God's Love

Where I Need To Be

When Jesus heard this, he told them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.” Mark 2:17 (NLT)

I hate being sick. I guess every body probably does. Right? Well recently, I got sick. I had a terrible cough and ear ache. The ear ache pushed me to go to the walk-in clinic. After I checked in and sat down, a couple came through the door. The woman walked to the counter and signed in. Her husband started to move toward the section of chairs where I was sitting.

She said “Frank, don’t sit there. Sit over there.” and she pointed to a section of chairs in a different part of the room. After they sat down, I heard him say “Why do you want to sit over here?” “Because she’s coughing.” she replied.

Now granted, I was coughing. And I know people don’t want to get sick. But the way she said it made me feel like I was doing something wrong. I started thinking to myself “Aren’t we in a clinic? Aren’t people supposed to come here that are sick? And maybe even coughing?”

Then, I remembered what Jesus said in today’s verse. My mind wandered to our churches and how we make people feel like this lady made me feel. We treat people who come in with problems or sins like they shouldn’t be there or like we can’t hang out with them because well, they are sinning.

Jesus said we are all sinners. We all need him. The problem is in that some people think they are righteous, they think they don’t need him. They think they are fine. They are thinking wrong. We all are sick. We all sin. We all desperately need Jesus.

As I thought through all this I looked up at the woman and smiled. I was in the right place. I knew where I needed to be. I needed to be in the clinic getting help for my cough and ear ache and my heart needed to sit at the feet of Jesus so I could love everyone….even the people who make me feel like I don’t belong.

God Only Knows

For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16 (NLT)

There is a song by King and Country called God Only Knows. The words are

God only knows what you've been through
God only knows what they say about you
God only knows how it's killing you
But there's a kind of love that God only knows

These words keep going round and round in my head. God only knows…..

Lately, I’ve been talking to some folks about hurts they’ve had in their past. Seems like everyone has some - some hurts are way more painful than others but we all seem to carry some pain. I am always saddened by how much we as a human race hurt each other.

God only knows….

And the other thing only God knows is the sadness and pain that comes from loving the human race. The kind of love he offered in Jesus was a love that God only knows. The kind of sacrifice for our well-being was of a caliber that only God would know.

God only knows…..

Another thing God knows is you. He knows you so completely and intimately. He knows that you are worth every bit of it. You were worth every step toward the cross and every moment on it. You were worth it all. That is the kind of love that God only knows.

No Limits

28 “The older brother was angry and wouldn’t go in. His father came out and begged him, 29 but he replied, ‘All these years I’ve slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends. 30 Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf!’

31 “His father said to him, ‘Look, dear son, you have always stayed by me, and everything I have is yours. 32 We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found!’” Luke 15:28-32 (NLT)

In the story of the prodigal son, the son goes off on an adventure to basically please himself. He does whatever he wants, even things he knows are not in his best interest, until one day he wakes up and realizes he has nothing. He reaches rock bottom. At that point, he decides he needs to go home.

When he arrives, his father runs to him and embraces him and welcomes him home. He is restored as a son and the celebrations begins.

His older brother however, is not happy. He stays away from the celebration not willing to go in and embrace his returned brother. Why? He feels that all his years of service should have amounted to some sort of reward. He complained because he didn’t feel his commitment was recognized. And why in the world would the father welcome in the person who did all of those wrong things?

The sad thing is we often behave in this same way. We see ourselves as good Christians and we judge whoever wants to come in. Do they measure up? Have they behaved in a way that fits our standard? What about me? These are the questions we ask (even if we wouldn’t admit it.)

As Christ-followers, these are never question we should ask. Right? Shouldn’t we be standing out front of the celebration yelling “Come on in! You are welcome and loved! We want to get to know you!”

The really neat thing about this story is that the father says “All that I have is yours.” Jesus is saying that to us too. But unlike the limited inheritance of the father in the story, there is no limit to what Jesus has to share. There is plenty to go around. We can welcome in every single person that ever lived and our inheritance as children of God will never run out.

So get out there. Invite people in. Love on them like there is no limit. Because there isn’t.

The Faithful Gift Of Love

The faithful love of the Lord never ends!
    His mercies never cease.
Great is his faithfulness;
    his mercies begin afresh each morning.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance;
    therefore, I will hope in him!”

The Lord is good to those who depend on him,
    to those who search for him.
So it is good to wait quietly
    for salvation from the Lord. Lamentations 3:22-26 (NLT)

Jeremiah was prolific. So many times in the book named after him it says “This is what the Lord says” or “The Lord gave another message to Jeremiah.” And the messages weren’t pretty. They were messages of punishment and destruction because the Israelites refused to obey God. They continued to do what they pleased, when they pleased without regard for his wishes.

Jeremiah was punished by the people for his prophecies. He was treated harshly and ostracized by his community. Still he continued to relay what God told him. I am sure a life like this would be very discouraging. He probably felt like he was walking an uphill battle. Over and over again he said the same thing only to be shut down.

And then, Israel was taken into captivity. The horror of every prediction was coming true. And Jeremiah was lamenting about this. In the middle of pouring his heart out, Jeremiah writes today’s Bible verse. He turns from looking at the doom and destruction and focuses on God and who he is. He stops looking at the chaos around him and focuses on the love and patience of his King.

Sometimes the holidays can be super stressful and depressing. So much activity; so many expectations to be met. Or, if your life is not in the place to where you can enjoy these things, it can be very discouraging. Take a step back. Remember who Jesus is and why he came. Remember the gift that we have all received because of that love. I know it may not immediately change our circumstances, but it will remind us what we are supposed to be celebrating. It will remind us where our focus needs to be.

Shields Up!

But you, God, shield me on all sides;
You ground my feet, you lift my head high;
With all my might I shout up to God,
His answers thunder from the holy mountain. Psalm 3:3-4 (MSG)

It’s Monday. Sometimes getting started on a Monday is something I want to avoid. You know, you have to revisit the things that you gladly left behind on Friday. It was such a pleasure to just forget them and think about something else for a change.

I love today’s text because it reminds us of a couple of things.

  1. No matter what you are facing, God is surrounding you with himself. He is shielding you and caring for you.

  2. He keeps our feet grounded where we need to be (instead of running away from what we don’t want to face.)

  3. He lifts our head to stand tall and in that motion, lifts our eyes to stay focused on him.

  4. When I feel overwhelmed and slipping, I can shout as loud as I want! I can cry out for help and…

  5. He answers me!

We forget that God is with us. That he is our Shield and our Sustainer. We forget that we are loved.

Remembering this today…..Everyone! Shields Up! Let’s go face the day!

Off To The Races

What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. Matthew 6:31-33 (MSG)

How many of you have seen God provide in the past? I am pretty sure every single person should have raised a hand on that one. He provides for us in obvious (food, shelter, clothing) and non-obvious (amazing functioning bodies) ways.

Yet, we (I) still worry about things. Maybe I don’t worry about food, or shelter or clothing, but I look at how things are going in my life and worry about why they are not going the way I want them to go. And then I can become anxious because I start thinking “What if they don’t go the way I want them to go?” And my mind is off to the races on a runaway horse without a bridle.

Of course, I pray about it and get some temporary relief but there is still a nagging voice in my head. This morning, I faced the nagging voice head on by asking myself and God some questions.

Why is it I feel that God will not answer my prayers?
Do I think that because he’s answered in the past that he won’t do it again?
Do I think I only get one answered prayer in a lifetime, a week or a day?
Did I forget how he has provided in the past and proven that his timing is perfect? (Obviously I did.)
Am I spending more time focused on what I want instead of who God is?
Do I trust in his promises?
And finally I got to…….

God, will you please forgive me?

I often wonder how God can so love someone with such fickleness. But then, there are those promises that deep in my core I do trust. I know he does and always will love me (and you). And that is going to be today’s focus.

Dead Wrong

But as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and he will stand upon the earth at last. Job 19:25 (NLT)

Last night I got together with some ladies and the conversation turned to a funeral that one had recently attended. She shared that the person who gave the service talked about how everyone should straighten up their life and get it together because they were all going to die.

I am sure those were not the exact words but that is what most people came walked away hearing. Do you think that is what people think of God? That he’s up there, looking for ways to punish us for our mistakes? Ready to pounce at the first flub up?

Job’s friends thought that. When he was going through some really tough life situations, they sat around and said things like:

You must have done something wrong and you get what you deserve.
Think about it….you messed up somewhere. Why else would this be happening to you?
God punishes people through bad circumstances.
This is always how it’s been Job, why do you think you are any different?

There is a lot of back and forth with Job’s friends saying these things and Job, although he is frustrated and is asking God for answers, keeps saying “No, no, no! This is not the God I know. He says that his Redeemer is alive and well and he will overcome.”

Satan has painted a picture of this kind of God. The God who is sitting in Heaven looking down and trying to catch us at something bad so he can swiftly exact punishment to teach us a lesson. This is not the God the Bible represents.

How precious is your unfailing love, O God! Psalm 36:7

But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. Psalm 86:15

The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. Zephaniah 3:17

God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. 1 John 4:9-10

This is the God we serve. He gave His Son so that we could come and live with him forever. When God looks at you, he sees Jesus.  When he looks at you, he is overcome with love. Where did this idea that God is only out to punish us come from?  Ask yourself. Who would benefit from your belief that God is bad?  There is only one.  And he’s wrong. Dead wrong.

What's The Word?

If you had to describe yourself in one word, what would it be? Take a minute…..

OK. Now, if you were to use one word to describe yourself as God sees you, what would it be? Often, how we see ourselves is so different than how God sees us. Let’s take a look at some of the ways God describes us.

His Child: But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. John 1:12

Friend: I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me. John 15:15

Free: So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free. John 8:36

New Creation: This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! 2 Corinthians 5:17

Forgiven: But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. 1 John 1:9

Faultless: Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. Ephesians 1:4

Chosen: Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Colossians 3:12

Safe: 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 8:39

His: But now, O Jacob, listen to the Lord who created you.
    O Israel, the one who formed you says,
“Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you.
    I have called you by name; you are mine. Isaiah 43:1

Loved: For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

Our description of ourselves is often different than who God says we are and who God says we can be. Today, put aside who the world says you are and remember how God sees you.