“Surely He bore our sorrows…”

(Matthew 8: 1-4, The Message) 1-2 Jesus came down the mountain with the cheers of the crowd still ringing in his ears. Then a leper appeared and went to his knees before Jesus, praying, “Master, if you want to, you can heal my body.”

3-4 Jesus reached out and touched him, saying, “I want to. Be clean.” Then and there, all signs of the leprosy were gone. Jesus said, “Don’t talk about this all over town. Just quietly present your healed body to the priest, along with the appropriate expressions of thanks to God. Your cleansed and grateful life, not your words, will bear witness to what I have done.”

I love the simplicity found in this exchange between Jesus and the man with leprosy.  This man, so sick and in so much pain, had an undemanding and sincere measure of faith.  Notice that he didn’t even ask Jesus to heal him; he simply stated, “If you want to…I know you can.”  He humbled himself, down on his knees, and declared his faith in Jesus.  His recompense?  Total restoration. 

I can’t help but think of people who are living under the oppression of outward, obvious sin and its consequences.  Like the leper, they are often cast aside, seen as filthy, and exiled from the sacred confines of the church. 

We see your sin.  We see your struggle.  We don’t want any part of it.

Maybe that’s you, or someone you hold dear to your heart.  You get up every day and strap on your backpack full of shame and haul it around because you’re just used to it, and you think you deserve it.  You spend each day feeling like the dead man walking.  Maybe someone else has convinced you that it’s just your cross to bear in life.  Well, it’s time to find the truth and stop dragging around your failures. 


What I mean is…you don’t have to feel like a castaway just because someone else knows about something you did.  Guess what?  We don’t always know specifics, but we do know something that is a universal truth about people…WE ALL SIN!  EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US is an unworthy, lowly, sinner who deserves death…as we are all born into the dilemma and curse of sin. 

But just like Jesus wanted to heal the leper (and did), He wants to heal your life (and will).  Romans 8: 1-4 says:  1-2 With the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah, that fateful dilemma is resolved. Those who enter into Christ’s being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud. A new power is in operation. The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death.  3-4 God went for the jugular when he sent his own Son. He didn’t deal with the problem as something remote and unimportant. In his Son, Jesus, he personally took on the human condition, entered the disordered mess of struggling humanity in order to set it right once and for all.

You must understand that because God is love, of course He wants to restore your life.  You simply have to humble yourself and believe.  It’s not about begging, or even hoping.  It’s about an unembellished statement of faith:  If You want to…I know You can.  He wants to, He can, and He will. 

Maybe you are worried that others won’t believe you, and that because of your past you will shed a negative light on the name of Christ.  Please do not buy into that lie!  It’s straight from the mouth of the devil, and it has no place in your life.  You don’t have to convince anyone else that your life is changed.  Just live according to God’s word and let your life do the talking. 

“Your cleansed and grateful life, not your words, will bear witness to what I have done.”

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, I thank you for the beautiful exchange that takes place when we simply believe.  Beauty for ashes, strength for fear, gladness for mourning, peace for despair.  Amen.

“You Matter”

(Luke 12: 6-7, NLT) 6 “What is the price of five sparrows—two copper coins? Yet God does not forget a single one of them. 7 And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.

Sometimes I get to feeling lost — insignificant.  I think it is within our human natures to desire, in our own ways, to be noticed and deemed worthy of love and affection.  We like getting “pats” on the back, and gaining recognition for the things we’ve done well, and more than anything, we crave attention and approval from the people that matter the most to us.  So, naturally, when we don’t get that, we are left feeling lonesome and under-appreciated. 

I grew up in a large family, the middle daughter of five children, and though my parents were very loving and present in our lives, I often felt lost in the mix.  Part of that is just who and how I am as a person.  Somewhat of a wallflower, I often feel as if I could simply fade into the background and no one would notice or care.  Surely, this is a lie from the lips of the devil, as I know in my heart that there are many people who love me and value me as a part of their lives, but I can tell you this:  the devil will quickly find your biggest weakness and that becomes the central focus of his scheme against you for your entire life.  For me, my own struggle with worthlessness has been, and remains, my biggest hindrance in life. 

Feelings of insignificance start so small — with a hurtful word spoken, with a cold shoulder turned your way, with rejection.  Maybe you are like me, and you can still hear hurtful words echoing in your mind — you can still feel that pain and rejection even after decades have passed.  Please know today, and let yourself be encouraged by the fact, that though these things leave scars and cause us to withdraw at times, they are not from God.  These things come from people — who are hurt, who are flawed, and who have much to overcome in their own lives.  People will fail us from time to time — that’s just a given — but we can be encouraged today and every day that God — who knows and sees all, and who has numbered each and every hair that will ever grow from our heads — He sees us in every moment of our lives.  Please, know this and never forget:  YOU MATTER.  In fact, you matter so much, that God gave up the most precious part of Himself — Jesus — to serve as the sacrifice for your failures.  You matter so much, that He was willing to leave a part of Himself here — His Holy Spirit — so that you never have to feel alone, so that you can experience perfect peace, and so that you can forever be directly connected to Him — your Heavenly Father.

So, no matter how people have caused you to feel…you matter.  You are important — an integral part of the body of Christ!  So when you feel unseen and cast aside, you must remember that the God of all Creation has his eye on you, and you are His treasure — irreplaceable, beautiful, and priceless — worth so much more than you could ever know.

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, thank you for this loving reminder that to You I am significant and prized.  When I feel lonely and passed over, help me to remember that YOU see ME.  I am valued.  I am loved.  There is no greater thing in this world than that.  Thank You, God, for Your unfailing love for me.  I don’t deserve it, but I receive it.  Amen.

“Only Your Love”

(1 John 5: 1-3, NLT) Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has become a child of God. And everyone who loves the Father loves his children, too. 2 We know we love God’s children if we love God and obey his commandments. 3 Loving God means keeping his commandments, and his commandments are not burdensome.

If God’s commandments are not burdensome, then why is it so hard for us to keep them?  It shouldn’t be so difficult really — to be honest and kind, to be true and loving, to be content and faithful — but we fail so often!  We are given choices every day — to sin or not to sin — and we mull over these decisions, allowing them to become burdens to us.  It should be so simple, right?  But it isn’t.  We have made these choices difficult and heavy, and because of sin, the black and white become fused together, forming a gray area that was never intended to exist…for with God there is no gray area.  His commandments are time-honored, steadfast, and never-changing.  And though He has given us choice in each matter of our lives, it is always this or that.  There is no in between.   

“I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other! But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth! (Revelation 3: 15-16, NLT)

We spend too much time worrying over these moral choices, and we waste time and energy trying to figure out how to justify certain actions and decisions — looking for loopholes in the laws.  Well, there are no loopholes.  God doesn’t play games, and He doesn’t mince His words.  It is what it is.  Don’t lie means don’t lie.  The end will never justify the means.  There is nothing that you can do to manipulate things in your favor when it comes to sin.  It’s just sin.  Yes, there is grace to cover it, but the condition of your heart is what is truly in question.  The Lord knows your heart — every hidden motive and thought — and He is gracious and willing to forgive when He sees a repentant heart that is saddened by its own sin. 

What it all boils down to, and what will clear these muddied waters, is love.  Operate in love, because when you think, live, and emanate God’s love, there is really never any doubt over what to do.  You see, when Jesus came to us, He came that we might have everlasting life, but He also came to simplify things for us, so that we have every chance to bridge the gap that sin created between God and His children (us).

(Matthew 22: 37-40, NLT) 37 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”

And there you have it…from the mouth of Christ Himself…it all goes back to love.  Pretty simple, huh?  Think before you act, and if it doesn’t reflect God’s love in you, don’t do it.  And when you do make wrong choices, because of God’s Spirit and love in you, you will be grieved by sin and, in turn, repent. 

Love God.  Love others.  Everything else will come. 

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, thank You for the gift of Your love.  Thank You for sending Your Son, Jesus, to show us how easy it is to obey Your commandments, simply by living out Your love first.  Help me, Lord, to remember this first and greatest commandment, so that I am making choices that glorify and honor You.  It’s only by Your love…Amen.

“Let Them See You in Me”

(1 Thessalonians 2:4, NLT)  For we speak as messengers approved by God to be entrusted with the Good News. Our purpose is to please God, not people. He alone examines the motives of our hearts.

I take great comfort in knowing that God knows my heart.  So often in life, things that we say and do get misconstrued.  Our pure motives do not always shine through, for different reasons, and people who aren’t well acquainted with us will sometimes get the wrong impression. 

In a time when people are so quick to become offended about every little thing, it can be difficult to allow ourselves to be messengers of God.  There is this fine line that we seem to be toeing as Christians — on one hand, we don’t want to offend people who we are trying to reach and be a beacon of Christ’s love to, yet on the other hand, if we are not careful, it becomes a situation where we are tiptoeing around others so much that we lose the loving and holy boldness that we need in order to share the Good News.  We are so afraid that someone will take offense to our belief in the gospel of Christ that we simply just do not share it.  It becomes lost amidst our constant pandering and cajoling. 

We have to stop overthinking it so much.  It really is just a matter of love…and loving others doesn’t always equate with accepting everything that they do!  You don’t have to march around protesting every single thing that is contrary to what you believe, but you can have the boldness to answer questions in a loving and truthful manner.  When someone asks you what you think about a controversial issue, you should be confident enough in your spiritual maturity to trust that when you speak the truth from your heart, God’s love will still shine through.  We can’t always control how others perceive us, but we can always control what we say and do, and how we say and do it.   

When you love God with your whole heart, it can be upsetting when someone rejects Him and His love — especially when it is someone for whom you care very much.  Just this week, I had a conversation with one of my third-graders (we’ll call her Jessica) about this exact type of situation.  She was very upset because one of her best little buddies (who we will call April) told her that she doesn’t believe in God.  Jessica just couldn’t believe it, and the look on her face was one of deep anguish.  It truly hurt her heart to know that April didn’t believe in God.  She told me, “I can’t be friends with her anymore.”  I responded by telling her that just because April doesn’t share her beliefs, doesn’t mean that they can’t be friends anymore.  I went on to tell her that this only made their friendship even more important.  I explained to her that sometimes we have to stop arguing God’s case and simply show His love through our actions.  She thought about that for a moment and then she smiled.  She said, “Ms. Liz, I know you’re right.  So that’s what I’m going to do.”  The next day, Jessica came up to me with the biggest smile on her face.  She was so excited to share with me the news that April had said that because Jessica decided to be her friend anyway, she now wanted to hear more about Jesus and believe in Him too. 

I love this example of what God’s love can do, even amongst the social interactions of children in a school environment.  As Christians, we must be like my little third grade student:  share the truth, resolve ourselves to the fact that it will be rejected at times, and then just love the stuffin’ out of people no matter what…because that is what God will see.  He looks past our pretenses and He sees who we truly are in our deepest heart of hearts.  As long as we are seeking to please Him, what others seem to think just doesn’t matter so much anymore.  We can’t live for the world and for God as the same time, but we most certainly can live for Him as a part of this world — doing our best to show ourselves worthy of this trust He has placed in us to be His ambassadors here on Earth. 

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, I trust Your ways above my own.  Help me to be sensitive and to use wisdom when I am living out my calling as Your messenger.  May I always speak the truth in love, never compromising what I know, but always allowing Your love to be the common denominator in all that I say and do.  Help me to be more concerned about what You see than what others see, and help me to remember that if I am pleasing You, then they will see You.  Amen.

“Oh, the tangled web we weave…”

(2 Samuel 13: 37-39) 37 And David mourned many days for his son Amnon.  Absalom fled to his grandfather, Talmai son of Ammihud, the king of Geshur. 38 He stayed there in Geshur for three years. 39 And King David, now reconciled to Amnon’s death, longed to be reunited with his son Absalom.

How deep the Father’s love for us,

How vast beyond all measure,

That He should give His only Son

To make a wretch His treasure.

“How Deep the Father’s Love for Us” by Stuart Townend

The story of Absalom, Amnon and Tamar is difficult to read and thus, to stomach.  But that’s the way of sin, isn’t it?  Here we have a brother, Absalom, the eldest child of King David, his sister, Tamar, and their half-brother, Amnon, who has fallen in love (more like lust, from my understanding) with Tamar.  He can’t seem to shake his urges and feelings, and devises a plan to rape and shame poor Tamar.  She runs to her big brother, like so many sisters would do, and he vows to avenge her disgrace.  It takes couple of years, but the opportunity comes, and Absalom kills his brother, Amnon, in an anger-fueled attempt to right a wrong. 

Now, you may read this story and think, “I would have killed him too!  Go Absalom!”  I must admit, that’s what I always think.  What Amnon did was deplorable, disgusting, and low.  As a woman, I feel outraged on behalf of Tamar!  To the outsider who is merely looking in, Amnon deserved what was coming to him.  Right?  But how do you think their father, David, felt?  Imagine the grief he felt for all three of his children.  What an awful place for him to be put into as their parent!  And you can’t much blame Absalom for fleeing the way that he did.  He knew that, beyond the justification he felt for it, what he’d done was to be met with outrage and consequence.  Why?  Because no matter what we do, no matter how low and despicable we get, our parents love us.  Further still…God’s love for us transcends even that of our parents’ love. 

So even though Amnon had done wrong, David loved him still.  He looked past what he’d done and simply grieved the loss of his son.  Likewise, he was able to look past what Absalom had done, which was equally wrong, and longed to reunite with him.  That’s the love of a parent.  It looks past transgression and sees into the heart of who we are, and it always forgives.  And that, my friends, is the love of God.  It doesn’t matter what you’ve done.  God, our Heavenly Father, longs to be reunited with you today…right now.  You have only to believe, to confess, and to return His love with your own. 

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, I come to You today humbled in spirit.  I believe that You sent Your son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross for my sin.  I acknowledge Him as my Lord and Savior.  I recognize my wrongs as such, and I ask you to forgive me, to sustain me, and to be my help when I fall.  Thank You, Lord, for your everlasting love.  Amen.