On Driving…

I was fully equipped to successfully drive from point A to point B.
Full tank of gas? Check.
Fully operational GPS? Check.
Food and drinks? Check.
Reliable car? Check.
And even a paper road map to refer to if the GPS got confusing.
Ready to go!

And at first, the drive was awesome.
Sunshine.
Just-right temperatures.
Great music on the radio.
And even light traffic.
Awesome!

Until it wasn’t.
I could see storm clouds gathering in the distance.
And I really hoped that the road would curve away from them somewhere up ahead.
But it became obvious as I went that I was headed right for them.
And sure enough, the storm hit.
Or rather, I drove directly into the storm.
It was unavoidable on my route.
Dark, dark clouds.
Thunder.
Lightning.
Driving rain.
Even hail.
Really scary stuff.

Made it through that.
But then the night rolled in.
And there was no moon.
Cloudy skies.
And a pitch-black highway.
I couldn’t see light from anywhere.
No cars ahead.
None coming toward me.
Just my headlights trying to pierce the darkness.
And I got scared. Again.
The thoughts started swirling.
What if I get lost?
What if my car breaks down?
What if my GPS fails?
What if I can’t read the map?
What if the road curves and I can’t see it?
What if I crash into someone else?
What if a deer or something else jumps out in front of me?
What if…?
What if…?

So.
Here’s the thing: I just made all of that up.
Sort of.
That was a composite of many driving experiences through the years.
Darkness.
Fog.
Storms.
Icy conditions.
Curvy roads.
Other drivers’ foolishness.
I am sure you have experienced similar conditions.

I prefer sunny, perfect-conditions driving, don’t you?
Radio on.
Windows down.
Clear roads ahead.

But that is (usually) not life.

Life is full of the unexpected.
Sometimes I see the storms coming.
Other times they suddenly seem to come out of nowhere.
The fog can also show up without warning.
One minute the road ahead is clear.
The next it is covered in pea-soup clouds.
All of those hazards are out there.
And may suddenly appear in my life.

When they do, I grip the wheel with white-knuckles.
My stress levels soar.
And my faith plummets.

I completely forget.
I forget who I am.
A beloved daughter of the King of Heaven, a princess of the realm, adopted and cherished.

I forget Whose I am.
That my Daddy is Sovereign, Lord over all, in charge at all times and never, ever unaware of my circumstances.

I forget the equipment He has given me to navigate my life.
A full tank of gas that is continuously replenished from His own supply. Or, as Paul put it in Ephesians 1, the same power that raised Jesus from the dead is at work in me.
A fully-functioning, never-wrong, always-connected GPS also known as the Holy Spirit of the Living God dwelling inside of me. He will always guide, always comfort, always correct. I just have to ask.
A full supply of food and drink, always available from the Bread of Life Himself, the Living Water that always satisfies.
And even a paper road map, the Word of God. Always there to give direction. Always there to confirm the GPS, even as the GPS confirms it.

I forget that my Heavenly Dad is the One who started me on this road and asked me to head for this destination.

I forget that He is in charge of the wind and the waves – and fog and ice and thunder and lightning – Sovereign over all of my circumstances, with every event in my life, good or bad, happening only by His permission.

This terrible amnesia of the soul leads me to panic.
So that Fear grips the wheel and begins to make the decisions.
Pride slithers in and urges me to figure out a way out of the storm by myself.
Doubt climbs in the back seat and begins to whisper lies about God’s character in my ear.
“If He loved you, He wouldn’t allow the storms.”
“He’s playing with you. He must not be as good as He says He is.”
“Some plans He has for you, huh? Is this really where you want to be?”

And sometimes I let them play in my car – in my head and my heart – for far too long.
Be inevitably, without fail, my Dad shows up at just the right time.
With His strong right arm He kicks them all to the curb.
And then He takes me in His arms and reminds me of Truth.
That I am His.
And He is mine.
That He has never once failed.
And that He never will.
That He sacrificed His one and only Son in my place.
So that He can come and hold me close.
And get me back on the road.
Even as the storm rages.

And I hope that the next time the fog rolls in or the rain lashes down, I remember sooner Who He is.
And all He has done.
I remember to use the resources He has given me: Himself. His Word. And even other drivers.
That instead of cowering, I courageously praise.
Instead of trembling in fear of the storm, I tremble in awe of Who He is.
Instead of Pride, Fear and Doubt taking over, I humble myself before Him, seeking His help and fully trusting Him to keep His promises.

That way, regardless of the weather, I can safely accomplish all that He has asked me to do.
Remembering it is all His to begin with.
His car.
His driver.
His equipment.
His agenda.

Remembering that this is the only sane way to survive this life.
And the best way to drive through it all.

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Weary.

Are you weary?
I know I am.

2018 has been a hard, hard year in my life in so many ways.
Struggles
Trials
Unexpected circumstances.
And the ongoing issues that never seem to go away.
Prayers that seem to be unanswered.
Needs that feel like Black Holes in the Universe, draining away every resource.
Infighting.
Out-fighting.
And the war within myself against sin, a bad attitude, complaining, worry, temptation – the list is long.
And I am tired of fighting.
Worn out by the never-ending struggles.

I am exhausted.

I went into my time with God this morning feeling the weight of all of this.
So very, very tired.
Physically
Emotionally
Spiritually

But then He showed up.
And He reminded me that is not my job to fix even one issue in my life, let alone all of them.

I am weary because of the struggles.
But more so, I am weary because I keep trying to fix them.
Be all that I need to be.
Do all that I need to do.
Change all that needs to be changed.

Like it all depends on me.
Which it never does.

Like this all must get fixed through my efforts.
Which is never my job.
It is His.

My job is to abide.
Stay connected to Him.
Walk in close fellowship.
Treat prayer as breathing – inhaling and exhaling my needs but also my thankfulness.
Hanging out with Him.
Inviting Him into every area.
Every thought.
Every circumstance.
Finding out what He thinks by staying in His Word.
Filling my life with the people, books, music, and media that exalt Him.
Walking arm in arm with my Savior
Being led by His Spirit and not my own wisdom.
Trusting Him with ALL of my heart and never – not even once – leaning on my own understanding.
Acknowledging Him in everything I do. And say. And think.
Resting in the promise that HE is the guide.
The Good Shepherd
The Light
My Shield
My Fortress
My Strong Tower
My Deliverer

And that HE will be the One to guide me in the best pathways for my life.
Clearing obstacles.
Giving me the strength for my day.
Giving me wisdom when I ask for it.
Protecting me.
Comforting me.
Cherishing me as His beloved daughter.
Delighting in me simply because I am His.
And He is mine.

What have I done to deserve such lavish love?
Nothing.
All of my righteousness, all the good I bring to the table, is nothing by disgusting, vile, filthiness compared to the goodness and Who He is.
And yet, He still wants me.
He wants to spend time with me.
He wants to speak to me through His Word.
By His Spirit.
Through the voice of brothers and sisters in Christ.
Through music.
Through the wonder of His creation.

I am weary.
But He never is.
I am weak.
But He is not.
I am blind in so many ways.
He sight is perfect.
I am helpless in the face of the messes, the problems, the circumstances.
But He is all powerful.
I am clueless about so many things.
But He is all knowing.
I regret the past and fear the future.
But He is the Alpha and Omega of all things, the beginning and the end. Neither of my past or my future are surprises to Him.
I fail so often. Him. Others. Myself.
And yet His mercies are new every single morning. There is always grace, always forgiveness, always a fresh start.

The world says, “God helps those who help themselves.”
He says, “Humble yourself before Me. Acknowledge that I am God and you are not. Then throw all of your cares, concerns, and struggles on Me. Because I love you. And then watch what I will do.” (I Peter 5)

The world says, “Fight for what you believe in!”
He says, “Let Me fight for you. Through you. With My armor on and My Spirit in you, you cannot be defeated.” (Exodus 14, Ephesians 6)

The world says, “Pull yourself up by your bootstraps.”
He says, “Apart from Me, you can do nothing. In Me, you can do all things.” (John 15, Philippians 4)

Are you weary, too?
Let me encourage you to lay it ALL down.
Run to God.
Pour it all out.
Be brutally honest.
He can take it.
And then throw yourself into His everlasting arms.
You don’t have to do it alone.
You don’t have to do the work, period.

You have to be available.
Willing.
Surrendered.

And then you have to abide.
Reading the Word.
Praying.
Praising.

But none of the issues – problems, trials, temptations – rest on your shoulders to solve.

And letting go of them – that is where real rest is found.
In the arms of the One Who died for You.
In the embrace of the One who spoke through Isaiah, saying,
“He (God) gives strength to the weary,
And to him who has no might He increases power.
Even youths grow weary and tired,
And vigorous young men stumble badly,
But those who wait for the Lord [who expect, look for, and hope in Him]
Will gain new strength and renew their power;
They will lift up their wings [and rise up close to God] like eagles [rising toward the sun];
They will run and not become weary,
They will walk and not grow tired.” (Isaiah 40:29-31, Amplified)

May you run to the One Who promises to renew your strength.
May you find new rest, renewed energy and unending endurance by letting go.
And may you be able to keep running, keep walking, keep being faithful.

It’s worth it.
Because He is worth it.

¿Quiero o Necesito?

I want.
In Spanish, “Yo quiero.”

I need.
In Spanish, “Yo necesito.”

I keep mixing them up.
I am using a great app to learn Spanish. As part of the instruction, it gives me sentences to translate into English.
And almost inevitably, I sub in “need” for “want”.

I know the difference.
I can even see the word “necessary” in “necesito”.
But I still mix them up!

Hmmm…

Maybe God is trying to tell me something.
Maybe that is a spotlight shining on my heart.

I mix up wants and needs all the time.

I want a new outfit.
Do I need one?
Absolutely not.
I have a closet full of clothes.
And I have friends across the world who have only one outfit, or perhaps two.
Why do I need so many more?

I want the newest gizmo, gadget or device that is guaranteed to make my life easier.
Do I need it?
Absolutely not.
I have learned that gizmos break, gadgets fail and devices wear out – and that “easier” isn’t usually all that great – it is just different.

I want to have a different body, one without flaws, illnesses or things I dislike.
Do I need one?
Not really.
I have one waiting for me in heaven. That should be good enough.
I can work towards the best health possible for me here on earth.
But reaching some ideal “want” keeps my gaze firmly fixed on me.
While the frailties of this body keep my gaze focused on my Heavenly Father.

I want perfect relationships, across the board.
Do I need them?
Maybe.
But they aren’t going to happen in this life because I am one of the parties involved.
And I am a sinner. Just like them. Just like you.
Under construction.
Imperfect.
And yet dearly loved by my Creator.

Wants vs. Needs
The great tug at my soul.
Probably at yours as well.

So what’s a girl (or a guy) to do?

I have found it is about perspective.

First, the eternal one.
Choosing to remember that this life is brief. Fleeting. Fragile.
And that my real life will begin when I meet Jesus face to face.
When I keep that in the forefront, it is easier to keep wants in check as I focus on what the Father declares to be needs.

I want to be comfortable.
The world NEEDS to hear about Jesus.

I want to follow my own agenda.
I NEED to be a part of what God is doing in this world because, long before I knew Him, He designed good works for me to do. (Ephesians 2:10)

I want to lean on my own understanding of the world, how it works and what it needs.
But because God is at work in the world and somehow wants me to be a part of it, I NEED to “study and do (my) best to present (myself) to God approved, a workman [tested by trial] who has no reason to be ashamed, accurately handling and skillfully teaching the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15, AMP)

I want to run ahead, lag behind or generally wander.
But I NEED to be faithful to the One Who is The Faithful and True, standing firm in the trials, clinging to His hand, walking in step with the Good Shepherd.

Those are my needs.
And He has promised to supply the physical ones when I make the spiritual ones my priority.
Jesus put it this way: “But first and most importantly seek (aim at, strive after) His kingdom and His righteousness [His way of doing and being right—the attitude and character of God], and all these things will be given to you also.” (Matthew 6:33, AMP)
What are all the “things” he mentions?
Food. Clothing. Shelter.
The stuff of life.
The things I need.
The things I keep mixing up.

Keeping the eternal perspective puts the “quiero” and “necesito” in their proper places.

But there is another perspective as well.
It is the global one.

When my wants rise up to drown out all other voices, I only have to call to mind what I have seen with my own two eyes around the world.
My friend in PNG who walks miles to work each day, crossing a river with no bridge to come and cheerfully serve.
And my other friends in PNG who gave up life here with all its comforts so they could bring the Word of Life to her there.
My friends in Guatemala who live without electricity, hot water, indoor plumbing – and yet proudly show me their home when we come to visit.
And another friend in Guatemala who gave up her retirement plans to provide education, food and help to hundreds of women and children.
My friend in Southeast Asia who cheerfully lives in a foreign land, among dangerous people, in a dangerous time simply so she can translate the Word of God into the heart language of the people who do not yet have it.

And those are just a few of my friends around the world.
Friends who have a very different definition of “want” vs. “need”.
Some because of where they were born.
And some because they have chosen to lay down what we call “needs” – things that are really simply comforts – in order to spread the love of God to ALL people.

They have taken to heart Jim Elliot’s words:
“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”
I cannot keep the things I so desperately want to have.
One day, everything is going to burn.
This body is going to rot.
And all my possessions will be dust as well.

But the people?
The people are eternal.
They will live forever with God.
Or without Him.
And to some extent, their eternal destination depends on my faithfulness to God’s command to “Go into all the world.” (Matthew 28)
If you are a Christ-follower, it also depends on you.

On us figuring out the “quiero” and “necesito” of life.
We have been called to share what we have.
What we know.
The grace we have experienced.
We in the U.S. have been given MUCH.
And much is required.

It is required for me to keep my “quiero” and my “necesito” aligned with the Word of God.

Keeping the eternal perspective.
About myself.
But also about “them”.
All the “thems” across the globe who need to hear the life-saving message of grace.

If you have never done it, consider visiting a place outside of our soil to get a taste of life in another world.
But even if you can’t visit PNG, Southeast Asia or Guatemala (or a host of other places), ask God to help you to redefine “want” and “need” for yourself. Ask Him to show you. He promises to give you wisdom when you ask for it. (James 1:5)

And when you apply that wisdom, you can then give of your time, talent and treasure to what He is accomplishing across the world.
Starting with what He wants to accomplish in you. And through you.

On Kitty Cats, Lizards and Facing Temptation…

Thankfully, I didn’t step on it.
But it was a near miss.
I saw a glint of metallic blue in my all-tan sandal and paused, my foot hovering.

And sure enough, when I picked up my sandal to investigate, out fell the lizard carcass.

Sigh.

It is a never-ending battle in the summer at my house that goes something like this:

Lizards: It’s hot out. That little crack looks like it leads to shade.
(Enter the house.)
Oh, so cool in here…yay!

Lucy and Liza (AKA, The Cats): (awakening from a dead sleep)
Sniff! Sniff! New toy!!!!
(And they take off for whichever door the lizard entered)

Thus proceeds the game. At least, that is how the cats see it. A fun game of trap-the-lizard-then-let-him-go, trap him again, and let him go – until the lizard finally succumbs to all this “fun”, curls up and dies.

If I am home, I do my best to intervene. I am not fond of the creatures but they do eat bugs – and no one should die the death they are facing.

So I jump into action, armed with a small glass bowl and a lot of yelling at the cats.
I try to catch the silly things under the bowl without harming them and then carefully slide a book or a folder underneath so I can take them back outside. I succeed about 75% of the time. But not one of them has said thank you!

OK, no. I don’t expect the lizards to say “thanks”.

But I do wish they would post some sort of reptilian warning outside my doors, telling others that this is NOT a safe place to find shade.

And this morning, as I rejoiced at the fact that I did not add insult to injury by squishing the dead lizard with my bare foot, I was reminded that I am much like my reptilian buddies.

Life gets “hot”.
Pressures rise.
Troubles increase.
And I look for escape.

I see a shadowy corner over there that looks promising. A way to escape?
And I run toward it, not recognizing the danger that lurks within.

For me, that escape might mean reading a book I know is not going to lead my thoughts where they need to go.
Or watching a “mindless” TV show that I know makes the Lord cringe.

Sometimes it is “sharing” with a friend – which is another name for complaining or gossiping or simply being very ungrateful.

At times it is comforting my emotions with a bowl of something sweet and creamy.

Running from the heat, straight into the jaws of my enemy.

For others, that shadowy corner that beckons looks very different.
Perhaps it involves a substance. A bottle of wine. A small pill. A six-pack.
Or maybe it is shopping. Finding that perfect “something” that will address the hole in the heart and the pain that lingers.
For some it is a codependent relationship. Or mindless sex. Or pornography.
The list is long and very varied.

We all have them.
The default temptations that come our way when we are under stress.
And they all – ALL – lead to death.
The “not-so-bad” ones that our culture accepts.
And the “really-bad” ones that are still frowned upon.
We look for escape from pain – and we run towards the shadows where the enemy of our souls lurks, waiting to pounce.
Because, for him, it is a game.
He could care less how he throws you off track.
“Harmless” TV or a deadly affair.
A “mindless” book or racking up debt far greater than you can bear.
It doesn’t matter.

Because you are not the One he ultimately wants to hurt.
You are simply a pawn in the game.
His primary objective is to hurt the One who loves you best.
And he knows that hurting you will hurt the One who made you. Who loves you. Who died for you.

I wish the lizards had enough sense to not come in.
And then, when they do come in, I wish they would simply go back out the way they came.
Retrace their steps, finding freedom easily as they slip back through that crack.
But they don’t.
Instead, they panic. They race. And eventually they die.

I wish I had enough sense to always avoid those shadowy places.
To “flee temptation” as Paul advised Timothy. (I Timothy 6:11)
But when I don’t, when I slip towards that dark, shadowy, cool-looking crack, I have a guarantee that my lizard friends don’t have.
A promise in Scripture from God Himself that Paul wrote to the Corinthians:
“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”
God WILL provide a way out.
Every time.
The key is to not panic.
But to instead cry out to the Lover of my soul, the King of my heart, my Creator, my Abba.
Choosing to remember that He is God.
And I am not.
Choosing to believe that He is good.
Even when it doesn’t feel like it.
Choosing to believe He can make ALL the difference.
Even when my heart cries out for that which I know is wrong.

“Show me the way out, Abba, please!”
And He does.
Because He said He will.
Every time.
When I listen and choose to remember, choose to obey.

One last thought:

There is a sure-fire way to avoid heading into those shadowy places altogether, even when the pressure feels like more than can be born.
David wrote about it in Psalm 119:143. I love how it is translated in the New Living Translation:
“As pressure and stress bear down on me, I find joy in your commands.”
David knew that pressure would come.
It is not “IF” they bear down on me.
It is “AS” they happen.
But he also knew how to deal with the pressures and stress.
He CHOSE to “find joy in (God’s) commands.”
Well, most of the time he did.
And when he did not, he blew it big.
Thank God for forgiveness!

Other translations say, “Your commands are my delight” (Holman Christian Standard)
In other words, when David felt the heat growing, he turned to the Word of God.
Not just to read it.
But to revel in it.
Delighting in God’s directives.
Because he knew they were the only path to safety.
The Living Word
Who is also known as Living Water.
So instead of buckling under the heat and running toward shadowy places of “comfort”, he found joy in the Word of God.
Resting in the Truth.
Relishing God’s commands.
Knowing that they are the way of life.
Even when the cool shadows seem to promise much better.
The fact is those temptations lead directly to the enemy of our souls, who Peter called a “roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour”. (I Peter 5:8)

I am certain that there are more lizard carcasses in my future.
But I am also hopeful that I will be able to save some of them from being played to death by my kitties.

I am certain that there are more temptations in my future – and in yours.
But I am more than hopeful – I am confident – that the Lord will save us both every time if we will simply cry out to Him for help. And then do what He says.

He’s promised.
And He never lies.

On Stooping…

The man on the right is our friend Sam.
He was one of the translators on our recent trip to Guatemala.
Originally from Bolivia, he is 6’2”, a natural athlete and very strong.
He towers over most Guatemalans.
And especially Pablo.

Pablo, on the left, is small for his 17-years.
He is completely non-verbal and has many special needs.
He is defenseless in a harsh, cruel world.
But for the grace of God and the love of his Mama, he would now be dead.

As you can see, Pablo had a need.
His shoe was untied.
He didn’t recognize the need – that kind of thing is beyond him.
But Sam saw the need.
He coaxed Pablo toward him.
And then knelt to do what needed to be done.

This picture brings tears to my eyes.
Sam has the physical strength to be a brute.
But he is gentle with the hurting, those in need, the most vulnerable.
He has the height to be intimidating, especially to the children.
But they cling to him like a tree-trunk they are desperate to climb because they intuitively know that he won’t hurt them.
He has all the abilities he needs to walk through this life without seeing those in need.
But he notices.
In this case, he noticed the untied shoe.
The danger it could be.
And the fact that Pablo could not solve the problem on his own.

Do you see the parallels?
You and I, we are just like Pablo.
Broken.
Unable.
And mostly clueless of our own need.
We are in danger most of the time and don’t even know it.
Sam is like Jesus.
Full of strength.
Full of ability.
Full of power.

And yet he stoops.
Just as Jesus stooped down from heaven’s throne to become a baby in the manger.
To meet the woman at the well where she was.
Just as He stooped down in the dirt to make mud to heal the blind man’s eyes.
And to touch the leper.
To lift the hand of the once-dead girl.
And welcome the children to His open arms.

He has all the power of the universe at His disposal and deserves every bit of praise.
He is the Creator of all things and the glue that holds all of them together. (Colossians 1)
But He laid all of that aside, stooping low, for much more than an un-tied shoe.

Paul spoke about Jesus this way in his letter to the Philippians, chapter 2:
Though he was God,
he did not think of equality with God
as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
he took the humble position of a slave
and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
he humbled himself in obedience to God
and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

Jesus stooped low in order to be lifted high on a cross.

And because He did, Sam has been given the same heart.
A heart that is fully capable of being a warrior, strong and fierce, in the face of evil.
But a heart that is humble enough to stoop in the dirt to tie a young man’s shoe.
Not because he is so wonderful.
But because His Savior is.
He has many wonderful qualities.
But it is the Lord in him that you see in this picture.

And the question is this:
If you are a Christ-follower, are you willing to stoop?
Are you willing to lay down your pride, bending low for the sake of another?
Are you willing to open your heart to love the unlovely?
The broken?
The hurting?

What about those who are in sin?
Those who defy God?
Those who are rebels at heart?
Will you stoop to love them, too?
Because that is what Jesus did.
“While we were yet sinners, Christ died.” (Romans 5:6)
While I was still in rebellion, He held out His arms for me to come into them.
While I was still far off, He ran to meet me.
Long before I was born, He stooped down low to make a way for me to be lifted into His arms.

There is no such thing as too-broken before the Lord.
No sin too great to be forgiven.
No hurt too big to be healed.
No rebel so far gone that they cannot be redeemed.

Christ stooped for you.
Will you kneel in the dirt for Him?

Imagine what a world it would be if everyone who claimed His name knelt in humility to serve another.
Regardless of who they are.
Or how they are broken.
What if the world truly saw us loving others – outsiders – as Jesus did?
And what if they saw us doing the even harder job – loving each other as Jesus did?

What a world that would be!

Will you stoop?

You. Are. Loved.

A simple message today: You. Are. Loved.

You probably read that and mentally nodded your head in agreement.
An intellectual understanding that God loves you.

But has that message seeped all the way from your head to your heart?
Do you really KNOW that you are loved?
Accepted unconditionally by the God of heaven?
As you are.
Now.
Today.
This minute.

You are not too much for God to handle.
Whatever message you hear in your head about yourself is not how God sees you.
You are not too loud for Him.
Too fat for Him.
Too bossy for Him.
Too OCD for Him.
Too disorganized for Him.
Too passive for Him.
Too thin for Him.
Too quiet for Him.

You have a word or words in your mind that fill this blank: “I am too ______…”
And if you are honest, that sentence would end with “…to be loved by God or anyone else.”

“I am too timid to be loved by God or anyone else.”
“I am too much of a flake to be loved by God or anyone else.”
“I am too much of a potty-mouth to be loved by God or anyone else.”

And the list goes on.
We all have them.
Insecurities.
Labels.
Negatives.
Sinful choices.
Sinful patterns.
Things that fill us with shame.
Things we try our best to hide from others.
Past sins.
Present struggles.

Words that cut.
Ones that we often don’t even realize are there.
Words that have become the background music in the soundtrack of our lives.

But my message today is this:
No matter who you are.
No matter what you have or have not done.
No matter what someone else thinks of you.
No matter what you think of yourself.
No matter what is happening or not happening in your life today.
No matter your past.
No matter your present.
No matter what, who, when or why – YOU. ARE. LOVED.

Because God’s love for you in not based in YOUR performance.
It is based in His.
Who He is.
His character.
His heart.
His goodness.
His God-ness.

I have held many, many babies in my arms through the years.
And never once have I looked at that child and quantified whether or not they could be loved.
“Oh, you are not cute enough to be loved.”
“You are not quiet enough to be loved.”
“You are too fat to be loved.”
“You are too broken to be loved.”

Nope.
When you and I hold a baby and love on them – especially a baby who is family – that welling up in your heart is pure, unconditional love.
They have done nothing to earn it – because they cannot.
They are not capable of doing anything to earn your love or respect or caring or interest.
They just are.
A new child. Dearly loved.

You are NOT CAPABLE of doing anything to make God love you.
Therefore, you do not have to be any sort of “enough” to be loved.
You are loved simply because He made you, a child in His arms.
End of story.

In our brokenness, we find that hard to believe.
Hard to accept.
Because we DO love conditionally.
All the time.

But God IS love.
And He chooses love.
For the most wicked sinner.
And the humblest saint.
They are both dearly loved by the God who made them.
Simply because they carry His imprint.

If you ever fully accept how much God loves you, you will be transformed.
You will face every circumstance of your life differently.
You will stand strong, even when the world is crumbling around you.
You will be filled with joy, even as you weep in this broken world.
You will walk with your head held high, even in the midst of your harshest critics.
You will not be consumed with what others think, but instead will live to please the Audience of One.
You will find temptations will lessen.
Sin will become less attractive.
Fear will lose its grip.
Worry will as well.
Shame will not consume you.
And death will not scare you.

Because you are loved.
God delights in you.
He loves spending time with you.
He longs to hear your voice directed His way.
He loves it when you say His name in praise.
And He loves it when you call out to Him for help.
You are never too much for Him.
And you are never not enough.

Here’s proof:
When Jesus walked from the courtroom to Skull Hill, a guard walked in front of him with his crimes listed on a placard for all to see.
That sign said, “The King of the Jews”.
But what it should have said was, “He dies in the place of Kathy, for the following sins: worry, lying, lust…” And the list would go on and on. In fact, it wouldn’t fit on the sign!

He died in my place.
Before I was born.
Before I committed one of those acts.
He knew.
He knew all I would be.
And all I would not be.
He knew all the ways I would revile His authority and spit in His face.
He knew all the ways I would give in to temptation and break His heart.
He knew how my wiring would get me into trouble.
He knew all the things I should do that I don’t.
And still He stumbled forward on that road, having taken the beatings I deserved, to be crucified in my place.
I didn’t ask Him to do it.
He chose.
Because He loves me.

Now do yourself a favor.
Picture that scene.
The narrow streets of Jerusalem filled with jeering crowds.
The women who loved Him, following Him weeping.
His back bent under the cross beam.
The crown of thorns pressed into his skull.
His clothing soaked with blood.
Four soldiers surrounding him as he walked, ready to land a hard blow if he stopped or tried to escape.
And the sign-bearing soldier in the front of the procession, clearing the streets.
And on that sign, your name.
“He dies for the sin of ____, which are these:…”
And the horrible list.

And because of that scene, here is how God sees you today if you have accepted the free gift of salvation:
Covered.
Wiped clean.
Every sin paid for.
Deleted from the mind of God when you asked for forgiveness.

You, made whole in His sight.
Clothed in spotless white.
Made gorgeous by love.

Yes, you.
YOU are loved.
As Michael Card sings, “God cannot love you more and He will not love you less.”
You. Are. Loved.

What Do YOU See?

They saw the same thing: giants, walled cities, and enemies that outnumbered them.
When the spies returned to Moses from scoping out the Promised Land, ten of them said, “Nope, we can’t do this. We’re doomed.”
Two of them said, “God’s got this. We CAN’T do this. But HE can.” (Numbers 13)

They saw the same thing: the host of the wedding had run out wine long before the celebration ended – a major disgrace.
The organizer of the event panicked, wondering what to do.
Mary said, “Talk to my boy and do whatever He tells you to do. He’s got this.” (John 2)

They saw the same thing: a hungry crowd, late in the day, with no way to feed them.
The disciples said, “We have to send them away.”
Jesus said, “You feed them”.
They said, “That would take half a year’s wages!”
But when He looked at the little boy’s lunch, He saw abundance. And He fed 5,000 men plus their families with just a few buns and some fish. (Mark 6)

They saw the same thing: howling winds, fierce waves, and a figure walking on water toward them.
After realizing it was not a spirit of some sort, Peter said, “Lord, if it’s You, tell me to come to You on the water.”
The rest of the disciples stayed in the boat while their friend walked the waves with the Lord. (Matthew 14)

They saw the same thing: howling winds, fierce waves and the water like concrete beneath their feet.
But then Peter looked at his circumstances instead of Jesus. His rational mind tried to explain his irrational circumstances and he sank like a stone. At least he was smart enough to cry out to Jesus as he went down!
And Jesus reached out his hand and saved him from himself. Peter’s ability to walk on water had not changed in that instant – his focus had. (Matthew 14)

They saw the same thing: a barracks in a concentration camp, where they were imprisoned for rescuing Jews from Hitler, filled with fleas.
Big sister Betsy said, “Thank You, God, for fleas!”
Little sister Corrie said, “How can you thank Him for fleas?!?”
Betsy explained that the guards left their barracks alone because of them, freeing them to worship and share the love of God with the other women because of the fleas. (“The Hiding Place”, Corrie ten Boom)

They saw the same thing in England in 1836: orphans in need of a home.
Most people said, “The job is too big” or “Let someone else deal with that.”
George Muller, a local minister, decided to open a home for 30 of them – that eventually led to him caring for 10, 024 orphans in his lifetime, spread across five different orphanages – all without going into debt of any kind. (George Muller and His Orphans, Nancy Garton)

Circumstances.
They happen, don’t they?
The cancer diagnosis.
The betrayal.
The financial setback.
The “I can’t believe he did that!” moments.
The “Lord, how in the world can I forgive her?” wounds.
The “God, this need is huge and overwhelming” realities.

Circumstances happen.
Needs arise.
Crises loom.

The question is, how will you respond when they happen to you?

Panic? “How am I going to solve this?! I don’t know what to do!”
Anger? “How dare You, God?! I thought You loved me!”
Self- pity? “Why do these things always happen to me???”

Fear?
Worry?
Hopelessness?

Or will you respond in faith?
“Wow, God! This is a mess. So glad You are in charge and are going to deal with it. You’ve promised to supply my needs – I am holding You to it. Looking forward to seeing what You do here.”

You have a choice in every circumstance.
You can focus on what is bad. I promise, there will be plenty to dwell on.

Or you can lift your head and set your eyes – and your heart – on God.
Marinating in His Word.
Surrounding yourself with His people.
Praising Him in the storm.
Focusing on His love, as manifested in the cross, instead of your circumstances.
Asking Him for the power to change your thinking.
Talking to Him about your need every time it crosses your mind.
And waiting expectantly for what He will do.

Where are you fixing your eyes today?
C. S. Lewis said, “We may think God wants actions of a certain kind, but God wants people of a certain kind.”
God is looking for people of faith.
Those who will stand confidently on the Rock of Ages, even while the storms rage.
Those who will cry out, “I believe – help my unbelief!” (Mark 9)
Those who will trust that the end of the story is good because the Author is good – and everything He does is right. (Psalm 25)

Will you honor Him with your faith today?
I promise you, the outcome will be worth it.
He’s guaranteed it:

“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

“’And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’
He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!’” Revelation 21:3-5a