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!

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Same Faith, New Reason

missing

I was raised in the Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) church. I’m a product of SDA schools. Elementary, high school, and even colleges….I was raised a certain way and no other way.

I’ve struggled. I struggled with the legalism that I felt was an inherent part of our faith. The unconditional love and grace of God was missing for me. As my relationship with God continues to grow and I get to know Him better, I see how legalism breaks His heart every bit as much as refusal to obey.

Keeping the Sabbath growing up wasn’t a heart thing for me, it was required, plain and simple. We had very specific rules that we had to follow that felt like nothing short of ridiculousness to me. As I’ve come full circle, misunderstood, felt misled, realized what was missing, gone to other churches, found what was missing, and returned for myself, I’ve come to a very different and beautiful realization about our faith.

As Seventh-day Adventists, we get accused of harping on the seventh day Sabbath. In my personal journey, I’ve come to realize that what feels like harping to others, is just us not ignoring it. We recognize it. We acknowledge it. We strive to honor all ten commandments, instead of just the nine. This makes us different, so we find ourselves having to explain it quite a bit, which sounds like harping to those who don’t agree.

We REMEMBER the seventh day to keep it holy just like it says to in the 4th commandment. And, yes, this is different. But, if “Thou shalt not lie” was ignored by most and one denomination decided to take it under their wing, they’d be accused of harping on that. Those “Sabbath keepers” would turn into those “Not liars”. Doesn’t make sense.

Most people don’t argue that the other nine should be honored as the Word of God. Because I do still find it relevant and just as important as the other nine, I strive to keep it as well. Although I know I could never do it perfectly. That’s why Jesus came. It’s a heart thing for me now, not an outward actions thing.

“Keeping it” looks different to everyone. I strive to acknowledge it and remember it like He asks us to. There seems to be quite a bit of hostility over this belief because it’s different and challenges how life is set up for most people these days. I understand the challenge. But, what I don’t understand is how it can be dismissed and shrugged off as unimportant so easily and completely. It’s neatly tucked right in the middle of all the other commandments that are collectively agreed upon as important. Why is it left out? Why has it been disregarded?

Will I keep any of the commandments perfectly? No. Have I? No. That’s why Jesus sent His Son to die for us because we are UNABLE to keep God’s law perfectly. He knew we needed a sacrifice. The ultimate sacrifice. This is why we don’t sacrifice animals anymore to atone for our sins. He satisfied that. The perfect Lamb fulfilled the law. He did not abolish the law. Nowhere in the Bible does it say, please keep all the commandments, except the 4th (now that Jesus has died).

What broke Jesus’s heart and caused Him anger was how the Pharisees “kept” it. Looking to accuse Jesus of anything, they got angry when He healed someone on the Sabbath day (Mark 3:1-6). Are you kidding me?? They couldn’t heal anyone on any day of the week! Their hearts were in the wrong place. Jesus lived without sin and died for ours, so that we can be found blameless in the eyes of our Father. In light of this truth, I will still attempt to obey.

If you obey my commandments, you will live in my love. I have obeyed my Father’s commandments, and in that way I live in His love. I have told you this so that you will be as joyful as I am, and your joy will be complete. John 15:10-11 (GW)

I believe obedience is God’s love language. If our hearts are right and surrendered to Him, all we WANT to do is what He asks us to do. Nothing more, nothing less. And, this brings us joy. When I stand face to face with my Creator, my Savior, I will have more peace knowing that I at least acknowledged and tried rather than ignored anything He has asked me to do.

True love WANTS to honor. I am fully convinced of the Seventh day Sabbath. I am not fully convinced on how to keep it. I think that’s personal between you, God, and what feels right for your family. What brings you peace and alignment with Him. I do think it’s a special day and a gift, just like all of God’s commands are.

I am aware that Jesus says “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” in Mark 2:27.  He said this when he was, once again, extremely irritated with the Pharisees for calling Him out for picking grain to eat on the Sabbath! Beyond frustrating because their hearts were all wrong. This is how I felt growing up, beyond frustrated, because my heart was all wrong regarding the Sabbath. It felt like an idol, more important than Jesus Himself. I imagined Jesus scratching His head as we followed the rules we were told we had to. Wondering why we focused so much more on that than on Him and His love and sacrifice for us.

God rested on the seventh day of creation, blessed it, and made it holy (Genesis 2:2). He asks us to rest on the seventh day and remember it (Exodus 20:8). Who doesn’t want a rest? A spiritually appointed rest? A divine excuse to stop what you’re doing, reflect on Him, spend time with your loved ones, relax, help and love on others, and trust God to provide. That sounds amazing! Not at all like a burden or an obligation. A requirement that I WANT to sign up for! Like the naps we despised as children and beg for as adults.

Don’t get me wrong here, I’ll happily go to church any day of the week. I love church. I love church service. I love praise music. I love being with other believers who love Jesus. I have no fundamental issue going to church on a Sunday, but because of my own personal conviction, I do have a fundamental reason for remembering the seventh day to keep it holy. And, that is Saturday. In others churches, I found the love and grace, but the 4th commandment was missing….Something was always missing.

I think God knew this commandment in particular would be forgotten or done away with. I think that’s exactly why He started this particular commandment with “Remember” as opposed to “Thou shalt not”. Do you think it would make a difference? Do you think if He had put “Thou shalt not forget the Sabbath day” like the others that more people would take it seriously? Interesting thought. Nonetheless, He put “Remember”. So, I will do just that. I will try to keep all ten. I have failed. I will continue to fail. But, I will not stop trying. Because I love Him and I trust Him and I think my willingness and desire to obey pleases Him. Humbly attempt to keep His Word and fully rely on His grace in my weakness is all I can do with a love like this.

Something was always missing in the puzzle to me….What’s your missing piece?

If this article leads to anything on your part, I pray it’s to study for yourself. Ask Him for yourself. Follow His leading. What does the Bible say? All of it. New and old testament. Pray about it. Ask God if it matters. In my opinion, if anything matters to God, it should matter to us. If it doesn’t, it shouldn’t.

Live Loved

stony heart

For a girl who grew up questioning love, living loved is a phenomenon. Learning about and growing aware of God’s love for me is a continuous life changer. His love allows me the freedom to speak. To feel. To let go of perfection. To walk away. To walk towards. To be me. To really live.

When we question love, we seek constant approval from others. Constantly wondering “Do they love me?”, “Did I do something wrong?”, “Did I say something wrong?” We latch onto those who don’t show us love and try to change their minds or squeeze it out of them. Thinking if they do, we will have proved our “lovability”. This leads to a prison of pain that the devil wants nothing more than to keep us locked away in. Constantly seeking love. Jesus’s unfailing love turns the key to this prison, wraps us up, feeds us, and slowly but surely and consistently loves us back to life. In turn, we long for others to feel this new love we have in our heart. This love that warms and reassures our questioning hearts like never before.

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. Ezekiel 36:26  (ESV)

I used to think a “heart of stone” meant only apathetic, unloving, uncaring, mean. A hard heart. While, no doubt, God’s love can soften a heart like this and turn it completely around. My “heart of stone” felt opposite. It felt too soft. Hurt and scared. Unloved, desperate, clueless, unaware of this Great Love just yearning for me to take notice and strengthen it. To feel it. To live in it. To immerse my thirsty heart in this unending and unexplainable love. Living aware of His love changes everything! Remember this when you feel rejected or abandoned. He’s still right there. He never left. He’ll never leave. He loves you more than any human being ever has, ever could, or ever will.

God’s love will soften and strengthen our hearts of stone. He will turn them into hearts of flesh filled with His Spirit. Are you thirsty? Hard? Soft? Hurt? Consider the Ultimate Source. His love is the source of unquenchable love we seek. Our desperate (stony) hearts looking high and low for acceptance and approval can rest easy and come to life in His love. Soak it in, squeeze it out by sharing with others, and go for another soak.

Live loved today and every day. Because you are.

 

Pearls of Wisdom

pearls 2

Is there anything more valuable than God’s wisdom in our life? We search for it like the treasure that it is. We crave it. We just want to know what He wants us to do in any given situation. Ultimately, His wisdom comes with a sense of assurance and confirmation. If the conflict in our heart does not cease, we are not there yet. The answer hasn’t arrived.

For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul. Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you. Proverbs 2:10-11

What our hearts really desire is contentment, fulfillment, and peace. Peace with God leads to peace with ourselves. His wisdom brings peace, even when it’s the hard thing to do. If our hearts just don’t feel right about something, the Holy Spirit is speaking to us. Heed that feeling. Take note and seek wisdom. Remember, that His peace is a gift and a fruit of the Spirit that He loves to give us. We should cherish this gift as His children. Life won’t always be easy. But, if we don’t have peace, God is trying to tell us something. Listen….

I was in a relationship where everything seemed right on paper, but my heart was troubled. I couldn’t figure out why this guy who I assumed must be “the one” because he seemed to have everything on my list, just didn’t lead to peace. I tried to adjust and make changes to help ease the discomfort, but I still had turmoil in my heart. I thought maybe it was me, maybe I just wasn’t used to being really loved and that’s what he was doing. So, I gave it more time. I remained honest with him about my struggles and lack of peace. He reinforced my possible reasons like maybe it was because I was a naturally anxious person, this was new, and I was scared because of my past. He said he was willing to be patient with me and wait until I felt safe enough to fall in love. It wasn’t happening. So, I continued to plead with God to either take the discomfort away or reveal why on earth I had it.

I woke up at 4:30 one morning with very clear answers on exactly why I needed to end it. With clarity and conviction, I wrote the reasons down so I could recite them clearly when I called to let him know. In the aftermath, I saw so many confirmations of what God had revealed. His wisdom and me ending the relationship led to peace. It was hard, but the peace was worth it. God had answered and I obeyed. When we actively pursue His will, He is faithful to reveal it. Peace follows…

Turns out love is more than a “list”. Breakups are never easy, but if there is a lack of peace and comfort, they are necessary and wise. Whether it’s a career move, a friendship issue, a difficult family member, or a romantic relationship question, God has wisdom to share. He is very much active and aware of our concerns. He wants to help. Let’s let Him. Sometimes, His answer is to stay quiet, sometimes it’s to speak up, sometimes it’s to wait. But, when He answers, the best thing we can do is respond quickly. The way the chips fall are on His shoulders, not ours. Thank God we can trust Him with the outcome. This gives us peace. The outcome is His baby and we are His. Rest in that fact.

When we pray first and then follow our instincts, we can trust that the Holy Spirit is active. God is in control and He will never let us down. Pearls of wisdom will help us personally and help us help others in the process. God longs to reveal wisdom to those who seek it. It may be a struggle, but the pearls are worth it. Peace is the prize for pearls.

 

It’s Your Choice…

choice

Our lives consist of choices…what do we want NOW vrs. what do we want MOST?

Whether it’s that third cupcake, a quick cure for loneliness, or a distraction from boredom, it’s usually a matter of flesh vrs. Spirit. At least, it is for me. Our bodies craves what our flesh wants and we want it now. It takes divine patience and discipline to choose what we want most over what we want now. Following our flesh feels good in moment, but how we feel after is the true test. Satisfaction may be felt in the short term, but if regret and sorrow follow our choices, they were made in the flesh. Choices made in the Spirit may be difficult to make in the moment, but lead to joy and peace afterwards.  The peace that passes all understanding.

Indulgence can be a wonderful thing at times, but not when it’s followed with a load of regret. We all know how that feels…and it usually makes whatever we indulged in not worth it.

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it. Isaiah 30:21

It takes supernatural self control to deny our selfish desires and walk in God’s direction. Yet, He has promised to supply that strength. It’s our choice whether we seek His opinion, submit, and/or obey. These are OUR choices alone. God won’t force Himself or His ways on us. There’s no place I’d rather be personally than smack dab in the middle of God’s will. Choices made in light of eternity will always be worth it in the long term. Our long terms are eternal. Our lives here are merely a flash in the pan compared to where we are headed.

Our choices don’t only affect us. They affect our children, our friends, our families, and next generations. If our choices have that much impact, aren’t they worth some prayerful consideration?

Please, Lord, help me listen to Your voice and make choices accordingly. Help me make choices that fit snuggly in Your will. Choices that lead to peace and joy rather than regret and sorrow. Choices that inspire others to live for You. Choices that reflect a loving example to my daughters. Choices that portray my worth in You. Choices that prove I am thankful to be chosen.

Before the creation of the world, He chose us through Christ to be holy and perfect in His presence. Because of His love he had already decided to adopt us through Jesus Christ. He freely chose to do this so that the kindness he had given us in His dear Son would be praised and given glory. Ephesians 1:4-6

His choice was us.