14 Feb 2018
Many of us are in prisons without walls. Those prisons are self-made places of confinement that we have constructed in our minds. Built over time, we believe that because of some of the things we have done in our lives, God could never love us. The devil whispers to us, “God could never love someone who has had an abortion, abused drugs, gotten divorced or hooked up on a regular basis.” As usual, the devil’s got it wrong!
One of the amazing things about God’s love is that He loves us despite who we are, not because of who we are. That is radical grace. We all have spent too many years trying to be someone who was worthy of another’s love. We’ve tried to earn love from our parents, our boyfriends, the people we work with, drug dealers, and our bosses. We’ve worked hard to be rich enough, pretty enough, or tough enough to deserve their attention and love. God’s love works differently. God sent His own Son to die for us while we were still sinners. (See Romans 5:8, But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.) Even when we were selling dope, cheating on our income taxes or worse…God loved us. He doesn’t say to us, “Straighten yourself up and clean yourself off and then I’ll take a look at you.” No. He loves us as we are—period.
Another amazing thing about God’s love is that it’s extravagant, over-the-top. God doesn’t skimp on love. He shows His love by sending His own Son—not some low-level flunky—to die for us. He sent His own Son—His only Son—to die for us. Most of us have never experienced that kind of unconditional love.
That unconditional love is life-changing. It offers forgiveness and gives us value, hope, and peace. When it seems dark in our bedrooms are 3 A.M., we can hear His voice calling our name, saying, “I love you just the way you are. Come to Me. Accept My love. My Son has covered your sin.” Who wouldn’t want to say yes to that kind of love?
03 Jan 2018
The writer Helen Wodehouse said, “We think we must climb to a certain height of goodness before we can reach God. But He [God] does not say, ‘At the end of the way you may find me’; He says, ‘I am the Way; I am the road under your feet, the road that begins just as low down as you happen to be.’ If we are in a hole, the Way begins in the hole. The moment we set our face in the same direction as His, we are walking with God.”
Many of us wake up each morning feeling that God could never love us. People we trusted sometimes sexually abused us as children and then afterward angrily told us we were worthless. As adults, we often stayed in abusive relationships, hopelessly searching for love. We misguidedly thought that if we treated our abusers better, we could earn their love.
Many of us view a relationship with a loving God in the same twisted way. We mistakenly feel we must “be good” to earn His love. Nothing is further from the truth!
God does not care where we have been; He is concerned only about where we are going. He searches for us and meets us where we are. God comes alongside us at the most depressing moment of our lives and whispers that He loves us, forgives us, and believes in us (see John 3:16; Jeremiah 29:11). We can trust those words!
We can experience God’s redeeming love. We can cop to the sin in our lives and turn away (repent) from it (see 1 John 1:9). When we confess and change direction, we will be on the right road. His genuine, authentic love will flood our hearts as we walk in His direction.
07 Mar 2016
When our identity/serenity and self-worth are based on the approval of someone else or on our performance, we have abandoned the acceptance of Jesus and the peace and serenity that that acceptance offers. When we are anxious about not doing the right thing for fear of loss of love, reprisal or dismissal, we have traded the true gold of God for the counterfeit metal the world offers.
One of the best things about going to an AA meeting or an Al-Anon group is that when you walk in the door nobody has to explain why we are there. There is an understood acceptance that allows us to feel safe and free to listen and maybe share as we find the road to recovery.
Jesus operates the same way. He offers identity, safety, and acceptance—without our having to earn it. Jesus stretches out His hands and accepts us because He loves us. He offers peace and security not because of anything we have done to deserve it. They are His free gift to us. This is called grace. When Jesus is our refuge, we don’t live in fear that if our secrets will be discovered or that we will screw up and His acceptance and love will be jerked away from us. We can live with confidence that His acceptance is unshakable. Gratitude, not fear, will be our motivation to serve Him wherever we walk.
Fearing husbands/wives, loss of our children’s love, or being afraid of bosses whose acceptance of us is based on what we do for them is like standing near quicksand. Lose our footing, and we sink beneath the surface. It is a recipe for anxiety and the never-ending spiral of worry about always measuring up…earning it!
Living with adequacy that comes by accepting the grace that Jesus offers is like standing on firm ground…the Rock of Ages! It is solid and steady…trustworthy and not based on performance. What a wonderful way to live our lives. A life following and worshiping Jesus is a place of real, authentic acceptance.
04 Jan 2016
When the old year comes to a close, we are all tempted to look back upon what we accomplished and where we would like a “mulligan”…a do-over. This is natural for human beings and not a bad exercise if we do it in a way that improves us and doesn’t puff us up as we consider our victories or depress us as we reconsider our failings.
Looking back, a moment of self reflection, is valuable. There is no sin in taking a moment of pride in what we have been able to accomplish as along as it is clothed in the knowledge and humility of God’s Providence and Will. Personal experience shows that there is truth in the old saying, “Those whom the God’s would destroy, first they make proud.” Everything we have and enjoy are gifts from above and should always be enjoyed with eyes looking towards Heaven with Thanksgiving.
Looking back on our failures and sin is also of value as long as we don’t beat ourselves up in a manner that reveals, not repentance but really wounded pride. If we are angry with ourselves for not being strong enough to have withstood a certain temptation, we are most likely just indulging in a kind of reverse pride, being angry with ourselves rather than falling to our knees in repentance and dependence on our Heavenly Father, who is the source of all strength. Being sorry we failed because we feel our strength let us down is pride. Being repentant and seeking God’s forgiveness and renewed strength is Godly.
Look back with kindness and thankfulness at God’s grace. Look forward to the upcoming year with eager anticipation as to what God will do with our surrendered hearts for His Kingdom.