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.

 

 

 

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.

True power

Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. (John 13:3-5 ESV)

So Jesus knew He had all power, all authority over all things. He knew that He was going back in heaven to reign with His Father. He knew all of that and more, but He chose to humble Himself and wash His disciples’ dirty feet.  When humans know that they have power and authority, they tend to expect to be served, honored, almost bowed before. They don’t usually serve people they think inferior to them, at least not in a way that might humiliate them. Jesus was different. He knew what  matters. He knew the secret of true power, of true beauty, of true love. He knew because He could see beyond what eyes see. He knew because He was God. And now we know because we know Him.

Worshipping a holy God

“Then David summoned the priests Zadok and Abiathar, and the Levites Uriel, Asaiah, Joel, Shemaiah, Eliel, and Amminadab, and said to them, “You are the heads of the fathers’ houses of the Levites. Consecrate yourselves, you and your brothers, so that you may bring up the ark of the LORD, the God of Israel, to the place that I have prepared for it. Because you did not carry it the first time, the LORD our God broke out against us, because we did not seek him according to the rule.” So the priests and the Levites consecrated themselves to bring up the ark of the LORD, the God of Israel. And the Levites carried the ark of God on their shoulders with the poles, as Moses had commanded according to the word of the LORD.” (1 Chronicles 15:11-15 ESV)

God is so amazing, so unique. He is a friend, a father, a brother, a helper, a comforter among other things. It is easy to focus on these aspects of His uniqueness and to forget His holiness. We tend to see His approachability as an invitation to do as we want in our relationship with Him. But there are rules to seek God. Repentance is one, faith in Christ another one, and gratitude and reverence others.  Grace is grace, but grace is holy. Love is love, but love does not mean disrespect, contempt, or right to complain or test God. There is a place for weakness in our relationship with God, but do not expect God to change His word, His rules for you. He did not even change them for David, the man according to His own heart.

“Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12:28-29 ESV)

 

Happy New Year

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. (James 1:17-18)

Here is the New Year! We took decisions, we made prayers and we are full of hope. But we are uncertain. We don’t know if the year will turn out the way we want to, if God will answer us the way we would like to.  But there are two things we can be sure of.

First, God is God and will be God until the end of this year (and after, of course). He will be the same. He is going to be faithful, to care for us and to love us in a way we cannot even begin to imagine. He is going to be sovereign and all-powerful and good. And so good. His mercies will be new every morning and we could always draw near Him.

Secondly, there will be sufferings, pain. God will discipline us. If you are His child,  with love and tenderness, He will discipline you (Hebrews 12:3-10). But if you don’t forget who He is, if you run to Him when it is hard, if you keep your eyes on Jesus, if you don’t forget that He took your punishment and gave you everlasting joy, everything will be fine. Because at the end of the day, it depends on the One who died on the cross for us. It depends on the One who can do anything.

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21 )

To the end

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. John 13:34-35

Have you ever wondered how to love as Jesus have loved you? For sure you won’t die on a cross for people you love. And washing feet… maybe. It is still a humbling way to serve and to love. It is just as when someone washes your dishes or cleans your house. It is so loving. But what is great with Jesus’ love is that it never ceases. He loves to the end (John 13:1). And that is the real challenge: not only to wash feet, but to love and serve to the end.

Jesus did not stop loving His disciples. When they were arrogant, He kept loving them. When they were selfish, He kept loving them. When they were just childish and tiresome, He kept loving them. When Peter was looking for attention instead of looking for God, He kept loving him. When I am foolish, crazy, faithless and prideful at the same time, He never stops loving me. He loves to the end. And that’s challenging.

I don’t mind loving people for even a few years, but somehow I want the right to stop loving them when I think they don’t deserve it. Jesus was different. He washed Judas’ feet. He knew Judas was going to betray Him and He loved him to the end. And that’s the call, to love in this way. To love as Jesus has loved us. To the end.

The LORD appeared to him from far away.
I have loved you with an everlasting love;
therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.
Jeremiah 31:3

Why not Jerusalem?

Now when he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee. And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles— the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.” Matthew 4:12-16

Why didn’t Jesus decide to live in Jerusalem or somewhere in Judea, not too far from the temple? Why did he choose to live in Galilee? And why the Galilee of the Gentiles?

Why did the Son of God decide to go and live among those who dwelt in darkness and not among those who knew God and worshiped Him? Yes, He came to save sinners. Yes He came for the lost. But there were plenty of sinners in Jerusalem. And the pharisees needed so much to repent and be known by Him. So why did He choose Galilee? I do not know exactly.

What I know is that there is something special and moving in that. He was holy and pure. He never sinned, but he chose to live with those who dwelt in the shadow of death. They needed His light. They had nothing to give them a fake light. The pharisees had their good works. The people of Jerusalem had the temple and more. The people of Judea had history, the promises and so much more to enlighten them. Those of Galilee had nothing. There was no lamp to compete with the Lord’s light.

Or it is just that God likes to save, to forgive and to bring life and light. So He chose to dwell where there were darkness and death. Maybe… It just rejoices my heart to see that the savior chose to dwell where there were no light and no life. It gives me hope and peace. Praise be to Him.

Grace upon grace

The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the people of Israel: you shall say to them, The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. “So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them.” Numbers 6:22-27

Who does not want God’s favor? Who does not want God’s blessing? Who does not want to be kept by the Lord  and to have His face shine on her /him? Who does not want His grace, His peace  and His mercy ?

If we know who God is, we want it all. He created everything and everything belongs to Him. He is good and mighty (1 Chronicles 29:12; Daniel 4:35; Psalm 119:68). And nothing is too difficult to Him (Jeremiah 32:27). We want His face to shine on us. The good news is that if you belong to Jesus, His face shines on You. If you follow Jesus, God’s grace is on you. He is not there to judge you and punish you, but to give you His grace. Even His discipline is love and grace (Hebrews 12:5-6).

In Jesus, we have all the spiritual blessings of God. In Jesus we have everything we need and more. Not all we want, not as we want it, but according to that grace that chose us and is bringing us home (Ephesians 1:3-5).

Truly “For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” John 1:16

 

With God, outside the camp.

Now Moses used to take the tent and pitch it outside the camp, far off from the camp, and he called it the tent of meeting. And everyone who sought the Lord would go out to the tent of meeting, which was outside the camp.  Whenever Moses went out to the tent, all the people would rise up, and each would stand at his tent door, and watch Moses until he had gone into the tent. When Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance of the tent, and the Lord would speak with Moses. And when all the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance of the tent, all the people would rise up and worship, each at his tent door.  Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. When Moses turned again into the camp, his assistant Joshua the son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from the tent. Exodus 33:7-11

In that scripture there are 4 actors: the people, Moses, Joshua and God. The people, Moses and Joshua, all have a relationship with God. But they didn’t look for the same intimacy. The people were  satisfied with staying in the camp. They were satisfied with worshipping God from afar. They were satisfied with Moses being a mediator.

Moses had a great relationship with God. They were close, like friends. They  spoke face to face. Who wouldn’t want that relationship with God? Joshua didn’t want it. He didn’t want to speak face to face with God and then to go back to the camp.  He wanted to stay with God. He wanted more intimacy. He was Moses’s assistant, but would let Moses go back alone in the camp. He would stay in the tent where he could spend more time in God’s presence.

He chose to stay outside the camp, alone, just to be with his God while the people were maybe eating, fellowship, dancing or sleeping.

We always have the choice. We can be far, close or closer to God. We need to take that decision everyday, knowing that to be closer means most of the time to be alone, outside the camp. But it is not that bad, because that where Jesus is (Hebrews 13:12-14).