Tag Archive | faith

The God of Second Chances

Cave and sunset in the desert mountains“Now Moses used to take a tent and pitch it outside the camp some distance away, calling it the “tent of meeting.” Anyone inquiring of the LORD would go to the tent of meeting outside the camp.” Exodus 33:7

God had made a covenant with Israel and before the last period was put in place, they had broken it. God’s desire was, and still is to dwell among His people, but because of their sin, their breaking of the covenant they had agreed to, they were separated from God.

Exodus 33:7-11 almost seems to imply that only Moses went to the tent of the meeting to inquire of God. The people would watch and worship as the pillar of cloud, God’s presence would stay at the entrance of the tent after Moses entered. But verse 7 says: “Anyone inquiring of the LORD would go to the tent of the meeting…”

Did anyone else go? Why wouldn’t they? Why wouldn’t they take advantage of the opportunity to meet with God personally?

Moses had repented for Israel and it appears they liked it that way. It kept them at a distance from God, maybe what they saw as a safe distance, but a distance none-the-less.

In order to approach God now, we need to acknowledge our sin and ask for forgiveness personally. We have to face the truth of their own hearts. Was this an option at that time? Was anyone bold enough to ask?

Confessing with a true desire to change is hard enough. This along with asking for forgiveness can be one of the hardest things we do – ever! We have to take an honest look at ourselves, assess the situation and our actions, and admit what we did was wrong with no justification, excusing or blaming.

When we ask someone to forgive us there is always the possibility they won’t. We may want our relationship with them restored, but they may not and that’s a hard truth to accept. So rather than risk it, we keep a distance and our relationships are never quite what they could be.

But what you need to know is God is not like people. When we come to Him admitting our mistakes, weaknesses and outright rebellion, asking Him to have mercy and forgive, He does. When our hearts are right with Him and we are sincere in our desire to have a relationship with Him, He does not withhold His love.

He actually gave it before you even asked.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” John 3:16-17

Through the life, death and resurrection of His Son Jesus, you have the ability to come to God, fully forgiven, unconditionally loved and free to live His way. You don’t need to go to another person to speak to God on your behalf. You have Jesus: mediator, atoning sacrifice, the Righteous One, God Himself giving you full access to the throne room of God.

What concerns weigh on your heart this Christmas? What problems seem too big, too impossible to overcome? What desire do you long to see fulfilled in your lifetime? What guilt or shame to you simply not want to carry anymore?

You are not alone.

God is waiting.

He is available.

He loves you and wants to enter His presence through a relationship with Jesus. Will you take a chance and consider the possibility that not only is God holy, requiring a separation from sin, but that He is loving, faithful and compassionate in His provision of the one and only sacrifice for sin ever needed.

Jesus is the one and only way to God. It is by grace through faith that you can come to God and it’s because of His kindness that you can open your hear, lay your sin at His feet and trust Him to love you fully.

“Anyone inquiring of the LORD would go to the tent of meeting…”

Will you choose to take a chance and meet with God today, the God of second chances?

Something to Consider…

Has some distance grown between you and God? He is right where He has always been willing and waiting for you to return. What do you need to face, deal with or acknowledge so you can draw close to Him once again?

If you’ve never inquired of God, will you consider the possibility that God really does want to meet with you? He wants you to know the fullness of His love for you and that comes through a relationship with Him. Come to God, asking Him to help you with all of your questions, doubts and uncertainties. He will help you get your heart set right so your relationship with Him can be all it should be.

 

 

Three Nails

Three Nails“Two others, both criminals, were led out to be executed with him. When they came to a place called The Skull, they nailed him to the cross. And the criminals were also crucified—one on his right and one on his left. Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.’ And the soldiers gambled for his clothes by throwing dice. The crowd watched and the leaders scoffed. ‘He saved others,’ they said, ‘let him save himself if he is really God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.’” Luke 23:32-35 (NLT)

My oldest daughter lives a few hours away so whenever she comes home, we pray for her safe travels. Her car had been parked at a gas station when, as she was getting ready to come home, she realized she had a flat tire. With her fiancé’s help, they were able to remove the tire, put on the spare and drive to the repair shop. After waiting a few hours, they were told the nail was too close to the edge and thus the tire was unable to be repaired. She was going to have to buy a new tire. Not the news a college student wants to hear. She purchased the tire and they were soon on their way.

The next day we were able to meet up with family members for lunch. We had a wonderful time only to come home to another flat tire. Her car had been parked in our driveway all day and yet, there it was, a different tire flat as a pancake. Her dad was able to help her get the tire off, put on the spare, and bring the tire to the repair shop. This time it was able to be repaired. Knowing her financial situation, we willingly paid for the repair. Her dad was able to replace the tire and she was on her way once again, this time to see friends.

A few days later, we were out shopping and running errands. When we returned home, guess what we found. Unbelievably, another flat tire. A third nail in a third tire. Her car had been parked in the street in front of our house. Since it was not completely flat, we tried filling it only to notice the pressure dropped as soon as we turned off the pump. Again, her dad was able to help get the tire off and the spare on, but because of the time, we couldn’t take it to the repair shop until the next day. We worked out how she would get around in the meantime. Again, the tire couldn’t be repaired. A little more money, a little more time, a little more frustration.

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” 1 John 4:18 (NIV)

When we found the third flat, she said she felt like she was being punished. Did she do something to bring about this fate?

I admit, it seems like more than a coincidence that she would have three nails in three different tires in five days. What are the odds? And if she’s not being punished, what would be the point of this situation?

Maybe a better question is, what did God want her to know about Him through this situation?

As we talked, she admitted she felt like she had no control, was helpless, angry, and frustrated. We then talked about how God is always in control, is our help and is never frustrated by our circumstances. So why did this happen? How would this help her trust Him more and draw her closer to Him, rather than push her away?

She realized that she had always been parked, never on the road and she always had help. She was also always able to keep moving. These hindrances didn’t stop her from what she needed to do.

The next day, as we were driving home, I asked her another question. “What did these three nails cost you?”

She said money and time and peace. It was inconvenient and stressful.

Then I asked her, “What did three nails cost Jesus?”

Her answer: His life.

“Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, ‘I am thirsty.’ A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. When he had received the drink, Jesus said, ‘It is finished.’ With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” John 19:28-30 (NIV)

Jesus Christ took the three nails so we could how much God loves us. Jesus Christ took three nails because only He could accomplish this purpose. He took the three nails so we could be completely reconciled to God and live with Him in peace forever. These three nails were not a hindrance to God’s plan; they were the plan.

How might God want to use the difficulties and hindrances in your life to draw you closer to Him so you could know His love more deeply?

What difficulties are you willing to endure so the love of God can be made known to others?

Lord God, as I see the troubles of this world, experience the difficulties of life and struggle through my own frustrations and desires. Help me remember that it’s nothing compared to what you endured for me. The problems we face are real, they are hard and painful. They wear on us and try us in ways we didn’t expect or ask for. But in You we have hope. In you, we know there is more. You are our ever-present help in trouble. You are our refuge and strength, our shield and strong tower, our joy and salvation. Thank you for your protection, your help and your strength to keep moving. In Your precious and most holy name, Jesus. Amen.

The Problem with Grace

Sun Rays“Receive and experience the amazing grace of the Master, Jesus Christ, deep, deep within yourselves.” Philippians 4:23 (The Message)

Grace is difficult to grasp.

Even in a world that says we are free-to-be, there are rules upon rules upon rules.

Sentiments of, “Don’t judge me,” mixed with policies of zero tolerance. Love your neighbor to their face, but public bashing on social media is acceptable.

Some of you may scoff at it and say you don’t agree, but I’m thinking the clerk at the store, the co-worker in the next cubicle, the lady on the bus, the bully at school – they are each your neighbor. Have you read your posts about them? I’ve read mine and it’s not pretty.

God is stripping down the walls of my heart. He’s removing the old habits and thinking. He’s reshaping my heart because it must operate in a whole new way. I’m getting an extreme makeover, but I don’t get time to separate from life until it’s over. And it’s not a quick process finished in one week. At times it’s freeing and others it’s painful.

I’ve been reading and studying the Gospel of Matthew, really digging into the heart conditions that contribute to our sin versus those that solidify a foundation of love, along with the reasons we just won’t let go of our own way of thinking, our own way of relating to others. I admit I have a hard heart at times.

How does grace and truth come together in a way that doesn’t seem too naive to the troubles of sin nor too harsh about our need to do the “right” thing? Everyone has an opinion about what is right. I ALWAYS have an opinion. I try to save it until someone asks, but that doesn’t always work. There are times when I just need to speak.

What does mercy and justice really look like in certain situations with certain people? Everyone wants the other person to get what they deserve: get caught, be sentenced, pay their debt, but each of us wants mercy: understanding, a second chance (or unlimited chances), and someone to let us off the hook. I definitely don’t want to be caught and try to slide by. I want to pretend it never happened…and then I sit in my mistakes.

How do I let go of the rules that I can check and check off each time I want to know if something is good or right and instead, trust and follow completely the One who is only good? I want to know where He will lead me. I want to know what to expect. If I can’t see it, conceptualize what will happen, I struggle moving forward in obedience.

There are people in my life who have hurt me, yet I love them. I don’t spend much time with them, yet I care what happens to them. All this happens at a distance. So what does it really look like to love them up close when they don’t think they did anything wrong? In this, I keep God at a distance sometimes in my shame.

How do I live in this world, hating the sin, loving the sinner; recognizing there is good and there is evil while forgiving what others don’t understand or even what they do? How do I accept that they believe what they believe and will do what they do without having to agree, condone or go along with them? I don’t want to be accused, hated or rejected for what I believe.

Grace is so beyond how we live, how we think and what we hear.

Grace is a free gift, but we’ve been taught nothing in life is free. Everything has a cost.

And Jesus paid it.

Grace and truth came through Jesus. Jesus shows compassion because He understands our struggles and our need. He is kind because He sees beyond our mistakes. He is generous because He gives knowing we can’t pay Him back. He is gentle never forcing Himself on anyone. He is good because He lifts us out of the pit and places us on a firm foundation. And He is love because He restores us completely and there is freedom.

In order to even begin to understand Grace, you must first know Who it really is and trust Him, letting Him have complete control.

I’ve found the only problem with grace is me.

Something to Consider…

What does God’s grace mean to you?

How willing are you to offer grace, forgiveness, and mercy to others?

What struggles and heart conditions keep you from freely living in God’s grace? If you feel you do, how would you explain it to someone else?

Growing Pains

Light Streaming Through the Crown of a Tree

“God wants us to grow up, to know the whole truth and tell it in love—like Christ in everything. We take our lead from Christ, who is the source of everything we do.” Ephesians 4:15 (The Message)

When my children were younger, I was constantly measuring their growth: height, weight, and abilities. Can she crawl, sit or walk? Does she respond to her name? Does she stack the blocks or just consider them a no-calorie snack? If their mental attributes along with their physical attributes don’t change, they aren’t growing in a complete manner.

Growth can be a challenge. All growth is the result of action and we must be diligent and intentional about the type of actions we take. Even a baby doesn’t just grow. If they are not receiving enough food, they won’t grow physically or mentally and if deprived of food for a long enough period will die.

Spiritual growth is the same. I’ve known a few people who really wanted to grow or at least thought they did. What it seems they may have wanted more was to continue doing what they had always done, but somehow manage to have peace and feel good about it. But nothing that grows stays the same. There will be changes. To ignore or deny the truth of what is needed for growth will only bring about death. The truth of Jesus is the source of eternal life.

Spiritual growth begins with knowing the truth about Jesus. You hear about Him, ask questions, learn some more and eventually have enough information to make a decision about what the truth of Jesus means to you and for you. If you are not seeking to know the truth, if you are not asking questions of people who know the truth, you will not grow in your understanding of who Jesus really is and you will have no reason to move forward in a relationship with Him. The problem with this is that everything else you consider about Him will be false. Just like eating protein will add muscle and eating sugar will add fat, growing in the knowledge and truth of Jesus will lead you to eternal life while ignoring or denying the truth of Jesus will lead to eternal separation from God. False teachings will lead to a false understanding which in turn will feed you with empty calories which will not sustain.

One of the growing pains involved with knowing the truth of Jesus is that we soon realize there are things we like, think or do that are not actually good for us. They seem good because they make us feel good and give us some enjoyment, at least for the moment. We don’t want to give it up because we don’t really want to believe it’s bad. Maybe it’s easier than changing. We operate out of our feelings rather than facts. We live for what seems good rather than what is truly good.

When my daughter was three years old, we could tell she wasn’t eating well. We pulled out our Dr. Spock baby book and did some research. We wanted to know answers and the truth about what might be causing this problem and what we could do about it. We learned too much sugar would ruin her appetite. Right away we knew the problem: apple juice. She loved apple juice! But the juice was hurting her, not helping her even though she enjoyed it. We promptly removed the apple juice from her diet and replaced it with water or milk only. For three days she cried! Each day was a little better until rather than cry over not getting apple juice, she asked for milk. Her eating improved and she chose milk over almost every other beverage for most of her childhood.

But those three days were painful. She wanted what she wanted and was willing to forsake the good thing for the enjoyable thing…until she realized the good thing was better.

Something to Consider…

Do you struggle believing the entire Bible is true? Does it contradict what you’ve been told is true? Is it difficult to understand how God’s ways are better than your ways, how they are truly the best way?

“Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation—” 2 Peter 2:2 (ESV)

Don’t settle for good enough. Don’t settle for empty satisfaction. God in his goodness sent His Son, Jesus Christ so we would know His grace and truth. You have the opportunity to choose the better thing. The growing pains of faith are real, but the truth of Jesus is better than any lie the world would have you believe. Seek to know and understand His truth and discover the real source of all you need to be able to change and grow up into all He created you to be!

Even Though…

Lilacs“So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a while.”     1 Peter 1:6 (NLT)

I slept so well last night. I didn’t wake up, I didn’t move, and I felt good when the alarm finally went off. This rarely happens. I tend to wake up a few times, toss and turn a bit trying to find a comfortable position and inevitably, even though I didn’t sleep well, I want to stay in bed rather than get up and get on with something different.

I have been trying very hard to settle into a comfortable position with God. I start reading my Bible and I get up, distracted, moving, tossing and turning, coming back, only to struggle again with trying so hard to hear what God has to say.

This morning, I thought I would try to get on with something different. I grabbed my cup of coffee, went out to our three-season porch and enjoyed the view of our lilac bushes which are in full bloom. It’s been a very rainy two months. Gloomy, cloudy and wet. Today, the sun is shining. The light is warm, the air is cool and it feels like we’ve finally arrived at what we’ve been hoping for: summer.

As I walked my dog this morning, I thought about the lilacs. They didn’t just appear today in a magical display. The sun didn’t just rise with a smile and the flowers burst forth.

The sun has been there every day, behind the clouds, waiting for them to complete their work watering the ground. It has been faithful even when we couldn’t see it.

And the flowers were growing, being nurtured along, being prepared for the full show of their glory. Every cloudy day, they were moving. Every gloomy day, they were being changed. Every drop of rain that fell was put to work in the growing and watering of the bush.

And I wondered, “What work is God doing in me? In what way is He being faithful to grow and change me? This uncomfortable feeling, what beautiful thing will I think suddenly appeared only to realize it’s been there all along? In what way am I being prepared?”

“There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears.” Philippians 1:6 (The Message)

On the darkest days of your life, know that God is faithful. He is always there working in your life. Every seemingly difficult experience is growing a beautiful work in you and one day the clouds will lift and you will see the beauty God has brought forth from your trials.

Never give up on the hope and joy you know is coming in Christ Jesus. Never stop believing that even in your waiting, God is changing you and growing you in ways you can’t fully see or understand. He is so gentle and loving through the trials of this life. In Him, we can truly be glad and have joy even though!

Something to Consider…

Does it feel like there is a cloud looming over you in this season of your life? Do you feel like God is absent? Do you avoid Him or run from Him? There is no where you can go that He isn’t. He is faithful and trustworthy even when we can’t see Him at work. Choose to trust Him despite the cloud.

Are you working really hard to fix yourself? Be the right kind of person, get it all together so then you can be all you were meant to be? God is loving, kind and gentle. He knows exactly who He made you to be so He knows exactly how to nurture your growth. Don’t wait to change before you come to Him. Let Him do the work and enjoy the process.

Fellowship Matters

friends“Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the LORD and on His law he meditates day and night.” Psalm 1:1-2 (NIV)

If I’m going to abide in Christ this year…and always, knowing that I don’t usually keep my resolutions, it would be good to understand what causes me to let go of my plan.

The plan itself is not my issue. I am GREAT at planning. I make lists, flow charts, spreadsheets and know every detail of everything I want to do. What I often miss is the list of those things that could interrupt my plan and when they do, how I will move forward. We know this as “hope for the best, plan for the worst.” In other words, I don’t plan for the worst, the struggle of keeping my commitment.

This is a new step for me this year. I want to understand what keeps me from abiding, staying close to Jesus and have a plan ready when people, situations and conditions of my heart try to pull me from Him.

One thing I’ve learned is that we are all at different places with our faith. There are many things that I once thought were okay and now see completely different. I’m also sure there are things I do or consent to today that in five years I will no longer consider good for me in relation to my faith. Just as I am on a journey, so is everyone else. Even those who don’t claim to have faith in Jesus or God believe something.

I don’t think others ever intentionally try to pull me away from Jesus as much as I don’t think they understand the full benefit of staying close to Him. It’s hard to encourage me in what they don’t consider valuable or meaningful.

Too often, we can make excuses for our own behavior by excusing the behavior of others. If I have a hard time controlling how much I eat, I may encourage someone else to go ahead and have the second piece. If I talk bad about my husband, I may encourage someone else that it’s good to vent or “get it off their chest”. After all, they are just being honest. If I don’t see how what I do is harmful, I may not see it as harmful for someone else.

And others, who don’t know Jesus, won’t understand why it’s important to stay close to Him and most likely, will not be able to encourage me in my desire to abide.

While I don’t want to cut off relationships with those who don’t know Jesus, He came for us all, I need to be careful to whom I listen.

I will be resolved to seek counsel, wisdom and encouragement from others who are actively seeking God and following Christ.

Something to Consider…

We are to live in this world but not be of it. Our relationships matter regardless of where others stand with Jesus.

How can you ensure you are spending time with others who know Jesus? How can you continue to grow in your relationship with Jesus even when you are with others who are not?

Regardless of how committed you are to Jesus, how many questions you have about faith, and how many doubts and concerns you have for what it truly means to believe, it will be hard to move forward and find answers alone.

  1. Find a local church to attend and show up. Volunteer and get involved. Even if you’re not sure about this whole God thing, you will meet new people and expand your understanding of the Christian faith.
  2. Identify two or three people who know Jesus with whom you can ask questions and discuss your faith. Don’t ask your friend the atheist or agnostic. They don’t have the answers you’re looking for.
  3. Seek to know Jesus, not just know about Him or assume things about Him. No one likes it when people make assumptions about them. Really get to know who He is and why He came for you.

Go Ahead, Ask the Question!

I don’t have one but I see them everywhere. The fish. It’s usually on the bumper of a vehicle. You see it and you know it refers to God , Jesus, Christianity. I knew the story of the fish and loaves, the feeding of the 5,000 and the fishermen called to be fishers of men, but I learned there is so much more to the story of how a fish on a bumper shows the world who you follow.

The other day I saw a fish with legs and in the body it said, “Darwin”.

I admit it put me off at first, but then I began to think about it and ask some questions.

  • At what point did a fish grow legs?
  • And if one fish grew legs, why didn’t all of them?
  • Did more than one have to grow legs in order to mate and continue the cycle?
  • If so, what are the chances that at least two fish of the opposite sex that could grow legs would be in close enough proximity to each other that they could mate and would mate?
  • How many years does it take to morph into a completely different creature?
  • If they can trace the finches of the Galapagos Islands back to a single bird, why is it crazy that all people came from a single man?
  • If we came from apes, where did the apes come from?
  • If survival of the fittest means the weaker species die off, why are there still apes if humans came from them? (I owe this question to a friend of mine.)
  • If evolution is true, how many different species of humans are there really? There wouldn’t only be one, would there?
  • If survival of the fittest is the way of the world, can we as humans really be created equally?
  • Is it easier to believe that everything in this universe is chance, that there really is no meaning to any of it OR that a Creator God lovingly formed everything with intricate detail and care, thought and love?

As I consider the purpose of the fish, the meaning behind it and thought of the name of Darwin being stamped over the middle, I heard God asking me a few questions.

  • What can Darwin do for you?
  • Does he show you what it means to love?
  • Does he teach you how to have compassion for others?
  • Did he know your name before you were born?
  • Can he heal, hold and carry you through the difficulties of life?
  • Does he give you a purpose and meaning beyond yourself?

“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’” Genesis 1:26-28 (ESV)

Something to Consider…

When my husband and I were dating, we got on the subject of asking our parents questions. The conversation ending with me say, “My children are going to know they can ask me any question. I may not give them an answer. They may not like the answer I give them. But, they will always be able to come to me and ask.”

I believe God wants us to ask. If we are open to asking Him the question, we just might be open to receiving His answer.

Who do you look like: an intelligent ape, a distant relative or a loving and faithful Father in heaven? Do you walk like His Son, Jesus?

What questions do you have? Do you know your true identity? God would love to tell you who you are to Him.

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalm 139:13-14 (NIV)