Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Gift of Peace

"Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?...Why do you have so little faith?"  Matthew 6:27, 30

This Christmas season, I'd like to ask you a question. What do you worry about? What are you worried about today? The same things you were worried about yesterday, last week, last month, or new things? I wouldn't be surprised if you said, 'All of the above!' That's one of the problems with worry. Once fearful thoughts enter our mind, it's hard to get rid of them, and once we allow ourselves to think about what could happen in one area of life, those same fears can be transferred to other things.

This might seem like a strange subject to talk about for Christmas. We usually think about joy, peace, and hope this time of year, and I certainly want you to experience those things. But worry can get in the way, can't it? Whether you are afraid of buying the wrong gift for someone or running out of time to go shopping; or if your fears arise for more serious things such as not having enough money for food, let alone to buy gifts, or having to face people you don't like on what should be the best holiday of the year, or worse yet, being alone: Christmas joy can easily get swallowed up by fear, anger, loneliness, or pain.

Since Christmas is about Jesus, I believe it's fitting to consider what He had to say on the subject of worry. His words are straightforward, and they boil down to this: 'Don't! It doesn't do any good.' And for those who do worry, He asks the question: "Why do you have so little faith?"

Have you ever thought of your worries as being about a lack of faith? It's easy to feel alone in our fears, problems, and challenges, and that's where worry often begins. But if we take time to remember God is with us and we are never alone, that can bring us peace.

One of the easiest ways to see how much we are living by faith is to look at what we worry about. If you are worried about decisions you need to make, this points to a lack of faith in God's guidance. If you are worried about your career, relationships, or the future, this points to a lack of faith in God's perfect timing and goodness. If you are worried about being safe or having what you need, this points to a lack of faith in God's protection and care.

Sometimes the problem isn't so much about believing what God has promised, but knowing what He has promised. Do you know what God has said about guiding you, being good to you, and caring for you? And if so, have you put His words to the test? Have you asked for His help in difficult situations? Have you asked Him to give you what you need? Have you asked for wisdom when facing a tough decision? Have you asked for strength to make it through trials?

Other common worries have to do with our concern about what others think of us, or even what God thinks. We worry about having the right look, the right image, and the right reputation. We worry about being good enough. Do I have enough ambition and accomplishments? Do I have enough good deeds on my "nice" list this year? Do my friends, coworkers, and family members think highly enough of me? Am I measuring up to the standard of all I should be--beauty-wise, brain-wise, socially, and spiritually?

Whatever worries you can relate to here, and others you may have--I encourage you to take a deep breath this Christmas and remember why Jesus came: to bring us peace and hope. Jesus says we don't need to worry, and He would love nothing more than to give you peace as you believe Him, trust Him, and ask Him to meet your every need.

"I am leaving you with a gift--peace of mind and heart...So don't be troubled or afraid." ~ Jesus (John 14:27)

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188.  All rights reserved.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

He Honors You

"Your approval means nothing to me, because I know you don't have God's love within gladly honor each other, but you don't care about the honor that comes from the one who alone is God."  John 5:41-42, 44

Do you ever feel the need to be validated? I heard a disturbing report on the news about girls posting selfies on social media sites soley for the purpose of becoming a member of the "100 Likes Club". If you haven't heard of this, the idea is to post a selfie that is good enough to get at least 100 Likes from others. Achieving this goal is the goal, and any picture that doesn't meet this standard should probably be deleted.

Wow. That's harsh. And it's so wrong. But sadly, it's happening. And I'm not surprised because we all have this need for validation. Whether it's a photo of ourselves, a job we have, a talent, or even in following God, we often wonder if we "measure up".  Am I beautiful enough? Am I far enough along in my career? Am I as good at_____as I think I am? Am I good enough? Do I matter? What do others think of me?

We've all heard the truthful words, "True beauty comes from the inside." But even in that we are often critical of ourselves, and trying to be beautiful on the inside can be just as damaging to our self-esteem as never thinking we are pretty enough. And then there's our "spiritual scale" to consider. Am I a good enough Christian? Am I doing enough for others? Am I doing enough for God? Is He proud of me or disappointed in me? And our concerns in how good of a job we're doing don't only stem from our own insecurities but also from others who "mean well".  Their motive may be to whip us into spiritual shape, but their critical comments, subtle glances, and guilt trips just make us feel worse.

Jesus was familiar with this need for validation, and it is a human need. I'm not trying to say we don't need to know how beautiful we are, how good we are at things, or how God sees us. We do need to know, and knowing can be empowering, but the question is, who are we trying to please, and how? How much is enough? What scale am I using, what scale are others using, and what scale is God using? We can find a clue in what Jesus said to a man who needed forgiveness and healing, and in what He said to some "weighty" bystanders.

The house where [Jesus] was staying was so packed with visitors that there was no more room, even outside the door. While he was preaching God's word to them, four men arrived, carrying a paralyzed man on a mat. They couldn't bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, so they dug a hole through the roof above his head. Then they lowered the man on his mat, right down in front of Jesus. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, "My child, your sins are forgiven."

But some of the teachers of religious law who were sitting there thought to themselves, "What is he saying? This is blasphemy! Only God can forgive sins!"

Jesus knew immediately what they were thinking, so he asked them, "Why do you question this in your hearts?" (Mark 2:2-9)

Jesus doesn't get validation from these religious men, and as the new rabbi in town, this would have been a big deal. But it doesn't bother Him, and He turns the tables by questioning their critical thoughts instead. It would be like posting a selfie, having complete confidence it's a nice photo of yourself, but when you don't get as many "likes" as you think you should, you don't remove the picture, but rather you post a comment for all your silent disapprovers: Why didn't you like this? What's wrong with how I look in this photo? Why don't you approve? And you're not looking for them to be honest with you about how you look one way or the other, you're asking them to be honest with themselves: What is your scale of beauty, and is it the right scale?

The truth is, any photo I post of myself is worth posting because I'm a human being and I have value and worth. And the paralyzed man Jesus healed that day was a candidate for forgiveness for the same reason. Notice he didn't ask for forgiveness, and neither did his friends ask for it on his behalf. He was forgiven because God chose to forgive him, just as He does with everyone. I don't think the religious teachers were questioning Jesus' ability to forgive sins because of who He was as much as they were questioning this man's worthiness of being forgiven--even by God. Jesus could be lenient about their belief in His authority and questioning if He was truly the Messiah. But when it came to doubting the belief that God would forgive this man, or anyone, He called them on it: "Why do you question this in your hearts?"

They were questioning their own level of worthiness; that's why they were working so hard to be "religious".  They were following the Law, but they knew they weren't perfect. They weren't living under grace, but law, and that was bad news. They tried to appear perfect and were quick to point out the flaws of others (or make them up in Jesus' case), but deep in their hearts they knew the truth.

I think our need for validation stems from the same thing. We want to be good at something. And if we can't be as successful as we want to be, we want to at least look good. But our self-scrutiny will always fail us, and others will fail to give us the validation we need to overcome our own thoughts. Even one critical word can cancel out a hundred "likes", "well done" praises, and "you are so good at ____" compliments.

How do we get the validation we need? How do we overcome the disapproval or silence of others? How do we cope with failure? It has slapped us in the face before, and it will undoubtedly come again. Even if we try our best. Even if we choose to think positively and not give up hope. Even if we are determined and as flawless as Jesus was. He certainly had His critics, and He paid dearly for their opinion of Him.

So what do we do? We do what the paralyzed man did: Jesus said..."Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home!" And immediately as everyone watched, the man jumped up, picked up his mat, and went home praising God. (Luke 5:24-25)  He believed in what Jesus had done for him. He believed in who Jesus said he was: healed, forgiven, and set free. There was nothing holding him to that mat of disability, and he got up and walked out of there, thanking God for it all. He didn't wait for someone else to say, "You can do it", "You should do it", or "We're behind you all the way".  Doing what Jesus said he could do was enough.

What has Jesus said you can do: with His forgiveness, with His help, with the ways He has gifted you? Do you believe Him? Is His validation enough? You already have it. You are highly valued by Him. You are deeply loved. You are beautiful in His eyes. He honors you. You have everything you need to be who He says you can be. Just believe it, and no matter how many others don't agree, or are too self-absorbed to give you encouragement, or how critical you are of yourself, His word to you is enough.

"Those who listen [to Me] will live." John 5:25

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188.  All rights reserved.

All photos are copyrighted © by the beautiful young women who took them. All rights reserved.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Beyond Honoring Him

"These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me."  Matthew 15:8

I recently watched the 2014 theatrical release of "Noah", the story of the Biblical character and his family being saved from the Great Flood as told in the Book of Genesis. I'd heard a lot of criticism about this particular portrayal of the story from those who felt the writers strayed too far from the scriptural text, but God led me to see it anyway. Personally I thought it was brilliant storytelling, I didn't think it was so far-fetched, and I really liked it. I appreciated the way Noah is portrayed, as a "righteous" man as the Bible says, and yet he was also far from perfect. Human with normal human emotions of doubt, fear, and uncertainty. God spoke to him about what to do, gave him visions and dreams, and provided what was needed to carry out the task, but it was far from easy for him to listen, understand, and always believe in what he was doing and if it was right.

I can relate to that, how about you?

If you are a Bible-believing person, you have probably been taught to honor God, and that was Noah's mindset for much of the movie. He was focused on how God was leading him and carrying out the task he believed God had given him, but along the way his heart came into play, and he was faced with the dilemma of choosing between justice and mercy, and the question: Is God just, or is He merciful?

When it comes to honoring God, I think we lean toward the side of God being just. He is worthy of honor because He is holy and perfect. We honor God by doing what He says--by living obediently. We worship Him because He commands us to do so. We do the right thing because it's right. We live uprightly because we claim to follow Him. We repent of sin because we know it's wrong. And we look down on those who aren't as "righteous" as we are.

Jesus had strong words for people who lived that way. And He quoted His Father who spoke the same words to Isaiah the prophet many years earlier. "These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me."  They were acting "justly", the way they thought God wanted, but they were mistaken. God's heart is not about what is just, it's about His mercy.

Should we live "rightly"?  Absolutely. Do we have the capacity to live righteously on our own?  Absolutely not. Do we honor God when we live rightly?  Sometimes--God is also interested in our motive and whether or not we are relying on Him to live appropriately. (Prov. 2:6-7; 21:2)  Is there more to following God than living rightly and honoring him?  Absolutely. This is the crossroad Noah came to in the movie, and I think he had to at some point in real-life also. Why?  Because anyone who follows God for any length of time will come to this crossroad.

If you are honoring God simply for the sake of honoring Him or to be known as someone who honors Him, God wants to take you to a deeper place of knowing Him for all that He is. Beyond obedience to seeing yourself as the object of His affection. Did He choose Noah because He knew Noah would be obedient, because he was a "righteous" man?  Yes. Did He choose Noah because He wanted to show Noah how much he was loved?  Even more so. If He knew Noah would be obedient but would come away from the experience only seeing God as just and himself as righteous, He would have chosen someone else.

The people God chose to rescue needed to escape with a different story to tell. Not that God is just: anyone could come to that conclusion who saw the entire "unrighteous" human race annihilated. God needed a different kind of witness to share His heart behind the destruction. He needed someone, several someones, who would see that in the end, mercy always wins over justice. Did all humans, including Noah and his family deserve death?  Was that the curse sin had brought?  Yes. Is that how the story ends?  No.

How did it end?  With a promise. With a blessing. With a command to keep the human race going. "Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth." (Gen.9:1)  Why?  Because this time everyone would be obedient and honor Him?  Not hardly!  Then why?  Because God's wrath doesn't satisfy Him. It's pointless. It's not what He wants to be known for. Does He have the right to act justly?  Absolutely.  Is justice the last word?  Absolutely not.

What does satisfy God's heart?  What is His final word?  What does He want to be famous for?  His love. Love that is merciful. Love that forgives. Love that healed a broken, wayward, hardened earth; And love that heals the broken, wayward, hardened hearts of mankind. Love that teaches us what is right so we can avoid mistakes and the pitfalls of sin. Love that doesn't leave us on our own to make the right choices but empowers us to live obediently. (Eph. 1:19-20)  Love that we receive and believe in so completely, we become messengers and vessels of that love to those around us.

Noah may have been seeking to honor God with his obedience. You may be seeking to honor God in the ways you worship, serve, and obey Him. But God is seeking something else. As Jesus told the Samaritan Woman at the Well (a woman many would have seen as needing to radically change her ways to honor God), "If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me and I would give you living water." (John 4:10)

He didn't say:

'If you bow down and worship me.'

'If you do what I command.'

'If you live an honorable life.'

'If you live to honor me.'

He said: "Ask me, and I will give."

When the woman brings up the subject of worshiping God in the proper way and place, He says, "Believe me, dear woman, the time is coming when it will no longer matter [where you worship or your heritage]...true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth." (4:21-23)  An open, honest heart--that's all God requires to honor Him: to admit my need and ask for His presence and love, His goodness and righteousness, the things that will satisfy my soul; Not to try and satisfy Him, but to let Him satisfy me. To change me from the inside-out: beyond forgiveness to renewal and transformation. Beyond honoring Him to becoming all I am meant to be. That's true worship. Not living to please Him, but to be satisfied in Him. To rest in His love. To receive His mercy. To be a daughter of Grace.

This is something we talk about, but it's often only on our lips. We need to let the truth of God's mercy penetrate our souls to the point where we feel no shame, no need to earn God's favor, no need to compare ourselves to everyone else; where honoring God isn't about what we do, but what we receive--what He gives to us, what we truly believe He can do for us, the love He shares without limit or condition.

I used to think it was only about doing what is right, but it's about the blessings God has for me. It's about knowing Him for who He truly is, and knowing how loved I am. It's about believing I'm never on my own and never any less than how valuable He says, and showed, that I am.

God showed how much he loved us by sending His one and only Son...This is real love--not that we loved God, but that he loved us.
1 John 4:9-10

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188.  All rights reserved.

Blue Wildflower photo by Cindy Rae Riggs © 2014. Used by permission.

"Noah" poster artwork used as Fair Use.

"Woman at the Well" by Carl Heinrich Bloch Public Domain

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Scaling Walls & Climbing Mountains

"People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God."  ~ Matthew 4:4

In our modern-day society, it might be more effective if this verse said, 'People do not live by Starbucks alone...'

But we sure try, don't we? People rely on all kinds of things to get them through the day. For you that might include a caffeine-fix, a nap, and plenty of hearty food, but the key word Jesus says in this statement is "live".  Just as we need bread for our bodies to be alive and active each day, our souls need nourishment (or a Grande Kickstart) from God Himself: To hear what He says to us, to believe it, and to live by it.

From Matthew Four we know what Satan said to Jesus when He was tempted in the wilderness and how Jesus responded, but what do you think the Father (God) was saying to Jesus?

'Sorry, Son. I wish I could help, but you're on your own.'?

'Pull yourself up by your bootstraps, suck it up, and do this! Don't be such a pansy.'?

'You got yourself into this mess. You're the one who wanted to try and save the world even though I told you it was pointless.'?

'This is nothing compared to what you're going to be enduring on the cross in a few years. You'd better get used to suffering because there's a lot more coming.'?

Have you ever had people, or God (you think), tell you similar things in hard times? While these phrases can be motivating and may help us endure suffering, I don't think they are particularly life-giving. "Survival" (caffeine-driven, food-driven, or driven by sheer will and determination) and "Living" are not the same thing. And Jesus was not talking about survival. He could have achieved that by eating the bread Satan offered Him, but He didn't because He knew it was about more than survival. It was about LIFE!

"People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God."  What has God said that can bring you life? Not just to "get you through" the day, or a season, or a new challenge, but to bring life-changing joy, supernatural endurance and strength, purpose and passion? Things that make you want to wake up every morning and live the blessings and abundance God has for you?

We may picture Jesus in the wilderness being tempted by Satan as a tired, weak, broken man who can barely stand on two feet. After not having food to eat for so long, He's just lying around in agony and despair, fighting off wild animals with a stick and saying, 'O God. Why have you forsaken me? I'm helpless and destitute. Please save me from this cross I must bear.'

But Scripture doesn't say that. It just says He got hungry. He was still able to walk to Jerusalem and scale the walls of the Temple when Satan led Him to the top to see if He would jump off and trust God's angels to catch Him (which he politely declined). He was also able to hike a high mountain where Satan showed Him the kingdoms of the world that could be His if He would worship him (to which He replied, 'Get lost, Satan.'). I'm not seeing a weak, disabled Jesus here. He went mountain climbing! He scaled the walls of the Temple. I can't even do those things with a hearty breakfast and a grande hot chocolate!

Jesus was not a wimpy, pathetic victim of God's unfairness and life's battles. He was a mighty warrior! But not because He had superhuman strength and stamina. He was an ordinary man. But He was mighty, active, vibrant, and strong in this trial because He listened to His Father. "You are my dearly loved Son, and you bring me great joy!" (Luke 3:22) "You will reign forever and Your kingdom will never end." (Luke 1:32) "You have the ability to change the course of human history. The world will never be the same after You've been there!"

Jesus believed in the plans God had for Him. He believed He was dearly loved, a source of joy for His Father, and a blessing for all mankind. He believed in who He was: the embodiment of Love, Mercy, Goodness, and Hope.

So I ask you again, what has God said that can bring you life in the everyday struggles you face? Do you believe the things God says about you? That you are His beloved child (1 Jn.3:1), His treasured possession (Mal. 3:16-17), His ambassador to the world of His love, compassion, and goodness (2 Cor. 5:18-20), and His child capable of the things Paul writes to those who have been raised to life in Christ?

Set your sights on the realities of share in [Christ's] glory. So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don't be used to do these things...but now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language. Don't lie to each other...Put on your new nature and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him...clothe yourselves with tenderheartedness, mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowances...forgive [as] the Lord forgave you...clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts...and always be thankful. (Colossians 3:1, 4-5, 7-10, 12-15)

What is Paul describing here? He's describing what Jesus lived and died and rose from the grave for you to have! He empowers you to live as He did! So live-loved. Live the truth. Live by what God says about you and about Himself.

As David said, with Him you '...can scale any wall. God's way is perfect. All the LORD's promises prove true. He is a shield for all who look to him for protection...God arms me with strength, and he makes my way perfect. He makes me as surefooted as a deer, enabling me to stand on mountain heights.' (Psalm 18:29-30, 32-33)

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188.  All rights reserved

Photo of Robinson's Arch by Mark A. Wilson. Public Domain.

Mountain photo by Cindy Rae Riggs. ©2014. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Asking the Right Questions

"Will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man returns, will he find faith on the earth?" Luke 18:7-8

Do you ever feel frustrated by your prayers not being answered? Or rather, not getting the answers you're hoping for? We like it when God says, 'Yes!' We send out the praises and declare His goodness when He gives us exactly what we ask for, but when the answer is 'No" or "Not Yet', we're not as enthusiastic. We may say, 'God's knows best,' or 'If that's God's will, I'll deal with it.' But we usually don't jump up and down for joy. 'Whoo-hoo! God told me no!' 'Praise the Lord! He said to wait!'--Yeah, not so much. We respond more diplomatically, spout spiritual-sounding submissiveness, and keep asking; after all, Jesus said we can wear God down eventually and get what we really want, didn't He?

No, He didn't.

"Will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones?" Yes, He will and quickly!  He did say that.  But we put other words in Jesus' mouth. 'I tell you, he will see that they get whatever they want, whatever they think they need, whatever they think is best.'

When it comes to prayer, we often ask the wrong questions. Instead of saying, 'Can I have this or that?' the better question is, 'What is just?' And instead of wondering if God will be faithful, Jesus tells us to ask ourselves if we truly have faith.

Up first, what is just? What is right, good, necessary, best? For me, for others, for the forgotten? Are my petty wishes worthy of the word justice? Are they really in my best interests? God isn't an idiot. He knows what I really need, what others need. He's not heartless, like a judge to be worn down. He remembers the forgotten--those others have forgotten, not Him.

In Luke 11, Jesus disciples ask Him to teach them to pray. So He teaches them what to ask for: for the Father's Kingdom to come. What's that? A place where God reigns because we believe He knows best. A place where all of our needs are met. A place where forgiven people live and have forgiving hearts.

In Luke 18 He tells the parable about a widow who keeps asking a judge for justice, and here He tells a parable about a friend who gives his neighbor bread after dark because he keeps asking--again we're dealing with a need here. And Jesus says, 'If you know how to give good gifts, won't your Father give you what is good also?'

Jesus also talks about asking for things in faith and getting whatever you ask for if you really believe. But the question is, if I believe what? If I believe He will give me whatever I ask for? This is not faith. It's being delusional. It's believing I know what is best! True faith is believing God will give me what is truly best, even if I ask for something different. That's mercy. That's grace. That's God.

The right question is not asking whether or not God will be faithful. That's a given. The right question is: when God gives me what I need, what is best, what's He's had planned all along, is that what I was expecting?

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Foolish Dreams

What are your dreams?

When I was young, I had a dream of being a writer. I wanted to write books. I wanted to write stories that were fun and sweet and heartwarming, like the "Ramona" Books by Beverly Cleary. I thought she was a great writer, and I wanted to be just like her. I wanted to be an author.

The problem with having that kind of career-goal is there's no sure-fire way to get there. If you want to be a teacher, an accountant, a lawyer, a doctor, a computer programmer, a real estate agent...there are programs and college courses to follow. You might not succeed if somewhere along the way you can't keep up, pass the exams, change your mind, or life gets in the way--but there is a clear path for those who can make it from start to finish.

To be an author though? Not so much. It's easier today with advances in technology and the success of the Internet, but when I was in school, the only path was "a hope and a prayer". And for a long time, that's all it was for me: a little dream in my heart. I pursued other things. I went to college, but my major wasn't English, Literature, or Journalism--the three that most aspiring writers choose, since there is no listed major of "Authorship". (Pretty ridiculous when you consider that most college courses require reading-material written by whom?  Authors! But that's another topic.)

We're talking about dreams. Dreams that may or may not have a clear path for you to follow. Dreams that may be realistic or more lofty. Dreams that may not be clearly defined at this point. Perhaps you want to help others, but you're not sure how. Perhaps you want to work in a particular field, but you're not sure in what capacity. Perhaps you already have the career you want, a family of your own, and other childhood dreams, but now you wish your marriage was better, your job more fulfilling, your efforts more fruitful, your family more peaceful, your friendships more meaningful, your spiritual life more solid.

Most of those kinds of dreams don't have a specific path either. You live from day to day, hoping for a brighter one. You try harder. You pray. You do the best you can. But then you fail, or your best isn't good enough, or others let you down. God lets you down. Everything seems so unfair and pointless.

My journey to becoming an author was never guaranteed, and I did a lot of meandering along the way. But I never gave up hope. It was a foolish dream, an imaginary destination for a lot of years, but I could always picture it in my mind and held onto it in my heart. I've learned to do the same when it comes to my day-to-day life. Hopes I have for myself, my family, my friends, my readers, and this world in general. Hopes for love, peace, others knowing God, having more faith, and being more fruitful.

In John 17 we can read about Jesus' foolish dreams. He asked His Father for things like eternal life for all, for everyone to know Him and believe He came from God, divine protection for His followers, unity, complete joy, purity, His glory to be in them, and the fullness of His love indwelling their hearts! Talk about reaching for the sky.

Whatever your dreams are, no matter how foolish, lofty, or out-of-reach they may seem...don't give up. Keep hoping. Keep praying. Keep listening. And keep following. Jesus can get you there. He knows the way. So follow Him, trust Him, get to know Him, and rest in His love. That's a superhighway to wherever you are meant to go. Ride it all the way to whatever ultimate destination you're hoping for, and enjoy the journey along the way. Roadblocks and detours can be discouraging, frustrating, and make you feel lost and hopeless, but you are never alone. Let Jesus light the way, give you what you need, and carry you when you can't take another step.

"I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won't be stumbling through the darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life." ~ Jesus  (John 8:12, NLT)

Friday, February 14, 2014

You Are Loved

"I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty."  John 6:35

Have you ever tried to love someone who won't let you? Have you ever done something to show someone you care and they ignored your actions, tossed them aside, or perhaps even criticized you for your efforts? Have you ever had to tell someone they are behaving in a destructive way that will lead to pain and heartache and they accuse you of being judgmental and unloving?

Being accused of not loving someone you love dearly is painful. It's raw emotion there is no remedy for. Except to love all the more, which usually leads to more heartache. Until that person acknowledges your love for them, they cannot receive it, and because you love them so much, you can't pull the plug. You keep loving them anyway.

Sometimes people tell me, 'I don't think God loves me. I don't feel loved.' It breaks my heart to hear them say that, and I can imagine God's heart must break too. They know what Jesus did for them. They know they are blessed in countless ways. But still, they doubt. They can't feel it, so therefore it must not be true.

Think about that person you love who won't receive your love. Do you love them? Yes. Do they feel it? No. But you do love them. Their unbelief doesn't change your love for them, it only changes their experience of it. Instead of appreciating your efforts to help, guide, and encourage them, they push you away. They accuse you of not being loving, when in reality they are not receiving the love they desperately need.

Jesus said, "I am the bread of life. (You need Me every day, and I'm here.) He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty."  He is inviting you into His love, into His care, into what will satisfy the deepest needs of your heart. His love is not the variable in the equation; It's our belief. His love is guaranteed. Our faith? Not so much.

Perhaps you don't think God loves you. Perhaps you don't feel loved. But you are. Don't go by what you feel. Go by what He says.  When you believe Him, then you feel it. You see it. You realize how blind you've been.

God loves you. That's the truth! Believe it. Believe it with every fiber of your being, and if you can't, ask Him to help you believe. There's nothing else He would rather do.

We love because He first loved us. (1 John 4:19)