Self- esteem (4)

Who has believed what we have heard? And who has the arm of the Lord been revealed to? He grew up before Him like a young plant and like a root out of dry ground. He didn’t have an impressive form or majesty that we should look at Him, no appearance that we should desire Him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of suffering who knew what sickness was. He was like someone people turned away from; He was despised, and we didn’t value Him. (Isaiah 53: 1-3)

A few days ago, I was thinking of people who rejected and despised me, feeling the pain anew, when this scripture came to my mind. And it was good. Knowing that Jesus, the Author of life and faith, the One without sin, the perfect and holy One was despised and rejected comforts me, brings me some peace.

The past is the past. I cannot change it, but I can stop feeling guilty and trying to become that person who will never be rejected and despised again. And that is where what Jesus went through makes all the difference. What did He need to do to be accepted and respected, to have men’s esteem? Change? But changed what? Perfection? It helps to understand that when people reject and despise you, it is not because you don’t measure up, it is because they don’t measure up. Because like you, they are sinners in need of mercy.

Yes, I am not a beautiful soul every day. I am a miserable soul every day in a way or other. I sin more than I would like to. However, if someone rejects or despises me because I am a sinner, it is just that they have forgotten who they are. Just like I forget who I am when I reject or despise people because they are not who I think they should be. And I am not talking about someone refusing to repent. And even then, there is no place for reject and contempt. The goal is their repentance, not to act as if they were unworthy of us.

How many people have you cut off without taking the time to speak with about the sin that makes you distance yourself from them? How many people did you look down on because their sins were not the same as yours?

Thinking of Jesus being despised and rejected helps me understand I am not a problem even though I have issues. But it also helps me understand that others are not problems even if they have issues. And even when they treat me badly I should love them because that is what Jesus did for all who despised and betrayed Him, for you, for me, for all of us as the verses 4 to 6 of Isaiah 53 say: “Yet He Himself bore our sicknesses, and He carried our pains; but we in turn regarded Him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. But He was pierced because of our transgressions, crushed because of our iniquities; punishment for our peace was on Him, and we are healed by His wounds. We all went astray like sheep; we all have turned to our own way; and the Lord has punished Him for the iniquity of us all.

No, you are not the problem, but neither are others. We all have issues, problems, those things called sins, and Jesus took care of them in love, with kindness, compassion, mercy and patience.  So who are we? Needy and loved people whom the King of kings, the Holy One pursues with love and will never reject.

Remember what the Lord said: “and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” (John 6:37.)

 

Without faith, we cannot please Him

 One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him,[a] saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23: 39-43 ESV)

This man was obviously an enemy of God and of men. We don’t know what he did to deserve that death, but we know he deserved it. He said it himself: they were receiving the due rewards of their deeds. So he is on the cross, receiving the due rewards for his sins and decided to ask for eternal life.

Did he think of it when beaten by soldiers? When did he start to be filled with remorse? When he saw Jesus enduring sufferings he did not deserve? We surely won’t know what happened and when it happened before reaching heaven, but one thing we know for sure is that somehow he got faith.

So Jesus was dying on the cross, being crucified unjustly, and he knew it. He was going through the same physical pain as Jesus so he knew better than to speak to Him at that moment, especially to ask for a favor. We don’t even like to be disturbed when we are simply busy, so to be disturbed when we are doing something important, especially something that costs us, would make most of us angry. Anyway, people won’t even try to speak to us in those circumstances, even less to ask for favors when we are in pain. But that criminal did it.

He understood and believed important things that made all the difference. First, he understood and believed that Jesus was King and had authority over everything, even over sins and hell, and eternity. He believed Jesus was the Christ. Secondly, he understood and believed that God was holy and righteous, which means there was nothing he could do to satisfy Him, nothing he could have done to save himself. Even without sin, he would only be a creature and to be with the Creator would mean a lot of grace and mercy given. So he understood and believed that all he needed was God’s mercy and grace, and asked for it. He boldly went before the throne of grace and asked for what he didn’t deserve: a place in Christ’s kingdom. But to be able to ask for mercy, he needed to repent. Which means he needed to acknowledge that he was a creature and Christ was the Creator; that Christ’s rules were the only ones to be followed; that he had broken those rules; and that only Christ could make things right.

His faith led him to Christ and Christ honored it by offering him salvation. So next time, you are trying to win God by being extremely spiritual, by doing many amazing deeds, think of this man and follow his example. Live to honor God not because you need to pay to be with Him, but because He deserved it and had proved Himself worthy of all honor and glory. And just go boldly before the throne of grace, as you are, at any time because you believe Him. Faith will always be the key.

 

 

 

Love, grace, and freedom!!!

One of the consequences of having a low self-esteem is the tendency to be someone else, to behave in ways you never thought of. You try to be that person people would love and appreciate and want to be with. And at the end, you don’t know who you are, what you like, and what you want. You have become a people-pleaser and have ceased to be the person God intended you to be.

But God gave a remedy for that emotional and spiritual sickness as He did for all the other ones. When He sent Jesus to earth to bear our sins and shames and sicknesses; when Jesus chose to give His life for our healing, He offered us that remedy. He offered us reconciliation with the Father, the boldness to enter the throne room with confidence, the freedom to be ourselves even at our worst. Since He paid for us and gave us His righteousness, we can just be ourselves before God as we are being changed into Christ’s likeness. Yes, we are disciplined. Yes, our actions have consequences. But yes, they work for our good. And yes, God does not discipline us out of anger, but to make us share in His holiness.

It is not easy to accept that aspect of grace. Salvation, we get it. But the rest? Our past, our experiences, sometimes our parents and siblings, people around us, circumstances, etc.  cry that it is too easy. And we live as if God would be angry at our failures, and even at our differences; as if He would be mad at us every time we don’t do what He expects us to do, the way He expects us to do it. There is no place in our lives to be trained by God’s grace to become more like Christ. We should already be perfect. And that is not the worst. The worst is all the rules and regulations we have and apply in order to please God. In our mind, God can easily be that another person who would never accept us if we don’t behave in a certain way; if we are not a certain kind of person. We forgot that Jesus died for us when we were weak; when we were enemies of His Father. We forgot that He loved us first. We forgot that He pursued us before we even thought of loving Him.

But when we remember, when we accept this incredible grace, we are free. Free to be ourselves; free to just be because we are totally and completely welcomed and accepted in Christ.  And if the Ruler of the universe, the perfect and holy One, the One who judges and provides, the only One who matters accepts us, we can begin to stop trying to belong and to be loved at any cost. We still need fellowship and love and friendship and affection, but not at any cost anymore. Yes, it is not perfect. We still struggle with low self-esteem and acceptance, but now we know the truth that sets free and, more than ever, we are becoming that amazing person God created us to be.

And if you are not there, no worries. He is already there and will bring you there because it all depends on His power that is perfected in your weakness.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them… But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

(Ephesians 2: 4- 10; 13-22)

 

 

 

 

Never tired, always bathing in goodness

Where would I be if I did not believe I would experience the Lord’s favor in the land of the living? (Psalm 27:13 NET)

Sometimes you read a verse times after times and you don’t get this little thing that is obvious and makes a big difference. Then in a time of dire need, God stops you and makes you get it; actually more than just getting it, He feeds you with it. His Word becomes food for you. And for me, the verse above is one of those.

The part translated “Where would I be” is also translated “I would have despaired”, I had fainted”. What God is telling us here is that the only way not to be tired, weary, exhausted, not to faint and despair is to believe that we will experience His favor, His goodness; that He will do us good.

The only being who never gets tired is God. All of us, young, old, super spiritual and weak get tired one day. And it is normal. The Christian life is filled with trials, difficulties, challenges and many other things that steal our strength, our energy, our joy, our hope, etc. God knew it and provided us with the perfect solutions: to believe He will be good to us. When you believe in His goodness, His strength becomes your strength.

What does it mean to believe in His goodness for you? It means that you are so sure that He is for you, so sure that He will never leave you nor forsake you, so sure that His faithfulness, mercy, and grace will follow you all the days of your life that you wait upon Him, you wait for His help. You don’t fret nor get worried, but stay still because He is your God.

How do you know that you are doing those? Well, if your strength is renewed, if you walk without getting tired, then you are waiting upon Him. If you run without growing weary, if you feel that you are soaring like eagles, then you are waiting for His help.

If you don’t feel that way, if you feel tired and exhausted inside, if your spiritual strength is gone, you are not believing that He will be good to you. Let me put it that way: If God is the Ruler of the universe and He is for you, why would you run around panicked, worried, or frustrated? You would simply wait for Him and keep doing His will, knowing that everything is taken care of, knowing that you are taken care of.

Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is an eternal God, the creator of the whole earth. He does not get tired or weary; there is no limit to his wisdom. He gives strength to those who are tired; to the ones who lack power, he gives renewed energy. Even youths get tired and weary; even strong young men clumsily stumble. But those who wait for the Lord’s help find renewed strength; they rise up as if they had eagles’ wings, they run without growing weary, they walk without getting tired.” (Isaiah 40: 28- 31 (NET))

Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love. (Micah 7:18 ESV)

The gospel can be explained this way:

  • God created us for His glory.
  • We should live for His glory.
  • We have all sinned and fallen short of His glory.
  • We all deserve eternal punishment.
  • In His great love, mercy, grace, goodness, God provided in His Only Son Jesus-Christ the way of forgiveness and eternal life.

This verse shows us how unchangingly marvelous is our God. He has always been willing to forgive and save. He has always been willing to retain His anger and to give grace instead. He has always delighted in steadfast love. This is who He is. That is what I want to think of tomorrow morning when I won’t be focused enough when praying. That is what I want to think of tomorrow after work when I realize that again I was not perfect at all. That is what I want to hold firm to when I am too tired to even move. I want to let His grace and love carry me, comfort me, give me the courage to keep going and still me. Because who is a God like my God, pardoning my iniquities every day and being patient with me? He delights in showing me steadfast, faithful and loyal love and quiets me with His love.

 

 

 

 

Speaking of God’s generous

I have been trying to see God’s generosity (Him doing more than I need) in my life. And it occurred to me that I was quick to forget His greatest act of generosity.

We needed forgiveness. We needed redemption, but surely we didn’t need to be adopted, to become children and heir. That is more than generosity. It is a crazy generosity. He gave us what we needed and didn’t deserve (we call it grace), and then give us what we would not have dreamt of.

Grace can be difficult to understand and to accept, but that kind of generosity is just impossible to understand. Some may accept it, but for me, it is not even about accepting that gift, it is about believing and standing in awe. No wonder without faith, we cannot please Him.

Doubting God’s love and grace is natural. Not doubting is faith. It is supernatural. And it is what is required from us. It is what we bring in the equation of salvation. We are saved by grace through faith because God’s holy love is beyond understanding.

In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ. In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:4-14 NIV)

What a love!

He is generous, not stingy

Jew and Gentile are the same in this respect. They have the same Lord, who gives generously to all who call on him. (Romans 10:12 NLT)

When I read this verse this week, I was astonished. It was as if I have never read it before. Other translations don’t say “generous”, but “richly blesses” for the NIV, “bestowing his riches” for the ESV, “abounding in riches” for the NASB, etc.  So when I read Romans 10 in French on Monday, it was just like the first time. The version french I read says “generous”. It was God telling me, “You see, it is time for you to believe me.” Because, you see, I had a hard time trusting God’s generosity. I could see Him meeting my needs, but giving me only exactly what I need, not more.

Generosity can be described as “showing a readiness to give more of something, as money or time, than is strictly necessary or expected.” So God being generosity means that He is ready to give us more than we need. He is so generous that He didn’t wait for me to become mature or spiritual enough to trust His generosity blindly, but showed me in His word, in what I know is true, that He is generous. And to read it makes all the difference. I cannot question it, cannot argue with Him because I know He never lies and is reliable.

So what does God’s generosity mean for us, for our daily life?

Only this: “Therefore the LORD waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the LORD is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him.” (Isaiah 30:18 ESV).

One more reason to run to Him.

 

 

Song of hope

 In that day, everyone in the land of Judah will sing this song: Our city is strong!  We are surrounded by the walls of God’s salvation. Open the gates to all who are righteous; allow the faithful to enter. You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you! Trust in the Lord always, for the Lord God is the eternal Rock. He humbles the proud and brings down the arrogant city. He brings it down to the dust. The poor and oppressed trample it underfoot, and the needy walk all over it.But for those who are righteous, the way is not steep and rough. You are a God who does what is right, and you smooth out the path ahead of them. Lord, we show our trust in you by obeying your laws;  our heart’s desire is to glorify your name. In the night I search for you; in the morning I earnestly seek you. For only when you come to judge the earth will people learn what is right. Your kindness to the wicked does not make them do good. Although others do right, the wicked keep doing wrong and take no notice of the Lord’s majesty. O Lord, they pay no attention to your upraised fist. Show them your eagerness to defend your people. Then they will be ashamed. Let your fire consume your enemies. Lord, you will grant us peace; all we have accomplished is really from you. O Lord our God, others have ruled us, but you alone are the one we worship.Those we served before are dead and gone. Their departed spirits will never return! You attacked them and destroyed them, and they are long forgotten. O Lord, you have made our nation great; yes, you have made us great. You have extended our borders, and we give you the glory! Lord, in distress we searched for you. We prayed beneath the burden of your discipline. Just as a pregnant woman writhes and cries out in pain as she gives birth, so were we in your presence, Lord. We, too, writhe in agony, but nothing comes of our suffering. We have not given salvation to the earth, nor brought life into the world. But those who die in the Lord will live;  their bodies will rise again! Those who sleep in the earth will rise up and sing for joy! For your life-giving light will fall like dew on your people in the place of the dead! Go home, my people, and lock your doors! Hide yourselves for a little while until the Lord’s anger has passed. Look! The Lord is coming from heaven to punish the people of the earth for their sins.The earth will no longer hide those who have been killed. They will be brought out for all to see. (Isaiah 26 NLT)

Love so high!

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Romans 5: 6-11 ESV)

What a love! It is not just about being loved without reasons, it is about being loved despite all reasons. We were sinners, unrighteous. We had no desire to be with God, no desire to do His will, no desire to glorify His name, and He decided to find a way to be with us. He decided that He would fight for us and paid the price required to save us and bring us under the canopy of His love.

That is love! I confess I don’t understand God’s love most of the time. I don’t understand why and how He does what He does. My life seems to be an example of Romans 11:33, “ Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!” But when I doubt, when the ground shakes under my feet, remembering that He loved me that way, when I was against Him, quiets me.

That is what His love does. That is true love. A love despite and even if. A love that takes the initiative, always.

No reason to love

When the boys grew up, Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field, while Jacob was a quiet man, dwelling in tents. Isaac loved Esau because he ate of his game, but Rebekah loved Jacob. (Genesis 25:28 ESV)

We know exactly why Isaac loved Esau. He loved him because of what Esau could give him. But we don’t know why Rebekah loved Jacob. Maybe it was because he was a quiet man. Maybe because he spent a lot of time with her. Or maybe she just loved him. The Bible gives us no reason for her love. Isaac loved Esau because he had a taste for game and Rebekah just loved Jacob.

The way Rebekah loved Jacob reminds me of God’s love. Why does God love us? Why does He love you? Because of… There are just no reasons given for God’s love. Concerning the Israelites, God says: “It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.

So God loves us for no reason, which means there is nothing we can do that will cause Him to stop loving us. His love depends on Him, and only Him. If you are brilliant, spiritual and beautiful, He loves you for no reason. If you are none of those, He still loves you for no reason. He Just loved you. And that is why Jesus died for us while we were God’s enemies. But that is another story for another day.