You Are Loved

30 07 2014

“It is staggering that God should love sinners; yet it is true. God loves creatures who have become unlovely and (one would have thought) unlovable.”

– J.I. Packer

If there is only one truth that you hold onto today, hold onto this one – you are loved. You are loved with a love that is so immense, so astounding, and so incredible that it is almost too much to believe. But please believe it. When you learn to live in that belief, you will changed to your core.

Here are ten truths about God’s love for you.

  1. God loved you before you were even born.
  2. You can’t earn God’s love, so stop trying.
  3. You can’t lose God’s love, so stop worrying.
  4. Your past won’t stop God from loving you.
  5. Your future is secure because of God’s love for you.
  6. God’s love for you is the most certain force in the universe.
  7. God doesn’t love you generically. He loves YOU personally and intimately.
  8. God’s love for you is an everlasting love.
  9. The cross stands as the greatest monument to love the world has ever known.
  10. God’s deepest desire is for you to love Him in return.

My Jesus Resolution today is to remember how much I am loved. The craziness of the world often makes me feel isolated and unnoticed. God’s love promises that I am never alone, that I am cherished and valued, and that He pays attention to the details that fill my life. Learning to live in His love allows me to be strong in the face of the world’s pressures, confident when confronted with the world’s chiding, and joyful even in life’s darkest moments. It is staggering that God should love a sinner like me; yet it is true. And that is a truth worth building a life on.





One Shade of Purity

28 07 2014

Our world loves to dabble in grays. White and black are either considered old-fashioned or self-righteous. In our society, truth is whatever makes you feel good. Evil is anything that doesn’t meet the current standard of political correctness. Our culture swims in shades of gray. Gray represents compromise, inclusion, and comfort. The extremes of good and evil are too narrow for a modern mind.

As Christians, we struggle with gray, even as God calls us to a life of truth, holiness, and purity. Gray allows me some wiggle room. It invites me to hold on to personal preferences and pleasures. It tells me that one small concession isn’t going to hurt anyone. Gray tells me that I deserve it. It questions why anyone else should have a say in what I read, or watch, or do. It entices me to take control and choose my own path.

Gray, in all of its shades, is a lie.

Gray wraps pornography up in a book cover, selling it as a guilty pleasure. Gray parades immorality in front of us, telling us love has many facets and shades. Gray packages manipulation, selfishness, and degradation in a movie trailer, expecting that we will hand over ten dollars apiece to watch lust come alive on a screen. Gray is arrogant. Gray is a bully. It is time to tell gray “no.”

My Jesus Resolution today is to live in one shade of purity. I don’t need many shades of gray. I need Jesus. He is the only one who can rescue me from the shame, guilt, and regret that gray brings to my soul. Today I am going to commit to telling gray “no.” No matter how much marketing, how much hype, how much pressure, or how much enticement gray throws out, it is time to stand up to gray and reveal His light. The shadow of the cross is the only shade my soul needs.

 





Resolved

25 07 2014

Meriam Ibrahim is a 27 year-old young woman from the Sudan. She made headlines around the world in May when she was sentenced to 100 lashes and death for refusing to recant her belief in Christianity in open court in the strict Muslim country. After intense international pressure, her death sentence was overturned in June. Western officials spearheaded negotiations to allow Meriam to leave the Sudan. She and her family will be arriving in the United States within the next few days.

Her story is both humbling and inspiring. Here is a young woman who clung so tenaciously to Jesus that the people around her viewed her as a threat to their way of life. Knowing that her actions were going to result in her being sentenced to death, she lived out the essence of the words of Paul who said, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21) Her refusal to give in to society’s pressure reminds me of the courage of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego as they faced the fiery furnace for refusing to bow down to Nebuchadnezzar’s idol.

Meriam’s willingness to stand with Jesus challenges me to look at my own life. While here in this country we rarely face such extremes, the pressure to compromise our faith is very real. Our society doesn’t ask us to choose between Jesus and death. It invites us to give up just a little bit of Jesus in exchange for some pleasure, power, fame, money, or personal satisfaction. Our challenge isn’t that we face beheading, but slow suffocation of our faith.

My Jesus Resolution today is to imitate Meriam’s resolve. I want my commitment to Christ to be so strong, so vibrant, so true, and so real that others can see it clearly. I want to have the courage to stand up to my culture and choose Jesus without compromise. I want to teach my children to live their faith with resolve and steadfastness. Meriam wasn’t looking for the spotlight. She just looked at the darkness and chose to be the light God called her to be. What might happen if each of us would choose the same?





True Beauty

23 07 2014

What is true beauty? How you answer this question is more important than you might realize. Looking in the mirror, it is easy to evaluate what you see based on how the world has defined “beauty.” Our society says that to be beautiful is to have a certain look, to be a certain size, or to wear a certain kind of clothes. We end up running in circles chasing an ideal to which we will never measure up. The consequences can be devastating. We wind up heart sore, soul weary, and fearful of somehow being less beautiful than the world tells us we need to be.

Here is what I really want you to know. You are already beautiful. You don’t need to chase it. You need to learn how to live the beautiful that you already are. Beauty isn’t about having a look. It is about who you choose to look at. It isn’t about the clothes you wear, but how you wear the character of Christ. It isn’t about the size of your jeans, but the size of your heart and the depth of your surrender. God created women with a desire to be beautiful, because He created us to reflect His beauty. Confidence in who you are in Christ is the most revealing mark of a woman’s true beauty.

Here is what I love about God. While the world promotes a cookie-cutter definition of beauty, God created you with your own unique beauty. God loves every woman so much that he chose to make you so that you would reveal a facet of His beauty in a way that no one else can. The make-up, the clothes, and the jewelry you wear should merely be frames for the beauty that radiates out of your heart.

My Jesus Resolution today is to look in the mirror and say, “I am beautiful.” It can be hard. The world has a lot invested in making you believe that you are less than beautiful. If they can keep your attention on make-up, hairstyles, and the number on the scale, you might not hear God whispering to your heart that you are loved, treasured, and wanted. Those who learn to hear those whispers and live in their truth are the most beautiful women of all.





Follow Me

21 07 2014

The message showed up on my phone at 1:07 a.m. “A friend has started following you on Pinterest.” Social media has created a world in which we can choose to follow people and keep track of their tastes, interests, words, and minute-by-minute activities. Following people with tweets, pins, blogs, boards, and threads has become a new passion in our culture.

Following someone isn’t a new phenomenon. Jesus filled His ministry with invitations to follow Him. His call to follow wasn’t merely a suggestion to walk the same roads. When Jesus invited someone to follow Him, He was offering soul-deep transformation. Following Jesus meant leaving the familiar in order to walk in grace and be stretched and shaped into His image. It required sacrifice, commitment, surrender, and humility. Those who followed Him experienced a life they never could have imagined on their own.

Following Jesus also means that we invite others to follow. Our lives serve as invitations to meet Jesus, discover His love, and explore His deep purpose for our hearts. Every day we join Paul in saying, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1)

My Jesus Resolution today is to be a follower. My phone message reminded me that every day people are watching how I follow Jesus. Following isn’t always easy. I have a tendency to want to head off in my own direction, set my own pace, or choose my own path. I am thankful for the beloved Christians who walk in my life as examples of His grace. They inspire me to be a better follower, and teach me how to live in such a way that others can follow Jesus because of the way I follow Him.





Modesty

18 07 2014

Modesty. Just mention the word and blood pressures spike, battle lines are drawn, and frustration starts to spill over. Some people get defensive. Others go on the attack. But after a lot of listening, what I hear is a great number of women who are struggling to find a Christ-centered answer to a difficult question.

We live in a culture that idolizes beauty and is obsessed with sex. From the time our girls are very, very young, they are bombarded with messages that teach them that their worth, power, and ability to be successful is tied to their appearance. It is a powerful, pervasive mindset. As a result, we often define modesty using the world’s terms. We take the world’s standards and try to modify them in an attempt to find some balance.

What if the answer lies in letting God, rather than the world, define modesty? Our English word modesty finds its roots in a word that means “freedom from exaggeration, self-control.” Modesty is not nearly as much about hem lines as it is the heart. Modesty is an outgrowth of the fruit of the Spirit being cultivated in our lives. It doesn’t begin with an external list of “wear this, but don’t wear that.” It begins with a heart that is obedient to Christ and radiates outward. The world tells us that what we wear is a matter of personal freedom and choice. I can wear whatever I want because I dress to please myself. For a child of God, everything about my life must be surrendered to a Savior who died to make me His own. Even my clothes.

My Jesus Resolution today is to approach modesty differently. When I go into a dressing room at the store, I am going to take an extra mirror with me. When I try on a new outfit, I am going to see how my reflection looks not only in the three-way, but also in the mirror of Philippians 4:8. If you will allow me to paraphrase – ‘Finally, sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, wear these things.’





Worms

16 07 2014

“People see God every day, they just don’t recognize him.” – Pearl Bailey

 

It had been raining…a lot. The ground was saturated, puddles stood in the street, and everything just seemed soggy. We kept looking up at the sky hoping to see sunshine, but dark gray clouds hugged the horizon. Everyone was tired of rain – even the worms.

 

You see, we had had so much rain that the ground was drenched. The earth was so wet and heavy that the worms literally came out of the dirt by the thousands. The soil was so saturated that the worms crawled out of the wet mess and found refuge on the concrete. Everywhere we looked, we saw wiggling, squirming masses of worms.

 

I wrinkled my nose, checked my shoes, thought that Noah was lucky for only having to deal with two worms, and began to carefully tip toe to the car. I should have known, but I was too focused on getting through the rain drops and on to my errands. I turned around to hurry my young son along and caught a glimpse of a holy moment. Head bowed, he was crouched down on the sidewalk looking intensely at the worms. He was fascinated by their color, movement, smell, and activity. He wanted to know where they lived, why they were here, and how long they would stay. “Mom,” he said. “Isn’t it cool? God made all these worms!” I repented as I gathered him into my arms. I had almost missed God because it was inconvenient, messy, and didn’t fit my preconceptions.

 

My Jesus Resolution today is to look for God in the small things today. Too often, I want to focus on grand gestures, dazzling displays, and big catch-your-breath moments. Often, however, God weaves the evidence of His presence into the small details of my day. He opens doors, answers prayers, provides strength, and gives me a song. I have the opportunity to see God every day. I just have to learn how to see His beauty wherever He decides to plant it – even in the worms.








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