could ever be restored. Hadn’t I traveled too far off the godly path? Surely, God didn’t want me anymore in service to His Kingdom. Surely, He had more qualified daughters that could minister to others without the shame of my own sullied past.

However, that is not how God thinks at all. The Bible says, “For God's gifts and his call are irrevocable (Romans 11:29). The Lord desires for us to move past the shame of past mistakes and into His calling for our lives. He will restore us to useful service in the Kingdom. It takes time and it is a process, but the Almighty God still has a plan for each of our lives. He intends to replace disgrace with rejoicing, so that we may show our world that we are living miracles.

Do I hear an, “Amen”?

Prayer:
Dear Lord, thank you for having mercy on me. Display Your will for my life. Enable me to fulfill the gifts and call in my life, so that others will understand your grace and mighty power. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Application steps:
Consider the years of your life you feel might have been wasted. Reread and memorize Isaiah 61:7, our today’s key verse. Cast away your shame and look for your double portion of inheritance. Rejoice in God’s mercy and grace.

Reflections: 
Do I feel I have lost my chance to use my spiritual gifts?

How can I begin to use my spiritual gifts to display God’s mercy in my life?
  
Power verses:
Joel 2:26, “You will have plenty to eat, until you are full, and you will praise the name of the Lord your God, who has worked wonders for you; never again will my people be shamed.” (NIV)
Psalm 36:5, “Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies.” (NIV) 

Romans 11:29-30, “For God's gifts and his call are irrevocable. Just as you who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience.” (NIV)

© 2010 by Susanne Scheppmann. All rights reserved.

Monday, May 15, 2017

“My Bad”

By Susanne Scheppmann

 Key Verse:

"This is how I want you to conduct yourself in these matters. If you enter your place of worship and, about to make an offering, you suddenly remember a grudge a friend has against you, abandon your offering, leave immediately, go to this friend and make things right. Then and only then, come back and work things out with God.”  
Matthew 5:23-24 (MSG.)
Devotion:
Why is saying, “I am sorry, please forgive me” so difficult? Recently, I picked up the trendy phrase, “My bad” to apologize. It seemed like a convenient way to state, “Oops! I made a mistake—so sorry.” One day I wondered where “my bad” originated. Curious I searched the Internet and found the history. It began with a basketball player who spoke English as a second language. He missed a free throw shot and said, “My bad.” Radio announcers and sports fans picked it up and a new slang phrase was birthed, “My bad.”

Interestingly, the urban dictionary defines it as a flippant apology. It means something like this, “I did something wrong. No reason to apologize, just get over.” Hmmm…as a Christ follower I need to rethink my apologizing behavior. “My bad” might work for a silly mistake, but not when I hurt someone’s feelings with my poor behavior. In any situation that requires a real apology, I need to display humility and seek forgiveness.

In addition, to asking for a sincere apology, I need to change my behavior that caused the problem. If I continue with the same problematic actions, it indicates that I do not find my behaviors offensive enough to stop. Now this is so much easier to say than to actually do. For example, when my children were in their teen years they knew how to push every “make Mom yell” button I owned. I hollered at them a lot. But slowly with prayer and Scripture memorization, my screaming lessoned. Now I am not saying that I don’t ever yell, but the habit of screaming at people is gone. I like what the last part of our Key Verse states, “come back and work things out with God.” Sometimes our sinful behavior takes awhile to dissipate, but we cooperate with God and He will help us alleviate them from our lives. So don’t be discouraged if you need to apologize a few times.

However, when we ask forgiveness, both God and others expect a behavioral change. Stay diligent and aware of what triggers the negative actions in yourself. Here’s a trick that helps me to redirect my potential negative response to an irritating situation. I now say to myself, “My bad” to alert myself when something triggers an action that I might need to apologize for to someone. Perhaps “My bad” can be your personal code phrase too. It can be a challenge for us to stop and reflect on our next response. Hopefully, it will allow God the opportunity to work in our lives, before we need to say, “I’m sorry. Will you please forgive me?”
                                                                                                                                                                          
Prayer:
Dear Lord, teach me to ask forgiveness when necessary. Help me to keep my apologies sincere. In addition, give me the strength to change behaviors, so that my apologies carry the truth of my actions. In Jesus’ Name, Amen. 

Application steps: 
Today make the decision to apologize sincerely to someone whom you’ve wronged. Consider when and where would be the most conducive time to ask the person’s forgiveness. In addition, consider how to word the apology so that it comes across as sincere and not flippant. Next, if your poor behavior is habitually, ask God to help you begin to change your actions. 

Reflections: 
Why is asking for forgiveness so difficult?

Is there someone you need to ask to forgive you?

What behaviors do I find myself apologizing for repeatedly?

Power verses:
Proverbs 6:2-3, “If you have been trapped by what you said, ensnared by the words of your mouth, then do this, my son, to free yourself, since you have fallen into your neighbor's hands: Go and humble yourself; press your plea with your neighbor!” (NIV)

Proverbs 29:23, “Pride ends in humiliation, while humility brings honor.” (NLT)
Proverbs 18:12, “Haughtiness goes before destruction; humility precedes honor.” (NLT)

© 2010 by Susanne Scheppmann. All rights reserved.

Friday, May 12, 2017

“Child Adrift”

By Susanne Scheppmann

Key Verse:
“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift each of you like wheat.
But I have pleaded in prayer for you, Simon, that your faith should not fail. So when you have repented and turned to me again, strengthen your brothers.
Luke 22:31-32.” (NLT)         
Devotion:
 “My child is adrift. How do I let go?” my friend asked with tear-filled eyes.

“You hold on with a tether of prayer,” I replied.

Our goal as parents is to raise our children to be independent, faith-filled adults. We teach them right from wrong. We educate them about God and the Bible. We exhibit table manners and good sportsmanship. We demonstrate compassion and empathy for humanity. We subtly point them in the direction of what we suspect will bring them happiness and success. Then they grow-up and seem to drift away from everything we have taught them.

Sometimes, no matter how great the parenting, some children flounder in adulthood. They wander into uncharted territory to test their independence. What’s a parent to do then? If the child is of legal age, the best thing a parent can do is to pray. Our key verse demonstrates that this is how Jesus dealt with Simon Peter when he was about to fall into fear and doubt concerning his faith and love for God. Jesus didn’t scold, plead or rebuke him. Jesus simply said, “But I have pleaded in prayer for you.” 

Jesus prayed with complete confidence in the power of God to bring Simon Peter back into the faith and fellowship with the other believers. My favorite part of today’s key verse is when Jesus stated, “So when you have repented and turned to me again, strengthen your brothers.” Many times when a child wanders away from family and faith, we tend to see it as only a negative. However, Jesus saw Simon’s weakness in a different light. He knew that after Simon drifted that Simon would come back stronger in his walk of faith than before. Simon would be able to strengthen other people. 

As we pray for our children, their faults, foibles, and faith frailties, let’s remind ourselves that these very things may be exactly what God will use for him or her to help others. It is through personal mistakes that our children can learn compassion and empathy for people—especially those who struggle in similar areas. So, as we pray, let’s be encouraged by the knowledge that God never wastes a painful experience. He will use drifting children to minister to a hurting world. So go right now and tether your child to God with a lifeline of prayer. 



Prayer:                                                                                                                                                             
Dear Lord, my child is adrift in a frightening world. Teach me how to pray for my child. Remind me that the most effective thing I can do is to plead for him/her before the throne of God. Help me to convert my worry into prayer. I thank you that You understand my feelings and I can trust in Your sovereignty in my child’s life. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Application steps: 
Find a notebook or prayer journal and begin to journal your prayers for your child. Date each prayer. Every time you begin to feel stress and anxiety over your child’s behaviors, write a prayer. In addition, as you see promises of hope and change in your son or daughter, jot them down as a reminder when you feel discouraged and overwrought that God is indeed at work. Read Divine Prayers for Despairing Parents as an additional resource of hope.

Reflections: 
Do I believe that prayer is the most effective way to handle my wayward child?

How can I remind myself to pray instead of worry?

When my child turns around, how will he/she be able to strengthen other people?

Power verses:
 Romans 12:12 “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” (NIV)
John 17:15, “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.” (NIV)
Psalms 27:13-14, “I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” (NIV)

© 2010 by Susanne Scheppmann. All rights reserved.