Tag Archive | love

I am (fill in the blank)

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“Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God –” John 1:12

I’ve suffered from depression and anxiety. I have some understanding of the issue, at least as it pertains to my circumstances. Everyone’s issues are different so what I’ve learned can’t necessarily apply to everyone, but it will apply to some. My hope is that for those “some”, they will find hope in what I have to say.

I recently read an article in which the author states, “I am depression,” over and over again.

What I’ve found through my experience is that in stating it this way, you take on the reality of it. It actually does become who you are. You’ve given it permission to be you and for you to be it.

For a long time I let myself be a worrier. I let myself be consumed with a negative view of the world, of people and of myself. But in Christ, there is no reason to worry because He is good, does good, gives good things and brings good of every situation for those who love Him.

Even though I suffered from depression, I am not depression. Rather, I am a child of God.

I am loved by the Creator of the universe and have at my disposal every blessing possible according to His will and who He is. When I look at myself, I can become depressed because I am flawed, at times I don’t measure up and I will always find someone else who is just a bit better than me at something. But when I turn to God and receive His love, I have reason to rejoice and be glad. I am who HE says I am. I am precious. I am loved. I am a delight. I am worthy of His love. I am able to do all that He has created me to do. I am protected by His grace and mercy. I am able to be loving, joyful, peaceful, patience, faithful, gentle, kind, good and exhibit self-control because this is who He is in me. I am free, healed, redeemed, restored, content, and new because this is what He came to do for me, and for you.

I am not depression. And for at least some of you, you don’t have to be either. You do get to choose. God lets you have that freedom.

Jesus came to heal you and set you free from the things that weigh you down. Will you choose to accept that freedom? The sad reality is that sometimes it’s easier to live as a prisoner. I’ve considered it. As a prisoner we’re free from responsibility and accountability. We’re able to excuse, justify and blame – we just can’t do anything about it. Freedom requires action. And the strength to step into that freedom and action, responsibility and accountability is part of the blessing we receive in Jesus.

Who will you choose to be? What will you choose to accept as your foundation in this uncertain world?

Today I choose to be who God says I am. Today I choose Jesus and the gift of freedom He offers.

Prayers for a Mother and Her Son

I saw the news this morning: 9 killed in church shooting.

Not in the middle east. Not in Africa. Not across the world in some remote village. But right here in the United States.

I heard report after report on the news and read posts of prayers going out to Charleston.

And yet, I felt distant from it all.

Aren’t I supposed to break down with compassion and empathy? As a Christian, aren’t I supposed to mourn with those who mourn? And here I was, feeling some what empty. What was wrong with me?

And then … the flood gates opened.

I started thinking of a mother seeing an image of her son on the television, recognizing him, knowing it was her son who did this thing. And my heart broke for her. My heart breaks for him, his future, who he was meant to be. My heart breaks for each person whose life was cut short because of the decision of this one man.

As Christians, we can’t be surprised when this type of thing happens. That doesn’t mean it’s easy. It doesn’t mean we don’t hurt and cry and mourn the loss of precious life. But we can’t be surprised. We’ve been told this will happen again and again.

Our battle isn’t with flesh and blood. We have an enemy who does not rest. We have an enemy who will use whatever means necessary to bring about his evil.

But we also serve a God who has already won the battle. His strength, compassion, love, mercy, grace and joy will carry those in that church. As they trust in His faithfulness and sovereignty, they can know that what we see in this world is not the end product. He has the final say in the outcome of this situation. He has the final say in the eternal lives of their loved ones.

In the final words of Jesus, He prayed for those who nailed Him to the cross. “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

May this man know, confess, repent and be forgiven. May God’s justice be served and grace and love be known.

And I pray that just as Paul, persecutor and murder, came to know the loving mercy of the Savior, so will this man. That the hope that does not disappoint will be realized. That our judgments which are sure to come will not overshadow the grace and forgiveness of our loving God.

I pray that the enemy of our souls will not be able to use this opportunity to disprove the love and compassion of our Lord and Savior. That as we walk in this world as His ambassadors, as we face tragedy and loss, chaos and confusion, we will love one another and pray for our enemies.

I pray each mother’s heart would be healed and made whole. I pray this man would be set free from the darkness he’s walked in and come to see and know the Light of Christ. Jesus will have the final say in this man’s life, not us. And I pray that those in Charleston who suffered such great loss would know and be comforted by the peace of Christ which surpasses all understanding.

In Jesus name. Amen.

A Wise Leader (Part 4)

This is the last in a 4-part series on leadership.

In Part 1, I addressed the difference between feedback and criticism, as well as the important role feedback has in effective leadership.

In Part 2, I acknowledged some things that I learned about myself through the process of asking for, receiving and accepting feedback and a few things I will be doing to help move myself forward in this area as a leader.

In Part 3, I recognized some truths about others that I learned through this process and have a game plan to help me be willing to hear what others have to say.

© Depositphotos.com/ ysbrand

© Depositphotos.com/
ysbrand

Now on to Part 4…

Love truth form a good leader; sound leadership is founded on loving integrity. Proverbs 20:28 (The Message)

According to this verse a good leader is one who is truthful, has integrity and is loving. The first two make sense, although I think our society too often lifts up those who are willing to bend the truth and break a few rules to get ahead. This verse contradicts that idea by throwing in love. And not just once, but twice. And not just here and there, but right from the start.

“If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing.” 1 Corinthians 13:2 (NLT)

Love is required for good leadership. Again, in society, we think of people as good leaders because they’ve accumulated wealth, status and a following of thousands, maybe millions. Obviously, they’ve got something worth having, hearing or imitating. But followers eventually get hurt or are left empty when a leader loves themselves and their own benefit more than those they lead.

When love for others drives the thoughts, decisions and actions of a leader, they will be someone worth following.

“So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.” John 13:34 (NLT)

In light of God’s love for me, what does that mean for me as a leader? What does it mean for me as a follower?

What I learned about God is that ultimately He wants me to see myself through His eyes, not my own or those of others, because His love for me is true and trustworthy.

God knows who He intended me to be when He created me. Sin has left its mark and tainted the beautiful creation He has made. Sin has stained my view when I look at myself through my own eyes. I am not unsusceptible to its effects. In fact, we all, every one of us, suffer its effects whether we realize it or not. But, when we do recognize it and are willing to let God change us, He begins to work with us as if we are already who He created us to be. I am not good enough on my own, but in Christ I am not a lost cause. God has given me strengths that sin has distorted. I also have weaknesses that sin accentuates. On the other hand, when I see myself through His eyes, there is only beauty. I see no flaws in any way that really matters. I am willing and able to address issues and apologize freely. My heart is open, honest, loving and caring. There is joy, energy and passion for what He is doing in me, through me and in the world around me. And I thank God for the people He has put in my life who are helping me see myself through His eyes because they see what He sees. What a blessing to experience life in His kingdom now knowing it’s only going to get better.

As I think about what this means for me, I also have to consider what it means for my relationship with Him.

  1. God is for me.

Everything God does in teaching, loving, correcting, disciplining and encouraging me is meant to draw me closer to Him and make me more Christ-like in my attitude, actions, thoughts and ways. God wants the best for me. It doesn’t mean I’ll always have the best according to the worlds definition. Status, position and power aren’t how we know God is for us. His blessings don’t always show themselves in worldly qualities and easily quantitative results. Sometimes His blessings show up in the dirty work of persevering. Sometimes His blessings show up in the painful experiences that help us trust Him more. But when I know and trust that God is for me, I will know that He can bring good from every situation, conversation and experience I go through.

  1. God is with me.

I am not alone. Ever. I spend so much time working alone: processing information, deciding next steps and wondering if I should think about things the way I do that I get quite lonely. I feel separated from others so when I’m around them I tend to think they feel just as separated from me. It’s hard to break back in. But when I know God is with me, I can talk to Him just as if another person was sitting with me. I can listen for His guidance, direction, thoughts, and input. And God is with every other person who knows Him as well so He is in fact drawing us all closer to each other as well. In Christ, we are unified, not divided nor separated, but coming together for His purpose so we never need to feel like we are against or opposed to each other, or on different paths. He is the way, He is the path. We walk it differently, but we walk it together. When we can find our common ground, our differences can actually be used to our advantage.

  1. God isn’t done with me.

There is a constant work in progress going on inside me simply because I’m still here. God doesn’t stop or give up even when I choose a wrong path, make a mistake or even fall back into old patterns and ways of thinking … not when I turn back to Him. He won’t force me to change, but He will lead me to change. His love makes the change worth it. A relationship with Him makes the challenges, difficulties and hardships worth it. When I’m willing to hear, receive and accept His feedback, I’ll be better able to hear, process and understand the feedback of others. His love leads to love. I hope to lead and love well.

Something to Consider…

God is for you. He made you and knows you intimately. He has your best intentions at heart. Will you turn to Him and let Him speak His truth and love into your life?

If you’ve accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior, the Holy Spirit dwells in you. God is with you. If you haven’t already, say yes to Jesus and let God’s love lead you.

God isn’t done with you. Life is an ongoing process of learning ourselves and leading others into a deeper relationship with the One who loves you best. Continue to seek God’s guidance in your life and willingly walk alongside others who will help you be a leader for those who follow behind.

Take Up Your Cross

© Depositphotos.com/ WDGPhoto

© Depositphotos.com/
WDGPhoto

“As they were going out, they met a man from Cyrene, named Simon, and they forced him to carry the cross.” Matthew 27:32 (NIV)

Take: to get into one’s hold or possession by voluntary action.

To take is voluntary.

Simon was forced to carry the cross with Jesus. He bore the weight that was too much for Jesus in His weakened physical condition. Simon did not have a choice to help Jesus; and yet, through the process of coming alongside Him in this barbaric situation, He grasped the weight and understanding of the cross. He didn’t simply walk away to never again consider the man who would be nailed to that cross. He took in the truth of Jesus on the cross and passed it along to His children. (Mark 15:21, Romans 16:13)

“And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.” Matthew 10:38 (KJV)

Taketh: to take or get a hold of; to receive.

To take is to get your hands on and receive what is offered.

The cross is a vile form of execution. The cross was so inhumane it was eventually outlawed as a means of capital punishment. And yet, Jesus says if you are unwilling to take up your cross and follow Him, you aren’t worthy to be His follower. What’s up with that? Why would He expect us to voluntarily take hold of a cross? Didn’t He die so we wouldn’t have to do that very thing?

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Matthew 11:29 (NIV)

Take: To take up or away; to raise up or lift; to take upon oneself and carry what has been raised physically.

To take is to personally participate in the raising or lifting while carrying.

The truth is there’s a cross with your name on it. Because of sin in the life of each person, death is the penalty and judgment. Jesus also says that because He’s been hated and persecuted, as His follower, you will be as well. There will be plenty of people who will want to nail you to your cross. In the midst of struggles and persecution, will you take up your cross or walk away?

The cross of Christ has already been lifted. Because of what Jesus has done, death is not the end of our story. It’s a step in the process rather than the end of the journey. We will face things from our past, things in opposition to our faith, but we don’t have to do it alone. When we are willing to acknowledge that truth, He offers His yoke as well. We can take hold of His yoke to help us carry our cross. He offers us what He’s already done. When we take up our cross, we can also show people what we’ve been set free from. The cross is the cost of our sin. We deserve death. Thank God, in Christ, we receive life.

I found this story of St. Patrick, someone who picked up his cross and followed hard after Jesus. We may not be called to minister to a country, but we each have a family, neighborhood or circle of friends God wants us to reach for Him.

Something to Consider…

Do you have a hard time grasping the truth of the cross, what Jesus did, and why He did it?

Do you have a difficult time acknowledging the truth of your own sin and the reality of the penalty for that sin?

Jesus invites you to follow Him. Where will He lead you? Straight to the cross. Let Him help you understand and grasp the truth of what He’s done for you. Let Him help you acknowledge the truth of your own sin and receive His grace and redemption so you can live free, willing to take up your cross and share His love with others.

Come … Willingly

© Depositphotos.com/Madrabothair

© Depositphotos.com/ Madrabothair

 “For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him.” 2 Chronicles 16:9a

We have a rule in our house. We actually have several, but this is one we’ve actually been able to hold to pretty consistently. It’s even been used in settings outside our home with others.

If you volunteer someone else to do a job, you are the one who will do it.

Why? Because volunteering requires a willingness and when you volunteer another instead of volunteering yourself, you impose your will on another. You say, “I don’t think I should have to do it. I think you should do it.” And when they don’t, judgment creeps in.

Jesus didn’t sit behind His followers and say, “Pick up your cross and do as I tell you.”

Rather,

“He (Jesus) called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.’” Mark 8:34

And,

“I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” John 13:15

Jesus says He will not volunteer you for anything, but if you are willing, here is what is required. He will not volunteer you for anything He is unwilling to do, but as His follower, He will ask you … no, no, He will expect you to do what He has already done.

We have a choice.

Jesus knows we are not perfect, yet here are His ground rules:

  1. Deny yourself.
  2. Take up your cross.
  3. Follow me (Jesus).
  4. Do as I (Jesus) have done.

Jesus has accomplished His purpose of reconciling the world to God. We don’t need to do this. It is finished!

However, as His ambassadors in this world, this is the message we spread. Jesus has paid the price for our sins and set us free to live His way. If we are unwilling to “do”, we’ve stopped short of accomplishing our purposes for God.

We don’t wait for God to show us who to love; we love those we are with. Our expectations of what others should be doing dictates what we ourselves believe is right.

Jesus invites you to come. Will you?

Something to Consider…

Jesus will not volunteer you for the life He wants to give you, but He has set the perfect example and He invites you to come willingly. What is He currently inviting you to come and join with Him in doing?

What expectations do you have of others, yet you yourself are unwilling to do? As you seek God’s kingdom in your own life, let Jesus be your example. When you choose to follow Him, you will be less concerned with what others are doing or not doing because you will be doing what He is doing.

Why Do I…

W“For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.” 2 Corinthians 5:14-15

Sometimes, I imagine conversations with others. I’m not sure if it’s a writer thing, an introvert thing or just a strange habit, but it happens.

I’ve been struggling with the “why” of what I do. Everyone has reasons for what they do. Reasons that to them, make what they do worth doing.

There are a lot of really good things that I can be doing, but each day I need to choose certain good things over others. It helps when I see the end result of my work or receive feedback and appreciation for what I’ve done. There are also times I just need to do the good thing because it’s the right thing in the moment.

So I imagined someone specific asking me why I blog. This is what I said:

I believe God has laid it on my heart to share with others what He’s sharing with me. He teaches me about Himself every day. He shows me things about myself as well. Ultimately it’s all about my relationship with Him. And He has given me an opportunity and desire to share those things with others.

God knows us and loves us and He wants us know and love Him as well. He has really good things for us.

For example, there was this time when my dog was just a few years old. He was a bit temperamental and we were working with Him to help Him learn to trust us. One day, I just stopped and said to Him, “Why don’t you just listen to me? I give you everything you need. You have food to eat and a warm place to sleep. I play with you and take you for walks. I am happy to just be with you. I don’t want to have to put you in your kennel because you’re not doing what I tell you to do. Don’t you know I just want to love you?”

And I stopped and heard God ask me, “Don’t you know I just want to love you?”

He has provided everything I need. He enjoys me simply because I am me. There is joy in our time together. He doesn’t look to give me consequences, but sometimes He has to. He just wants to love me. And that love requires a response.

And that’s why I write:  God loves me. And in order to experience His love, I need to be in a relationship with Him. That’s how we each experience His love – in relationship with Him. Which means we need to acknowledge Him, look to Him and trust Him.

I hope what I write encourages others to do that, to turn to Him and trust Him. I hope others don’t just know they are loved but experience His love in real ways every day.

I didn’t really consider His response in my imaginary conversation, but I realized it was again, a message worth sharing.

God loves you and wants you to know Him.

Something to Consider…

How has God shown His love for you?

Today, how will you respond to His love for you?

“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” 1 John 3:1a

God is Life

“And this is the testimony of God: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.” 1 John 5:11-12 (NIV)

God offers us eternal life after we die, but He also offers the abundant life before we die. We do not need to wait until later to experience His kingdom. In Jesus, we have the ability to experience right here, right now the fullness of life God offers. Life after death becomes the perfection of our current state of living.

Are you living now the way you hope to in heaven later? Are you doing what you can to respond to and interact with others the way you imagine it to be when all things are made right? Do you trust and worship God with absolute devotion?

What does the full life in Christ look like? Here are three ways you can experience all He has to offer.

  1. Be confident.

God has sent His Son to redeem, restore and reconcile you to God, your Father. In Christ, you need never worry about your relationship with God. He does still correct and there are still consequences for wrong actions, but everything God does is to teach you what is best. When we refuse to listen, He lets the outcome be our teacher. When we ask Him for help, He will show us the way. Be confident in your relationship with Him.

  1. Be courageous.

God has given us His Word so we can know Him. His character and heart for people is seen throughout the Bible in all 66 books. When we know about God, we will continue to do what we do with an attitude of “that’s Him, this is me.” But when we truly know God through a relationship with Jesus, we begin to respond to God. We do things differently not because of who we are, but because of who He is. He has responded to us by giving us His Son. Read His Word so you can respond to God and do what it says. As you confidence grows, you will become more courageous in your love for Him.

  1. Be content.

People who don’t trust tend to protect themselves. There is an attitude of what-if and a response that comes out of what they don’t know instead of what they do. God knows our every need. He also knows our every want. He knows how getting our wants will affect our hearts and attitude toward Him and others. When we trust God, we can follow Him and be content no matter where we are, what we do or what we have. His way always leads to life. As you become courageous for God, you will see His purpose for your life unfold and in it you will be content.

Life in Christ is experienced when we know God personally, do what He says and trust Him completely each step of the way. God’s greatest desire is that the whole world would know His love and receive the life He offers. What’s yours?

Heavenly Father, you are life. In you, we move and breathe and have meaning. Lord, may my confidence grow as I come to know you more. May I become courageous for you because your love is true. May I be content with all you give me because I trust that you give me all I need. Your word is true, your way is best and your love leads to life like I have never known. Make it the desire of my heart  to know and live this life you offer. In Jesus name. Amen.