God’s promises are not earned by our behavior. Sometimes He tells us, “if you will do this, I will do that.” He requires our obedience but that’s not the same thing as performance or merit. God sees our potential and not our failures. We cannot be disqualified from receiving God’s promises if our hearts are truly His. We don’t have to earn His love, compassion or peace by measuring up to some standard. He loved us first, before we had a single opportunity to prove our loyalty or commitment and His peace can be received anywhere, anytime. There is nothing we can do to make God love us any more than He already does.
“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” – Romans 5:8 (ESV)
When was the last time you felt foolish… or embarrassed… or humiliated? Pick one. It probably hasn’t been that long ago. You may have felt shame as well.
All those labels try to attach themselves to us when we’ve done something, or been blamed for something that threatens our self-image. Our self-esteem: something the world works very hard to build up and then tear down over and over.
You constantly hear the concept of self-esteem thrown around. “We need to build our child’s self-esteem.” Doesn’t that actually mean that we are trying to make our child see his identity as something he must maintain by himself?
This is never what the Father intended. We aren’t meant to have to work so hard to keep up an image of who we think we should be. But back to those words again… embarrassed, humiliated, foolish… aren’t those just words that describe our feelings when our carefully designed self-image is threatened?
If we knew who we really were, would we be inclined to be so concerned about our image? If we recognized that we are heirs to the King would we be as sensitive about what people think? If we constantly evaluate life through the lens of self-esteem and reputation we miss the point. Nothing… nothing we could ever say or do will make us more God’s child or less God’s child.
Our identity is secure. We are who HE says we are. The Father has determined our value and nothing can change it. We are His and He determined that we were worth His Son’s blood. Perhaps we don’t need as much SELF-esteem as we think. We certainly don’t need to feel shame that we don’t measure up to someone else’s standard.
Psalm 71:1 says, “In You, O LORD, I have taken refuge; Let me never be ashamed.”
We need to rejoice that we have been redeemed and that God calls us His beloved children. We have no need of anyone else’s opinion.
At the mall, my husband and I take the stairs as often as possible. We avoid escalators and elevators because we know we need exercise whenever we can get it. Sometimes we get funny looks when we choose to climb a flight of stairs while other shoppers relax as they ride effortlessly to the next level. As they ride, those other folks can casually look around, taking in all the distractions happening in every direction. We, on the other hand, must pay attention to our climb or risk losing our footing and taking a tumble.
I believe our life in the Lord is the same way. God didn’t design our walk with him to be a mindless ride where we glide along without a thought of where we’re going or how we’re getting there. He intended for us to invest some effort into growing in our relationship with him. He meant for us to focus on our daily walk with each step. We aren’t supposed to begin our life with Christ by taking that first step toward him as we take the first step on an escalator and then just relax and enjoy the ride.
The destination is important, but what we invest in the journey we take to get there is of immeasurable value.
Choose today to be intentional in your relationship with Christ. Choose today to take the stairs.
“Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 3:12-14(ESV)
I volunteer in the guest services ministry at my church on Sunday mornings. As I stand under a bright orange tent at one of the many entrances of the building, I watch for the people to arrive, looking for first-time visitors. At first, folks begin to trickle in, just a few at a time. At a certain point, usually about fifteen minutes before the service begins, I can look across the parking lot and see a steady stream of people all moving toward me. They come in couples or groups and some come alone. I greet each one with a smile and say good morning.
Today, one man looked at me and said, “You just can’t stop smiling, can you?” He was right. I couldn’t stop smiling as I saw so many of God’s people coming to His house to worship together. It was a beautiful morning, much cooler than what we’d experienced for several months, and many of us were cheerful. But it wasn’t the weather that made me smile. It was knowing that God’s people were gathering together.
After the rush was over and the service had started, there were still a few stragglers who came quickly up the sidewalk; I welcomed them as they hurried into the building.
Then it got quiet, and I thought about the people I had greeted. Some smiled and responded to my words. Others nodded and glanced away. There were also those who refused to make eye contact at all (I don’t judge them, they are probably introverts like me!)
The people going in were of all different walks of life, different ages, and different marital statuses. They were also at different levels of understanding of the things of God. I thought about how God saw each person who had passed my greeting station and I realized something important.
God doesn’t care what we’re like when we walk IN the doors. He doesn’t care how we compare to the people walking behind or in front of us. He cares about what has changed in us and what we’re like when we walk back OUT the doors. His purpose is for each of us to change when we encounter His presence and the teaching of His word. He never stops helping us grow.
Did you go to church on Sunday? Did you leave changed, never to be the same again? If not, God was speaking, were you listening?
“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” – Philippians 1:6 (ESV)
“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.” – 2 Peter 3:28 (ESV)
You’ve probably heard yourself say, at some time in your life, “that was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.” Or “that was a very difficult season (experience, situation, conversation, etc.)”
We all have hard times. Sometimes when we’re in the middle of a particularly trying time, we can get discouraged about the future. Or maybe we see the changes in our world and know that life is getting more difficult for us and many others. We can begin to dread the future, thinking the hard times that are coming will be too much for us to handle. Whether it’s something tragic or a strong temptation, we know we will face more trials in the future. We know we aren’t done. We haven’t arrived. We’re still on the journey that marks the life of a follower of Christ.
But instead of becoming discouraged, we need to consider where we’ve been. There is a reason God told the Israelites to tell the story of His marvelous works in the Old Testament. We need to be reminded of what God has already brought us through in order to grow in our faith, in our belief that He is still faithful to complete the work He started in us.
How do you react when you face hard times? Maybe it’s the death of a loved one or having major surgery. Maybe it’s a painful divorce or a child who walks away from the family. Maybe it’s that difficult conversation that you never wanted to have. Any of those situations can cause us to be overwhelmed.
Can you think of an instance when you were overwhelmed by life but finally got to the end of the suffering? When you said, “that’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done.”? The key word in that sentence is the word done. It’s over, in the past and you made it through, even though it was hard. God was there.
He’s still there. Right beside you. Ready to take you through the next thing. Yes, there will be a “next thing” but God is already working on getting you through it even as he brings you to it. He already knows exactly how to equip you to handle anything that comes your way.
The reason we dread the future is that we aren’t there yet. We can’t see the way God has planned to get us through. Maybe we can see difficulty up ahead and we know we can’t possibly overcome it now. But when we get to it, we’ll be able to because God will take our hand and guide us through.
“For I am the LORD, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, “Do not fear; I will help you.’” – Isaiah 41:13
“No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.” – 1 Corinthians 10:13
Wouldn’t it be great if we all walked around with little gauges over our heads. You know, like the lighbulb in comic strips? It could be like the temperature gauge in a car only the C would be for calm and content and the H would be for hurting and life is HARD.
That way, when we had difficult encounters with people we could see that there are reasons behind their behavior. If that guy who just cut you off in traffic had the needle on his gauge pointing clearly toward the H because he is on his way to the hospital hoping to get there in time to say goodbye to his father we might be more forgiving.
Or maybe the woman who was rude to the cashier, her gauge read H because she just lost her job.
And the young girl who rear-ended you at the traffic light because she was distracted. Not by her phone but because she’s pregnant and her father threw her out of the house this morning.
If we all had gauges we would be more patient with each other. When we saw that needle tipping toward the H we would offer hope instead of judgment. We would encourage instead of condemn.
But we don’t have gauges or any way to know what someone else is facing today. Perhaps if we could realize that we ALL are on H at times we could begin to offer understanding and patience. It’s what Jesus did.
It’s what He still does.
“Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” – Philippians 2:1-4 (NASB)
Fear: “A painful emotion or passion excited by an expectation of evil, or the apprehension of impending danger.” – Webster’s 1828 Dictionary
So, what are you afraid of? If we asked people to list what they fear their lists might include, death, poverty, sickness…but perhaps things like public speaking, other’s opinions, failure, and rejection might also appear.
If we use Webster’s definition of fear, the expectation of evil or danger, we would have to revise our list. What actual evil threatens a person who fails, or who must speak in public? What danger presents itself in other’s opinions?
What if we revised our list to only include those things that truly brought the risk of danger? Let’s take a closer look.
Do you fear death? John 11:25: “Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.”
Do you fear poverty? Philippians 4:19: “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”
Do you fear for your safety? Psalm27:1: “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?”
And just in case we forgot a few, God has already covered those too.
“I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.”Psalm 34:4 (ESV)
There will be times when we are afraid but David tells us the simple remedy.
“When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.” Psalm 56:3 (ESV)
If you have a cell phone you are probably familiar with “dead spots.” Places in your house or in other buildings where you don’t get a good signal. Places where you might be talking and suddenly the call is dropped for no apparent reason.
We might experience the same sort of thing with prayer. You might have heard the expression “I feel like my prayers are bouncing off the ceiling.” Why do we get that feeling and how can we get rid of it?
Scripture tells us many reasons why it seems our prayers aren’t being heard.
We pray with wrong motives: “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” (James 4:3)
We pray without faith: “And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.” (Matthew 21:22)
We pray while we still have sin in our lives: “But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.” (Isaiah 59:2)
If we want the Lord to hear and answer our prayers we must pray the way He requires us to. We may try to blame our unanswered prayers on God or even on the devil but the biggest hinderance to answered prayers is us. WE are the ones who have to examine our hearts and our lives to remove the things that are blocking our prayers. It’s God’s desire to answer us!
“If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”– John 15:7(ESV)
First impressions aren’t always positive. Sometimes you can meet a person and be uncomfortable without knowing why. You wouldn’t trust them to watch your children or to enter your house when you are away. But then you spend more time with them and realize they are trustworthy. You can now leave them with your child and your house key without a second thought. They are the ones you can call in an emergency and know they will be there for you. They’ve become friends.
When we moved from Ohio to Iowa many years ago, we had to start fresh in a new place. The friends we’d left behind were people we trusted completely because we knew them well. It took time to build new relationships. We spent time with acquaintances and eventually embraced them as lifelong friends. We did the same thing when we moved to Florida a few years ago. Now we are making new friends again. Learning to trust people to come into our lives.
How does that happen? How to you learn to trust someone? The key is spending time with them. Getting to know them. Watching the way they live their lives to see if their “walk” is consistent with their “talk.”
It’s the same with God. He wants you to trust Him completely. But how can you trust Him if you barely know Him? If you haven’t spent time with Him, how do you know that He will be faithful to His promises? If you haven’t spent time in His word, learning about His character, how can you expect to believe He is who He says He is and will do what He says He will do?
The best way to learn to trust Him is to get to know Him. Then you will be able to trust Him with your child, your house key, and your very life.
Paul says it well in 2 Timothy 1:12:
“For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day.” (NASB)
We often read the book of Luke at Christmas time. It tells the story of the birth of our Savior. But it also illustrates two different ways we respond to God when we don’t understand what He’s doing.
There are two accounts of a birth being foretold. The first is Zachariah being told by the angel Gabriel that Elizabeth is with child. Zechariah responds in astonishment but he makes a serious mistake as he speaks to the angel. He asks, “How will I know this?” He’s asking for more evidence, more proof.
The second account is of the angel telling Mary she will conceive and give birth to a son. Her response is not “prove it.” Instead, she says, “How will this be?” She’s asking in wonder for she knows she is a virgin. She wants to know HOW God will do it, not IF He will.
How do you respond when God gives you direction that seems impossible? Do you say, “yeah, right. How can THAT happen?” Or do you say, ” Yes Lord, show me how You want to do it. I’m ready to do it your way.”
Zachariah lost his ability to speak for months because of his slip of the tongue. But it was much more than that. It revealed what was in his heart. His doubt was made clear.
When we respond to God, we are to do so in faith and not doubt. What has God been saying to You? And how will you respond?
“And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” -Hebrews 11:6 (ESV)