The Love of God


Ephesians 3: 18  “And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.”

Oh! And all God’s people said, “Amen!”

When someone is about to confide in me but hesitates, I often say, “Look. I’ve done and seen pretty much everything there is to do and see. I won’t be offended and I won’t be surprised.”

It’s the truth. If I were to list off my sins, my mistakes – well, many of you who know me would actually be offended, because it would blow your mind how different I am today than I was even a decade ago.

Beth Moore says one reason we can’t understand God is that we try to humanize Him. Oh sweet Lord, how true that is. When we try to grasp how much – or how, period – He loves us, we can come up short.

Oh, especially when we’ve lived lives unsure of the love of anyone, right? The love of any human being? And when – if we’re lucky – we find out that we were wrong – that he or she – or they – actually do love us, well – that presents a beautiful challenge.

What do we do with our lives when we realize we were living them under the wrong assumption or belief? The first thing that we understand, friends, is the depth of the mistakes we made because we believed we were unworthy of love.

So – what constitutes an unforgivable offense here? Just by looking at my life, and the lives of people I know, here’s a quick list I compiled.

“God couldn’t love me because I’ve had too many sexual partners.”

“God couldn’t love me because I lied – all the time.”

“God couldn’t love me because I manipulated people and tried to control them.”

“God couldn’t love me because I had a baby out of wedlock.”

“God couldn’t love me because I haven’t lived a mature, responsible life. I’m not a success, I’m sometimes lazy, and I don’t make as much money as I should. It’s my own fault.”

“God couldn’t love me because I have doubted His love for me for years.”

“God couldn’t love me because I got divorced.”

“God couldn’t love me because I don’t look, think, or act like all those other Christians.”

You know what? Beth Moore also said that belief is not a feeling – it is a choice. And she is right. Some days or moments it’s easy to feel God’s love. Because it was a “good” day – no one got mad at you and you didn’t make an insanely huge screw-up. Or something bad has happened and God came through for you in a big way.

But most days we’re just human. We make mistakes, hurt someone, or let someone down. Maybe we get in trouble at work, at school, or at home. And satan comes strolling into that hot mess and just tells us how worthless we are. And if you’ve heard those words come out of the mouths of people, his voice sounds an awful lot like theirs. And you believe it.

You have a choice, my friends. The choice to believe the Word, not the words of satan, not the words of people who are also screwed up and don’t know how to love you like they should.

Make the choice. And while you’re at it, encourage someone today. You never know, y’all. You never know how much they might need it.

Forgiveness Isn’t a Hallmark Card


Well, it’s not. It sounds that way when other people do it. They look so beatific and peaceful. But when it’s my turn – your turn perhaps? – it’s hard and my stomach is tied in knots. I’m angry and hurt, frustrated, heartbroken even – and forgiveness is just too much work.

I was given a reprieve from work about, oh, 14 years ago. I headed to a park nearby because it was such a beautiful day. And even though God and I weren’t on the same speaking terms we are now, I still talked to Him and prayed – and even read my Bible. But we didn’t have the intimate, restorative relationship we have now. Which totally debunks the whole “miracles don’t happen anymore” theory I have heard lately and the idea that if you aren’t as close to God as you should be, He won’t help you.

Y’all, that is a bald-faced lieGod knows your heart more thoroughly than anyone on the face of the planet – even if you don’t know His. And sometimes, He comes through for you in a big big way just to show you Who’s boss. Like He did for me that day.

I didn’t come to the park thinking about a significant person in my life. I didn’t even talk about him to God that day. I just thanked God for the beauty around me, and asked that He provide the money to make up the hours I wasn’t getting paid at work that day. Somehow.

Well, He didn’t. He gave me a much bigger gift – the present of forgiveness For some reason, He laid miraculous, supernatural forgiveness of this significant person on my heart that day. The truly amazing thing was that on that day 14 years ago, or so, I didn’t even realize how fully I had forgiven this person!

I just knew my hatred of him was gone. In the years to come, in his presence, I would no longer cower, or grow angry. I would usually laugh at the stupid, inane lies he told me about myself. Sometimes I would even laugh out loud. Oh y’all, I still do! It’s been more than a decade and that forgiveness is still a daily part of my life about this person!

However, here’s the thing people: this isn’t how forgiveness is supposed to work! This was truly, really, believe me – a miracle. God doesn’t make forgiveness this easy on us 99.99999% of the time.

Makes you mad, doesn’t it? Here’s someone who has hurt you and maybe even done unspeakable things to you – and not only are you supposed to forgive this person, but also you’re supposed to do it gracefully, effortlessly, despite the very real repercussions that you may have to suffer through – for the rest of your life.

You think I don’t have those? I sure do. Those things done to me – those things I did to myself – I have to live with that awful nasty terrible ugly crap too! Consequences aren’t just born of what we do; they’re born of what others do to us.

Forgive, huh God? Oh yes – you’ve maybe even heard it said that forgiveness isn’t just about the other person – it’s really for you. So you can go on without a stained conscience and with peace in your heart.

Well, let me tell you something – I don’t think that’s the whole point of forgiveness, and if you disagree, let me turn your attention to Mark 11: 25 And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. 26 But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses. (KJV)

Did you get that last part? If you do not forgive, you will not be forgiven. Now that’s a pretty big problem huh?

Forgiveness isn’t usually a miracle and it’s rarely easy. It’s a choice you may have to make every day for an indeterminate amount of time! I’ve spent years forgiving people. YEARS.

And yet – how many years has someone – or some people – spent forgiving me?

What is Endurance?


Sometimes, I get so tired of studying and pondering the Word that my brain hurts. Today is one of those days. And guess what I stumbled upon in my journal? Yep. Endurance. Awesome Lord. I get it.

The subject I’m addressing today is joy despite a trial, and endurance plays a huge part of that process. Here are a few words that I love, love, love – that are synonymous with endurance:

ability   capacity   courage   fortitude   grit    mettle   persistence   tenacity   

                                      vitality   cool   moxie   pluck   starch

So. God is pretty clear on how our perspective should change when under the fire of suffering. And that’s the courage, the fortitude, the moxie – to endure. To endure without quitting and to endure in a lasting way, because if we quit – if we don’t last – what was the point of the whole thing?

Our pastor, Thomas Hammond, preached about all this, and it resonated because it’s human nature to quit when things get hard – a job, a marriage, a friend, a dream – and that’s when satan sneaks in, I think, to taunt us as to how huge a miserable failure we are.

But we’re not, y’all. We’re just people. And so who or what can you reach for when you’re tempted to quit? God, of course – and the Word. But find people you admire who have thrived despite adversity. Call on them for guidance and encouragement. They won’t mind – someone did the same for them when they were about to chuck it all and lose their pluck.

You’re NOT Too Screwed-up – For God


Good morning folks! It’s a great day out there. We’ve had some massive storms come through overnight. Everything is rain-washed and cool. Blue skies and birds singing – probably ’cause they get to gobble up the worms cast out of their homes by the rain. Ah, life is good.

No, I’m not deterring from the point of this blog post – in fact, my morning workout in the great outdoors is a perfect segue into why I – and you – am not too screwed up for God. I read about this issue in Tell Me About God.  Two and a half months ago, I would have ended today’s lesson in a watershed of tears.

Not today! Thanks to Priscilla Shirer’s The Armor of God (#ArmorofGod) and a class full of women of all ages, races, backgrounds, and life experiences, I have learned much about God’s love for me. But I’ll share this lesson for those of you who aren’t there yet. And y’all will be the ones shedding big ‘ole raindrop tears.

Day 43 – Can We Give Our Lives to God?

“Many of us are reluctant to forgive ourselves because we are unable to fix the things we have done wrong. Maybe we feel the sin is too big to fix – therefore we feel we shouldn’t be forgiven. BUT –

  • God knows our life and the difficulties we face each day.
  • He knows the injustices we have suffered.
  • He knows the frustrations and defeats we suffer each day.
  • He knows the handicaps and limitations we are saddled with.
  • He know how tough it is to get by.

Hasn’t the unfairness of life punished us enough? Isn’t it time to give our un-forgiveness to God?” ~~~Compilation by Jack Berryman . Edited by Randy Haas and Helen Lewis.

If this just slaps you in the face, because it so abruptly and jarringly gets your attention – that’s awesome! So if you watch this awesome video clip and can understand, then it’s way past time to hand over these feelings to the Lord.

People might tell you that nothing is too big for God to handle; that nothing you’ve ever done is too much for Him. But who can believe that, right? Wrong! Something I learned lately boils down to this: God predestined you. He chose you. Not because of what you will become but because of who you are RIGHT now.

Go forth this day and celebrate! Despite negative and troublesome circumstances and people in your life at this very moment, celebrate! Did you feel momentary joy when you read this? Don’t let go of that! That’s what God wants you to feel and experience!

So, as my Mama would say, tuck your knot – and for you non-Southern readers out there, bless your lil ole hearts, that means “bow your head” –

Father God, I pray that whomever reads this, on whatever day, finds comfort, grace, mercy, forgiveness, love, and absolute joy in You and what You have done for him or her. Christ, step into this person’s heart. Heal, protect, and guide this person to the Father. Spirit, move in GREAT ways in this person’s life. Let there be no mistake – if he or she is in despair, for whatever reason – let this person know in a forceful and unmistakable way that the Godhead is in LOVE!! Amen.

Blessings y’all!

Repentance Isn’t Painful


A wonderful illustration of repentance from Lily & Light describes it as the following:

Repentance is simply 
comforting and healing our weariness and pain
by changing the course of our thoughts.

It is turning from sin and to God. 
It is securing our peace, and our place with Jesus.

 

When you think of repentance as comforting, does that change the tenor of the act for you? It does for me. As a daily exercise, repentance can absolutely feel like a real bummer. Who wants to start, end, or meet God in the middle of their day with a heavy heart full of self-loathing? Not me. Yet I have done it for as long as I can remember, even if only moment-by-moment.

Yes, repentance involves feeling badly about something. Otherwise you wouldn’t realize or care that whatever it was, was wrong in the first place. But here’s the key that I think Kristin was making: that’s where feeling badly ENDS.

After that initial feeling of wrongdoing, and turning that sin over to the Lord, it’s time to be comforted. Imagine yourself a child who has been punished and is crying because you feel sad about disappointing a parent. What does that parent do? Turn around and walk away? “Glad you’re crying, you horrible kid!”

Of course not. You wrap your arms around the hurting child, despite being angry at what they did – and maybe you still are! You don’t let that feeling overcome your desire to show your love to your child.

I believe it works sort of like that with God. He doesn’t like what we did; He didn’t want us to choose sin over obedience. But He isn’t holding it against us when we’ve sincerely repented. He’s ready to wrap His arms around us!

So our thoughts have turned in a different direction. Now we have our second choice to make: to keep sinning or stop. It’s that simple (to say – in actuality stopping that sin is often incredibly difficult).

Therein lies the rub, yes? If we have decided to trust in our loving God and repent, and be welcomed back into a complete relationship with Him, it’s just as hard to stop doing what we were doing. The following are some examples that are problematic – to say the least – to disengage from:

  • Rage – to stop letting your anger emerge against yourself or others;
  • Lust – to stop letting your thoughts wander towards that man or woman, especially if you’re married; to stop wanting ANYTHING more than God;
  • Greed – to stop thinking you need to make more money if you can’t afford what you want – because the more you make, the more you’ll want;
  • Laziness – to put down the remote and get up and do what needs to be done; to get off Facebook (AFTER you’ve read this post, of course), and get back to work;
  • Addiction – to put down that drink, that drug, that food, etc.;

These are just some of the many obstacles that separate us from God. You have your own, private ones, and the public ones you can’t hide. At any rate, they gotta go. If you can decide to put them down and turn away and never do them again – awesome. Congrats. But most of us have to put them down A LOT before they’re fully gone. And even then, we have to be watchful for the prowling lion from 1 Peter 5:8. We cannot let it beat us.

Some of these sins require more than a promise made to God, to yourself, and/or to family and friends. Some of these sins require significant outside help. Do it. It’s worth it. Anything is better than hating yourself for what you’ve done and continue to do.

Let Jesus set you free! Blessings y’all!

 

How To Follow Romans & Renew Your Mind


There’s this wonderful verse in Romans 12. It says, “Do not allow this world to mold you in its own image. Instead, be transformed from the inside out by renewing your mind. As a result, you will be able to discern what God wills and whatever God finds good, pleasing, and complete.” (v. 2, THE VOICE version from BibleGateway.com).

The wording inspires me. To be transformed – well, we women know transforming ourselves is an innate quality. We desire it before we become Christians. We are born knowing change is part of our makeup.

To renew my mind – wow – if you’ve never felt it going a million miles an hour, you won’t get it. If you don’t desperately want your mind to be “normal” then this might not jump out a you.

To be good, pleasing, and complete – for God – how beautiful!

Yes, wonderful. But the more I try to change my mind – to renew and – oh yeah! – be TRANSFORMED into that good, pleasing, and complete person? The more I fail. Epic fail. Eternal fail. Stick-a-fork-in-my-eye fail.

Thank you Jesus for Matthew Henry’s Commentary! (Also found on BibleGateway.com). Here’s what it has to say on this verse:

” The mind must be renewed for him. This is pressed (Rom. 12:2): “Be you transformed by the renewing of your mind; see to it that there be a saving change wrought in you, and that it be carried on.” Conversion and sanctification are the renewing of the mind, a change not of the substance, but of the qualities of the soul. It is the same with making a new heart and a new spirit—new dispositions and inclinations, new sympathies and antipathies; the understanding enlightened, the conscience softened, the thoughts rectified; the will bowed to the will of God, and the affections made spiritual and heavenly: so that the man is not what he was—old things are passed away, all things are become new; he acts from new principles, by new rules, with new designs. The mind is the acting ruling part of us; so that the renewing of the mind is the renewing of the whole man, for out of it are the issues of life, Prov. 4:23.”

What I believe Matthew Henry meant – and what God means – is that transformation and renewal are not acts WE complete. They are done by the Spirit, y’all! What a huge relief. Sure, my behavior has to change – and it has, over time. But sanctification can ONLY be done by God, so I can relinquish control here.

The commentary goes on to say: “What is the great enemy to this renewing, which we must avoid; and that is, conformity to this world: Be not conformed to this world. All the disciples and followers of the Lord Jesus must be nonconformists to this world. Me syschematizestheDo not fashion yourselves according to the world. We must not conform to the things of the world; they are mutable, and the fashion of them is passing away.”

Y’all, this is GOOD NEWS! This is amazing! When we just decide that enough is enough – what we’re doing isn’t working – and we give the control of betterment to the only One who can actually do it right – we are refreshed, renewed, and transformed! And while that last commentary reference might sound a little – ah – boring – it’s really not. The things of this world will become things – and I swear it because I’ve felt it – we don’t want after all. They will seem trivial and trite and petty and uninteresting.

Blessings today, y’all.

 

 

 

Opening Your Heart Through Time


Years ago I spent a season of my life riding the train and bus to work and came to a realization: people, for some reason, feel very comfortable telling me (a perfect stranger) their life stories. I thought it was strange and that I was totally weird – that there was something about me that prompted them to unburden themselves.

Why would that make me weird? Truth is, I thought that they felt comfortable invading my personal space because I was uncool like they were. But that was stupid, because it wasn’t like the unemployed single mom probably on drugs was the only type of person to approach me, and it wasn’t just on my way to work; it happened at the bank, the grocery store, on the street! People I didn’t know well at work – any time, anywhere.

To many, it would probably be flattering. But here’s the disconnect – when other people unload on me, I then become responsible for fixing and/or seeing them through their troubles. So here are all these people I will never meet again, placing their problems on my heart, and there is nothing I can do but listen and offer advice on the spot! It made me feel absolutely horrible and emotionally drained.

The reason that I feel irrational and unnecessary responsibility for other people (who have nothing to do with me) and their problems? A story for another day, perhaps. But being available to  others is always a timely subject. I know now that for that season in my life, God didn’t need me to be in the lives of those people day in and day out – He needed me to just be open with my heart to them. I was reminded of what a blessing it was through Pastor Susan’s post about the same topic.

Whether it’s a long-time friend or someone you just met and will never see again, open your heart, your mind, and your time and let that person have a bit of it. We all face things that we just can’t figure out on our own. I would urge you, however, to turn to the Word during these conversations, and to nudge the other person there as well. As many good answers I was able to provide through experience, none of them work without the Lord.