The love of God is the greatest force in this universe. God is love, and He has manifested His love to us in the person of Jesus. You know, when Jesus walked this earth, He was (and still is) a reflection of the Father’s heart toward us. When we look at Jesus, we see the Father. Hebrews 1:3 tells us that Jesus is the “express image of God,” and “the exact representation and perfect imprint of God’s essence.”
I have been soaking in the love of God, and looking at and beholding Jesus, and I can tell you that there is NOTHING like it. It is a place that I never want to leave. When I look at Jesus, I see mercy and grace and truth. His actions express God’s heart. So, what is God’s heart toward the sinner? Toward the unlovely, and the unloved?
When the religious leaders of Jesus’ day took a woman caught in the very act of adultery, drug her to Jesus, and threw her at His feet I am telling you that is the safest place she could have landed! Glory to God! When every person in the crowd (stones in hand) was ready to execute justice and exact punishment for her sin, her mighty Savior, JESUS, extended mercy and provided protection from her accusers.
The truth is, Jesus attracted sinners, the unlovely, and the unloved. Why? Because He was the love of God in human flesh. He was the grace of God in human flesh. When religion said, “You are worthless,” Jesus said, “Come to me and I will make you worthy.” There is something so attractive about unconditional love – a love that still loves you when you mess up, that still loves you when you haven’t been good enough, that still loves you when you have failed. This kind of love is what makes sinners drop to their knees in total surrender – THIS LOVE is so good!
I have always identified with the story in Luke 18 that tells of a Pharisee and a tax collector. The Pharisee stood in his own self-righteous pride, looking with contempt at sinners, and thanking God that he “wasn’t like THEM.” He prided himself in his “good works,” and particularly looked with disdain at the tax collector who wouldn’t so much as enter the temple or lift his eyes toward heaven. What was this tax collector (who would have been seen as the scum of the earth in Jesus’day) – what was he feeling and thinking? “I am unworthy of any good thing. I am an outcast and a traitor to my own people. I have sold my soul for what? For some money. I don’t deserve your love.” This man beat his chest and said, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.”
I identify with that man. I remember being a young woman – I was an unwed, teenage mother. Struggled with drugs. I was so desperate for love that I gave my body to anyone who would show me some love, even if it was very, very temporary. I remember the day that the shame of all of my foolish choices converged on me and I couldn’t bear the weight of it any longer. My heart cried out to God, knowing I had nothing to offer Him but a broken mess of a life. I had never felt more unworthy of love than at that moment – BUT GOD – Who is rich in mercy – God, like a loving Father, wiped away every tear, and removed all my shame by speaking to my spirit three simple words – I LOVE YOU. When God (love) became real to me, I fell into Love’s arms and where rejection, shame and condemnation had sought to tear me down, acceptance, love and forgiveness built me up! From that day to this, God has been faithful to me!!!
I am here to tell anyone who would read these words – society may give up on you, people may call you worthless, you may have been rejected from the womb by your mother or father, BUT GOD will never give up on you! God will never let go of His hold on you! People may throw you away, but God will never throw you away! You may not feel worthy of love, but surrender your life to Him and He will make you worthy! I am telling you, He will NEVER leave you or forsake you!
Hebrews 13:5 says this:
“for He [God] Himself has said, I will not in any way fail you, nor give you up, nor leave you without support. [I will] not, [I will] not, [I will] not in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake nor let [you] down (relax My hold on you)! [Assuredly not!]”
Ephesians 2:4-7 says this:
“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”
Are you a sinner? An adulterer? A drunk? An addict? A thief? Are you full of religious pride and hypocrisy? You are a prime candidate to receive of the grace of God SO THAT in the ages to come, all would look at you and say – look at what the Lord has done!!! Where sin had abounded grace did SUPER abound! Where people forsook them, God never let them go! He NEVER gave up on them, and now look at this glorious, whole, love-filled, joy-filled, hope-filled masterpiece of a man (or woman) He has created from one that was so broken and lost! ALL the glory goes to HIM!
You see, when we don’t deserve forgiveness, or blessing, or goodness, or kindness, but we get it anyway – that’s grace. When we do deserve punishment, the curse, and hell, but don’t get it – that’s mercy. Did you know that God is full of grace and mercy? His love for the unloved, the outcast, the sinner, the rejected and the abandoned is unmatched. So what is your part? Simply believe that God is real, and receive His love gift – eternal life.
I, for one, am eternally grateful that I encountered LOVE, and LOVE saved me. I am a trophy of His exceedingly rich grace, and His loving kindness. And NOBODY can shut my mouth! I will FOREVER praise the name of my Savior, my Hero, my Lord – JESUS!!
It’s early morning in my house – all are sleeping, all is quiet. It’s one of my favorite times of the day. No rushing, no deadlines, no last-minute search for backpacks and jackets, keys, and purse. There is something about the sense of quiet, the stillness.
In a world of constant noise, I find that “quiet” has become a precious commodity. Did you ever notice that almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes? I think we all need to “unplug” sometimes.
The other day, in the midst of looming deadlines, orders piling in my inbox, church meetings, and school activities, I decided to stop at a little park down the street with my kids. It was a GORGEOUS day. My three-year-old & five-year-old were thrilled! I sat in the grass and stopped to take it all in. I listened to their laughter. I pushed them on the swings. We all sat in a swinging chair and counted the cars on a train that went by us – 133 cars! They thought that was something!
We looked at our little part of the city from up on a hill, then we sat down below on a bench and talked about how the view changed. We listened to a bird with a very interesting call, and soon a few sticks on the ground became staffs that would forge a new path into an unexplored patch of trees. The kids thought they had quite the adventure when a nearby dog began barking at them and they rushed back to the safety of mom’s side!
Finally, we all laid in the grass and looked at the clouds. We watched the breeze move through the trees, and let the sunshine warm our faces. How wonderfully therapeutic it is when we “unplug” from the noise of the world and become aware of the unrushed world of God’s creation. In the middle of my “busy” God lead me to a pocket of peace, a place of stillness where I could take a deep breath and recharge.
I want to encourage you to find that place of rest today. Take time to quiet your mind and be still. Take time to be aware of your children and your spouse. Be present in your heart and mind. Breathe deeply. Let God speak to you. What a difference it will make in your life when you choose to protect your peace, when you become intentional about being still and at rest.
You’ve only got one life to live. Don’t let deadlines and “to-do” lists drag you through it. You can still be productive – sometimes more productive – when you “stop and smell the roses.” Memories aren’t made in the “busy-ness” of life, but in the moments that we choose to make special. Make some memories today. Your children will thank you for it later!!
One of my favorite songs of worship says in its refrain:
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.
There is something so timeless and so simple about this exhortation, and the truth it contains is so powerful! Think for a minute of when Peter asked Jesus to bid him, “Come” (If it was indeed his Lord standing before him on the water.) With one word, Peter left the safety and comfort of the boat, and stepped out onto the water to follow the lead of Jesus. Really imagine this in your mind’s eye! That first step out of the boat must have been full of faith and trust! This is evidenced by the fact that within the water was a solid force that Peter was able to put his full weight on without sinking! He was walking on the water doing what Jesus did! If Jesus said, “Come,” Peter was going to come!
What was Peter looking at when such faith rose in his heart? He was looking at his Lord. He was looking at Jesus – the one who told him to let down his nets for a catch when he had toiled all night and failed to catch a thing; the one who rebuked his mother-in-law’s fever, and the fever left; the one who healed the sick, raised the dead, confounded the religious leaders and taught with unearthly authority! Jesus said, “COME.” Peter simply obeyed.
We all know the story well. Peter began to look at the wind and waves. Fear instantly vied for a place in Peter’s heart, doing all it could to displace the faith found there. Peter began to turn loose of the revelation of his Lord’s love (which could have cast that fear right out), and he got a quick revelation of cold, hard (and wet) reality – he was sinking!
“ But when he saw [the effects of] the wind, he was frightened, and he began to sink, and he cried out, “Lord, save me!” – Matthew 14:30
I love the next word. It gives me insight into my Lord’s heart for me. It helps me to remember that Jesus is merciful and kind. It gives me hope for when I fail to keep fear from coming into my heart – “IMMEDIATELY Jesus extended His hand and caught him [Peter].” Yes, he rebuked Peter for having little faith, but I’d rather be the wet brother that got rebuked for my little faith than the dry brother that had no faith at all!
Here’s the thing my friends, Jesus is always, ALWAYS inviting us to come – to come out further, to wade in deeper, to trust in greater measure. He invites us to a life of faith adventures! He invites us to follow Him wherever He leads. We are not promised an easy life, but we are guaranteed victory in every faith fight!
“Now thanks be to God, which always causes us to triumph in Christ,” – 2 Corinthians 2:14
When the wind and waves in your life start to speak to you, turn your eyes upon Jesus! That is the answer! When you look at God – eternal, mighty, king of kings, lover of your soul, redeemer, healer and friend – all of the turmoil and chaos of this world will begin to fade, and your perspective will change. You’ll stop feeling like your drowning, and you will begin to rise above it all. IN CHRIST we are always victorious!
When you look to Him, He will show you everything you need to see, and nothing you don’t! He will keep you in perfect peace, and His perfect love will cast out that fear. That’s when you can get sassy and talk back to the wind and waves. That’s when you can act like Jesus and say in faith, “Peace. Be still.” Hallelujah!
Turn your eyes upon Jesus today. Remember who you are, and whose you are. Rise above the wind and waves. Answer the invitation of your Lord to “Come” & you will soon know the exhilaration of walking on the water!!
If you’ve been looking for the best beauty secrets out there, look no further. The kind of beauty I’ll teach you about is timeless, captivating, all natural, and it won’t cost you a dime!
What defines beauty? Is it Webster’s Dictionary? Is it defined by the results of a Google search? Or how about looking to the beauty “Bibles” out there – Cosmo, Elle, In Style and the like. We’ve all read the tips on how to lengthen lashes, make lips bigger, lose belly fat, have flawless skin, perfect eyebrows, and wider eyes. We plump, we primp, we highlight and low light. We suck it in and push it up, and when it gets to be too much we just buy some Spanx!
Beauty is a word that carries many connotations, and brings to the surface many emotions, both good and bad; but what does God look at and say, “Now THAT is beautiful!” According to 1 Peter 3:3-4, it is not all of the outward adorning that turns God’s head, but the, “…hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in [His] sight.”
So if God had a beauty magazine, what would His trade secrets consist of? Here are a few “Beauty Secrets” from the true “Beauty Bible.”
1. Highlight the Heart
Listen, when I wake up in the morning I do not look in the mirror and say, “Now THAT’S beautiful!” My husband is very thankful that I “adorn” the outward appearance, and make myself attractive to him. I do spend time grooming myself, but God’s beauty secret is to spend more of my time cultivating the beauty of my heart. In fact, I’m sure there are days my husband would have preferred I spent more time with God getting filled up with love and peace, than time I spent in front of the mirror trying on my pre-baby clothes that still didn’t look as good as they did pre–baby; thus resulting in a funky mood as the mind became preoccupied with how to lose 10 more pounds!
When we cultivate inner beauty, all the issues of life that flow from the heart are also made beautiful. Worry, stress, low self-esteem, discontent, and shallow character do not make a person beautiful. People who neglect the heart may be outwardly beautiful, but they become spiritually ugly. Then there are those who might seem plain in appearance by the world’s standard, but whose hearts pour out such radiance, grace, and peace that their loveliness becomes magnetic and very attractive.
2. Avoid Fashion Trends
Don’t you cringe when you look back at old photos of yourself from the 70s? 80s? 90s? Some of those fashion trends we thought were so “in” at the time turned out to be more of a momentary lack of good fashion sense! Ahh, but there are a few classics that stand the test of time, like a good pair of jeans, and a “little black dress.” Did you know that God has told us what is “in style” for the inner man? It is the incorruptible, unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit. This wardrobe will always look stunning on you, and it will never go out of style.
So, if you want to wear gentleness like a good pair of jeans, and clothe your heart in quietness, you need to know how to put these clothes on!
Item 1: Gentleness
The word used in 1 Peter 3:3-4 for gentle is (PRAUS), meaning meek, mild, a soothing quality of character. The image is of a horse that can be trainable and teachable. Now, before you go feminist on me, the word is not an indication of weakness, but of strength and power under perfect control. It implies ruling your own spirit well, operating in humble wisdom, and walking in divine love.
What does the heart clothed in gentleness look like? It doesn’t have to exert its rights, have its own way, get the last word, share gossip, retaliate, give in to every emotion, or refuse correction. It does stay open to God, looks for His direction, waits before speaking, submits its emotions to wisdom, chooses to forgive, and chooses to love.
I’m reminded of a scene in the movie Gladiator when Maximus came face to face with the Roman Emperor. He had the strength, capability and opportunity to carry out vengeance upon this man, but he knew it was not time. He brought his strength and power under perfect control. He ruled over his own spirit.
That was a movie, but I know of a REAL MAN, that was meek and gentle, and make no mistake about it, He was not weak! No man took His life, He laid it down. Though He had authority to call down legions of angels, He kept that power under perfect control until He finished the job He came to do. Jesus is gentleness personified.
When you clothe your heart in this kind of gentleness it is BEAUTIFUL. It is PRECIOUS in God’s sight.
Item 2: Quietness
The word used in 1 Peter 3:3-4 for quiet is (HESUCHIOS), and it does not imply that you need to stop talking and keep your opinions to yourself! It actually means peaceful, undisturbed; tranquility arising from within.
What does a heart clothed in quietness look like? It is a heart filled with faith and trust; a heart that has been quieted by God’s love and filled with His peace – not a heart that is striving and restless. It’s not striving for beauty (consumed by clothes, jewelry, makeup, diets, hairstyles). It’s not striving to be accepted (through perfectionism and people pleasing). It’s not striving to be enough (pretty enough, smart enough, spiritual enough). All of that striving clothes the heart in irritation, frustration and depression. The heart filled with faith and trust is not trying to be beautiful because it already is. It is not trying to be accepted because it already is. It’s not trying to be enough because it already is!
When you have a quiet spirit, in the depths of your soul you are at rest, and from deep within comes a calm and peace that invites those around you to be at rest, and that, my friends, is very attractive!
Have you ever wanted to be that woman that walks into a room and turns heads? Cultivate the inner beauty of the heart and clothe it with a gentle and quiet spirit. This is what will turn God’s eyes toward you, captivating His attention, and leaving Him breathless.
Are you overwhelmed by the circumstances that you find yourself in? Are you stuck in sadness, self-pity or depression? Do you want someone to show you the way to victory?
What if I told you a simple truth; that gratitude is the key to having victory in your circumstances. Not long ago our pastor did an amazing, life-changing teaching series called Thanksgiving Victory. I’ll never forget the impact it had on me as I considered what God had to say about being thankful, and in contrast, what He had to say about self-pity. Now, any time my thoughts and emotions start to move me in the direction of sorrow or self-pity I am quick to rehearse my blessings.
The truth is that we can all easily take for granted the good in our lives, and focus on the “bad.” As humans we tend to magnify problems. We focus intense amounts of energy on thinking about those problems, and those thoughts are expressed in our lives through worry, fear, anxiety, sorrow, anger and general STRESS.
Like a hamster on a wheel, those thoughts run and run and get us nowhere! The problems aren’t resolved, the circumstances haven’t changed, and we have only succeeded in “spinning our wheels in the mud” and getting more stuck than before.
The danger is when we entertain self-pity. The belief is that our circumstances are somehow more difficult than everyone else’s. Our problem is unique, and the pain far greater than what anyone else is experiencing. It is unfair and we are entitled to be experiencing something better (like everyone else)! Here is why it is so dangerous to think this way: you make it impossible for God to extend grace to you. Why? You feel you deserve it! Grace, by its very definition, is undeserved. It is favor that is given, not because it is owed, but because of the loving kindness of the one who extends it.
When you wallow in self-pity and depression you are absolutely cutting yourself off from the grace of God which is the ONLY thing that is going to affect REAL change in the circumstances you are so depressed over!
So what is the answer? Gratitude. Gratitude expressed in giving thanks for all the GOOD in your life! If you are reading this and scoffing at the narrow-minded simplicity of this solution in the face of your “very real” problems then you are exactly the person this message is for! Truth will set you free, but it does leave some feeling offended. Jesus set a lot of people free AND He simultaneously offended a lot of people. You can’t control every circumstance that surrounds you. You live in a fallen, cursed world where people have a free will to do all kinds of things that aren’t the will of God or the plan of God. Sometimes their free will infiltrates your world and the result is bad things happening to “good” people. You can’t control every circumstance around you, but YOU CAN control how you choose to respond!
You can stand right now, lift your hands and your heart to God and say THANK YOU LORD that I’m alive!
Are you healthy? Thank God! Do you have a roof over your head and clothes on your body? Thank God! Do you have food to eat today? Thank God! Do you have an income? Thank God! Do you have friends that love you? Thank God! Do you have a God that loves you and is for you? Thank Him! Are your children healthy? Thank Him! Is your car running? Thank Him!
As you begin to SAY, out loud, all that you are thankful for, as you rehearse how blessed you are, as you declare God’s goodness and faithfulness in the midst of even the WORST circumstances, you give God permission to release His favor and grace in the situation! So do it! Right now where you are. Be grateful! Be thankful! Rehearse your blessings, and continue to do it daily! Then stand back and watch how God brings you out of the pit and into victory!