The God Who Forgives

Here it is the start of another year. There is hope for a fresh start, a new beginning. To do better at life than I did last year. But there are old doubts. Can I really begin again?  Can God possibly love and forgive me after what I’ve done?

The simple truth is…”If God doesn’t speak to me in my darkest sin, He doesn’t speak to me at all.” Either he is a God who loves even the most vile sinner and longs for them to turn to him or he doesn’t care for any sinner and will condemn us all to hell.

His love is way beyond anything we can imagine and so we imagine his love is like ours. “Fragile, weak and conditional.”

We love those who are kind to us. God loves those who hate him.

We love those who are worthy of our love. None of us are worthy of God’s love.

We love those who we have the energy to love. God loves with a passion that takes our breath away. It is an unending wellspring of love for the people he has created for one purpose only…to love and serve Him.

And yet we put limits on the limitless God.  We say, “I have gone too far. He can’t possibly forgive this offense. I have sinned too often. He will not forgive me yet again.”

But we forget that he is the good shepherd who leaves the 99 righteous persons to seek and save the lost one. (Luke 15:4-7)

We forget that he loved people like David who was guilty of sexual immorality, betrayal and murder.

We forget he loved the extremely wicked city of Ninevah enough to send a reluctant prophet to preach them the gospel. Jonah tried to get out of the assignment, but God insisted, and the entire city from least to greatest had the nerve to repent. (Jonah 3:1-10)

Such a heart of forgiveness this God has. So at the beginning of this year I bring my past failures to him. I seek His power in changing who I am. I determine to set my eyes on my only hope. The grace and forgiveness of a God who loves me in spite of who I am.

Note:  This post can also be found at my new website

 http://windowsofhisgrace.com/

I am in the process of moving some things over there. It is an upgrade that will allow me to do some different things. I will let you know when it is fully functional, but I hope you take the time to stop by. 

Jesus and Santa

“I can’t wait for Christmas!!!”  My granddaughter blurted out to the clerk restocking the shelves at the grocery store. The clerk responded with, “Have you been good this year so Santa will come?” Arianna looked a little confused and then answered,  “Santa’s not real, God’s real.” Now it was the clerk’s turn to be confused. Not knowing just what to say I smiled, and we moved on down the aisle.

I thought about the conversation all the way home. I don’t think of Santa as evil, but Jesus is so much better.

Santa keeps a list of who is naughty or nice. The theory is he only visits those who have been good. We use it to motivate kids to cooperate with us those last weeks before Christmas or those gifts aren’t going to show up.

Jesus, on the other hand, came knowing we weren’t nice. We needed a Savior who could save us from our sin. (Matt. 1:21) His coming depended on God’s goodness, not our goodness.

Santa supposedly leaves a lump of coal to those who don’t measure up. Jesus offers complete forgiveness and has taken the punishment we deserve by dying in our place.

Santa lives forever to keep track. Jesus now lives forever to intercede for us before God. (Romans 8:34)

Santa shows up one day a year. Jesus has promised to never leave us or forsake us. (Hebrews 13:5b-6)

But the most important difference between Santa and Jesus is the one Arianna pointed out so simply. “Santa isn’t real …God is real!” It is fun to pretend, but my belief in God isn’t a fantasy. It is something I have staked my life on. So as you celebrate Christmas this year remember it is about a Savior, not a Santa.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16

Now that’s something to be excited about!

 

Feasting on Crumbs

She was dying of cancer. We had been friends since college. We had cried together and laughed much. Now she was walking a path I couldn’t.

When we were together she still did most of the talking. Her familiar laugh was sprinkled throughout the conversation. One of the last times I talked to her she said, “Thank you for the crumbs.”

She explained, “Every day I ask God for crumbs to get me through the day. He knows I can’t eat a big meal but need to survive on crumbs.” She related how every day she watches carefully for the crumbs God would provide. She looked forward to each one knowing they came from her Father’s hand.

Her faith amazed me. She was learning that the most valuable thing in her life was the moment by moment presence and provision of the God who loved her. He was walking with her through the darkness that was enveloping her. She was learning to let go of her children, husband, family and friends. She was drawn ever closer to her God. I wondered as I watched her those last weeks.

Years later as I walk through my own dark valleys I think of her. So, today I look for crumbs…knowing that my God is carefully laying them out for me to find.

Prodigals and our Response

I wanted to make a resource available to you today. It is a free download to be used to encourage parents with prodigal children. There is much more that could be written, but this is a beginning. May it be a help to those who read it.

Prodigals and our Response

This is also available on my resource page.

Loving Prodigals

A big part of my heart is reaching prodigals and those who love them.

I am hoping to get a resource for parents done by next week. It is written from the perspective of someone who has not only been there, but continues to be there.

In the meantime my daughter, Anna, introduced me to the music of Lauren Daigle. The song below speaks powerfully to the longing all parents of prodigals feel.

Don’t give up hope. Listen to the following song and know that God loves your prodigal and is ever reaching out to him/her in mercy and grace.

Come Alive – Lauren Daigle

Surviving the Heat

Surviving the Heat

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord And whose trust is the Lord. For he will be like a tree planted by the water, That extends its roots by a stream And will not fear when the heat comes; But its leaves will be green, And it will not be anxious in a year of drought Nor cease to yield fruit.” (Jeremiah 17:7-8 NASB)

This Spring our wildflower meadow was due for a burning. It had been three years since we had last done it. The winter had been hard and it was a brown, matted mess. We gathered our shovels, matches and blow torch and notified the fire department of our intentions.

When my husband started lighting the edges the flames licked hungrily to the center where the dried foliage was the thickest. I was surprised at how hot it burned. Even though the day was cold we were both soon sweating. In just a short time we were left with black smoking ground where the meadow had been.

It was hard to imagine we hadn’t ruined it completely. How could anything have survived the heat and flames? We put our tools away and left the blackened ground to cool down and rest.

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Every day we looked at the blackness and wondered. Maybe it had burned too hot. Maybe the flowers were gone forever.

About 12 days after the fire we noticed a slight green haze.

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Another 12 days later a miracle was taking place before our eyes. What once appeared black, smoking and dead, was now green with life.

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Three weeks later the meadow was starting to bloom.

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By mid-summer the flowers were thick and beautiful.

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By early August the meadow had gotten too tall to look across. Many plants were five and even six feet tall. The meadow was spectacular!

Who would have thought?

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Most of us long for the spectacular. We want our lives to be beautiful and fruitful. We want it to take our breath away.

Yet many of us find ourselves in the fire and heat. Difficulties come and we are overwhelmed by the sin in this world.

But like the meadow we need to let the fire and heat do it’s job. Wait for it…

What is dark and lifeless now will be alive again.

The fire we are walking through will not last forever. There will be beauty again where now it looks like dead ashes.

Just like the meadow survived because of the deep roots of the flowers that were planted there 30 years ago. So too, our roots must be deep in God to survive.

He sees. He has not left you alone. His good purpose will eventually come about and your life will be more beautiful than you ever thought possible. If not here on this earth, then forever in heaven with the Master Gardener.

 

Be Nice

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. (Philippians 2:3 & 4 NASB)

While driving home from North Dakota to visit some family I saw a billboard with two words on it.

Be Nice

That’s all. No explanation.

It made me smile. It was a plain simple truth that I need to hear more often.

As I pondered those words it reminded me of the Christmas when I was 5. My parents, two sisters and I were visiting my immigrant grandparents on their North Dakota farm.

My grandpa was an unusually quiet man. Living through the depression had brought a sadness to him that I couldn’t understand. He rarely spoke. The only words I remember him speaking to me, were spoken that day.

My younger cousin was getting more attention than I was. In my jealousy I stuck my foot out as she went by. It tripped her. She picked herself up and kept moving with a smile on her face.

That’s when it happened. My grandpa looked at me and said. “That wasn’t very nice.”

Nothing more was said, but those words cut me to my soul.  He didn’t yell or ask why. There were no extenuating circumstances that mattered. He spoke a few plain words that stated the awful truth.

I wasn’t being nice.

The realization horrified me for two reasons.

1) I had to face the reality that I wasn’t as nice as I pretended.

2) I had disappointed my Grandpa.

The man who never spoke was finally speaking to me. I had mistaken his silence for indifference or not noticing. Obviously he was noticing more than I imagined.

I never really got to know this quiet gentle man who was my Grandpa. He died when I was 12. Someday when I see him again maybe I’ll have an opportunity to thank him for those few words I remember him speaking, and just maybe I’ll hear him say, “I see you learned to be nice.”

For further study:

John 13:34 “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”

Matthew 5:44-46; Luke 6:35; John 15:12-17; Romans 5:8; 12:10; 13:8; I John 4:10-11, 19.