Beyond my comfort zones

When they told Mordecai Esther’s words, he had them respond to Esther: “Don’t think for one minute that, unlike all the other Jews, you’ll come out of this alive simply because you are in the palace. In fact, if you don’t speak up at this very important time, relief and rescue will appear for the Jews from another place, but you and your family will die. But who knows? Maybe it was for a moment like this that you came to be part of the royal family.” Esther sent back this word to Mordecai: “Go, gather all the Jews who are in Susa and tell them to give up eating to help me be brave. They aren’t to eat or drink anything for three whole days, and I myself will do the same, along with my female servants. Then, even though it’s against the law, I will go to the king; and if I am to die, then die I will.” So Mordecai left where he was and did exactly what Esther had ordered him. ~Esther 4:12-17(CEB)

 

Esther was in a difficult place. She faced a life-threatening decision. She could take a stand for her people or she could play it safe and do nothing. Have you ever been faced with a situation that you felt pressed to speak up? I haven’t been in such a critical position as Esther where the fates of thousands were affected. Or have I? When I look through the homeless, when I ignore the hungry, when I turn a blind eye to the suffering am I ignoring God’s call to reach out? In my silence how many people are effected? I do not think God won’t send someone else in my place if I don’t heed the call but who all will die as they wait for someone to answer? Help eventually will come but for some it will be too late.

 

Today I might be called to go where I am not comfortable going. The situation might be scary. It might push me beyond what I think I am capable of doing. But what if I remain silent? Will my stepping out bring someone life? Will my silence bring someone’s death? Each of us is God’s first choice for the task of bringing love to the world. I know that God is working all around me every day, and I want to be ready to step up to his task if God needs me. I don’t want to remain silent. I don’t want God to have to choose someone else for the task that should be mine. If God chooses me, I want to be ready.

 

Heavenly Father, help me to see with Your eyes, hear with Your ears, feel with Your heart. Give me Your courage and strength to be more than I am. Amen.

 

Faith, love in action

My brothers and sisters, what good is it if people say they have faith but do nothing to show it? Claiming to have faith can’t save anyone, can it? Imagine a brother or sister who is naked and never has enough food to eat. What if one of you said, “Go in peace! Stay warm! Have a nice meal!”? What good is it if you don’t actually give them what their body needs? In the same way, faith is dead when it doesn’t result in faithful activity. Someone might claim, “You have faith and I have action.” But how can I see your faith apart from your actions? Instead, I’ll show you my faith by putting it into practice in faithful. ~James2 14-18(CEB)

Claiming that I believe in God doesn’t bring anyone out of the darkness. Feeling bad that there are hungry people in the world does nothing to put food in their bellies. It is easy to read the Bible, but what is difficult is putting what I have read into practice. In Matt 25:42-42 it says “I was hungry and you didn’t give me food to eat. I was thirsty and you didn’t give me anything to drink. I was a stranger and you didn’t welcome me. I was naked and you didn’t give me clothes to wear. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.” These are not words I want to hear directed to me by Christ. I might be tempted to say but Lord, when did I see you hungry, thirsty, naked, sick or in prison? Then He will answer, “I assure you that when you haven’t done it for one of the least of these, you haven’t done it for me.”(Matt 25:45)  He doesn’t say, anything about my “seeing” these needs. He just commands that I meet the needs.

Paul writes in his first letter to the Corinthians “If I speak in tongues of human beings and of angels but I don’t have love, I’m a clanging gong or a clashing cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and I know all the mysteries and everything else, and if I have such complete faith that I can move mountains but I don’t have love, I’m nothing. If I give away everything that I have and hand over my own body to feel good about what I’ve done but I don’t have love, I receive no benefit whatsoever” (1Cor 13:1-3).

How can I claim faith if I lack action? Love is that action. Love is the response to the faith I claim in Christ. The question of love to Peter was not just for Peter, it is for me too. “Do you love Me?”, Christ asks. It is not just a simple answer of “Yes, Lord, I love You.” He asks me to put my love in action. He says to me, “Take care of my sheep” (John 21:16).

Again I find myself Lord, convicted of Your words. Help me this day to show my love for You to those I meet, even if it means that I have to go out of my comfort zones to find those who are hungry, thirsty, naked, sick or in prison. May I be Your hands and feet. May I be love in action. Amen.

God’s generosity

The LORD is my shepherd.
I lack nothing.
He lets me rest in grassy meadows;
he leads me to restful waters;
he keeps me alive.
He guides me in proper paths
for the sake of his good name.
Even when I walk through the darkest valley,
I fear no danger because you are with me.
Your rod and your staff—
they protect me.
You set a table for me
right in front of my enemies.
You bathe my head in oil;
my cup is so full it spills over!
Yes, goodness and faithful love
will pursue me all the days of my life,
and I will live in the LORD ‘s house
as long as I live.

~Psalm 23 (CEB)

God of abundant generosity, You desire to fill my life with good gifts that bring me joy and strengthen this simple life of Your child. When I dwell in Your house, strengthened by Your love for me, I find I truly lack for nothing. May this table You set before me be one that I can invite others to join so that we may celebrate the rich unity in diversity that is a sure sign of Your Kingdom. All that I have and all that I am is from Your hand. Amen.

A quality of grace

Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.  But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.  This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference,  for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,  and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. ~Romans 3:20-24 (ESV)

Holiness is a gift of grace. Its quality cannot be imitated or faked. If I try to act them out people will sense my inauthenticity, for these gifts come from walking intimately with God.

How can I cultivate such qualities of grace in my life? It would be nice if there were detailed directions written in a book, or a course that I could take that would guarantee to make me a saint. But, of course, it is not that simple. It is not just a matter of reading the right book, or participating in the perfect Bible study, it is a matter of values, of commitment, and more than anything else, of love~ love for the God who created me and who has called to me to follow Him.

Thank You for the gift of grace, O Lord. Help me to walk intimately this day with You. May my commitments and values reflect Your love in my life. May I show my love for You in how I love others. Amen.

Who I am

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.~ Eph. 5:1-2 (ESV)

My identity as a beloved child of God embraces both who I am now and who I am becoming. I am infinitely loved by God who has blessed me with unique gifts. Through the gifts He has given me I am being renewed in His divine image that I am to bear back into the world. How I bear His message is unique to me.

My core identity, the one that exists despite the choices and mistakes that I have made in life, comes with particular gifts. Individual gifts and graces are an expression of God’s love to me and a confirmation of my belovedness. I am not like anyone else. I do not think, act or serve like anyone else. God’s love sets me wholly free to me myself and free to be for others the image of a loving God.

Heavenly Father, Thank You for walking hand in hand with me through life’s journey. Even when I detour from the path you would You would have me follow, I find You still with me. Thank You for Your whispers guiding me back. Help me to bear Your love to the world as my sacrifice of thanks. May my love for You grow ever stronger. Amen.

Whats in a name?

Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. ~1 John 3:2 (ESV)

What’s in a name? It is easy to see the names or labels we don’t like about ourselves. When I was ten and a teacher was waving my test paper and telling my mom that I was lazy for not spelling a word correctly that was at the top of the page, I interpreted the situation to mean that I was stupid. I didn’t “see” that the word was misspelled. The result of living with some things just not clicking has turned me into a very hard worker. That has at times come to benefit me. I have learned to work around the things that I cannot do. But the pain from moments like those can sometimes be a huge stumbling block when I find myself in new situations. It can cause stress when God calls me to go and do things out of my comfort zone and I worry about what all I won’t be able to “see”.

But then God reminds me that I am not seeing things correctly. That I need to see myself through His eyes. God does not see me as stupid. He sees that I am creative in my approach to problems. God does not see me as lazy. He understands when sometimes I don’t understand things. He is the One person who can see me so completely and still love me unconditionally. I am totally known by Him. God recognizes that I am not perfect. He loves me anyway. This total acceptance by Him leaves me in awe and wonder. How can someone see me as I am AND see me as all the possibilities I could be? I am not limited by what has come before me. I am not defined by what others say. I am a child of God. That is the name I claim today.

Dear God, thank You for making me a possibility. Thank You for believing in me when I couldn’t believe in myself. Walk with me this day and be the confidence I need to be Your hands and feet in this world. Turn my pain into sight. Fill the holes in my heart with Your love. Help me accept the things that You see as wonderful. Help me accept that I am uniquely Yours. Help me to hear when You say I am beautiful. Amen.

 

 

 

Faith to see yourself in God’s eyes

You are from God, little children, and you have defeated these people because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. ~1 John 4:4

It is so easy to judge ourselves by what others think of us. I often forget that my true value is through God’s eyes. My value is not from the people who surround me. If I base my significance on what others think I can be lifted up as high as the sky by their praise or I can find myself plummeting quickly be their disapproval. This creates such a roller-coaster effect on my emotions and is very dangerous to my well-being.

Instead I need to look in the Bible to find my self-worth. Who does the Bible say I am? If I look through the Bible I can find many references. One of my favorite verses on “who I am in Christ” comes from Romans 5:1 “Because of Christ and His redemption, I am completely forgiven and fully pleasing to God. I am totally accepted by God. Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” My favorite part of that verse is that I am accepted by God, just as I am. No, I am not perfect. Whether I am at my best or at my worst I am still totally accepted by God. That is not always true of fellow humans. If I based my significance on others approval I begin to fear rejection. My fear of rejection can begin to control me and my self-worth. My dependence on others for value brings bondage and darkness.

God doesn’t want us living in darkness so He sent Jesus into the world to seek out those who find themselves in bondage. He came to speak truths to our heart about God’s love and acceptance. Taking this truth into our heart brings freedom and joy. I want to live in the light where freedom from bondage of what others think of me exists. I want joy in my life so I hold a simple truth in my heart, “I am a beloved child of God” (Gal 4:7). The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear (Psalm 27:1)

May I live securely in Your love and acceptance of me oh Lord. Help me this day to remember that my relationship with You is what matters above all others opinions. Hide deep in my heart Your truths of who I am through You. Amen.

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