Hanging by a Thread

We all have those times when we feel like we are hanging by a thread.

It could be in line at the grocery story, on the phone with customer service, looking for a parking space, running behind at work, paying bills, or on vacation for goodness sake!

Today is one of those days for me.

Hanging by a thread is the equivalent of “Don’t mess with me, I’m about to snap.” Who hasn’t been there?

That’s what grace is for. We are all human. You know the look, the sense, the time to back away….and hopefully we do.

May we grab a hold of the Lord’s unwavering presence in our life. May we know that even when He feels far away or like He’s turned His back on what’s going on, that His eyes still see and His heart still aches.

He longs to take us home. He died so that He could do just that. So, when we are hanging on by a thread, may we find our security in that. That His love will bring us home. Our love for Him pales in comparison to His love for us. He is bigger than whatever this is and we can’t out love Him.

May we not only hang on that, but rest in it too.

 

 

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Guilt to Gratitude

thank you Jesus

Growing up I had the rules, but lacked the relationship. I felt like the only way to earn and stay in God’s favor was to do or not do certain things. And, I failed….constantly. Being a born pleaser, I felt like I must certainly be letting him down like all the time. I loved Him and I wanted His love, but felt unworthy because I couldn’t live up to what I thought He expected from me. Even when I did the “right” things, I didn’t understand why I had to in order to be loved. Either I was or I wasn’t, right?

My “hard to please” God eventually turned into one I gave up trying to please. I just accepted the fact that I never could. I was too sinful, too guilty, too wrong. If he loved me, it must be out of pity. It would have to be in spite of my efforts because I could never do enough or get it right.

Slowly, but ever so surely, I started feeling His love more. I began studying, searching, seeking, wondering….could it be true? He would speak to me. He would tell me it was true. But, my imperfections were the bullhorn and His voice was hard to hear. I started straining to hear His voice. I started reading books that spoke about it. Reading about and talking to people with the same issues and questions as me. People who’s lives were transformed by the love of God in spite of themselves and their actions hoping on a prayer that He could love me the same.

Guess what? He does. Now, I know that His love for me is regardless of my actions. Anything I do or don’t know in His name as a sacrifice is a beautiful thing, but I don’t HAVE to do anything for Him to love me any more than He already does each and every day. This fuels joy like I’ve never felt. This makes me want to shout His name from the mountaintops! This makes me WANT to live for and with Him. This unconditional love is worth changing our lives for and I firmly believe is the only thing powerful enough to do so.

My hang-ups are people pleasing, guilt, fear, worry. He meets me here. He loves me through it. He empowers me, calms me, walks with me, and reminds me that I’m human. While we see the struggle and feel the shame, He sees the reason that He came. Jesus wouldn’t have had to die for us, if we didn’t need Him to. He did it because He loves and He knew He had to. Being human means that we are sinful. We are sinful and selfish as two year olds. As we grow up, we can control ourselves better and make better choices, but we are still sinful and it takes complete dependence on Jesus when we realize that our works are like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6).

When we realize our condition, we are sometimes prone to run the other way. We could never measure up! Instead, let us turn our guilt into gratitude. Let us throw ourselves at the feet of Jesus and say “Thank you!! Thank you for dying for me. Thank you for loving me then, now, and tomorrow, no matter what. Thank you, sweet Jesus, for taking everything I’ve ever done and ever will do to the cross. Help me to live in a way that honors you!”

Then he returned to the disciples and found them asleep. He said to Peter, “Couldn’t you watch with me even one hour? Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak!” Matthew 26:40-41 (NLT)

Even the men Jesus chose to walk beside him were weak. Peter wanted to fight for Jesus. Peter drew a sword when they came to take Him. Peter swore He’d never deny Jesus. But, Peter couldn’t even stay awake while Jesus (his best friend, his Savior) sweat drops of blood in agony just a few feet away. Jesus asked them to do one thing, yet their flesh was too weak. THIS is why He died for us. He knows what we are up against. He knows the frailties of our minds, bodies, and spirits.

That being said, can we love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind and soul?

One of them, an expert in religious law, tried to trap him with this question: “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?” Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ Matthew 22:35-37 (NLT)

Jesus KNOWS our limitations as humans. He also knows our hearts crave His love. If we allow His love into our hearts and start to live in the freedom of it, our lives will reflect that. We will be filled with Jesus and the fruits of the Spirit. We will not be perfect, but we will be surrendered. Rather than hiding because of our guilt or trying to earn His love, let’s go face down in gratefulness to our Father in heaven. Because there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1) and we could never do enough to even come close to what He’s already done for us.

Mary Magdalene loved much because she knew she had been forgiven much (Luke 7:47). That forgiveness and love is available to each one of us. Amazing grace, how sweet the sound…..Only Jesus can save a wretch like me. Thank you Jesus!

Sweet Smell of Rain

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My oldest daughter just started taking Bible studies at school with a few of her classmates. On our way  to school one rainy morning, we were discussing what she was learning and why. She shared a few verses and we talked about why it’s so important to know the Word of God. This led to a conversation about how God and the devil both speak to us and how it takes scriptural knowledge to be able to tell the difference. If we don’t know and cherish God’s Word in our hearts, we will very likely listen and live by the lies satan persistently and repetitively speaks to us. We need to know God’s truth to distinguish His voice.

As we were discussing this, my youngest daughter pipes in with “Mommy, Jesus is like the rain on our windshield and satan is like the wipers trying to wipe it away.” Brilliant! She’s four years old and gets it clear as a bell. I was so blessed by her words. She recognizes that Satan’s big plan is to wipe Jesus and His love for us off the map of our minds and hearts. Truly out of the mouths of babes. Oh, to have the faith and understanding of a loving, receptive, trusting child.

Satan can “wipe” as much as he wants, as fast as he wants, but he can’t stop the Rain. He wipes by telling us we’re not loved enough or good enough. He wipes with condemnation and guilt. He wipes by convincing us that what we did was unforgiveable or that we’ll never get it right, so what’s the use in trying? He wipes by distracting and enticing us to look elsewhere for comfort and popularity. He wipes by validating our revenge on those who have hurt us. He wipes by getting us to compare and compete with each causing jealousy and mayhem. He wipes.

Jesus rains. He rains down love and speaks to us through His Word. His Word is always there like a beacon in the fog. Look, listen, and feel. If we don’t read and learn, we won’t know who we’re hearing. In my personal experience, the devil speaks louder, so it’s taken a lot of prayer and seeking to hear God’s voice. So, I pray to hear Him. I read to hear Him. I strain to hear Him. He’s all I want to hear.

Leaning on Jesus for our past, present, future is the only way to get it “right”. Only through Him and by Him can we get “right” with our Father in Heaven. As much chaos and pain as Satan causes in our lives by trying to “wipe” Him away, Jesus’s love overcomes. He loves us and the devil hates it, therefore he wipes…..incessantly. It’s all he can do.

So, let him “wipe”. Let him discourage. Let him confuse and berate. Jesus brings clarity, love, peace, victory.

Let’s consider the blessing that rain is to us and how badly we need it when our ground is parched. Let’s consider the oceans and lakes we enjoy the sites and experiences of so much. Let’s consider the sweet smell of rain on a hot summer day. Let’s consider the powerlessness we feel when our plans are rained out or made better because of it. Rain comes when the rains come. There’s nothing we can say or do to predict when it will come or how long it will stay. No amount of disappointment will change the rain. Let us also consider a childlike faith and innocence when it rains and dance in it like children do. Thank you, Lord, for the rain. You do truly reign.

I say: “You keep wiping Satan, all that will accomplish is very tired arms on your part, because you can’t stop the Rain (Love of Jesus for me).”

Because….

 I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.  No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39 (NLT)