The Hard Truth – How God Feels About You

We sat shoulder to shoulder in church, just as we had hundreds of times before. Though he’d left home after high school and we no longer shared Sundays together, a break from a tough semester of college brought him home for the weekend. So we went to church, just like old times.

I can’t remember the full sermon that Sunday, and I doubt my son remembers it either. But somewhere in the middle of the message, the pastor scanned the Saturday night crowd and asked a pointed question:

“You know you don’t have to be good for God to love you, right?”

Was this a rhetorical question? A test? Multiple choice would be easier. Maybe true or false.

No one said a word. It seemed as if we collectively held our breath, waiting for the punchline.

“Let me say it another way.” He paused. “With a show of hands, how many of you grew up believing you needed to be good for God to love you?”

The congregation came to life as hands raised throughout the auditorium. Men and women, young and old. From the sound of it, I guessed the majority in the room had a hand in the air. Truth is, I didn’t look. I was too busy paying attention to what was happening in my own row.

I didn’t hesitate when the pastor posed his question. Yes, I grew up believing I had to be good for God to love me, that His love was conditional. This belief drove me well into adulthood, and too often I still slipped back into legalism — toward myself and others.

I held my hand up along with hundreds of others, feeling both sadness at the truth and relief at the camaraderie. I wasn’t the only one who’d been duped.

And that’s when I noticed my son’s arm raised high right next to mine.

My stomach sank, but I was not surprised. Though the only light came from the platform, I tried to see my son’s face through the dark.

“I’m sorry, babe,” I whispered. “I’m sorry.”

Out of all the things I wanted to do right as a mom, this was the big one. And now, when it seemed too late to do anything about it, I discovered I’d blown it.

“It’s okay, Mom,” he whispered.

I shrugged, smiled. “I know better now,” I reassured him, reassured myself.

He didn’t miss a beat. “I do too.”

Mercy, sweet mercy. I didn’t deserve it, I knew. He gave it to me anyway.

Which is what I think God had been trying to tell me about Himself all along.

God’s presence doesn’t sit in judgment. He sits in mercy.

He doesn’t withhold His compassion until I get all my Christianity right. He doesn’t even wait for me to have it all together to show me His kindness. Though my prayers are flawed and my performance unpredictable, though I claim to love Him and can’t always understand Him, His mercy carries me. It carries every single one of us, flawed children and parents alike. And the glimmers of His presence cover us like a bottle of glitter upended.

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? . . . No, in all these things we are more than conquerors  through him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future,  nor any powers,  neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God  that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:35, 37-39 (NIV)

My friend, I have a question for you. Do you believe you have to be good for God to love you? Do you fear your mistakes and failures are keeping Him at a distance and causing Him to withhold His love? Are you afraid that one wrong move will rip His presence away from you, forever?

If so, I have good news for you.

God’s presence sits in mercy, not judgment.

He is with the broken and the beat up, the rejected and unloved.

He loves you not because you deserve it, but because His love can’t help it.

That’s the truth about how He feels about you. Not just for today, but for always. His unending, never-failing love is based on His character, not yours. That means, no matter how far you feel you’ve walked away from Him, no matter the mistakes you made yesterday or the ones you’ll make tomorrow, His love will find you. Always.

Article – courtesy of Michele Cushatt

God Restores & Brings Joy

It seemed like a dream when the Lord brought us back to the city of Zion. We celebrated with laughter and joyful songs. In foreign nations it was said, “The LORD has worked miracles for His people.” And so we celebrated because the LORD had indeed worked miracles for us. (Psalm 126:1-3 CEV)

As she watched her husband being baptized, she knew she was witnessing a miracle. Tears streamed down her face as her thoughts reflected on the long, hard road that led him here. Enduring years of his alcohol and work addiction, she had spent so much time alone, tending to their children and talking to God. When she was fearful about finances or their children’s future, she leaned into the Lord even harder, looking to Him for the leadership she lacked at home, praying and believing that one day her husband would step into his God-given role.

Twenty years later, her husband’s heart changed, and now she stood humbled and submitted to God’s Spirit like never before. But he wasn’t the only one.

In the painfully long struggle, she had experienced God’s tender mercies and saving grace, day by day. Her dependence on His Spirit had grown so strong that her heart sang no matter what situation she faced. By experience, she knew her Savior was near, and she was safe.

We, too, can rest in hope regardless of our current circumstances when we realize God’s goodness. He is God with us, our peace amid unpleasant realities. Today, draw closer to Him and pour out your heart’s cry. Though we weep for a season, we rest knowing that with the Lord, unspeakable joy comes with the morning. (Written by Jennifer Gerelds)

The whole earth is filled with awe at Your wonders; where morning dawns, where evening fades, You call forth songs of joy. (Psalm 65:8 NIV)

A Reminder About Who Is Really in Control

Originally posted by Mary Carver on (in)courage: When I hear the word “control,” I immediately begin mixing my pop culture metaphors as my brain simultaneously sings Janet Jackson lyrics and does a [poor] Gollum impression, whispering, “My precious,” to the idea of control. Ah, to have everything in my world following my commands and plans! Like Ms. Jackson, some days I imagine my last name really is Control.

Then I wake up. Or I take one step outside my imagination and into the real world, where very few things go according to plan and even fewer are truly in my control. Reality smacks me in the face, and I remember: that gold ring is one I will never grasp, but not for lack of trying.

The crazy thing is that, despite more than forty years of life experience and a reasonable amount of common sense, part of me still believes that if I can just plan enough, I can control all the variables and force the world to turn into exactly what I want. After all, I make really good plans! So it seems fair to expect – no, demand! – that everything goes well. All of it. I want everything lined up and locked down, clean and shiny and pretty and perfect. I want it under my control.

But, let’s be honest, how often does that ever actually happen?

And then, when it all falls apart (because let’s face it, when you’re wound this tight and so determined to get a grip on elusive control, it always falls apart), I lose my mind. I lose my temper and my patience, and I don’t look much different than one of my kids when she’s told she can’t have her way.

Several years ago, I endured the worst interview ever. The hiring manager grilled me as he stared at my resume, going through every experience I’d listed and asking me if I regretted the choice that led me there. College – did I regret it? Major – did I regret it? First job – did I regret it? And on it went.

As uncomfortable as that interview was, it was also illuminating as I realized that no matter how each of my experiences had turned out, I didn’t regret them. Could I imagine a better path? Sure. Was I pretty sure that I’d made mistakes along the way, leading me to places less than ideal? Absolutely. Were some of my decisions made out of fear or pride or impatience? I’m afraid so.

But did God use each of those experiences anyway? When I listened to His guidance, did He show me how to use the gifts He’d given me to learn and grow, to serve others no matter where I’d wandered? Is God strong enough to hold steady, unswerving even when I try so desperately to grab the wheel and steer the ship? Yes, yes, and yes!

Waiting is hard, and while I’d like to think I’ve learned to do it better, my track record would tell you that’s not saying much. I’ve been impatient countless times, so anxious to get to the next thing, the real thing, the something big that I simply couldn’t wait on God’s timing. I’ve repeatedly gotten ahead of God’s plans in an effort to take control and force what I believed was meant to be to happen now — quitting jobs, starting businesses, breaking leases, making announcements, changing churches.

Every time, I believed the lie that I knew better than God, that everyone would benefit if I simply stepped up and took charge. Every time, I was wrong – and every time, God showed up to gently (or sometimes not so gently) pull me back onto the path He’d built just for me.

Getting ahead of God and trying to take charge just doesn’t work. As I tell my daughters, “Every action has a consequence,” and that includes my determination to be in control, my refusal to trust God’s plan, my lack of faith that leaves me unable to wait for God’s timing.

All of us are fooling ourselves when we believe we know better than God about what should happen next. He is the Author of our stories and the story of all time, and in the most brilliant timing, He will work everything out for our good and His glory. He won’t be stopped by our interruptions as we take detours and make plans of our own, and He can use us and bless us even when we forge our own paths. That’s how firmly in control He is.

So if you are weary of waiting on God, have faith, friend. He hasn’t forgotten you. He has a plan, and you are part of it. And the way He reveals His plan to you will be more beautiful and perfect than anything you could dream or design.

If you crave control – out of fear of the unknown or misplaced pride in your own wisdom (both things that have tripped me up before!) – remember in Whom you’re placing your trust. Remember that God is the God of eternity, the God of creation and salvation, the God who loves you more than you can imagine. That God? He’s got you. He’s got a plan for you. And neither He nor that plan will let you down.

And if you have given in to impatience, gotten ahead of God and forged ahead on your own, don’t despair. It’s not too late to follow God and be part of His plan. There’s nowhere you can go that He isn’t with you, waiting with all the patience we lack, for you to turn back and rely on Him.

Reference: Tales as Old as Time: Lessons on God’s Love Inspired by Beauty and the Beast.