My Messy Life: God Loves me Anyway!

You know you messed up yesterday at work when you lashed out at your co-worker…..and remember that time you expressed a little road rage?……..recall that grudge you’re still holding against Jane?…..Oh and don’t forget the bad decision you made when you clearly knew God was against it…. And there’s the impure thought…..the unfair treatment to your spouse…the list could go on, and I’m sure you get the point.

We all mess up right? Right. Does it ever make you feel like you don’t deserve to be loved by God…..ever make you feel condemned during a church service…..feel unworthy and undeserving? I’ve felt that way before, but that is wrong thinking. The truth is, when we think that way WE are the ones placing conditions on God’s love. We are in essence telling HIM how to-OR-not to love us.

This kind of thinking can make you hold back during praise and worship service, keep you from getting involved in ministry, and sadly it can even keep people from attending church all together. All because we don’t feel like we deserve love when we have messed up so bad.

I have a surprise for you: God loves you anyway, whether you want Him to or not! As a society, we tend to place conditions on everything, including love. But God’s love for us is conditionLESS.

I’ve seen a lot of information out there that disagrees with me, so allow me a chance to explain. I’m not saying that you don’t have to repent of sin, and be saved to go to Heaven: you most certainly do. I’m also not saying that you can sin to your heart’s content and have God’s approval.

I’m simply saying there is NO condition to simply be loved by our Creator. Let’s look at the definition of unconditional love:  affection with no limits or conditions; complete love.

His Word tells us that He loved us when we were still sinners (Romans 5:8))! In other words, He loves us BEFORE we have a chance to get our messy lives ‘right.’ He loves us BEFORE we love Him (I John 4:19). Our sin….our mess ups from last week…..our stinky attitudes could never limit God from showering His perfect love on us. You want to know what that looks like: it looks like the cross, and it looks like an empty grave. He loves you to death!!

Let’s get something straight here. God doesn’t love us because we are lovable or good. God loves us simply because He Himself IS Love.

So go to church!
Sing loud during praise & worship!
Say Amen to the preacher!

Don’t let shame and condemnation cause you to disengage from God, from church, from people, from His plans for you! God loves you: messy life and all.

Love Is

I Corinthians 13

Love is valuable. Profitable. Obtainable and good.
Its meaning often misunderstood

Love is:

Gentle and calm, not agitated and loud
Humble when it could haughty and proud

Gracious, not thoughtless
Trustful, not jealous

Shows honor instead of scorn
Is modest, not tooting its own horn

Is generous instead of being greedy
Protects, instead of causing injury.

Endures when it could easily retreat
Doesn’t list wrongs on a balance sheet

Love is valuable. Profitable. Obtainable and true
Love never fails, even when I do

Love is:

God. And God is Love.

By Tracey Ray

Love Is Easier Said Than Done

I just want to slap some people across the face with my Bible, and pretend I was being Holy. Everyone is just not easy to love, yet we are called to love everyone. I’m not talking about just saying “I love you” as casually as a waiter says, “thank you and come again.” I’m talking about the kind of love that chooses the right reaction over, let’s say that Bible slapping thing.

Love is easier said than done. Even Jesus addresses the fact that we will encounter people that aren’t very lovable (Luke 6:32-36). Yet, He wants us to love them: it’s what will show the world WE are Christ followers (John 13:35).

This means I can’t go around slapping people in the face with Bible. Okay, so now what? Loving people can be hard. Loving your enemies can be even harder. But God has promised to equip us to do everything He has called us to do. And furthermore, HE provides the strength and ability. (Hebrews 13:21) (Philippians 2:13)

Love (and its variants) are mentioned a grand total of 554 times in the KJV, so it must be important, right? But why??? Contrary to Tina Turner, love is NOT a second hand emotion. Love was the only driving force behind Jesus providing Himself to be our sacrifice, so love isn’t a guideline for Him. IT’S WHO HE IS (1 John 4:8).  If God so loved the world (John 3:16), and He isn’t willing that any should perish (2 Peter 3:9), this means it’s up to us to spread the love folks.

Feeling like LOVE isn’t your calling? Not your gift? No worries. Remember you and I have been equipped to do this!!! Yes, we will make mistakes. Yes, we will role our eyes sometimes, and we might even walk the other way. Yes, some people are better at it than others. And No, God doesn’t expect us to get it perfect, but He does expect us to try, try, try again.

This loving people command can be a sloppy mess sometimes, but we can do it with the help of God. You may stumble over your own two feet sometimes, just like I do. You may even want to slap someone in the face with the Bible (Please don’t try this at home)!! Prepare yourself for the fumbles, fouls, blocks, and blitzes; but the game is not lost. Get back out on the field, and love again.

And one more thing, FORGIVE YOURSELF when you fail. God does.
He loves YOU more than life itself!!

Your Mother is a Heavenly Gift

The love of a mother
Forgives, restores, loves and heals
Guides us, protects us and fights off our fears

She defends us from danger that we don’t even see
That’s what mothers do for you and me

A mother’s love fierce and true
Comes to our defense and our rescue
She takes a stand when no others will
Not because we are right
But because her love is real

But WE. . .
We children both infant and old
Live out a different story rarely told

We love and hug our moms one minute and
Run from her instruction thinking she just doesn’t get it
We roll our eyes and try to be grown
Can’t wait to get out and live life on our own

That’s when it happens I suppose
The understanding, we’ve stepped on mama’s toes
But this woman so loyal and strong
Remains by our side no matter our wrong

This depth of compassion is hard to explain
Except when we look at our Savior slain
His love is one that never forsakes
His blood disregards and covers mistakes

Grace and mercy abundantly given
A gift to us from our Savior risen
His love manifest isn’t only eternal
His love is extended through the maternal

That’s right, your mother is a Heavenly gift
Bring her love and honor, and continue to uplift
Your encourager, your warrior and your best friend
Thank You God for a love that never ends.

by Tracey Ray

Parenting: The Struggle Is Real!

“He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.” Isaiah 40:11

That moment when you lay eyes on that precious life that’s been prepping your heart to love for months now…….priceless!! What you hold in your arms your greatest accomplishments to date. It’s one of the most memorable and anticipated life events that gets logged down in the annals of parental history. Ask any mother and no matter how old her child is, she is quick to point out birth weight stats, duration of labor and doctor names; the baby books come flying out along with all the details of surrounding events. Dads recall the fullness of pride and joy; what a monumental, unforgettable day! These memories have been permanently etched in a parent’s ‘proudest moments’ category. And so our journey begins, but never ends. Once a parent, always a parent.

It is now our responsibility to ensure the safety, good health and future prospering of our wonderful treasure. Some of our first major decisions involve cloth vs. disposables; room décor; which cute little outfit to wear, and which picture gets framed for the wall. But as our treasure grows, so does the weight of every decision we make. In other words, the struggle is real!!

Every day as a parent is uncharted territory, and our path is sometimes thorny. But our scripture reveals a comforting truth to us, not only is He caring for our children, but our Heavenly Father (The Shepherd) is helping US as parents! He has not left us to fend for ourselves. When you don’t know what to do, and you’ve no clue what decision to make, just “ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it [wisdom] will be given to you (James 1:5). If God isn’t going to blame you for not knowing all the answers, stop blaming yourself. Parenting isn’t about perfection. We are going to make mistakes, so go ahead and let yourself off the hook right now, and don’t be afraid to seek His guidance. He’s waiting to give it liberally!

When my children were born, I was so thankful that my mama was there to help me. I soaked up her wisdom and encouragement like a dry sponge dropped in a bucket of water. Spiritually, God is our parent; our Father!! He is there to do for me spiritually what my mom did for me in the natural, because I am His daughter! Dad, you are His son. “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!”(1 John 3:1)

Parents, we will not be discouraged. Our Father is helping us to parent our children the way He parents us. He loves us, guards and defends us, oversees, provides and guides us. We can *do* this parenting thing through Christ who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13), and has equipped us with everything we need for the task (Hebrews 13:21)!

 

It’s Not How Well We Love Him, It’s How Well HE Loves Us

We often feel like failures; we fall short and we know it.  We may not read His Word often enough, pray enough, go to church enough, love others enough, or tithe enough. We design of list of conditions, obligations or actions that we must DO to remain in God’s good graces.  In our minds, if we DO these things without fail, not only do we feel we have earned the right to approach the throne of God in time of need.

Don’t get me wrong, those things I listed should be an integral part of our Christian lives, but they are not requirements to receive God’s love. As a matter of fact, there are NO requirements in order for God to love us. The truth is, we can never DO enough to earn God’s love. God specifically tells us that there’s nothing we can do to earn His love or keep it. It’s a gift through His grace, and has nothing at all to do with anything we could offer (Ephesians 2:8-9).

God’s love toward us is free of conditions and parameters. God didn’t resolve to love us when we decided we should stop sinning; when we decided going to church would be a good idea; when we came up with a list of things to DO.

We didn’t decide anything: God did!

Here’s what God decided to do: “But God clearly shows and proves His own love for us, by the fact that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8) . Still sinners. Did you catch that?  This means God chose to love us before WE even made a decision about God!!!

Let that sink in.

We get to make a lot of decisions in this life. But we don’t get to decide whether or not God loves us: He decided that long before we were born. His love is divine and transcends limits and conditions.

Let’s stop adding conditions to an unconditional love.

There’s nothing we could do to make Him love us more, and there’s nothing we could do to cause Him to love us any less.  It’s not how well WE love Him, it’s how well HE loves us.

 

How the Grudge Stole Christmas

“It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.” This Charles Dickens quote just about sums up ANY holiday season.  And does this response sound familiar to anyone, “Yeah, everything was great EXCEPT…..”I’ve said it before, and will probably say it again.

I think there will always be exceptions to the perfect holiday. Everything was great except: my kid was sick, my car broke down, my flight was cancelled, my ordered  gift didn’t arrive in time, my bonus wasn’t given this year, my funds were running low, my family  member said some very hurtful things…… my……oh my…… oh my! Surely the worst of times.

There are exceptions or special conditions to nearly everything: contracts, grammar rules, laws, warranties, etc. I’m about to shock some of you with what I’m going to say next, but keep reading all the way through. There are even exceptions or conditions to Salvation: we must repent of our sins, and believe that Jesus paid for our sins on the cross.

But there are a two things in scripture where “no exceptions” apply.

  1. God commands us to love without exception (Mark 12:30-31)
  2. God commands us to forgive without exception (Mark 11:25)

In the words of my friend Scooby-Do, “Ruh-Roh!!” No exceptions! No conditions! No buts! No what ifs! God wants us to love others the same way He loves us. He loved us when we were sinners, when we were not lovable, not nice, not going to church, not living right, not saved, and here’s the big one: He love us when we did not love Him.  Now that’s unconditional love. That’s God NOT holding grudges.

We didn’t do one thing to earn His love OR His forgiveness, yet He freely gives it. Without exceptions. No strings attached. No grudges.  He already loves us, we don’t have to ask for that. But we do need to ask for forgiveness, of which He immediately gives upon request.  1John 1:9 tells us that. And on top of that, He will forgive us over and over again. He is faithful to His love for us. He’s committed. He’s fully invested.

Are you seeing what I’m seeing? That love and forgiveness are like a light switch and a light bulb. What’s the point in having one and not the other? We are to love and forgive each other the way He does for us.

About right now, I’m sure some ‘unforgivable person’ pops up in your mind. And you’re convinced that if you could tell me your story that I would understand why you cannot love them or forgive them.

I was once that person. I had the “unforgivable person” in my life that had unfairly and unjustly hurt me purposely for years. Yet God patiently taught me how to forgive the unforgivable person. No buts. No exceptions. No excuses. No grudges.  But, that’s a story for a later time.

Holidays have a way of dredging up those family members and friends that we would rather not see. They challenge our love walk, and the sight of them reminds us of unhealed and unforgiven hurts. We can’t love them until we forgive them. And we can’t forgive them until we love them. Let this holiday season be one of healing, love and forgiveness. Don’t let your grudge steal Christmas. Ask God to help you love and forgive without exceptions. He will supernaturally equip you.

CLICK these passages to learn more about what God has to say about love and forgiveness.

Mathew 6:14-15

Luke 6:27-38   

1 John 4:7-11  

1 Corinthians 13  

John 3:16 

Ephesians 4:30-32

Acts 3:19

 

Out of The Shadows & Into The Light

I’m blessed to know Amy Beth Sharp, an awesome woman of God that I’ve had the privilege to attend church with when I was a child.  I saw her Facebook post, and immediately knew I wanted to share this, and she was gracious enough to give me her permission. Enjoy her story.

“I was headed to the trash with this Christmas cactus one day last spring. It had sat on my piano for four years: a pathetic, withered, anemic-looking twig. I often failed to water it (hey, the word “cactus” is in its name!) and probably never fed it. I never once googled for information on caring for it.

Instead of throwing it away, I sat it in the shade of my front porch and gave it a big drink of water. In a day or two, I was surprised to see how perky and alive it looked! Within another few days new shoots were growing on it, and over the summer it quadrupled in size! Optimistically, I hoped it would bloom this year. Sure enough, little pink buds formed at the end of each frond. Today, it has full blooms on it.

I wonder how many people around us are like my plant? So many are sad, undernourished, underappreciated, ignored and out of place. It took so little to take my plant from dying to thriving!

I just brought it out of the shadows, into the light, and gave it what it needed.

It’s so easy to help people along their way. Kindness, mercy, a smile, respect, courtesy, acceptance and love are like water and sunshine to hurting people we rub shoulders with every day.

God has given us the responsibility to spread His message of love and to tell of the abundant life available to us through Jesus. Go help the people you rub shoulders with to blossom!”

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I love the analogy Amy gave us.  And as I began to meditate on this, I began to think about this in a different way. It made me consider how we may prematurely cast aside marriages, family relationships, jobs, friends or ministries because WE think they aren’t thriving. You may even be ready to give up on yourself. There could be a situation or circumstance that you feel will never get better, and you’re ready to give up.

Whatever it is that you are prepared to discard, allow God to shed some light upon it. His Presence changes everything. Allow Him to have His way in every area of your life, because He truly cares. Don’t give up just because your circumstances look grim and fruitless. There is beauty inside, waiting to blossom from the healing power of God’s wonderful light and grace. Allow God to bring you out of the shadows, into His light. He will give you what you need.

Psalms 34:18        Psalms 147:3        Ecclesiastes 3:11       I Peter 2:9     Philippians 1:6