Daily Archives: July 8, 2013

when Love sees you

Much of the happiness you experience in life depends on how you think God sees you. It’s true.

…For the Lord does not see what man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. 1 Samuel 16.7

Sadly, most of us have the wrong idea of God’s opinion of us. We view Him as if He was a bully…the angry kid with the magnifying glass standing over an ant hill and we’re the ants. Poor Bob got hit again… We base these thoughts and assumptions on what we’ve been taught, our bad experiences in life and many other things. Satan doesn’t help matters much either as he enjoys twisting the truth of who God really is. We may think that God is disappointed in us or that we’ll never measure up. We may even believe that He is angry with us because try as we might, we can’t stop sinning. We tend to think that we deserve our lot in life as punishment for choices we’ve made. We deserve to suffer. We make excuses just so we can stay in that pit because we think we deserve it. If we continue to choose to see Him as the type of God who punishes us based upon our actions and sins, we lead a miserable existence.

“…some of us have so much defeat in our past that we feel we lost the race before we knew it started.”  – Beth Moore

As a woman, I’ve often struggled with basing my self-worth on how others saw me and my accomplishments. I’ve felt shame when it comes to my past. I’m guilty of finding my value based on how I look on any particular day. I’ve also set unrealistic standards for myself. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

If we embrace the truth of who He really is, we can be set free from that life of bondage.

Where can we go for this truth? Directly to the Source: God Himself.

God tells us how He sees each of us through the personal message He’s written over time to His followers: the Bible (His Word). He also continues to tell us how He sees you and me through the lives of His followers today. What you can learn by digging into His Word, witnessing others live out His testimony and through your own personal relationship with Him is nothing short of amazing. Walk with me through a couple of the examples God gives:

Picture Moses after he had settled down comfortably in Midian with his beautiful wife, children and new family. He might have seen himself happily retiring there, but God had bigger plans for him. In spite of his past and his weaknesses (being a murderer and not very good at speaking), God used him beyond his biggest dreams and placed him as a leader before Israel.

Picture King David when he was just a shepherd boy. Many would not have seen him as more than just an ordinary youth, but God calls him a man after His own heart. In spite of the sin that infiltrated David’s life, God still saved him through the blood of His Son, Jesus…a man who was born of David’s own family line. Talk about redemption!

Or how about the rich young ruler who came to Jesus years later? He was brash and proud and demanded to know what he needed to do to enter God’s kingdom. Before Jesus answered him, we read, “Jesus felt genuine love for this man as he looked at him” (Mark 10.21 NLT).

There aren’t even words for my own experience.

He’s been wooing me since I was four years old and I never want it to end. Granted, there have been periods of doubt, self-centeredness, and times where I’ve swapped seats with Him so I could try to control things again. Picture a young girl, standing alone on the outskirts of the ball field watching the other kids kick that red rubber ball around. Nobody would pick her, probably more due to the fact that she was clumsy and overweight. But, since then and especially throughout the last ten years of my life (since my faith officially became my own and I started to learn how to live it), He’s been teaching me what He thinks of me and, often times, has to remind me, over and over again, until I get it; until my heart accepts it as truth.

One such moment came through song (as they often do). Many songs have been written regarding the love of God and how He views us. Two come to my mind and I’d like to share this one with you first:

When Love Sees You – Mac Powell
-Music Inspired by “The Story”-

 

Blessed are you as you weep on your knees
With perfume and tears washing over My feet
And blessed are you, beggar, hopeless and blind
Calling for mercy when I’m passing by

Blessed are you, shaking your head
At two tiny fish and some bread
And blessed are you as your tremble and wait
For the first stone thrown at your sinful disgrace

Tell Me your story
Show Me your wounds
And I’ll show you what Love sees when Love looks at you
Hand Me the pieces
Broken and bruised
And I’ll show you what Love sees when Love sees you

Blessed are you, walking on waves
To find yourself sinking when you look away
Blessed are you, leper, standing alone
The fear on their faces is all that you’ve known

Blessed are you, lonely widow who gave
Your last shiny coin to Yahweh
Blessed are you with your silver and lies
Kissing the One who is saving your life

Tell Me your story
Show Me your wounds
And I’ll show you what Love sees when Love looks at you
Hand me the pieces
Broken and bruised
And I’ll show you what Loves sees when Love sees you

I see what I made in your mother’s womb
I see the day I fell in love with you
I see your tomorrows, nothing left to chance
I see My Father’s fingerprints
I see your story, I see My name
Written on every beautiful page
You see the struggle, you see the shame
I see the reason I came.

I came for your story
I came for your wounds
To show you what Love sees when I see you

If the words from that bridge don’t cause you to tear up just a bit, I don’t know what will. I remember exactly where I was when I first heard that song: I was driving down the freeway, headed home one weekend. I had just downloaded the entire album with music inspired by “The Story” and was enjoying each of those songs (music speaks to me on a level most things can’t…it’s a tie breaker between that and nature when God clearly and tenderly touches my heart) when this one came on. I turned the volume up, just a tidge more so I could really hear the words and by the time the bridge was over, I had to pull over because I couldn’t see.

I sat at that rest stop for the better part of 30 minutes basking in the words of God and feeling His love pour over me in a way I hadn’t experienced before. I was renewed in that moment. Refreshed. Cleansed. Restored. Redeemed. And I fell in love with Him all over again.

You see, friends, the fact is: God looks at you with love.

Remember the man from Mark 10.21 I mentioned earlier? That is also the way God looks at you. With love.

Let that wash over you for a moment.

He sees you for what you can become, not just what you are.

For instance – Jesus gave Simon the fisherman a new name: Peter. Peter means The Rock. Now…if there was anything Simon was not, at that point in his life anyway, it was a rock. He was legendary for his hot-headedness, impulsiveness, and willingness to speak his mind on pretty much everything. However, Jesus saw what he could and would become. Peter went on to become a rock as he made it his life’s mission to spread the gospel and build off the Foundation for the church.

God sees you as His beloved child. If you believe that He is God and that He sent His Son (literally came Himself) to save His children, you are not a stranger to God. You may at times feel alone, but you aren’t. You belong to Him; a protecting and loving Father. And since you’ve been adopted into the family of God, you have the same rights as His Son, Jesus.

See 2 Corinthians 6.17-18, 1 John 3.1, and Romans 8.17 for further reference (and truth).

God sees you as forgiven. Many of us stagger around under a heavy load of guilt and live afraid that we’ve disappointed God somehow. But, if you know Jesus as Savior, God sees you as forgiven. He does not hold your past against you. The blood of Jesus washes that sin from our lives and when God, the Father, looks at us, He sees us as white as snow. The Bible makes that abundantly clear. You don’t have to strive to be holy enough (although there is nothing wrong with pursuing holiness…it’s when that act starts to define you and your actions that it becomes a problem) because Jesus was perfectly holy when He willingly went to the cross on your behalf. You simply have to accept the free gift He offers.

See Psalm 86.5 and Acts 10.43 for further reference (among many more).

God sees you as saved. There may be days when you doubt your salvation. God only knows I’ve had mine, where Satan briefly robs me of the truth I strive to believe with every fiber of my being. God repeatedly reminds us of our true condition all throughout the New Testament. You don’t have to wonder. You don’t have to struggle, believing the lie that only you can save yourself. You need to simply trust in the truth on how salvation works. We cannot be saved by our works. for it is by grace through faith (Ephesians 2.8). To know that God considers you saved is incredibly reassuring. You can live in joy because Jesus paid the penalty for your sins so you can spend eternity with Him in heaven.

Scriptural references: Matthew 10.22, Acts 2.21, 1 Thessalonians 5.9

God sees you as having hope. Life can seem pretty bleak at times, but when you feel life closing in on you, remember that God sees you as a person of hope. Jesus is with you through it all. Hope is not based on what we can muster up. Hope is based on the One we have hope in. When your hope feels weak, remember that your God is strong. And when we keep our focus on Him, we will have that hope.

Scriptural references: Jeremiah 29.11, Lamentations 3.25, Hebrews 10.23

God sees you as loved. In looking at the way Jesus viewed Peter, we can look at our lives and see something completely different from what God sees.

Where we see a lump of clay, God sees a beautiful vase.
Where we see a blank canvas, God sees a finished work of art.
Where we see coal, God sees a refined diamond.
Where we see problems, God sees solutions.
Where we see failures, God sees potential.
Where we see an end, God sees a new beginning.
You can see yourself in His eyes. You simply need to get really close.

Come close to God, and God will come close to you. James 4.8 NLT

Love is not only something God does; love is something God is. God would have to stop being in order to stop loving. Again, our temptation is to humanize God, because we are limited to understanding love as a verb. With God, love is first a noun. It’s what and who He is. – Beth Moore

I’ve discovered that when I see myself as God sees me, my entire perspective on life changes. It’s not tainted by pride or vanity or self-righteousness. It’s the truth, supported by the Bible. It’s hard to believe sometimes; the level to which God truly loves me. Deeply. Unconditionally. Completely.

Thought for the day: Embrace grace. Your past does not define or determine your future.

If you’d like to hear the song mentioned earlier, please check here.

Shared Post: The Three Blessings of Sorrow

We tend to sell joy like it’s no one’s business but our own. Thing is, sorrow can be good for you too. Just read the following:

————————————————————————-

Written by Bo Stern

The Three Blessings of Sorrow

What John 16:33 means to me

I’ve never had to convince anyone that joy is good, but sorrow is a tougher sell. Sometimes we Christians describe a life following Jesus as something straight out of the pages of a pretty magazine. The house is beautiful, the kids have clean faces and matching socks, the refrigerator is full. We confuse the favor of God with the benefits of living in a blessed country during an era of relative prosperity. However, the words of Jesus himself in John 16:33, “In this world you will have trouble,” defy the idea of a picture-perfect existence in our preeternal world.

The Bible doesn’t run from sorrow, but rather encourages us to see it as one of the blessings born on the battlefield. I have experienced at least three distinctly beautiful benefits from sorrow.

1) Sorrow connects us to the comfort of God’s presence.

The Sermon on the Mount is Jesus’s most extensive monologue, and is the best foundation we have on which to build a theology about the blessing and favor of God. In it, he mentions eight specific “blessings,” including poverty, hunger, and persecution. One has grown near and dear to my heart: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4).

I realize that comfort seems like a cheap consolation prize for mourning. It’s like, “Blessed are those who break their arm, for they shall get a shiny new cast!” This promise, however, is so much bigger and better than that.

The Greek word for comfort is the word parakaleo. It’s formed from two words: para, which means “close or near,” and kaleo, which means “to call, invite, invoke, or beseech.” Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be invited to come near. God’s beautiful, intimate presence is the blessing in our sorrow. When we are suffering, he comes near. He calls us near. He draws us out of our hurting and into his healing. It’s not just because we need to be with him, it’s also because he loves to be with us. Here’s another verse just to prove it:

So the Lord must wait for you to come to him so he can show you his love and compassion. For the Lord is a faithful God. Blessed are those who wait for his help (Isaiah 30:18).

Every time I read that verse, I picture the Lord earnestly waiting. I can see him searching for a chance to meet with me, hoping that I will turn to him, run to him, and sit in his arms without squirming away. I find myself longing for the gift of his matchless, unbroken companionship and wondering how I can find that in my life. Well, the next verse tells the whole story, and the story matches the words of Jesus’s sermon perfectly:

O people of Zion, who live in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. He will be gracious if you ask for help. He will surely respond to the sound of your cries. Though the Lord gave you adversity for food and suffering for drink, he will still be with you to teach you. You will see your teacher with your own eyes (Isaiah 30:19-20).

God is gracious to us at the sound of our weeping. He uses adversity and affliction to draw us to himself and to reveal himself to us in ways we have not seen before. God’s comforting presence is an extravagant reward, one that we can undervalue … until we are in the heat of a battle.

That was certainly true for me. I had never asked for suffering so that I could experience his comfort. I hate to cry. Hate it. Yet in the past months I have spent more time immersed in the murky waters of weeping than I have in all my previous days combined. In the beginning, when sadness pushed tears to the surface, I beat them down. I excelled at distracting myself by changing my thoughts as frantically as possible or by trying to Bible-verse my way out of the pain. It works for a bit, and then—eventually—the waves cannot be held at bay and the crying just comes. I have abandoned my old method.

Now when the battle gets hot and sorrow overwhelms me, I hear in my heart the word parakaleo. God is near to the brokenhearted, and my tears are bringing me near to his healing. Weeping has become a supernatural tether that draws me back to the arms of the only one who can give the comfort I need. I can try to gut it out on my own, or I can let sorrow usher me right into the presence of Jesus.

2) Sorrow connects us to the heart of Jesus for His world.

When I was little, my Sunday school teacher challenged the class to memorize a verse in the Bible, so I chose the shortest one: “Jesus wept” (John 11:35). Though I committed these two words to memory, I had no clue as to the depth of their meaning until I was much older. The story is this: Jesus’s friends Mary and Martha had lost their brother, Lazarus, to a sudden illness. They had sent Jesus a message before Lazarus died, but Jesus had chosen to stay where He was rather than go to them. When he did arrive, Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days and the sisters were mourning their loss. Though Jesus knew that Lazarus’s condition was temporary, he was not numb to the grief of those around him. John painted a beautifully emotive picture of the scene: “When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. And he said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to him, ‘Lord, come and see.’ Jesus wept” (11:33-35).

Jesus wept because his friends wept. He felt what they felt. He felt the sting of sorrow because he loved them. Let this one stunning truth wrap around your heart like a soft blanket on a cool evening: Jesus weeps with you. The one who created the concept of emotion does not live in a state of anesthetized indifference. He hurts for the hurting.

Here’s another astonishing encounter from the pen of Mark: “And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, and they begged him to lay his hand on him. And taking him aside from the crowd privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue. And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, ‘Ephphatha,’ that is, ‘Be opened'” (7:32-34).

This passage doesn’t tell us Jesus wept; it tells us he sighed. Sighing doesn’t sound dramatic, but the Greek word in this verse is stenazo, and it means “to grieve and groan.” Even though Jesus was going to heal the deaf man, that didn’t stop Him from sharing in the man’s suffering.

In Mark 3 Jesus healed a man with a withered hand. He grieved over the hardness of the onlookers’ hearts. I’m telling you, Jesus feels deeply for us. He feels sadness with us and for us. Sorrow led him to lay his life down for us. When we experience sorrow, it helps us understand his heart for the world that lies trapped beneath the sway of the heartache of sin.

When we taste sorrow’s tears, we become more like Jesus by learning to share in his suffering. If we’ll let it, sorrow can keep our hearts connected to his heart of compassion for our world. This is a great gift from the battlefield because it makes us effective, capable colaborers in the kingdom, and it brings purpose to our pain.

3) Sorrow connects us to the hearts of those who suffer.

My friend Sue is sought after as a mentor by the women in our church and in our city. People turn to her and trust her with their story, not because she’s a well-known author or speaker, but because they know she’s been there. Talking to her, they feel the depth of her empathy; she understands suffering. She doesn’t minimize sorrow; neither does she allow for it to be the end of the road. Sue encourages women in a fierce fight to find the beauty, become more like Jesus, and then turn to help someone else. That women trust and turn to her is one of the greatest joys of her life, and it is a direct result of the battles she has faced and fought with faith. The sorrow she has experienced has qualified her in a unique way for the joy of walking in her calling.

Do you have a heart to help the hurting? Don’t be surprised by sorrow. Sorrow in our own battles enables us to experience a new compassion for others in battle, and this makes us more like Jesus. It molds us into more effective ministers of the gospel, and I believe that the inevitable result will be a whole new level of joy.

Are you seeing the delicate dance that takes place between sorrow and joy? It’s beautiful, and it produces deep, divine things in us that just can’t happen another way. Again I’ll reiterate that God does not cause sorrow, but he is brilliant at using it to create a perfect work in us because he loves us just that much.

Adapted from Beautiful Battlefields. Copyright © 2013 by Bo Stern. Used by permission of NavPress.

Shared Post: God’s Comforting Presence in Disappointment

Something worth sharing…no matter where you are in your walk with Christ/life now. God is my ultimate comfort during any time of disappointment.

———————————————————————————

Posted by Adam Holz – July 8, 2013, 8:00 AM

Last week my family and I celebrated the Fourth of July at a cookout with my wife’s parents. We had already spent a couple lazy hours at our local pool with our three kiddos, and next up on the agenda was hanging out at Grandpa and Grandma’s place before heading downtown to watch fireworks later on.

All in all, it was shaping up to be a pretty good day. At least, it was until my son, Henry, got some unexpected bad news.  

We had told Henry that his cousins, Zack and Katie, whom he loves dearly and loves to be with, weren’t going to be able to celebrate with us this year. Unfortunately, Henry, who’s almost 7, hadn’t heard the “not” part of that equation — and he was very much looking forward to seeing them and playing with them.

When he finally understood that his cousins weren’t coming, he burst into tears and ran into the bedroom. After letting him cry for a few minutes, I followed him in to see how he was doing. Crestfallen, with his tender little heart broken just a little bit, Henry was still very upset.

I sat down next to him and put an arm around him and let him cry some more. After a while, we talked. I think (or, I should say, I’d like to think) that my presence was a comfort to him. I didn’t try to talk Henry out of his feelings or tell him he should just get over it. Instead, we talked about why he was so disappointed.

“I just really wanted to see them,” he kept saying. Suddenly, a good day, an expectation-filled day, had turned hard in a way none of us had foreseen: Henry was smack in the middle of disappointment.

Sitting there with him, I had two parallel insights — both about disappointment and about God.

First, I realized that when our expectations aren’t met, whether in big ways or small, there’s no way around that agonizing sense of what could have been not coming to pass. There’s no shortcut through the ensuing disappointment. We simply have to tread through it, one moment, one hard feeling at a time.

Certainly, some disappointments are bigger and have bigger consequences than others. As I look back on my own life, some of my most devastating heartbreaks had to do with romantic relationships not working out. It took time (sometimes months or years) to traverse that emotional territory, time to heal and time to get perspective on the disappointment that had taken place.

In those seasons, I often cried out to God for help and understanding. And, frankly, I cried out for comfort. One of my cornerstone promises from Scripture during those times of disappointment was Isaiah 51:12: “I, even I, am he who comforts you.” Those words gave me hope. They reminded me that we serve and love a God who, just as I tried to do with Henry, promises to be present with us in our hardest, most disappointing moments.

That said, the other thing I realized while trying to comfort Henry was that, ultimately, he had to work through that disappointment on his own. I couldn’t do it for him, and I couldn’t take the pain away — as much as I really wanted to do so. I could offer him some comfort, but even that couldn’t completely take away the sting of not being able to enjoy something he had been so looking forward to.

Likewise, I believe that God enters into our disappointment — that He’s present and longs for us to turn to Him. And I believe He offers real comfort. But sometimes even God’s comfort can be hard to grasp firmly. I think Henry was glad to talk about his feelings with me, but he still had to work through them nonetheless. Likewise, talking about our hurts and disappointments with God helps us know what to do with them, but it doesn’t magically make difficult emotions disappear. There’s still a process to be worked through in faith and over the course of time.

Thankfully, our heavenly Father is so much more patient and tender than I, as a human father, am even in my very best moments. He’s always willing to listen to us, to offer comfort and to walk with us through disappointment. “Trust in him at all times, O people,” David counsels in Psalm 62:8, “pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.”

And so I keep pouring out my heart … and trying to teach my son to know that he can do the same, no matter how disappointed he may be.