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)

 

 

 

 

Do not faint!

Here is an excerpt of a sermon that really encourages me:

“Face fainting with faith in your great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. The fainting one who comes to wait on Him, a transformation would happen. God promises their strength will be renewed. Look at verses 29 and 31 (Isaiah), here is God’s promise to the fainting: “He gives power to those who are fainting.” Who is a candidate for that tonight? What a wonderful promise. He will empower the weak and the fainting. He will strengthen the weary soul whose strength is gone and is poured out.

Like the angels coming to strengthen the weak and weary Jesus in the wilderness at the beginning of His ministry, and in the garden at the end of His ministry. The Lord’s ministry in His earthly life, the three years of His ministry were bookend by angels strengthening Him at the beginning and at the end. In the wilderness and in the garden, they came and strengthened Him. Jonathan went to David and strengthened his hands in God. God will do that for you. Trust Him for it. Ask Him for it. Cast yourself on His promises and on His loving heart. He gives power to the faint. He will; and when He does, then verse 31 happens.

Suddenly, renewed strength; rising up. You find yourself being lifted up.You find the burden being released. You find your mind suddenly being encouraged, and you don’t know how it happened because God has come. He comes and He helps you to run, and your weariness seems gone, and you’re getting your second wind, and you’re walking and not fainting. They that wait upon the Lord will renew their strength.

What are we to do? Not try to improve ourselves; not try harder; not be more sincere; not try to show God we are more committed.No, your job is weakness and waiting. That is all you gotta have. Weakness and then waiting on Him. Get in the waiting mode as a weakling. He keeps our soul in famine and has not let our foot slip, Scripture says. He will keep you in all your ways, Scripture says. Kept by the power of God through faith. A certain promise: “You shall run and not be weary; you shall walk and not faint.” Lay hold of that promise, weary sister, weary brother.

It is the weak and needy that He helps and that He lifts up. Our Lord Jesus Christ is so kind and so gracious and so tenderhearted and so faithful and so willing and so ready and so available and so compassionate. He will come to you, bringing help with Him when He comes to you. Though my weary steps may falter and my soul athirst may be; Gushing from the rock before me, suddenly, (drudging along, weariness, tired, wanna give up but I am keeping on) suddenly, gushing from the rock before me, lo a spring of joy I see.The Lord just speaks a word. He just touches you without you realizing it, and suddenly, weariness is going away, and something is happening. He has helped me. He has become my salvation. The Sun of righteousness arises with healing in His wings. He will do this.

“Fear not, He says, I am with you. I will strengthen you. I will help you. I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”…

 

For if we ever view weakness from God’s point of view, from a biblical perspective, we will be a lot better off in our walking out the Christian life and in our usefulness. Weaknesses and limitations, we think they are bad. God says they are good. We think they limit us, God says they prosper us onward. We think they hinder us, God says they help us. We think our usefulness is lessened by weakness, God says they humble us and they empower us more. Our weaknesses; our limitations. Fainting is rooted in our wrong view of weakness. God says, “My power is perfected in your weakness.” So Paul says, “Therefore,” – think of what Paul says about this, it’s amazing -“Therefore, I would boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses. (For the sake of Christ, I am content with weaknesses.)” I am not yet. “For when I am weak, then am I strong.” Meaning when I am experiencing weakness and I do wait upon Him and I view this biblically, that’s when the power of Christ will help me to be strengthened so that I will know His power in my weakness.

Weakness is not a disadvantage, it’s an advantage. It is not a liability, it’s an asset; because it brings Christ’s power to you that won’t be there when you are self-sufficient and you got it all together. Christian usefulness is not found in our having it all together, or trying to make others think we have it all together. No one has it all together. Every Christian has weakness; every Christian has weariness at times. We must know, by experience, what God promises. “My power,” He says to us, “Will be perfected in your weakness. So will you embrace your weakness? Will you be transparent with Me about it And will you learn to wait on Me with that weakness so that I can strengthen you in that weakness. Spiritual power is attractive. Weakness is not attractive to us.But there’s only one path to knowing God’s power; and that is going through weakening times. When it can experientially be less of you so that it can be more of Christ. Better to have weakness and God’s empowering than no weakness and no power. The weakness of self-strength or divine strength in your weakness.

Christ will, He promises, strengthen you and make you endure to the end; make you strong out of weakness. He is able to make all grace abound toward you; that you having all sufficiency in all things may abound to every good work. Our sufficiency is of God. One of those little remembered triumphs of faith in Hebrews 11, think of this, verse 34, “Who through faith were made strong out of weakness.” That’s an amazing thing. Or, it could read, “Who through faith, from weakness were made strong (or out of weakness were made strong, through faith.) Faith conquers weariness. Faith wins over fainting every time.

For the whole sermon: http://illbehonest.com/do-not-faint-mack-tomlinson or https://youtu.be/lar1oGhMGEo

 

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.

 

 

 

 

A compassionate God

Be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful. (Luke 6:36 HCSB)

Some versions say “compassionate” instead of “merciful”. Being compassionate defines someone who has “a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering. ” And Being merciful is to provide relief.

What the verse above tells us is that when God sees us in our difficulties and sorrows, He wants to help us, comfort us, and soothe us. And because He is who He is; because He is not powerless, He does it: He provides us with relief. How does He give us that relief? Here is an example.

You certainly know the story of Gideon. God called him and sent him to fight against the Midianites. But he was afraid.  So God told him “Get up and go into the camp, for I have given it into your hand. 10 But if you are afraid to go to the camp, go with Purah your servant. Listen to what they say, and then you will be strengthened to go to the camp.” (Judges 7 9-11 HCSB)

God felt a deep sympathy for him. God understood what He was going through. When Gideon went to the camp, he listened to a conversation that gave him courage. God reassured, strengthened him because he needed it. But God went further. He told him to go with his servant. He did not shame him for being afraid, but instead provided him with solutions.

And since God doesn’t show favoritism, there are no reasons it won’t do it for you, no reasons it won’t do it for me.

 

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.