Got Haters?

Man, just when all hope seemed lost. I prayed, I asked for prayer. I cried. I fought it. I was shown relief. Again.

By a woman I just started following this year. A woman who lost her daughter. A woman who has been blamed for the publicity she’s received over this devastating loss of her daughter. The publicity she would give back in a heartbeat. For her daughter’s heartbeat. The hardships and the lessons being shown during and because of it has touched me deeply.

Today, she shared the story in the Bible about the friends who brought their friend to Jesus. Through the roof. Heads down, not worried about what others thought or what the homeowner would think. By the work it would take. By the degree of difficulty. Not deterred by the people in the crowd probably thinking (like we all have)..”Really?? How dramatic can you be? We’re all here to hear Jesus!”

Not deterred. Not afraid. Unrelenting friends. Who bring their friend to Jesus, even though we’re sure they had their own issues they themselves wanted help with. They didn’t ask Jesus for help first. They didn’t ask Him for help after because of their efforts. They just wanted to help their friend. They couldn’t fix his problem, and knew of only One who could. May we all be and have some of these friends!

Jesus had haters. Everywhere He went. They followed Him. They watched Him. They hung on His every word, even trying to trip Him up over and over again. They didn’t care that He literally healed people. They just looked for problems knowing full well they couldn’t. Anything to bring Him down.

What bothered them the most was when He said He forgave sins. The blasphemy!! Even when they didn’t say it out loud, they thought it, and Jesus Himself would point it out. He called out His haters, time and time again.

Why did He do this? I think one of His reasons was so we’d know we aren’t alone when we have them. And, to let us know He sees our hearts too.

 “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.” — John 15:18 (NIV)

Short. Simple. Clear. We will have haters. Even if we love them. Even if we try everything we can for reconciliation. Even if we ask them not to be. Even if we apologize for our human part. Even if…

Jesus didn’t have anything to apologize for. He knew their hearts. And called them out.

The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, “Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, “Why are you thinking these things in your hearts?  Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? — Luke 5: 21-23 (NIV)

He knew EXACTLY who He was. He wants us to know who we are too. To Him. To others. To ourselves. And WHO is in charge. We think we have so much control over all these things. We only have control of ourselves and when there are demons running through our bodies and veins, not much of that. (Which He healed and still does too).

Today, a friend prayed with me. Another texted me. I know my husband prayed over me. Another new friend posted a Bible study. One I needed to hear and see so badly. God made sure I was online to see it. It spoke straight to my heart and I’m so grateful.

These friends carried me to Jesus today. Through the roof, through their own uncertainties and needs, no matter what, not worrying about others, only me and Jesus. “Here, Lord, have her, heal her, comfort her, remind her” was their cry.

These people are gifts because they were pointing me to the Greatest Gift. The One I try so hard to show others. The One who I often times in all my hard stuff, forget is still ministering to me so that I can still minister to others. Just like the woman who tragically lost her daughter and the man who couldn’t walk for who knows how many years can share in a way only they can after Jesus met them there…

That He’s still MY Hero, not just everyone else’s.

That even when our haters might be our own children or spouse or sibling or parent or one we hoped was a friend, He STILL loves us more and most.

In those times when you don’t just FEEL turned on, but ARE turned on. He’s asking you to draw nearer. To come closer. To let Him love you. And to trust that one sweet day, because of what HE did for us, all the hate will be gone too. That hate that hurts His heart even more than our own.

Until then, remember…. Jesus had haters too. So much so, they eventually killed Him.

Yet, He still loved each one enough to die for. And, He did.

 

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.

 

 

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)