Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Accepted and Beloved

I want to tell you about a woman.  I’ve known her for as long as I can remember, but to be honest, I haven’t always liked her.  Whenever I look at her, all I can see are her flaws.  Her behavior at times just baffles me.  She does things that don’t make any sense and she says things that make me cringe.  There have been times when I actually wished she would just go away and not come back, because I am tired of dealing with her.  Those are the times when my Abba Father has to remind me that He loves her, she belongs to Him, and she is precious to Him.  He tells me to give her grace, just like I would want grace extended to my precious daughters.  It’s easy for me to know He loves my girls.  Knowing I’m His girl – that is something that doesn’t come so easily.  You see, that woman I was telling you about – she’s me.  Here’s what I hear the Father saying loud and clear this week:  You’ve got to embrace who I’ve made you and love yourself even as I love you. 
One of the things I remember kids saying when I was little was “God says you have to love everybody.”  Unfortunately, this was usually followed up with, “But I don’t have to like everybody and, I sure don’t like her!”  We thought we had a loophole and as long as we didn’t say “hate” we were okay.  I think I’ve played that game with myself.  Sure, I love myself, but I don’t have to like me, do I?  I can even put a spiritual spin on it and convince myself that what I’m really doing is preferring others before myself, not engaging in the sin of self-hatred.  Dear sisters, our Daddy God does not want us beating up on that sweet little girl who belongs to Him.  Remember, we don’t belong to ourselves anymore.  We are His and He calls us to take good care of what He has entrusted to us – even ourselves.  Rejection, hatred, having a judgmental and critical spirit toward someone – all of these are sins even when directed at ourselves.  We may be jars of clay, but the Lord Himself is the potter Who shapes us.  He has spilled the blood of Jesus to redeem us.  No higher price could have been paid for our salvation.  Not only that, but He has honored us by filling us with His Spirit.  Romans 15:7 says, “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.”  How can I call unacceptable what Jesus has accepted?  When I embrace who He has made me – my unique heritage, skill set, life experiences, even appearance – then I will bring praise to God and be ready to be used by Him.  How can I love my neighbor as myself, until I first learn to love myself?  (Matthew 22:39)
Beloved, learn to love that woman who lives in your skin.  Accept her as God’s gift to you.  Be kind to her and show her abundant grace, because she is the precious daughter of the Lord Most High. 
Abba Father, please teach us to be gentle with ourselves. Don’t let us be our own worst enemies.  Please help us learn to love ourselves, not in selfishness, but simply resting in the grace and patience that comes from You.  In Jesus’ Name. Amen. 

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Confident in Love

I have a confession to make. I did not have my quiet time this morning.  I did get up early, but instead of sitting right down with my Bible, I went and made coffee. Then I thought I’d better open my email.  I had two messages that needed replies. Then I figured I’d better find out if anything important happened in the world while I was asleep.  The next thing I knew, it was past time to wake my kids up!  So, then I felt like I had blown it.  I’ve started my day wrong, probably my whole week wrong.  God must be so disappointed in me.  And I can’t even fix it until tomorrow because having a quiet time that isn’t a “great while before day” doesn’t really count.  Just look at Mark 1:35 KJV  “And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, He went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.”
Anybody laughing?  Anybody ever been there?  Well, here’s the great thing - I didn’t stay there.  I actually decided to walk in grace and believe that Jesus still loves me, my Abba Father still loves me, and the Holy Spirit has not forsaken me.  I moved on into my day and decided to act like a woman who knows she is loved.  I’ve heard there is nothing more beautiful on a woman than confidence.  I would add that there is nothing more attractive than a woman who is confident that she is loved.  Do you remember those elementary school conversations that went like this:  “Are you mad at me?  Because it seems like you’re mad at me.  Are you sure?”  Oy!  How many fine friendships ended over conversations like this because it is such a pain to have to constantly reassure someone that you really are on their side?  I wonder if the Lord ever gets weary of having to reassure me of His love.  He has definitely gone out of His way to show me His unconditional love and commitment.  He didn’t hold back from sacrificing His most precious Son to redeem my life from the death sentence of sin.  He has been faithful every day of my life to provide all my needs.  He has healed me, forgiven me, and blessed me in ways I can’t even comprehend.  Isn’t it about time I quit worrying that His love is affected by my performance?  Having a quiet time is important, but not so I can check it off my mental list and feel good about myself.  That is religion and in the face of His amazing love, it is disgusting.  It’s important because it is my time to be with Him and Him alone.  It is time not only to pour out my heart to Him, but also to listen - to hear His plans for my day, to gaze into His face and soak my heart in His truth and love.  I’m bummed that I missed that special time today.  Somehow, all joking aside, it really is different after the day has gotten going.  My heart is receptive to Him first thing in a way that it never really is later in the day.  Still, I believe I honored the Lord this morning by choosing to reject condemnation and move forward in confidence.  When I did that, it gave me the grace to look around for someone to pour His love on today.  I don’t think that would have happened if I had camped out on the failure mud flats. 
Lord Jesus, I love you.  Thank You for loving me.  Help me remember that time with You is a treat and a treasure. Give me a heart that thirsts for spending time in Your presence more than my first cup of coffee!  In Your Name.  Amen. 

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Being Real

It’s time to be real.  That’s what I hear the Lord saying this week.  Looking at Luke 12:1- 2, we find Jesus surrounded by a crowd so big the people are trampling one another, but before He addresses them, Jesus turns to His disciples and says, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known.”  Jesus is telling his students, you’d better be real because one day who you truly are will be revealed.  I believe the Lord is putting His finger on the possibility that many of us lead double lives.  We love the Lord and we honor Him with our worship and our praise.  We spend time each day in His presence through prayer and Bible study.  But when we walk out our doors, we put on our anonymity and go about our business as if we were just nice people.  We may say “God Bless You” if someone sneezes, but we don’t often reveal the hope that we hold in our hearts.  I don’t know about you, but lately this has begun to bother me. 
Colossians 4:6 says, “Let your conversation always be full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”  I began to ponder what it meant for my speech to be seasoned with salt.  What makes our speech salty?  I believe it is talking about our Lord Jesus.  We go bland when we remove Him from our vocabulary and just try to be “nice”.  Please understand, I’m not advocating preaching everyone you meet a sermon!  I am just talking about being real.  When you are really in love, you can’t help it – it shows.  The same is true of us.  It may only be a few words, but I think it is time for us to be unafraid to speak the name above ALL other names.  Recently the Lord led me to give my lunch to a man on the side of the road.  As I drove away, I realized I had missed an opportunity to speak the name of Jesus.  It was easy to say, “God told me to bless you.”  Saying, “The Lord Jesus told me to bless you” would have been a whole new ballgame.  Something dynamic is released when we speak His name.  Somehow there is also a powerful reluctance to speak it.  I’m not sure why that is so, but I know I have experienced it.  In fact, I just took a break to go to the grocery store and I stood in the checkout line contemplating this very thing.  Just thinking about it had me nervous and embarrassed.  I realized I had to come back and update this thing.  Girls, doing this thing is hard - I know!  I think part of the problem tonight at the store was that it just wasn’t the right time.  If it had been, I think there would have been grace to speak up despite being scared.  Being sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit is key.  My prayer for all of us is that the Lord Jesus will give us the sensitivity to know when He is giving us an opening to speak of Him and the courage to step up and do it.
Abba Father, please give us grace to love You more, to love our Lord Jesus more.  Fill us with such an awareness of Your love and mercy on us that we cannot help but share it.   Teach us to be salty in a way that causes the seeking lost ones to realize You are Who they long for.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen. 

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Superhero Verse Revisited

I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me.  Phil. 4:13
This is probably the second most popular Bible verse after John 3:16.  Everybody loves to talk about how we can do all things through Christ Jesus.  It’s the superhero verse!  I can do all things!  Some things?  No, ALL things!  Unfortunately, I don’t think the Apostle Paul was telling us we could leap over tall buildings or stop speeding bullets if we had Jesus in our hearts.  I don’t think he had winning American Idol or being the next Pulitzer prize-winning author in mind either.  When you read the verse in context, you see it is the centerpiece of a passage about how he found it possible to face any circumstance no matter how difficult.  Facing hunger and need in the strength Jesus gave him – that is what Paul was actually talking about.  I don’t know about you, but this is not exactly the way I want to give glory to God.  Being hungry is not my gifting - just ask my family!  And what about this whole “need” thing.  I thought God had promised to meet all our needs according to His riches in glory.  That’s right here in the same chapter, down in verse 19!  Is it possible that He would allow us to be in need?  Is it possible that His provision might be giving us the strength to bear being in need instead of actually giving us the things we need?  Is it possible that God defines our needs differently than we do? 
We’re in deep water, now, aren’t we?  And it looks like we’re sailing straight for that lonely place where we cry, “God, I don’t understand this!  It’s not supposed to be this way!  What are You doing?  Are You still listening?  Don’t You care?”
This is the place where many of us find ourselves today. It is at this point that Jesus will meet us with His strength.  We may be crying, “Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!” but we have to know that He loves us with an everlasting love.  He sees the fulfillment of all the longings of our hearts.  He knows the value of every tear we shed and every hardship we endure, and He tells us it is not in vain.  Just as surely as He suffered with a purpose, every moment we live can mean something if we live it surrendered to Him. 
Abba Father, keep us faithful even when our flesh falters and our hearts fail.  Let Your Spirit rise up again within us and enable us to praise You no matter what.  In Jesus Name.  Amen.