November 12, 2017 – Praise God, He Loves Us Anyway

Are there times you feel unworthy or undeserving of the Father’s love?  I know I do.  I was saved as a teenager and my pastor’s wife, a lady who encouraged and invested in me so much, used to tell me, “God can use you.”  I remember thinking, God can use me?  Why in the world would He want to do that?  I still find myself feeling woefully inadequate for His work, even over 20 years later.

I believe that is precisely the point.  None of us are worthy of or deserve His grace, but that’s what makes it Grace, and that’s what makes His love even more profound.  He loves me anyway.  He sees everything I have ever been, all the things I have ever done or ever will do, and He says, “I love you.”

In Acts chapter 8, there is a story about a sorcerer named Simon.  Simon has been deceiving the people through his sorcery and claiming that he has the power of God.  But as the apostle Philip preached the real gospel message,  and Simon saw the real power of God at work through the name of Jesus, he believed and was baptized.

The text says that “…and when he was baptized he continued with Philip, and was amazed, seeing the miracles and signs which were done.

Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, who, when they had come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit.  For as yet He had fallen upon none of them.  They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.  Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.

And when Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money, saying, ‘Give me this power also, that anyone on whom I lay hands may receive the Holy Spirit'” (Acts 8:13-18 NKJV).

As I was reading this, I thought, What a scoundrel.  But as I pondered the story, I started to wonder why Simon would’ve offered money for a Gift that was freely given to the believers at Samaria.  After all, the text says that “Simon himself also believed (v.13).”

My first thought was ok, maybe the guy thought he could make money and a name for himself by becoming a disciple, especially with the power of God to heal and perform miracles.  After all, he had made money and a name for himself by performing sorcery.  And that very well could’ve been a reason.  But I wonder too if maybe he felt he had to buy this gift from God because he felt unworthy to receive it like the other believers had?  This is pure speculation on my part, but part of me empathizes with Simon if that’s the case.

How often have you or I tried to earn God’s love?  Or felt that we have missed the mark so much in our life that He couldn’t possibly use us?  I have felt that way many times.  And when God has His arms outstretched just waiting for me to receive the gift of His forgiveness and grace when I fall short, how often have I said to myself, “I’ll try harder.  I’ll work more.  I’ll give more.  I must be able to make it up to Him somehow.”? Or gotten discouraged and thought, “What’s the point anyway?  Why should I even try?  I’ll never be good enough to do this Christian thing anyway.”  Yep, been there too.

But what I’ve learned is that He loves me more than I could even fathom.  Not because I’m great, but because He’s great, and because He’s a loving Father.  I can’t “earn” His love and I can’t buy or work for it, and praise God, I don’t have to.  Jesus did the work for us, we can just climb into our Father’s arms and rest.

Simon was rebuked by Peter for thinking that the gift of God could be purchased with money.  Peter told him he couldn’t be a part of their work because his heart was not right with God.  Peter urged him to repent and receive forgiveness (vv 20-23).

But listen to this, “Then Simon answered and said, ‘Pray to the Lord for me, that none of the things {consequences of sin} that you have spoken may come upon me.’  So when they had testified and preached the word of the Lord, they returned to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel in many villages of the Samaritans (vv 24-25).”

Simon repented and asked for God’s forgiveness.  The story doesn’t specify whether he continued on with the disciples to preach or not, or if he stayed where he was, but I believe that he was forgiven the moment he repented and asked for forgiveness.  There are varying opinions as to Simon’s relationship with God, whether he truly did believe or not, and only God knows his heart, but the message is the same.  While we cannot buy God’s love, it is a gift freely given and so is forgiveness when we reach out to Him with a broken, repentant heart.

Praise God, even when we fall, even though we make stupid mistakes, He loves us anyway.  His arms are open wide for anyone (even the messiest of us).

“Father, I thank You for Your gift of grace over and over again in my life.  I feel so undeserving, and indeed I am undeserving, but I thank You that You love me in spite of my mess.  I thank You that You’re not done with me yet, and I’m humbled that You would want to use me, out of all people, clumsy,  awkward, often prideful me, to work for You.  Not to earn Your love, but to be a part of the greatest work there is, and that is to tell others about Jesus and how much He loves them too.  And that if You can use me in spite of my mess, You can use them too.  I can never thank You enough, and I love You Father.  Thank You for loving me and never giving up on me.  In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.”

November 5, 2017 – Security in our Faith

I don’t know about you, but I tend to worry.  I also have insecurities.  Did I sound like a total dork when I said that?  Is that big zit on my nose really that noticeable?  Do my thighs look fat?  What if they don’t like me?

Most of us, being human, do have these insecurities, and for some of us it turns into worry and fear, which can often be paralyzing.  Chemical imbalances too can cause anxiety and need professional treatment, but what I’m speaking of here is more of the self-consciousness that causes us to be critical of ourselves and others, compare and compete with others, and can cause indecision and missed opportunities.

Proverbs 27:1-2 says, “Do not boast about tomorrow, For you do not know what a day may bring forth.  Let another man praise you, and not your own mouth; A stranger, and not your own lips.”

The first part is a reminder that there are no guarantees in life, and often this uncertainty doesn’t make us feel any better!  We want something we can count on, we want to be able to be sure about our plans.

The second part, if I’m honest, I’m definitely guilty of sometimes.  Like for example, I clean up the kitchen, the table looks nice and pretty, the house is actually clean (well, with a toddler, a pre-teen and a teen, I can dream, ha!  But let’s just go with it.) and it looks great (if I do say so myself).  My husband walks in and if he doesn’t say anything, I say, “Do you like the way I cleaned up in here?  Looks good, doesn’t it?”  I want him to notice it and I’m going to make sure he knows how good it looks!  This is just one example.  A lot of you are probably either nodding your heads in agreement or shaking your head in disgust.  How many of us check to see how many Facebook ‘likes’ we get?  Or how many Twitter followers? Or we “humblebrag” from time to time.  Yikes, guilty again.

But God’s Word tells us that we should leave the accolades to others to give us. Or more importantly,  serve the Lord, so that we can hear him one day say, “Well done, good and faithful servant…”(Matthew 25:23)

1 Peter 5:6 says, “Therefore, humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time.”

We can take comfort in knowing that He knows the right time for everything.  We can keep working and not give up, knowing that it’s all in His hands anyway.  Even when it seems like no one notices the hard work we do, even if we feel overlooked or unappreciated at work or at home or elsewhere, God sees everything, and He notices.

We can also find security in that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday,  today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8)

Politics and world events and circumstances, even the weather, may change on a dime.  Sometimes it seems like society is dictated by what’s popular, not always what’s right.  But our Lord is the same, unchanging and unfailing in His love, mercy and dependability.

“Father, today I thank You that in a world of such uncertainty, You are the same today, tomorrow and forever.  I thank You that You will never leave me or give up on me, even when I do fall short, and I do every day.  I pray that I would grow closer to You each day and more fully trust in You rather than the accolades and opinions of others.  I pray that I would work, not for the accolades,  but to honor and glorify You and tell others about You, Jesus, and of Your wonderful gift of grace.  Help my faith to be bigger than my fear.  In Jesus Name, Amen.”

God With Us – November 4, 2017

Wow, it’s been a LONG time since I’ve written here.  I tend to be a slacker when it comes to my writing, but am trying to be more disciplined about it since writing is something I’ve loved to do since I learned how.  Anyhow, I had a baby last year, and have had such a busy time with family illness and issues to take care of that I’ve neglected my writing, and my Bible studies have not been what they should be either.  Neither is my house, it’s always a mess these days.  What can I say, I’m just grateful that God doesn’t judge based on merit! 🙂

Do you ever wonder why things happen the way they do?  Or where is God when all the craziness is going on all around us?  I confess, there have been times in my life when God has seemed silent. Like, I know in my heart that He’s there somewhere, but I can’t feel him.  Like being in a large darkened room (think living room or rec room) and feeling around for the light switch, only to find yourself walking around like you’re playing Pin the Tail on the Donkey and still can’t find it, even though you know it’s there somewhere.

Well, with all the troubling stuff in life, be it on the news or things that happen on a personal level, I think those questions are easy to ask and wonder about from a human standpoint, and God knows we have those questions too.  He doesn’t always answer the why, but He promises never to leave us.

I was reading the book of Acts and in Chapter 14, beginning with verse 8, there is an account of where Paul and Barnabas are preaching at a city called Lystra.  God gave Paul the power to heal a man who had been crippled since birth.  When people saw it, they called Paul and Barnabas “Zeus” and “Hermes,” saying, “The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men! (v.11)”

The passage goes on to say that when Paul and Barnabas heard this, they rushed in to the multitude and “crying out, saying, ‘Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men with the same nature as you, and preach to you that you should turn from these useless things to the living God, who made the heaven, the earth, and the sea, and all things that are in them, who in bygone generations allowed all nations to walk in their own ways (vv. 14-16)”

Not always by any means, but could it be that sometimes God is allowing us to “walk in our own ways” while tugging at our hearts to “turn from these useless things to worship the living God”?

But I love this next part that says, “Nevertheless He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good, gave us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness (v.17).”

Wow, what an awesome verse to remind us what Thanksgiving is all about.  Even though I can’t see him, He provides for me.  He provides the food that I eat, the rain that waters the ground, the air that I breathe.  That’s one way I can know He’s there.

But the best news of all, is that He gave us Himself in His Son Jesus who is called Immanuel, literally meaning “God with us.” (Matthew 1:23)

In Hebrews 13:5-6, we are reminded of God’s promise.  “…For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we may boldly say:  ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear.  What can man do to me?'”

Because of Jesus, we have the hope that He walks with us in every trial, in every season, in every storm of our lives.  Sometimes when it feels like He is silent, we can reach out in faith and find that the One who can calm our fears is always there.

“…and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

Thank You Father, for the security we have that You will never leave us, Lord.  Thank You for Jesus, for His precious gift of salvation, for the fact that He is Immanuel, God with us.  I thank You that even when it feels dark and scary in this world, like you’re not here,  for reminding us that You are, and that You are walking beside us every step of the way.  Take my hand, Lord, and lead me in the path of righteousness, that I will follow you all of the days of my life.  Wrap your arms around us Lord and help us to be all that You intended us to be, without fear of the unknown.  Thank You for all you have provided for us, and for giving us life.  In Jesus name, Amen.