You Love Me Anyway

Last week I was looking at the verses I had highlighted in Deuteronomy. When I was reading the highlighted verses in chapter 31, God moved my heart.

20 When I bring them into the land I swore to give their fathers, a land flowing with milk and honey, they will eat their fill and prosper. They will turn to other gods and worship them, despising Me and breaking my covenant. 21 And when many troubles and afflictions come to them, this song will testify against them because their descendants will not have forgotten it. For I know what they are prone to do, even before I bring them into the land I swore to give them (emphasis mine).

God knew that the Israelites would turn away from Him, but He gave them the promised land anyway; they were still His chosen people.

We read the stories of the Israelites turning from God and we think, “How could you be so… well, stupid?” But we do the same thing. We are in the same boat as the Israelites.

It reminds me of a line from Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing:

“Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it/ Prone to leave the God I love”

We have a tendency to try and fill our lives with anything and everything – just like the Israelites did. When God gave us free will in the very beginning, He knew that this would be a side effect, yet He chose to do it anyway. He knows our hearts are prone to wander, yet He loves us anyway. No matter how far we go, He’s waiting. No matter what we try to fill the God-shaped hole in our heart with, He’s waiting. What beautiful, gracious love.

To me, this kind of love makes me want to do anything but stray. It makes me want to draw near to the Father who loves me so fiercely, the Father that would send His son to bridge the gap between Him and me, the Father that sees the blood of Jesus rather than my trespasses.

Photo Credit: Cristina Gottardi

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Do Not Turn Away

Good morning, lovely people of the internet!

The other day while reading my Bible I was cross-referenced over to 1 Samuel 12:20. I don’t even remember what I was reading that night, but the verse it sent me to stopped me in my tracks and nearly brought tears to my eyes.

“‘Do not be afraid,’ Samuel replied. ‘You have done all this evil; yet do not turn away from the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart.'”

When we screw up or deliberately sin we often want to hide from the Lord or turn away because we feel unworthy, but this verse screams the opposite. We are not to turn away, we are to serve Him. 

I imagine God saying, “My child, I’ve seen what you’ve done. Bring it to Me and I’ll give you forgiveness. Now go, show others the forgiveness I’ve shown you, show them the mercy and grace that I have shown you.”

God isn’t a “three strikes and you’re out” kind of God, He’s a loving Father who wants what’s best for us and He knows what’s best. He can turn every mistake into a testimony, every struggle into a song of praise.

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“Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, ‘Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?’ ‘No, Lord,’ she said. And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I. Go and sin no more.’”

John 8:10-11

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Photo Credit: Allef Vinicius

God Says

My, oh, my. The Christian walk doesn’t always feel easy, does it? There are some days that I just get so fed up with myself and my inability to do what I know God wants me to do. Some days I am just too tired to be nice or to go out of my way to help someone. Sometimes I get so overwhelmed by guilt and shame because I deliberately go against what God says. I feel like a dirty, broken sinner.

And I am.

I am a sinner with blood on my hands and lies in my heart.

But I am also so loved by God.

The other night I was talking to someone about letting go of guilt and shame and embracing the love of God. I remember saying something along the lines of, “When we wallow in the fact that we sinned, when we let the guilt chain us down, we are focusing on ourselves. We get this self-righteous attitude because we’re making it all about us. We ignore God’s promises in favor of our self-pity. It’s so hard to face God with blood on our hands rather than running the other way, but we have got to stop making it about ourselves. Jesus didn’t die so that we could get caught up in ourselves and our inability to live the life we are called to live. You see, it’s not about us, it’s not about what we can’t do, it’s about what He did. Jesus died to cleanse us, to free us. We need to take the focus off of ourselves and put it on the One who saves us, the One who set us free, the One who loves us despite our sin, the One who died knowing already every act of treason that we would commit against Him, the One who said ‘Father, forgive them, they know not what they do’ as He was dying.” 

I finished speaking and I sat back. I said, “That wasn’t me. Those were not my words. I needed to hear that so much.”

God put words into my mouth to say to someone else that I desperately needed to hear. It’s not about me.

When I look at myself, all I is that I feel worthless, undeserving, broken, tainted.

But when I look at God, all I see is mercy, love, grace, forgiveness.

I stopped in the middle of writing this post to go to church. Tonight we sang – and I heard for the first time – “Who You Say We Are” by Steven Curtis Chapman. The song really resonated with me and paralleled so well with the message in my heart that I had been writing about just 3o minutes before; I smiled and praised God about how amazing His timing is.  While I was singing I just thought about the words, “Hallelujah! We are who You say we are.” God says we are His forgiven, clean, and loved children; hallelujah indeed

I encourage you to embrace God’s truth:

 God is calling you to live outside of guilt  (Hebrews 10:22  “let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.”);

He has made us clean (1 John 1:7 “but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.”);

He gives us peace (Romans 5:1 “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”);

All because He loves us (John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”)

And wants us to live for Him (1 Peter 2:24 “‘He Himself bore our sins’ in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; ‘by His wounds you have been healed.'”).

My brothers and sisters, do not turn your face away from God, He loves you despite all you have done, all you will ever do; turn towards Him. He loves you so much.

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Steven Curtis Chapman – Who You Say We Are

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Photo Credit: Christopher Campbell

For Real

I mentioned in last week’s post that I began the book of Matthew.  The past few days I’ve been in the Sermon on the Mount (chapters 5-7).  I’ve read it before, heard sermons on it before, but this time I noticed a common thing as I studied.

  • Jesus says that we know that God told Moses to tell the people not to murder and those who murder will be judged and punished.  He then goes on to say that those who are angry with their brother will be judged (chapter 5).
  • Jesus again says that we know that God forbade adultery; however, He says any man who lustfully looks at a woman has committed adultery in his heart (chapter 5).
  • Jesus says that we are to love our enemies and pray for our persecutors (chapter 5).
  • Jesus says that when we give, do not do so in front of other people where we will be praised, but to do it secretly in front of the Lord (chapter 6).
  • Jesus says not to pray in front of others as if it is a show or to ramble on, but to pray privately and concisely (chapter 6).
  • Jesus says to forgive or we will not be forgiven (chapter 6).
  • Jesus says that when we fast, do not make a spectacle of it, do it quietly (chapter 6).
  • Jesus says not to worry (chapter 6).
  • Jesus says not to judge others, because how we judge, we will be judged (chapter 7).
  • Jesus says that those who seek will find what they seek, that we should continue to ask for what we need (chapter 7).
  • Jesus says to treat others as we want to be treated (chapter 7).

Do you notice a common theme? All of these things have to do with our relationship with God (e.g. are we praying just so others will see us or do we have a true relationship with God?) and the spiritual condition of our hearts (e.g. yes, murdering is bad, yet God says so is harboring anger at someone).

If you’re like me, you look at this and think that this is impossible. When you’re having a terrible day it’s hard to treat someone how you want to be treated, when things are hard it’s difficult to trust God and not worry.  Yet these things I have listed (only some of the things that Jesus says in this sermon, there is plenty more!) give me hope.

I have hope in the fact that Jesus lived a sinless life.  Hebrews 4:15-16 in the Voice translation says, “For Jesus is not some high priest who has no sympathy for our weaknesses and flaws.  He has already been tested in every way that we are tested; but He emerged victorious without failing God.  So let us step boldly to the throne of grace, where we can find mercy and grace when we need it most.” Isn’t that amazing? Jesus knows these things are hard to do, yet we have the Spirit to guide us and the free-flowing grace of God at our fingertips (for more on this topic, check out a previous post: Victory in Jesus).

I also have hope because I know that my relationship with God is what’s important.  I don’t have to put up this charade that I have my life together so that other people will see.  I also know that when I have a real relationship God  I am filled with the Holy Spirit, and Galatians chapter 5 says that the Holy Spirit produces love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  When you have a real relationship with God these things will start to become a part of who you are, and when these things are a part of who you are, doing what God wants you to do instead of what you want to do becomes more natural.

We will always struggle, we are human, but when we take part in a real, intimate relationship with God and allow our hearts to change, we find it is easier to live like Jesus.

Check out the Sermon on the Mount for yourself if you haven’t before, or if you have, read it again.  The Word of God is alive and relevant.

Photo Credit: Cherry Laithang