Forgiveness and Restoration

(Excerpt from my new book – Hidden by the Brook. Pre-orders now available @ jksanchez.com)

The famine had been great in Egypt and even harder on those far out into the desert areas. The small group of dirty, tired and hungry men stood before the only man that could help provide food for them and their families. They had made the long journey, hoping for help to survive; now bowing with respect before this unknown man. 

He was unrecognizable to them, but Joseph knew who bowed before him: the very brothers who had betrayed him and sold him into slavery twenty-two years ago. The emotions stirred within him – how was he to respond? With wisdom, he questioned them, finding out that his father and youngest brother were still alive and well. He tested them, detained them and gave them a way to prove themselves men of changed integrity. And then provided the much-needed grain at no cost. 

His heart was overwhelmed with forgiveness as he overheard their discussions of regret and anguish over what they had done to their brother, still not aware of who it was that stood before them.

Joseph sent them home, and for several months, one brother remained in custody waiting for his brothers to return with their youngest brother for the exchange. As Joseph awaited their return, God continued a work of forgiveness in his heart. 

The return with Benjamin, his youngest brother, brought great joy to Joseph, but he devised one more test. However, the emotional response and petition of mercy from his brothers gave way to a flood of forgiveness within him, and he revealed who he was. A heavy silence settled over the room as great fear and anguish swirled in each brothers’ thoughts. But Joseph had already broken off the chains of betrayal that had haunted him for years and had chosen to forgive them. 

He compassionately announced, “Do not be distressed because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life” (Genesis 45:5). The forgiveness and restoration between Joseph and his family allowed for years of abundant provision. 

The planned purpose of the hand of God’s preparation on a broken, prideful, betrayed young man prevailed. A young man who had submitted himself before God and in faith trusted as he waited for God’s answer. The very survival of multitudes of people, including the Hebrew nation, was accomplished through a life hidden in obscurity – a man hidden in order to preserve life.   

As our life stretches before us, we are oblivious of what it will hold. The wonderful surprises send us to the heights of joy, while the devastating losses find us lower than we ever think we can recover from – yet there is God, always there in the midst. We walk in joy and tears – a seemingly diametrically-opposed paradigm – yet in that space between, we find, grow and learn how to live a life of abundance.

The keys to this life of abundance are found in the process. They are found in the dark hidden places. The places where tears flow, where anger and frustration rage, where the despair of hopelessness overtakes us. But it is right there where we find the refuge, our only place to run – into the arms of Jesus. In the process we find His love and forgiveness. That key – the love and forgiveness of Jesus – will release us from prison. It will allow us to walk into a new life – a promised eternal life. The process still must have its way within us, but now we can say, “Yes, Lord.” Submitting under His loving hand will allow us to find another crucial key: forgiveness. This time forgiveness of others. 

Joseph had no idea what God’s plan for his life was on that day he found himself at the bottom of a dusty well. Betrayal after betrayal and pain, hurt and prison didn’t deter his knowledge of who he served. His God’s steadfast love was the refuge that lifted and molded him into the man that would be the best one for God’s assignment. You stand in the same place: God’s plan and assignment for your life is before you, – your choice is to trust Him in the process.

Joseph was able to declare, “God sent me to preserve life.” That is an eternal mandate for each of us as we serve our Lord and Savior – Jesus Christ. Getting to our ultimate, completed assignment takes a lifetime of choices. 

Those choices are to walk in a life full of continual love, forgiveness, compassion, kindness, humility and patience, along with many other attributes that He will knead into your heart, soul and mind. This kneading will always take place when you are quiet, separated, isolated – hidden in places where He can meet with you undistracted. 

During these times He will transform you into the individual that He desires to use – leading you to His assignment, the very one that only you can perform.

Col. 3:12-14 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put-on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. (ESV)

Rust-bucket to Useable Glory

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The old, rusted-out truck rattled to a stop on the back of a flatbed truck. To me, it was ready for the junk yard “crusher”, but to my friend it was a beauty waiting to be revealed. What it would require, would take an unfathomable amount of time and labor. Every screw, bolt and wire, and every scrap of metal would be removed from the interior and exterior. The stripping, scrapping and sanding of every rusty spot would consume months. Pieces unable to be fixed would need to be found – and the finding of those old original parts, would be a job in itself. Bumpers, headlights, seats and even armrests must be exactly right to complete this restoration. At its completion, it couldn’t just look great, it must also be able to function as it should; thus, requiring complete reconstruction of everything under the anticipated, shiny hood. It must be useable – its original purpose must be restored. The end result for the restorer: a stunning transformation from rust-bucket to useable glory.

The word restoration stirs in us an immediate response – one of hope. When we hear it, we anticipate renewal in all areas of our lives; relationships, finances and health are just a few. We expect a quick change, a change that we hope will miraculously transform us, others and our circumstances.

So, when God spoke to my heart and my church, that 2020 would be a year of restoration; I was excited, anticipating all that God would do. Then March came with a deadly virus and a “lockdown.” But now, as 2020 nears its end, I look back and realize that God has been faithful in His promise of restoration.

Restoration is a process – a hard, grueling process. What is true for the restoration of a truck is even more valid for you and me. Each of us have walked through this year differently. The pain and hardships have been very real and daunting. Yet, I have felt the close presence of the Lord through every step. He was there with me; teaching, whispering, encouraging and sometimes carrying me. His transformation in our lives is found in the middle of the stripping, scrapping and sanding – the very process of restoration – the process that this year has accomplished in each of us. We have all gone through that same process, this year.

 We have had to be stripped of all that wasn’t important, scrapped of our own opinions and attitudes, and pridefully sanded into a humble, lover-of-His-presence. He is continuing to replace every lost and worn out part, and is carefully re-wiring us to the purposes we were created for. We are changing from an unusable rust-bucket to a son and daughter of the King, ready to carry out His purpose and plan for our lives and those around us. We are becoming His useable glory.

This year of restoration is nearing completion. The restorer desires to reveal and release His beauty, completely restored and ready to be used. Are you ready? Let’s accept this assignment to carry all that He has restored in our lives into a new year, as we are becoming exactly who the restorer designed us to be.

Ps. 23:1-3 The Lord is my best friend and my shepherd. I always have more than enough. He offers a resting place for me in his luxurious love. His tracks take me to an oasis of peace, the quiet brook of bliss. Thats where he restores and revives my life. He opens before me pathways to Gods pleasure and leads me along in his footsteps of righteousness so that I can bring honor to his name. (TPT)

Realignment Brings Freedom

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God’s agenda and ours are usually different. As we reach out for freedom in our lives we begin to realign our internal thoughts and expectations – finding that saying YES to Jesus is the answer to living a life of freedom.

Our expectations, thoughts and dreams begin to match His promises and priorities.

Once that realignment begins we will find our place at the foot of the cross. Here we can surrender our fleshly desires and step into freedom – here is where freedom brings love, grace and deliverance beyond anything we could ever want or need.

Starting a journey realigned to His priorities can begin today – simply say YES and watch a new life where life stands in front of you at every corner you turn. Eyes wide open to His agenda for your day – not yours.

Aha – what a way to live.

Romans 8:5 Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit have their minds set on the the things of the Spirit. CSB

Speak Life

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Life is full of the “ good, the bad and the ugly” along with many more expletives. But today I desire to focus on the fact that the first in that well-known quote is “the GOOD”. Life IS full of good – it is all around us if we look.

Unfortunately we are inundated with the negative. We hear and see it everywhere. The news visually captivates the worst of the worst, as it pours in through our televisions and the radio screams it in our ears, while we scroll through an endless social media feed.

Somewhere within our senses we become callused and obsessed with the bad – forgetting that there is good. That callousness easily fuels and changes our hearts. Soon we have become bitter and continually negative – everything is tainted by that bend in our thinking.

Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (ESV)

Choosing to do as this scripture encourages, means a concerted effort to turn off that “bad and ugly” input – to look around and find the “good”.  Join me today in an effort that will renew your life – an effort to find the “good” everywhere you look and go. Begin by speaking life to those around you and watch the transformation happen.

“Pass the Potatoes”

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At our holiday meals the presence of mashed potatoes is required. With a minimum of 16 present at any one time the familiar phrase “pass the potatoes” is heard every couple of minutes throughout our meal.

One day as I was praying intently, I heard a little whisper from the Holy Spirit that said, “Pass the potatoes”. It was so out of place that I had to open my eyes, stop and audibly say “Huh?” This encounter and its revelation has changed my prayer life.

As I listened, He instructed, “I haven’t asked you to till the ground, plant the potatoes, water them, harvest them, clean them, peel them, boil them, mash them, and serve them; ONLY to pass the potatoes. I have done, and do all the rest”.

WOW – it is simply our joy to PRAY (“pass the potatoes”).

As we receive prayer requests, even those that are heavy and painful, it is only our place to take the bowl from those weak shaking hands into our own, and simply pass those requests (pass the potatoes) to the waiting hands of Jesus.

We are sitting with HIM at the table; we are placed in the gap between the need and our Lord. It is our privilege, our honor, our calling – to say YES and pass them to HIM.

We need not till the ground – preparing it for him. We need not plant the request. We need not water with continual begging. We need not clean, peel, boil and mash it into a correctly sounding request. We need not serve it to those around us – we simply need to receive it into our hands and move it with intent into HIS hands. Then our part is done.

The simplicity of this concept lifted self-induced pressure from my prayer life and brought freedom that allows me to continually lift requests to the throne – day and night.

WOW – it is simply our joy to PRAY (“pass the potatoes”).

I Thess 5:17. Pray without ceasing

 

Photo courtesy of graur razvan ionut @ freedigitalphotos.net

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall – I Don’t Know This Person at all!

In reality this transformation had begun many years ago. As I began knowing His love and sitting at His feet – through the good, the bad, the tears, the joys, His spirit began to change me. As I walked a journey that taught me to bring everything to His feet, to trust Him through every event that transpired, pieces of the old me were chiseled away.

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I recently was given a birthday gift that shocked me to my core; a simple blank black notebook. It had been lovingly filled with comments from people who know me – those from high school, those from different states and different churches, those I have worked with as well as family, friends, kids and grand-kids. It was a very special gift. The next morning I picked it up with tea in hand and proceeded to enjoy this gift. Not expecting the impact it would have, I sat down to read this little book.

For the next hour I sat with Kleenex in hand as tears seeped down my checks, a few smiles and chuckles erupted and one or two outright sobs escaped my heart. I was confused – these descriptions didn’t match whom I see. It was like looking into a mirror and not recognizing the reflection looking back.

I set the book down – contemplating, meditating and asking God’s explanation of this dichotomy placed before me. Soon this question was stated as I prayed – “Ok, God what are you showing me?” “I don’t know this person at all, is this who I really am?”

I soon realized that this little book was a gift that was a glimpse of me through the eyes of Jesus. The person I have seen is so different. I have been looking at me with an out-dated blocked lens. Who I have become is no longer me, but Jesus in and through me.

As a Christian we always hope our light will shine and that the love of Jesus will permeate our lives but my thinking has been “it’s just me”, “it’s just who I am”.

“How do I see this person when I don’t know her”, I asked? His quiet loving response resounded in my heart like an explosion, as He whispered, “It’s just me – it isn’t you. It is my transformation as you have yielded time after time to my love”

In reality this transformation had begun many years ago. As I began knowing His love and sitting at His feet – through the good, the bad, the tears, the joys, His spirit began to change me.  As I walked a journey that taught me to bring everything to His feet, to trust Him through every event that transpired, pieces of the old me were chiseled away. Over years of life, this faith has created and transformed me into who I never really saw. The emerging transformed person is no longer “just Judy” – but has begun to shine out as “just JESUS”.

Do I shine out Jesus every day? Nope – I have to lay my human thoughts, words, desires, and actions down every day. But I believe He has shown me a glimpse of me through an unexpected mirror held up in the hands of those in my life, and I am humbled by that possibility.

I Corinthians 13:12-13 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then fact to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. (ESV))

Love – The Medicine that Matters

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     We are made up of billions of microscopic cells. These cells make us who we are but sometimes they get infiltrated, mutate and change. Those changes forever change lives.

     For the last several months I have been writing an article on breast cancer; I have researched, studied and cried profusely over stories of women who have battled this insidious disease. The stories are different, the procedures are different, and the outcomes are different, but three small words seem to jump out of every story – faith, hope and love; and the greatest of these inevitably is love.

     In all of our lives we face life-impacting monsters that threaten to pull us under. During those times these same three words surface and are ultimately what allow us to stand through the storm – and the greatest of these words is love.

     The greatest love ever given was the love poured out on the cross of Jesus Christ – that love was for us and now lives inside our cells. What we do with that love makes everything change. Just like infiltrating mutating cancer cells change lives forever – so much more does the love of Christ infiltrate and mutate our cells into ones that infuse our lives and the very atmosphere around us. Those changes are then transferred to others and bring strength, life and change.

     Every story of struggle and pain is peppered with the only medicine that matters – Love. The simple out-pouring of everyday needs, given out of love is what makes the difference in the midst of the chaos. Those who step up – stand beside, lie beside, cry, laugh and walk through the fire are the ones that bring the medicine that matters. A love that saturates, strengthens, supports and brings relief; coming as unconditional love, surrounding the struggling warrior. Often it is only a hand-full of “love” carriers that stand beside and weather the storm – but that is all that is needed.

     Not many “friends” make it.  Unfortunately those who find themselves in the battle also find that those we thought would always be there for us are often times the first to go. Leaving us alone, hurting, broken and needy, but then just as surprising the unexpected people of love step in.

     Our society has become one of “fixers” – we always have the answer, an opinion, direction and judgments for the one who is struggling. Often because we are uncomfortable – we give out those “fixes” instead of just being there and allowing the love within us to become the salve, which brings strength to rise up.

     Within each of us is housed a quiet simple place where love resides. The noise and craziness of society often drowns it out. It is not hidden there for us but for the broken, hurting and needy. Step out of your comfort zone into a place where you become a dispenser of the greatest medicine ever; allow His love to bring healing, restoration and release into lives that are living in chaos. No opinions, No directions, No judgments – No fixes of any kind – simply love.

     No matter what the outcome – Love truly is the only medicine that matters. It is the only eternal medicine. Allow the cellular level change of His infused love to permeate you and those around you by simply being His love to those your life touches every day.

I Corinthians 13:13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.   (ESV)
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