You have 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 in our lives. Sometimes after we get through 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 that 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 are still on the journey that marks the life of a follower of Christ. Continue reading “Facing the Trials”
When was the last time you felt like you were getting it right? When did you last feel like you were on track, accomplishing what you needed to, making the right decisions, making no mistakes?
It’s could be that it’s been a while. And when you aren’t getting it right the critics are unrelenting. But I’ll bet your worst critic isn’t your spouse or your best friend or your neighbor or even your mother. I suspect that the person who is hardest on you when you mess up….is you.
God isn’t critical of you. He knows you are going to make mistakes. He knows you are not perfect. So why do you expect it of yourself? He extends grace to us in all circumstances. He doesn’t expect us to earn it. He knows we can do nothing of ourselves to be worthy of His grace.
So why do we keep expecting ourselves to be perfect when there is only One who is perfect? We can strive to become more Christ-like but it’s the greatest of arrogance to imagine that we will ever arrive at perfection this side of Heaven.
So maybe the better goal is to give all we have and be content with the outcome. After all, Christ came to complete us and if we did it all by ourselves we wouldn’t need Him. I don’t know about you , but I need Him desperately. Every day. Every moment.
I don’t have to be perfect. I just have to be willing to be changed. And to rest in His grace in the process.
1 John 3:2 Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.
In 1929 the Coca-Cola Company developed an ad campaign around the slogan “The Pause That Refreshes.” Of course, they were talking about drinking an ice cold Coke. We look for opportunities to take a few moments to stop and recharge. It’s a healthy habit, to allow your body to recover from the physical and mental stresses of life. Continue reading “The Pause that Refreshes”
God’s provision is not based on our productivity.
God’s love is not based on our loyalty.
God’s protection is not based on our performance.
God’s compassion is not based on our commitment.
God’s mercy is not based on our merits.
God’s peace is not based on our position.
God’s promises are not earned by our behavior. Sometimes 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.
In this high-tech age of cell phones, email, instant messaging and texting it’s easy to stay in constant contact with the people in our lives. Sometimes we even go to extremes and carry on instant conversations with several people at one time. That can sometimes lead to confusion or misunderstanding. I’m sure if you’ve used texting or instant messaging at all, you’ve experienced a situation where your words or tone have been misunderstood and you had to go back and clear things up. Continue reading “Instant Communication”
I’m sure you’ve hear people say that they have “felt like dirt” or have been “treated like dirt.” We immediately understand the implication. It means they have not been treated as they think they deserve.
But the truth is, that’s exactly what we are. Genesis 2:7 says, “God formed man of dust from the ground.” And Genesis 3:19 says, “For you are dust and to dust you shall return.” That sounds pretty clear to me. Why should we think we deserve to be treated like anything more than the dust that we are? Continue reading “From the Dust”
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. Continue reading “Who Determines Our Worth?”
So much of the Proverbs are directed at the power of the tongue. If only we could get it in our heads that words are powerful. God created the universe with words and He tells us throughout the Scriptures that our words also contain power. But people use words so carelessly. We speak things we don’t mean, we say things we regret.
Proverbs 18:21 says “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” And yet we sling words around so carelessly, never considering the consequences. We can cause so much damage to another person without ever laying a finger on them. What would it be like if we allowed God to teach us to control our tongues? What would our families be like? What would our churches be like?
How different things would be if we could give encouragement instead of put-downs… comforting words instead of sarcasm. If only we could respond with love instead of anger and impatience. How different life would be.
God’s Word has two major themes that are so simple. The first is “come” and the second is “go.”
He asks us to come to him, first to be saved and then for relationship. He doesn’t have a long checklist of things we need to do to be saved. We don’t have to pre-qualify. We just have to “come.” To believe that Jesus is who He says He is. It doesn’t matter what stage of life we are in or what our past looks like. We don’t have to clean up our act. We don’t have to have all the answers. We just have to “come” and we will be made new.
If this is true….what are we waiting for?
God’s second theme is “go.” As our response to God’s willingness to love us unconditionally and save us, He asks us to go and tell others so they can experience eternity with Him as well. Again, God doesn’t have a list of qualifications we must meet before we can answer the call to “go.” He uses the young and old.
Are you young? “But the LORD said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am a youth,’ because everywhere I send you, you shall go, And all that I command you, you shall speak.” (Jeremiah 1:7)
Are you…not so young? “The righteous man will flourish like the palm tree, He will grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Planted in the house of the LORD, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still yield fruit in old age; they shall be full of sap and very green.” (Psalm 92:12-14)
He uses people from every class and culture. He doesn’t need to see our college diploma. He doesn’t need references. Yes, there are certain areas of ministry where some degree of training is helpful. But you don’t need training to go to your family or your neighbor. You just need your story about how God loved you enough to send His son to take your place. You can be used on the day you receive salvation right up until you breathe your last breath before being ushered into God’s eternal kingdom.
If this is true…what are we waiting for?
There is a famous painting by Edvard Munch called The Scream. It is a clear portrayal of absolute agony. Much of the world can identify with the picture in some way. There is so much pain in humanity that we can all look at that picture and get the point that life can be overwhelming. But the picture also says something else. It suggests a hopelessness that cannot be expressed in words. A silent scream of desperation.
Have you ever felt like your circumstances seemed hopeless?
There is speculation as to the intent of Munch’s painting. Is the scream coming from the person portrayed or is he holding his ears to shut out the noise around him? Either way, God, has an answer to this desperation.
In Psalm 18:3 it says “I call upon the Lord who is worthy of praise and I am saved from my enemies.” Our enemies aren’t always flesh and blood, sometimes they are things unseen. The key is calling on the Lord.
In Psalm 124:8 it says “Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” There is power in the name.
Sometimes life brings us to the place where we are desperate for God to act. We need Him and we need Him fast. I’ve had several of those times in my life…when my mother was diagnosed with cancer…when I was paged in a toy store and upon arrival at the service desk then told to call the local hospital emergency room to find out that my five year old son had broken his leg…or when I was told that two of my young sons would be hospitalized with encephalitis at the same time.
Those were all times when I used the theme of Munch’s painting in a very different form. There was a silent scream coming from my spirit as I walked the long aisle of that toy store but it wasn’t a scream of agony, although I was certainly feeling that at the moment. No… the scream I experienced was just as desperate but consisted of a single word…JESUS! I was shouting that name with everything in me but no one in that toy store heard it. Only the Father in Heaven heard my cry.
Now, it’s a cry that I send to Heaven often. I learned that I don’t need to be in a desperate situation to cry out to Jesus from the depths of my soul. I can do it when I feel like things are beginning to get shaky or I can do it anytime I feel like I just want more of Him. I can silently shout the Name of Jesus anytime at all and hear it echo through the heavens.
He hears my cry and He hears yours as well.