I’m Guilty

jonahandjona

“No guilt in life, no fear in death

This is the power of Christ in me

From life’s first cry to final breath,

Jesus commands my destiny.” (In Christ Alone)

We sang this song this weekend at church. It’s one of my favorites because it is the perfect picture of life. As we sang the verse…”No guilt in life…” it reminded me of a story about Jonah. It happened several years ago but it still rings fresh in my mind. He was playing on the bleachers while his sister had soccer practice one night. My husband told him not to play on the bleachers because it was dangerous. I’m married to “Mr. Safety”. Anyhow, the little boy playing with Jonah fell and hurt himself. He ran to his mom crying. Moments later, Jonah burst into sobs crying, “I’M GUILTY!!” He had disobeyed his dad and now his little friend was paying the price.

This morning I read the story of David and his guilt. He slept with a married woman. She became pregnant. He tried to cover it up but his plan didn’t work. So, he had her husband killed. Then he took her as his wife. It was the perfect plan. He was king. He could do what he wanted. And everything seemed to be going along as he hoped until Nathan, prompted by God, confronted him. He was guilty! He had consequences to pay. But did that mean God would never favor him again? Did that mean he would be unloved by God? Did that mean God was mistaken when He said David was “a man after my own heart”? I don’t think so.

There are times in our lives we are going to make terrible mistakes. The fact is, we are sinners. We are not perfect nor will we ever be. We try but sometimes our best efforts fail us. We are guilty. But our story doesn’t have to end there. In the midst of our humiliation, God is with us. He sees our hearts and wants to redeem us. Some focus on the consequences but I focus on the relationship. After we’ve sinned and been forgiven, I believe we are more humble. We trust Him a little more and follow His leading. We are not so eager to pump ourselves up. We refocus.

If you find yourself in the midst of a mess, know God truly loves you. He doesn’t love you because you are perfect. He loves you because He created you. He can redeem your mess. He forgives your sin. He will never forsake you, ever…even when you are guilty.

Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” (Luke 7:48 NIV)

Life is Short

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My heart was heavy and my mind was reminiscing as I drove to the church on Saturday. I was attending a memorial service for a man I had never met. I knew his name. I had seen pictures, but I had never had the privilege of sitting and talking with him. The only thing I knew about him was the woman he had married; an old friend of mine.

My friend was someone I met over twenty years ago. We met at church and realized we had the most important thing in common. We both loved the beach; still do. Way back, when I had no husband and children, we would get up almost every Saturday morning and head over to the coast for a day of relaxation. We’d set our chairs up on the edge of the water and soak in the warm sun. I am convinced there’s a beach in heaven. There is simply no better place on earth.

When I got married, my friend was one of my bridesmaids and she sang. I remember looking over at her singing that day but having to look away because I was about to burst into tears. It’s funny the things you remember. On Saturday, I became teary eyed again as I watched my friend sing at her husband’s memorial service. Her voice brought back so many memories. You see, it had been probably ten years or so since I had seen my friend.

After the service ended I made my way to see her. She gave me a big hug and I burst into tears. I told her I was so sorry. And she responded, “You never got to meet him.” You know, the older I get the shorter life seems. You think you’ll do it tomorrow. You expect everything will remain the same but it never does. There are no guarantees.

So, my question is, if we knew when our last day on this earth would be, what would we do with it? How would we spend our time? Who would we talk to? What would we say to them?

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. (Psalm 90:12 NIV)

Insincere Love

clingingLove must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. (Romans 12:9 NIV)

I read these words yesterday but this morning they made their way into my heart. I wondered why Paul would write these words…Love must be sincere. I mean, isn’t love always sincere? I don’t think it is. I think there are times we “fake” love. We seem to be sincere but in our hearts we don’t really care or maybe we’ve simply grown cold. Perhaps this was happening to Paul. Or maybe, it’s what he witnessed.

Today I started to think about how or why we become insincere. I think the answer lies in the rest of this verse. Paul says, “Hate what is evil”. Recently, my Mom came for a visit. In the evenings we would watch the news and she was horrified at the crime taking place each day. I reassured her it wasn’t near where we live but I don’t think it brought her any comfort. Night after night the news was filled with shootings, rapes and child abuse, just to name a few. Looking at mug shots of criminals and hearing about the crimes they allegedly committed hardens your heart toward them. How can they carry out such terrible acts? How am I supposed to have a sincere love for them?

Paul finishes this verse with, “cling to what is good”. He knew the key to heartfelt sincerity was clinging to good. Each and every person was created by a Loving God. Regardless of their actions, He loves them. His love is never dependent on behavior.  I think Paul understood the only good in this world comes from God and when we cling to Him, our hearts can be filled with love.

When my kids started school years ago I challenged them to look for God. I told them He was always there. Sometimes, it was obvious and other times He seemed absent. But I reminded them He promised He would never leave them. Over the years my kids have come home with stories of God. They have noticed His hand in unexpected places. These God sightings have offered hope. They gave them something to cling to.

Life is exhausting emotionally and physically. It can cause us to become burned out and insincere. We have to remember to look for God. It is our only hope of remaining authentic in our love for those around us.

Where is God When we Fall?

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Soccer season is in full swing. Early morning games on the weekends make us yearn for the off season until we arrive on the open field moistened with dew. The air is chilled and there is an underlying hope that this game will be epic. It wasn’t any different this weekend. Parents stood there with coffee as the girls began their warm-up routine. They had to win or tie to make the finals. After an hour, the team came away with another win. Oh it wasn’t an easy win, they had to fight for it making the victory that much sweeter. In the end, it moved them into a tie for first place. Their only reward was facing the aggressive and sometimes dirty team again. Regardless, they marched to the next battle.

Four games in two days will wear out even the most physically fit person. But these girls didn’t show any signs of exhaustion. They went to the field determined to win. They knew the championship was within reach because they had tied this team the day before. It was a tough game. The girls were aggressive, insulting and obnoxious but our team charged on. Every girl on that field fought hard and when their opponent scored, they fought even harder.

The score was 1-0 with the opposing team ahead. The clock was running out when our striker got the ball and headed for the goal. She outran their defenders but only by a few steps. We held our breath. This was it. When she made this goal she would tie the game pushing the deciding factor to penalty kicks. She planned her attack glancing toward the defenders when all of the sudden she tripped. She fell to her knees sitting on the ball. Her moment was over. The hope of a tie score had diminished as the ref blew his whistle giving the other team a free kick. Our striker was devastated. Those of us cheering her on fell silent.

My girl’s team lost. They finished in second place even though they played well. The coach worked hard to encourage them but their disappointment was obvious. Our striker hung her head refusing to be consoled. Her Dad, knowing her regret, made his way to her. Lifting her head, she looked at her father. Immediately her eyes flooded with tears. That tough young lady stood there and cried as her father held her.

Life is a battle. It’s hard to balance all we have to do. We have demands placed on us. There are things we are required to do. We struggle day in and day out to do the right thing, to have the right attitude and to honor Christ with our lives. Some days are victorious. Others we want to forget. But always, and I mean always, whether in joy or in pain, our Father is there. He celebrates with us and He comforts us when we fall down. There is nothing that can keep Him from coming to us because His deepest desire is to be with us.

As you walk through this week, know He walks with you. He is cheering you on. He is for you. He will guide you and show you the way. And when you trip and fall, He will offer you a hand up and a shoulder to cry on. He’s that kind of Father.

The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him;  though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand.

(Psalm 37:23-24 NIV)

What Comforts You?

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May your unfailing love be my comfort, according to your promise to your servant. (Psalm 119:76 NIV)

When Jonah was a baby, he used a pacifier. When it was time to take it away, the doctor suggested I cut the tip off. Every couple of days, cut a little more until Jonah decided it wasn’t comforting him anymore. This was a great tip for Karoline. After one snip, she looked at it and threw it away. But Jonah sucked on that thing until he couldn’t hold on to it anymore. It took him longer than his sister, but eventually he gave it up. It never occurred to me he had found another form of comfort.

Last night Jonah didn’t want to sleep in his room. I thought this was odd. When we asked him, he said he misses his brother’s breathing. Nathan and Jonah have separate rooms joined by a common window. They talk to each other through it and apparently, Jonah can hear Nathan breathing while he sleeps. Nathan is away at camp this week leaving Jonah with nothing to comfort him.

It’s funny how we look for things, other than God to comfort us. It can be any number of things. Some people look for comfort in another person. They want someone to love them, care for them and be there for them. Others use food as a source for comfort. It just feels good to eat food that produces a calming effect on the body. For me, I find myself most comfortable when there’s money in the bank. I like to have money there, just in case something happens. Certainly, there’s nothing wrong with having a savings account. We should be saving money for a rainy day or unexpected expense. But what I’ve found is my contentment comes from being able to handle any situation with what I already have.

Our prayers can reveal a lot about what we hold dear. We should always be open with God. We should ask. But I think we should be honest about our motives for those requests. Dig deep. Ask God to reveal the true purpose for that prayer. Are we seeking something to draw closer to God or take the place of Him? Are we seeking comfort from something other than Him? If life were to remain as it is today, are we content?

Lord, may we find comfort in you alone!

Everything’s Going to be Alright!

love

The other day, I was driving down the road and started channel surfing on the radio. Sometimes I get tired of the same music being played over and over, so I search around. I found myself listening to Country Music. Now, I grew up being forced to listen to Johnny Cash and Loretta Lynn, so my tolerance for Country Music doesn’t last. But there was one song that caught my attention.

I don’t know the name of the song, but one of the lyrics said, “We just want to know everything’s going to be alright.” I don’t know who sings the song but isn’t that the mantra of our lives? We want everything to go just right. We want our kids to grow into respectable, responsible adults. We want our marriages to last a lifetime. We don’t ever want to be sick or without. We want life to go according to our version of alright. But what happens when it doesn’t? Does that mean we have fallen away from God’s grace? Is He mad at us?

I think our version of “alright” may be different from God’s. Certainly, God doesn’t enjoy our suffering, but at times, we will suffer. We will be disappointed. We will do everything right and still have to deal with difficult circumstances. We live in an imperfect world. But that doesn’t mean everything isn’t alright. I think we get so caught up in how we envision our lives, we forget God has a plan. We compare ourselves to others thinking we deserve more. But in the end, regardless of what happens God is there. And doesn’t that make everything alright?

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:37-39 ESV)

Because nothing can separate us from the love of God, everything’s going to be alright!

Prayer ~ Does it Really Matter?

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The woman walked over and asked if her name was Jane. Jane hesitantly affirmed the woman’s hunch. She proceeded to tell her she had prayed for her. A couple of years prior to this exchange, Jane had lost a child. Her teen-aged child had passed away because of cancer. Jane was still struggling with the heaviness of the sorrow she felt. But the woman, not even knowing who she was, had prayed. She had been prompted by the Holy Spirit to lift up a sister in Christ she had never met. Here they were, two years later speaking.

Recently, I ran into Jane. She was a different woman. It was obvious she had healed. She was joyful. Her once heavy heart had new life. She was living life again.

I love this story because it shows the vastness of God’s love for us. The woman had never met Jane. At the time she prayed, she had no idea their paths would ever cross and yet she was faithful. Jane, filled with excruciating grief needed the comfort of the Savior.

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair;  persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed (2 Cor. 4:8-9 ESV)

We are surrounded by struggling people each and every day. Some have chosen their path while others have been thrust into a journey only nightmares are made of. In all of it, God is there. His work continues when He invites us to participate with Him in another life. What a privilege. We can be assured in our darkest hour, He calls upon the faithful to pray for us.

Keep praying especially when you think your prayers are meaningless. There is a battle raging and your prayer is the ammunition against the enemy!