He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not

30 04 2014

A little girl sits with a daisy, plucking off the petals as she whispers, “He loves me. He loves me not. He loves me. He loves me not.” Getting close to the end, she holds her breath to see what the outcome will be. A smile will fill her face if the remaining petal declares love, but if the last petal reveals ‘he loves me not,’ somber silence follows.

It is a silly game that little girls play, but it has a grown-up reality. How many times do we look at our circumstances as a measure of whether or not God loves us? I got a promotion – He loves me. There is an unexpected bill – He loves me not. I found the perfect new dress – He loves me. I get caught in traffic – He loves me not. He answers my prayer with a ‘yes’ – He loves me. He answers my prayers with a ‘no’ – He loves me not. We take sunny days, smooth sailing, and happy moments as evidence of His love. Mountains of struggle, times of discouragement, and crashing storms all cast shadows in our hearts about the reality of His love.

Here is the truth our hearts need to remember – God loves you. Passionately. Fully. All the time. In every situation. No matter what. Period. There is never a ‘He loves me not’ when it comes to God. Your circumstances don’t dictate God’s love. They help you experience God’s love.

My Jesus Resolution today is to count the ‘He loves me’s.’  Every day is filled with heavenly ‘I love you’s.’ I serve a God who calms raging seas and walks on the water through the storms. Either way, He loves me. I don’t have to hold my breath and wonder. I can breathe in the deep reality that He loves me beyond what I can imagine. I am going to look for the blessings, the reasons to be thankful, and the evidence of His presence in my day. Every time, I am going to stop and remind my soul, ‘He loves me!’





In All Circumstances

28 04 2014

Ever ended up where you never wanted to be? Sometimes life makes strange turns and we end up on a path we never imagined walking. Perhaps it is a relationship that broke rather than bloomed, a work situation that finds you struggling rather than successful, a physical challenge that took you by surprise, or a financial circumstance that demands more sacrifice than you had expected. Whatever it is, you look around at your life, stand a little dismayed with where you are, and wonder how to live in the middle of being where you don’t want to be.

You are not alone. Noah ended up on an ark. Abraham hiked up a mountain. David hid in a cave. Joseph looked through prison bars. Jacob had a hip injury. Paul was shipwrecked. Gideon was thrust into battle. Peter heard a rooster. John got stuck on an island. Jeremiah got thrown into a pit. Ruth lost her husband. The Bible is filled with stories of people who find themselves in the wrong place with the right God. No matter where they are, they make the decision to trust, obey, surrender, rejoice, pray, and worship right where they were.

Sometimes we want to believe that we would be able to look more like Jesus if our circumstances were more ideal. The truth is that God calls us to look like Jesus wherever we find ourselves. God empowers us to walk in faith through our difficulties, and challenges us to use our circumstances as frames for His glory.

My Jesus Resolution today is to look like Jesus in all my circumstances. Faith isn’t about rising above my circumstances nearly as much as it is about looking like Jesus in my circumstances. God calls me to shine for Him wherever I am. Someone once said, “People are like stained glass windows. They glow and sparkle when it’s sunny and bright; but when the sun goes down, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.”





Pray First

25 04 2014

It had been a long weekend. We were on the road, and I was watching the cacophony of colors painted by the wild flowers speed by as we headed home. Cars passed. Traffic flowed. Trucks zoomed by. Finally, one car pulled alongside us. There was nothing special about the car except for a small sticker on the back window. All it said was Pray First.

 

I have been thinking about those words for days. Pray First. It is a gentle reminder filled with deep wisdom. Those words have echoed in my soul igniting reflection, repentance, and resolve. Do I pray first? When my day goes bad, do I pray first? When I receive good news, do I pray first? When I face a struggle, experience heartache, or am faced with a decision, do I pray first?

 

To be honest, I usually get to prayer. But also to be honest, it isn’t always the first thing I do. I mope, complain, call a friend, get on Facebook, eat a cookie, or bury myself in work. Prayer falls somewhere on the list. Just not always first. And when Pray First isn’t my first response, my soul struggles to find its footing and I miss the opportunity to see God in the moment.

 

My Jesus Resolution today is to Pray First. I want prayer to be my default – the place where I run when life is hard, the world is cruel, circumstances conspire, or when joy explodes. His presence is safe shelter. His arms draw me nearer to His heart. He is a rock on which I can stand, shouting His praises and proclaiming His power. Praying first moves me deeper into His purpose, and gives my heart the grace it needs to face the day.





The Ticket

23 04 2014

He came in slowly, head hanging down, eyes averted to the floor. Taking a deep breath, he squared his shoulders and told his dad the truth. “I ran a red light. I made the decision to hit the gas pedal, rather than the brakes, and it caught me. I saw the red light camera flash. I am going to get a ticket in the mail.”

They went to the web site, and there he was. You could watch his transgression on video. His face was clear. No doubts about who was driving or the timing of his acceleration. He was guilty, and you could replay the moment over and over again.

His dad watched the video, and looked at his boy. Without hesitation, he said, “I’ll pay the fine.” He counted out the cost of the ticket, paid the debt, and the screen now carries a note that says, “Paid in full.”

The boy didn’t deserve for his debt to be paid. He was guilty. It was irresponsible and dangerous. He could have been hurt. He could have made excuses. Instead, he brought his failing to his father, and his father covered him with grace. Not because he earned it. Not because it wasn’t a big deal, but because he is deeply loved.

My Jesus Resolution today is to be stunned by grace. I am just as guilty as that boy, and covered in just as much grace. I can bring my failings and faults to my Father, and each time He says, “I’ve paid the fine.” Grace is God’s radical, revolutionary, beyond-imagination answer to sin. My soul has “paid in full” written across its canvas in the blood of a Savior. Not because I’ve earned it. Not because sin isn’t a big deal, but because I am deeply loved.





The Resurrection

21 04 2014

We live on this side of the resurrection. Every morning, we can wake up and breathe in the truth that Christ lives. Death has been defeated. Sin has been vanquished. Victory is our reality. Heaven is a certainty, and love conquers all.

 

Then why is my stomach in knots? Why does stress still steal my peace? Why do I feel inadequate to deal with the bumps, pot holes, crashes, and stalls on the speedway that is my life?

 

The resurrection doesn’t solve all of life’s problems. It gives us the power to walk with Jesus through life’s struggles. It opens our eyes to the perspective of heaven. It teaches how to hear more than the roar of the world or the hiss of the serpent. The voice of God becomes the rhythm by which we move through our days. We smell differently as the stench of sin gives way to the aroma of Christ. The resurrection empowers us to speak words of praise and thanksgiving when the rest of the world grumbles and complains. The resurrection encourages calloused knees, towel-dampened hands, and feet quick to move at the Master’s command. The resurrection doesn’t change the circumstances of life. It changes the calling on your life, the direction of your life, the purpose of your life, and the essence of your life.

 

My Jesus Resolution today is to learn how to live in the resurrection. Every day has to begin with the most basic, profound truth of faith – Jesus lives. That one truth changes everything. It changes how I see my family, my circumstances, my job, my neighbors, my stuff, my priorities, and even the reflection in the mirror. When I can start with resurrection truth every day, resurrection power is unleashed in my soul.

 

 

 

 

 





The Cross

18 04 2014

“To shame our sins He blushed in blood;
He closed His eyes to show us God;
Let all the world fall down and know
That none but God such love can show.”
– Bernard of Clairvaux

When I was a kid, I wondered why they called it Good Friday. What was good about taking God’s goodness and nailing it to a cross? What was good about Jesus’ suffering, His agony, His desolation, and His pain? What was good about the snapshot of mankind at his worst, doing his best to silence God’s love? What is good about the cross?

The cross is brutal. It is brutal in its honesty about the cost of sin. It is brutal in its power to strip away the mirages of the world and reveal our soul’s deep need. It is brutal in its assault on our carefully constructed rationalizations, our prideful positionings, and the masks that allow us to hide soul-deep scars with a veneer of worldly success. In its call to transparency, the cross is good.

The cross is demanding. The cross stands as a marker of before and after, all or nothing, in or out. There is no safe way to live in the shadow of the cross. The cross demands access to every corner of your soul. God intends for the crucified Christ’s image to be imprinted on every aspect of your life. It’s deep demands are another facet of the cross’ goodness.

The cross is love. It reveals the goodness, holiness, and passion of God in a way no other moment can capture. It shows us the height of love, the depth of grace, the width of peace, and the expanse of God’s faithfulness. The cross is hope. The cross is life. The cross is joy. The cross is forgiveness. The cross is power. The cross is transformation. The cross is good.

My Jesus Resolution today is to celebrate the cross. The cross shows me both the worst that I am and the best God has in His heart for me. E. Stanley Jones said, “At the cross God wrapped his heart in flesh and blood and let it be nailed to the cross for our redemption.” Take a moment today and stand at the cross. Be quiet. Ask for grace. Sing. Smile. Accept its peace. Commit to its call. Rejoice in what it reveals about the way God can take what is bad and broken and make it good.





Honest Faith

16 04 2014

He just turned five and is full of curiosity and energy. He has the face of an angel with a mischievous smile that melts your heart. He can be a little shy, but when he decides to wade in to something, he goes all the way in. Today he reminded me of God’s faithfulness and my need for more faith.

 

It was a quiet moment at the church building. I was walking slowly down the hallway and he was playing with his friend. I waved hello to him as I got close and made a comment about the game they were playing. He stopped his play, looking at me with serious eyes as he watched the difficult steps I was taking. “What happened to you?” he asked. Keeping it simple, I told him that my legs had gotten hurt and right now I can’t walk as well as he does. Seeing his worried look, I explained that we were praying to God that I would get better very quickly.

 

Relief flooded his face. “Good! I am glad that you are praying to God. That is exactly the right thing to do. He can make you all better.”

 

The honest faith of a child brought my heart to its knees and made my soul soar with joy. All the doubts, worries, and fears that so easily crowd in evaporated in the light of his gentle reminder about God’s faithfulness. His words reminded me that I need to let His power, His love, His goodness, and His grace define my days, rather than the circumstances that tend to pull my eyes away from His presence.

 

My Jesus Resolution today is to have the faith of a child. God is good. God knows what I need. God’s timing is perfect. God is bigger. Remembering these simple truths will keep my faith focused and my heart dependent on the hope offered by a God willing to work through five year olds, if that is the voice that will answer my desperate, quiet questions.