A Real Love Story

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Hosea is a beautiful love story. God instructed His prophet Hosea to marry Gomer, a prostitute, as an example to the people of Israel of how He took them out of their former life of wickedness and made them His own. As expected, she was unfaithful to Hosea, again a living example of Israel’s unfaithfulness to God. The Lord declares that He will punish Israel, banishing her to the desert and revealing her wickedness. But He also promised to restore Israel. In the desert where He sent her, He will “speak tenderly to her” (2:14). In the same place where she knew only trouble, God promised that “she will sing as in the days of her youth” (2:15) He will restore their relationship and send her enemies away.

Here’s what I find so wonderful. God said that He would “betroth” or commit Himself to her forever in “righteousness and justice, in love and compassion, [and] in faithfulness” (2:19-20). Then He says “You will acknowledge the Lord” (2:20). At first, I thought that acknowledging the Lord was her part in the restoration. That she would have to acquiesce to Him. But the word used means “to know” and pictures a husband and wife in their most intimate moment. So the truth is – “acknowledging the Lord” it isn’t a demand God is making, it is a promise He is proclaiming. After the season of discipline, God will pour out His righteousness and justice and love and compassion and faithfulness, and He will lavish her with love. And she will know her beloved in the most intimate, unifying, and satisfying way. She will know Him because He loves her.

That is true for you Beloved. God calls you into a deeper knowledge of Him, not so you can fill your head with facts, but so that you can know – in the very deepest part of your heart – that He loves you. No matter your past, no matter your sin, no matter how far you’ve run or how long – God wants you to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that He loves you. Listen carefully and you will hear His tender voice in your ear. “I love you, Child, you are mine forever.”

Is God Disappointed in Me?

 

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“I don’t want to mess up and disappoint God,” my friend said. “I guess I should say I don’t want to disappoint Him again. I’ve done it so many times already.”

“You can’t disappoint God,” I replied. She looked at me with her head slightly tilted to one side.

“What do you mean?” she asked.

“Think about it – if you were to disappoint me that would mean you behaved in a way I didn’t expect. You can’t do anything God didn’t expect. He has perfect knowledge of your life and everything you are going to do. You can’t disappoint Him.”

One of the most comforting things God has revealed to me is that I can never take Him by surprise. I can’t catch Him off-guard. I can’t make Him wring His hands in heaven, lamenting a choice I’ve made that has derailed all His plans for my life. As I’ve seen on social media: “God has already factored my stupidity into my destiny.”

David said it a little nicer: “O Lord, you have searched me and You know me” (Psalm 139:1). He said God knows when you sit, when you lie down, and when you rise, He knows your every thought (Yikes!), and every word before you speak it. He knows where you are at all times (remember Jonah?). He is ‘familiar with all [your] ways” (v. 3b). He knows you because He created you. Before your mother ever suspected she was pregnant, God not only knew you existed, He knew everything about you (vs. 13-16). Your childhood skinned knees, your first day of school, your teenage rebellion, when you would fall in love, the address of the house you live in right now. He knew about the sins too – the alcohol, the drugs, the abortion, the affair, the divorce. And get this: He loved you.

I am the queen of mistakes. I have enough regrets to sink a battleship. I have confessed and repented and received God’s forgiveness. And I have peace that God has never worried about what I’m going to do next. Not only does He know, but He has already figured out how He can make work with it in His good plan for my life.

I’ll let David sum this up for us: “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (v. 16). Take this to heart Beloved, God will never be disappointed in you.

Beloved

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I pray for two things every morning over my granddaughter. I pray that she will come to know Jesus as Her Savior at a young age and grow in love and knowledge every day. And I pray a verse over her from Ephesians 3:18-19:
“I pray that Joy, being rooted and established in love may have power together with all the saints to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ [for her], [that she may] know this love that surpasses knowledge and may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”
I didn’t grow up “rooted and established in love.” I grew up with judgment. I grew up with scary things happening to me. I grew up believing I was a disappointment to the people I wanted so badly to love me. I was so hungry to be loved that I married a man who, after four years of abuse, told me he didn’t love me. Friends who once told me they loved me, later walked away because my emotional neediness was too heavy a burden.
I’ve been in ministry long enough to know that many of you are shaking your head, probably with tears in your eyes, in understanding
But what I didn’t know, until much later in life, was that there was a God in heaven who loved me from before I was born. He loved me even as others used “love” as an excuse for abuse. He loved me despite all the scars on my heart and body. No – check that. He loved my scars. He loved my wounded, frightened heart. He loved me and the weight of my broken past.
If you only ever grab one thing I write, take hold of this and never let go: God loves you. He loves everything about you – “the good, the bad, and the ugly.” Others may have hurt you, failed you, walked away from you, and hurled verbal darts at you. But God loves you with a pure and perfect love that will never end. Never. Receive it. Believe it. Plant yourself in it and grow. You are the Beloved of God.

The Face in the Mirror

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“He has taken me to the banquet hall and his banner over me is love” (Song of Songs 2:4). 
As we settled into our home, we started hanging pictures.  My husband spotted a mirror I had set aside and asked me where I wanted to hang it.  I said, “Nowhere that I can see my reflection – I don’t like looking at myself.”  When I look in the mirror I see age and weight and baggy eyes.  I see dark circles and wrinkles, many brought on by anxious moments and sleepless nights.  These are on the surface, but their roots go deep and remind me of the mistakes I’ve made and the sins I’ve committed, the things I did that I wish I hadn’t done, and the things I didn’t do that I wish I had.  I identify myself by my failures and faults, and I imagine that God does too.  I know I’m not the only one.  I read your posts and hear your hearts.
But here’s what the Lord spoke to me recently: “Satan has convinced you that you wear your mistakes, your past, your failures and sins like a banner across your chest and that I am judging you by that banner, but he is a liar. The only banner I see when I look at you is my banner of love.”   That banner is the blood-red flag of mercy hanging from the top of the cross.  And Jesus stands with us before the Father saying “This is my beloved – isn’t she beautiful!”
All my wrinkles and bags and extra pounds are still there, but because of Jesus Christ, the only thing that shows in heaven’s mirror is God’s redeeming love.  Beloved, that’s the truth about the reflection in your mirror too.

Dirty Hands

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“Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin” (Psalm 51:2)

“Why won’t this thing come clean?” I muttered as I scrubbed the water reservoir for our coffee maker. I had washed it twice and still felt a film on the surface. Then I realized that I had grease on my fingers. The problem was me, not the container. It wouldn’t come clean because my hand wasn’t clean.

King David sat on his royal throne as Nathan the prophet told him about two men, one rich and one poor. The rich man had large flocks and herds, the poor man had one ewe lamb that was like a child to him. When the rich man had an unexpected guest, rather than taking a lamb from his own flock to serve, he took the poor man’s beloved ewe lamb and slaughtered it to feed his guest. David was incensed. The rich man must be held responsible for his actions! That is when Nathan turned to David and said, “You are the man!” David had taken the wife of one of his soldiers and had her husband killed to cover up his wicked deed. David was the problem. His hands were very dirty. (See 2 Samuel 11-12)

When I find myself grumbling and complaining about things going wrong in my life, God often gently points to my dirty hands. Honestly, the vast majority of the struggles in my life have my own fingerprints all over them. I am quite often the problem. Now I don’t know about you. Maybe you are darn near perfect and you don’t make foolish mistakes or give in to sin. But for me, I have to own my actions – from my finances to procrastinating with my school work to my weight and a lot of other things.

That’s why I’m so grateful for new mercies every morning. I run into trouble every day, but God is faithful to forgive me and wash my dirty hands. Beloved, do you need clean hands? Do you need a fresh start? David and I found cleansing with the Lord. You can too.

“I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean: I will cleanse you from all your impurities” (Ezekiel 36:25). That’s a promise.

Remember to Remember

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“Why are you so downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me?” (Psalm 42:5a).

 

Why, I wondered, with so much Joy in my life, am I so down? Why am I so discouraged? Why do I feel like there’s such a weight over me? I asked the Lord about it this morning and He showed me an image of a heavy, gray blanket over me and my house. “Where did this come from Lord?” From the enemy. He has covered me with a spirit of discouragement. Add to it my own battle with depression and anxiety and that blanket becomes a dead weight over me. What can I do? How can I be free?

The Psalmist that asked the question also provided the answer: “Put your hope in the Lord” (v. 5b). Oh, that sounds really spiritual, doesn’t it? But not very practical. Ah, but he’s not done. He said, “My soul is downcast within me, therefore I will remember you . . .” There’s the answer. Remember God. Remember His promises. Remember His faithfulness. Remember His Son on the Cross bearing that heavy, grey blanket of my sin. Remember the empty tomb. Remember His Spirit in me. Remember His power. Remember His mercy and grace. Remember every time He came through for me. Remember the rainbow in my backyard. Remember that He bends His ear to hear my cries. Remember and be at peace that “By day the Lord directs His love, at night His song is with me. Remember that He is “the God of my life” (v. 8).

Have you felt the same heavy weight? It’s understandable given the way this year has gone. Even if everything was peachy-keen in your life, the virus, lockdown, unrest, political turmoil, and sense of fear and hopelessness that has gripped the nation is enough to bring even Pollyanna down. But, Beloved, you have a God in heaven who loves you. So much that He gave His only Son to redeem you and give you eternal life. Remember?

In the Master Weaver’s Hands

The Weaver

My life is but a weaving
Between my Lord and me,
I cannot choose the colors
He worketh steadily.

Oftimes He weaveth sorrow,
And I in foolish pride
Forget He sees the upper
And I, the underside.

Not till the loom in silent
And the shuttles cease to fly
Shall God unroll the canvas
And explain the reason why.

The dark threads are as needful
In the Weaver’s skillful hand
As the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern He has planned.

– Author Unknown (possibly Corrie Ten Boom)

Faith
Hope
Love
Joy
Each is a thread woven into the tapestry of the believer’s life. The crimson thread of Faith in Jesus Christ our Savior. The blue thread of Hope in the promise of eternal life. The gold thread of Love from God and for God and our fellow man. The silver thread of Joy that never wavers. The shuttle never leaves His loving hands. Beloved, God is crafting something beautiful of your life.

When the Tears Fall

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It’s six o’clock in the morning and my granddaughter is crying. I can hear her from my study. It’s probably just a diaper change – she hates those. But it’s breaking my heart. I’ve gotten up from my desk twice now and started back to see about her and stopped myself. Oh, how I want to comfort her and make whatever is making her cry go away. I think about all the times in her life she will probably cry – all the skinned knees and the times she doesn’t like hearing “No” and the broken hearts and disappointments that are coming. I wish I could protect her from them all. But I can’t. I know that. Still, every time she cries, my heart cries with her.

If I have such a response every time my granddaughter cries, how do you imagine God feels every time you and I cry? I am sure His great heart aches when ours breaks. In Psalm 56:8 David said that the Lord “Puts my tears in Your bottle—are they not in your record?” God is paying attention. When you cry, when the tears drip from your chin, He catches them, one by one. Do you know what that means Beloved? He is very near. He has drawn you into His arms so that He can gather every tear that falls. Your tears are precious to Him.

All is quiet now in Joy’s room. A clean diaper, a fresh cup of milk, and warm snuggles in her mommy’s arms work wonders. Her tears are gone and she is back in dreamland in her soft pink pajamas. My Nana-heart is happy.

Let the tears fall Beloved. God is near, like a good, good Father. Oh, how He loves you.

God’s Not Done With You

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“Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known” 1 John 3:2.

The children of the great composer, Bach, found that the easiest method of awakening their father was to play a few lines of music and leave off the last note. The musician would arise immediately and go to the piano to strike the final chord. His spirit could not leave the song incomplete. We all have projects we’ve started but shoved aside and left unfinished. We run out of time or funds or motivation. We lose interest and give up.

I look at my life sometimes, at all my starts and stops of Christian growth, and wonder if God has considered giving up on me. Has He just decided that I am just more trouble than I’m worth? Has He become frustrated with me (as I do with myself) and moved on to someone more capable, more intelligent, or more “spiritual” than me? Is He just going to leave me here in this unfinished state?

The Bible assures me that “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6). I remember a song I taught to the children at church:

He’s still working on me

To make me what I need to be

It took him just a week to make the moon and stars

The sun and the earth and Jupiter and Mars

How loving and patient He must be

‘Cause He’s still workin’ on me

Beloved, if you are frustrated because you just can’t seem to “get it right,” don’t give up on yourself. God hasn’t. He’s still working on you.

No More Shame

Ever done something that made you feel guilty? Who hasn’t? Guilt can be such a heavy load.  But some add to guilt the weight of shame. That was me. I wasn’t just guilty of my sins I was ashamed of them. And that shame wasn’t only what I’d done, added to that was shame because of what others had done to me. I didn’t just carry shame – shame was my identity.

Until the day that God gave me a vision of sorts. Of Jesus, bleeding and staggering on His way to His crucifixion. As He walked, he reached out into the mass of people that lined the road and picked up their sins and draped them across His shoulders. I was in the crowd and when He came to me, He didn’t pick up my sin. He picked up me and draped me over His shoulder. I stayed there through those agonizing hours. I felt Him struggle to breath. I heard Him cry out to the Father. I felt His body grow still. I had to turn my head when they stabbed the spear into His side. Somehow, I remained on His shoulders as they took His body down and wrapped Him in burial cloths. I lay with Him on the cold stone slab in the tomb. And I rose with Him three days later. The remarkable things was, I rose with no shame. None. It was gone.

Beloved I want you to envision this with me. When Jesus went to the cross, He took all your sin and all your shame with Him. When He was placed in the tomb, be still bore all your sin and all your shame. The He rose to life. And when He walked out of that tomb of death, He left your sin and shame behind. Buried. Done. Forever. If you struggle like I did with shame, you need to know that Jesus left it all in the grave. Hear this loud and clear: you are free of guilt and free of shame. You are a new, beautiful creature in Christ. Now lift your head and walk in it.