“You are Goats” – A Journey Into the Heart

“You are Goats” – A Journey Into the Heart

OK, so funny title to this blog. I don’t think it’s SEO friendly, but here it goes anyway. Yesterday I was driving the kids to school and we were listening to a favorite worship song of mine, “King of My Heart,” with Steffany Gretzinger and the Bethel crew (view it HERE). My adorable 6-year-old son was singing with all his heart the part in the song that repeats, “You are good, good, ooooh-oh,” but instead of “You are good,” he was singing, “You are goats, goats, ooooh-oh.” Funny, I know. I had to keep myself from laughing the way you probably are right now, but I had to ponder the pure heart of a worshiper and friend of God.

Have you ever put pressure on yourself to pray the right way with the right words, make the right confession, you know, “Get the words right.” I remember a time when I lived in the Philippines and we would go to tribal areas to minister. There was one group of people that learned an older song that goes, “Majesty, worship His majesty. Unto Jesus, be all glory honor and praise.” With their limited English, they would sing from their hearts, “Magic tree, worship His magic tree…” Again, I know it seems funny, but they would be on their knees in tears as they were moved by the Holy Spirit!

Another story comes to mind of a time the founder of the ministry I served overseas was doing an open-air crusade and was working with a translator. He was preaching on healing, building the faith of the people to receive the healing that Jesus died for them to have, and desired for them to walk in. At one point in his message, the formerly attentive group suddenly dispersed and began walking to the little “sari-sari” storefronts to get ballpoint pens. He asked his translator what happened and it turns out the translator had mistakenly communicated that they needed to place a ballpoint pen on their nose as an act of faith to receive their healing. (Some things are really lost in translation, ya know?)

The amazing aspect of this story that was always communicated as he shared it was that God actually honored their faith response to the inaccurate instructions given! Many of these people (with ballpoint pens touched to their nose) received their healing!

My point today friends is that we cannot put God in a box. We also have to understand that only man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart! Whether it’s a 6-year-old singing out, “You are goats,” or a group of people racing for the mighty Bic pen – God is not looking at perfection in their words or actions, He is looking at the purity of their hearts and the faith found there!

This is so encouraging to me! I believe sometimes we are taught so many principles (of faith, healing, prosperity, discipleship, hearing from God, etc.) and this is GOOD; however, you probably have felt at times (like me) that in order to “do it right” and get the “right result” you have to follow the formula. I’m here to tell you that formula outside of relationship will never produce the “right result.”

God is our Father! We have to remember the love that flows from Him to us is beyond any earthly parental love that we have for our kids (and that is some pretty indescribable love in itself!) When I heard my son singing it so blessed me! Did he get the words right? No way! But correcting his words was the farthest thing from my mind. I enjoyed hearing him sing from the pure place of worship in his heart. It’s the same with God. He wants your heart, not your ability to follow a formula. You know as well as I do that we can honor God with our lips, yet our hearts be far from Him. What does that mean? It means some people say “all the right things,” but they have no relationship with God. I don’t want to be like that. How about you?

Decide today that you will stop pressuring yourself to “do it perfectly.” Give yourself permission to be relationship driven rather than results driven. We can learn principles, but we must keep relationship first! Keep a transparent and pure heart as you walk in relationship with God, and you will live in the assurance that His grace is filling in the gaps of your growth. Just keep growing!

 

God’s Love for the Unloved

God’s Love for the Unloved

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!!

Good & Faithful

Good & Faithful

“Well done good and faithful servant…” these are the words that every believer wants to hear from the Master when He returns and we give an account of what we have done with what He has given us. In the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25, we read of a master who gives instructions to his servants before departing on a long journey:

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them. And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey.” Matthew 25:14-15

A talent was a weight, or a sum of money, but it is appropriate to see this talent as a resource in a person’s life (time, money, ability, authority). The story goes on to reveal that the first two servants felt the responsibility of their assignment and went to work without delay. They used what had been entrusted to them, and gave the master a return on his investment. We read of the 3rd servant that he was afraid and went and hid the talent entrusted to him in the ground. At the very least, he did not lose what was entrusted to him, but he only gave his master “what was his” and no more.

We discover that each servant did give an account of what he had done in his master’s absence…

“So he who had received five talents came and brought five other talents, saying, ‘Lord, you delivered to me five talents; look, I have gained five more talents besides them.’…He also who had received two talents came and said, ‘Lord, you delivered to me two talents; look, I have gained two more talents besides them.’

It is good to note that both servants received the same reward, even though they were given different measures, or weights, of responsibility. They both heard equally:

Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’

Note also that each servant gave an account individually. As a group they would have done well – 8 talents given, 15 returned; however, each ONE gave his own personal account before his master.

“Remember, my hearer, that in the day of judgment thy account must be personal; God will not ask you what your church did – he will ask you what you did yourself.” (Spurgeon)

Much to the third servant’s surprise, he was not commended for returning to the master what belonged to him. He seemed to believe – because his master was so powerful – that he didn’t need his help. With boldness and perhaps even pride he says to the master, “Look, there you have what is yours.” He seemed to have no idea that his master expected a return on his investment – at least some interest!

As we finish out the parable we see that the third servant was deemed to be “wicked & lazy,” or unprofitable & unproductive. He received no reward from his master, but rather what little he did have was taken away. His fears and assumptions were no valid excuse. He was afraid but his fear was misplaced – He should have feared God rather than fearing risk or failure.

Every time I read this passage it is sobering to me. We don’t have the luxury of not using what God put in our hands. We all want to hear, “Well done.” We all want to hear, “Good and faithful,” when the Lord is addressing us, but we often let our own fears and assumptions about God’s greatness and our “smallness” deter us from fully developing in the gifts and graces He has entrusted to us. Saying, “I was afraid,” is not a valid excuse! Fearing risk or failure rather than God will only lead us into being unprofitable and unproductive, but we are called to live lives that bear much fruit!

Listen, the qualities God is looking for are goodness & faithfulness. He didn’t say, “Well done thou mighty and anointed man of God.” Nor did he say, “Well done thou popular and well recognized Christian celebrity.” No, no – He is looking for faithfulness. He simply wants us to do something to serve Him with what He has given us. It might be serving in your church, raising up children in the spirit of faith, running a profitable business that advances His kingdom, or painting, dancing or performing for His glory. Whether He has given you 1 talent, 2 or 5 – give Him a return on His investment! Bear fruit with what seed He has given you!

In a very unfaithful world, God sees and recognizes and rewards FAITHFULNESS! What is the weight or measure He has entrusted to you? USE IT for His glory, and live excited for the day when you get to stand before Him and hear, “Well done.”

You Are Loved

You Are Loved

So I have been in hibernation the last few weeks because I ran smack dab into the middle of God’s love, and I haven’t wanted to do anything but soak up what He was so eagerly waiting to pour out on me! I am telling you my friends, when you get a revelation of how much God loves you, you will never be the same!

I have been walking with the Lord for about 15 years now, and I have known in times past the love that God has for me. I have seen His mercy and grace in my life, and I have received so many beautiful truths that have made me more and more free. Yet Paul prayed in Ephesians that we would know the width, and length, and depth, and height of the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge! God’s love for us is so fierce, so passionate, so unfailing, and so unwilling to quit on us that it is almost incomprehensible!

The Apostle John said that there is no fear in love, but that perfect love actually casts out fear. When you, as a child of God, begin to KNOW the love that God has for you, you will become one of the most confident, secure and stable people in the world. You will also be empowered to do the one thing Christ commanded us to do: love others as He has loved us. What God has freely given you, you can freely give to others, and it is by THIS LOVE that all men will know that we are His disciples.

What does our broken, hurt, pain-filled world need so desperately from us as Christians?  They need to see Christ in us. The Christ that ate with tax collectors and sinners. The Christ that loved a broken woman who was caught in the “very act” of adultery. The Christ that knew about the messy, dirty, ungodly lives people were trapped in, and invaded their world with a love that compelled them to be near Him, to listen to what He had to say.

Let me ask you this: Have you ever seen what was broken in someone else’s life and tried to fix it by teaching them what was wrong, and how it could be made right? Have you delivered this wisdom to people uninvited? Have you ever judged the lives of others, and held them to the standards you hold yourself to – even though you KNOW GOD and they don’t? Friends, God has given me a revelation that the one thing that people are longing for more than anything is HIS LOVE. How will they know His love except through His people? When we try to “fix people” with our good intentions we often end up driving them further away from God, and further away from the one thing that can really change them.

As I have been sitting in God’s presence and simply remembering that He is my Father and I am His child – I have cried many tears thinking of how easily we can be removed from the simplicity that is in Christ. Without my performance, without my self-effort, without all of the things I have done in service to Him – God chose to love me, accept me, call me His child, heal me, bless me, and deliver me from everything that was harming me. When my babies get up in the morning and I see their sleepy faces, and hug them, and hold them, God whispers, “That’s how much I love you. That’s how I look at you. That’s how much I love to be near you.” It is almost too much to handle as He unfolds His heart – I just have to lift my hands and say, “God, you love me. You love me. You love me. Thank you for this love.”

And do you know what is happening? I see people who are lost, and instead of passing judgment, I think, “They need to know this love! Do they know how much God loves them, or are they drowning in condemnation, shame and guilt – thinking that His love is only for ‘good people’ that go to church and make all of the right choices?” If  people could know the love that God has for them, and BELIEVE it – they would be forever changed!

How about you? Do you believe in the love God has for you? Do you fall into the trap of performance to try to earn what was freely given to you at the cross? Do you beat yourself up with condemnation when you feel you fall short of what a Christian is supposed to be like? Short on faith. Short on study & prayer. Short on church attendance. Faith & prayer & church attendance are good and right, but they don’t earn you any points with God. They don’t make Him love you more or love you less.

When you stop trying to qualify for God’s love, you will free others from having to qualify for your love. When you realize you did not, and can not do anything to earn God’s love, you won’t expect others to earn yours. When you receive it as a free gift, you can give it as a free gift. You can then truly love others as Christ has loved you.

I encourage you and challenge you to spend time with God this week – just to let Him love you!

If you know someone who needs to remember how much He loves them, please share!

Motives of the Heart

Motives of the Heart

Have you ever been guilty of practicing performance based Christianity?

If your answer is, “Yes,” you are not alone! Yesterday as I was vacuuming my bedroom, I thought back to all the times I had asked my son to vacuum his room. He is now 20, married and out of  the house so I like to remember when he was little – time goes too fast! He would vacuum, not because he wanted a clean floor, but because I had asked him to vacuum; sometimes he did it so fast I wondered whether the vacuum picked up much of anything! I was working slowly as I reminisced, and I was repeatedly going over certain areas to get as much dust, dirt and hair as I could off the floor. I had a different motive than my son did – I wanted a clean carpet – but more than that I wanted a nice, clean house for my husband to come home to.

We can have different motives for serving God too. We might give of our time at church because someone asked us to. We might give of our finances because it’s “the right thing to do.” We might even visit prisoners and pray for the sick in hospitals because the Bible says to do that, and we are taught to do what the Bible teaches us to do. At the root of many of these obligatory acts of service is a heart motive that is trying to earn approval from God and man by its works.

Though I was grateful that my son would do what I asked him to do, the fact that his motive was simply doing it because he had to DID have an effect on the end result. Could he check it off his list? Yes. Did he get it done? Yes, but his bedroom floor probably wasn’t much cleaner than when he started. When we do things for God simply because we feel obligated, or because we feel it is owed to Him, or that it will gain us His approval or man’s approval – it will have an effect on the end result!

I like how The Message Bible says it,

Don’t just do what you have to do to get by, but work heartily, as Christ’s servants doing what God wants you to do. And work with a smile on your face, always keeping in mind that no matter who happens to be giving the orders, you’re really serving God.” ~ Ephesians 6:6-7 ~

If we are just doing what we have to do to get by, we are serving from a works-based, performance-based, law-based heart motive – and it is self-serving rather than God-serving. Our motive is an earthly reward: people seeing our “goodness,” God accepting us, or being praised for our works. It’s all about us.

On the other hand, when we serve with joy, with a smile, and with excellence, we are serving from a LOVE-based heart motive, and it is others-centered, and it is God-honoring! Our motive is love: seeing others blessed, adding value to the businesses we work for or the clients we serve, people being healed, delivered, and set free as we prepare a place for them to come and worship. The awesome part is that when we don’t seek an earthly reward, God gives us a heavenly one:

“All good deeds are gifted back from the Lord...” ~ Ephesians 6:8 ~ (The Voice)

Good work will get you good pay from the Master…” ~ Ephesians 6:8 ~ (The Message)

You know that the Lord will reward every person who does what is right…” ~ Ephesians 6:8 ~ (CEB)

Knowing that for whatever good anyone does, he will receive his reward from the Lord…” ~ Ephesians 6:8 ~ (AMP)

This week, pay attention to why you do what you do – whether it be caring for your children, serving in your church, cleaning your house, working – whatever it is, give yourself the litmus test. Am I doing this with real joy? With a sincere smile? With excellence? If not, check your love levels! It may be that you need to spend some time basking in God’s love so you do all you do with a right heart, one that God is ready to reward!

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